Englishtown was my second Grateful Dead show (the recently released '77 Hartford show being my first). We arrived the afternoon before the show and "set up camp" with a few other hundred people in the designated grass parking area outside the raceway. Around midnight, people started moving toward the entrance so we picked up our belongings and headed that way as well. I remember nodding out, then there would be this growing buzz of commotion that would warn you to gather up your blanket, drinks and gear as it was time for another push toward the gates. This happened several times until they finally opened the gates around 2 a.m. Once past the ticket takers (I still have my stub and the aerial photo from Rolling Stone magazine), there was about a 100 yard dash down to the front of the stage where my brother, my best friend and I all tossed down our blankets to claim our 150 square feet about twenty feet out from the center of the stage. Then we took a snooze nap until around 9 the next morning when we were awakened to the sound of reggae (if my memory serves me right) from the amp system.
I don't remember much from the NRPS set, although I think that it included Henry and Panama Red. I was also a Marshall Tucker fan at the time and enjoyed their set (although there were several folks around us yelling at them to finish up and get off the stage).
By mid-afternoon, the heat was the main story. We took turns filling water bottles at the line of spigots which were ankle deep in mud by 4:00. At one point, a young man without a stitch of clothing on walked by our now shrinking plot of land looking for "water, water" in a raspy voice. I also remember a large banner was making the rounds stating that "Pigpen lives in our Hearts and Minds".
Various helicopters in the sky announced the arrivals of the main attraction. By this time, our 150 square feet was down to about 4 SF as more and more people crowded in. The Dead came on in the late afternoon with the cyclops "skullf*ck" banner behind them. The Dicks Picks is very true to the show complete with John Scher's introduction. The Mississippi Half Step was the highlight of the 1st set. I've personally never heard a better one. Jerry's solo between "On my way" and the "Across the Rio Grandio" refrain is just amazing and still gets me to this day. The Music Never Stopped end to the 1st set also captured the mood for the evening beautifully.
The 2nd set sounds better on the CD release than I remember it. I remember the Estimated>Eyes being somewhat disjointed but on the CD, the Eyes of the World especially is just ringing with energy. Then the band decided to take a second break and "get their space together" as Eyes wound down into general confusion with no agreement as to where to go next. With expectations growing by the minute about what a "third set" (actually the end of the 2nd set in hindsight) might bring, the band returned with a smoking Samson. He's Gone was followed by another 1977 jammin' Not Fade Away and then Mickey's whistle introduction to Truckin'. As a young neophyte Deadhead, I jumped 2-1/2" in the air at the first chords of Truckin' but my brother, who had been going to shows for several years, was disappointed as he was hoping for a deeper track (like maybe a Dark Star?) After winding down Truckin' with some (rare for the time) Phil vocals on the chorus, the show closed with the Terrapin encore and we all headed back to the parking lots and the long, long slow exit away from Raceway Park and back to Long Island. I left for college a couple of days later and have lived in the South ever since, but Englishtown was a great going away present.