Saturday, October 18, 2008



10/8/89 The Warlocks (aka The Grateful Dead) @ Hampton Coliseum - Hampton, VA

This was a big one. The Grateful Dead had been banned from playing in Hampton. That was a fairly common occurrence in the '80s. The thousands of ticketless people coming in, the influx of drugs and the bad press were too much for some places to handle. As a result the Dead were often told to never come back.

But they made some kind of special deal with Hampton. The town agreed they could come back, but only under certain conditions. They had to play under a fake name. (They chose "The Warlocks" - the name they used before choosing The Grateful Dead.) There could be no mail-order tickets. In fact - they could use no ticket agencies at all. No TicketMaster. All tickets had to be sold locally - in person. They couldn't officially announce the show anywhere. Not even on the official Grateful Dead hotline. Not in the press. And the show couldn't even be announced locally until a few days before it happened.

Nice try.

I found out about the show the evening before tickets went on sale. I called a few people and found out that there was a record store in Norfolk selling tickets. I called the store and confirmed. I had to work the next day, but I was able to skip-out at noon. I called the record store again to confirm they hadn't sold out yet. I was assured sales were slow, but steady. If I wanted tickets, I needed to get there fast. So I hopped in the car and made the 3-hour trek to Norfolk - fingers-crossed, hoping it wouldn't sellout before I got there. Turns out I made it in plenty of time. There were only a couple people in line in front of me. I picked up the 10/8 tickets with no problem. Whew. This was mid-week - maybe Tuesday or Wednesday. The show was the following Sunday.

Then I made the biggest mistake of my Dead career. There were two shows at Hampton. 10/8-10/9. "Do you want tickets for the second night?" hmmm... I thought about it for a minute. I had enough cash in my pocket. I could easily do it.

"No thanks - I'm already hitting 5 other shows on Fall Tour. This makes 6. That's enough."

Why, oh why couldn't one of my enabler-type friends have been there? What a mistake that was. More on that later.

Anyway - The show itself was phenomenal. Easily the best show I had seen to date and still probably one of my top 5. Everything about this show was special. Hampton is the only general admission arena on the east coast. It's the smallest venue I ever saw the Dead play. I was there with a mix of friends from home, college and work. Even the weather was perfect.

And the band was ON. The first set was well-played - including a nice "Stagger Lee" - a song I never got to see much - and a long, trippy-sweet "Bird Song". I had already gotten my money's worth.

But then came the second set. It was the first show of the tour, so they could open with anything, but nothing had prepared us for the opening notes of "Help On The Way." One of their greatest songs that never got a ton of play. They did it a bunch of times in 76-77, then again from 83-84, but they hadn't played it in over 4 years. After hearing the opening notes everyone was just kind of looking at each other like "Are you sh-tting me?!" Then everyone just exploded. You could barely hear the opening of the song. When Jerry started singing the place just erupted again. They always follow "Help" with "Slipknot" - a long, jazzy-trippy instrumental that inevitably falls into the super-dance-fest that is "Franklin's Tower". I had never seen so many ecstatic people in my life. This is what it's all about, folks. This is why I kept going back time and time again.

The rest of the show was pretty stellar, as well. A scary "Victim" and a nice, rollicking "Eyes of the World" had everyone dancing up a storm again. "I Need A Miracle" and "Gimme Some Lovin'" kept the party going post-drums.

Then there was the "Dew". One of my all-time-favorite Dead moments. Absolutely beautiful from start to finish. Gentle when it needed to be. Powerful when it needed to be. Jerry's voice...the guitar solos...the emotion....absolutely perfect. The perfect way to end the show. We started gathering everyone, figuring the encore would be a throwaway. But no - wrong again. They pulled out "And We Bid You Goodnight" - an a capella gospel tune - one of their oldest songs - played for only the 6th time since 1974. Ho-ly Crap.

I've probably listened to this show more than any other in my collection. I wore out at least 3 different tapes of that 2nd set. I know every single note of it.

So we drove back to DC completely elated...knowing we had just seen something really, really special. We didn't even feel bad about missing the next night, because there was no way it could come close to matching this one. The next night they broke out "Dark Star," the quintessential Grateful Dead song. The ultimate jamming vehicle. The one nobody thought they'd ever play again. The one that they had only played 5 times since 1974. And remember how excited I was for the "Bid You Goodnight" encore? This show got "Attics of My Life." A song that hadn't been played in about 17 years. Oh well...

10/8/2003 R.E.M. @ Patriot Center - Fairfax, VA

For the Monster and Up tours R.E.M. pretty much focused on those records and their other Warner Bros. releases. There were a few IRS nuggets thrown in, but they were pretty sparse. In 2003 they were touring for In Time - a greatest hits compilation. They went way back into the catalog for this tour - thank God. My old band was back - proving they could still pull off the old tunes the way they used to. We got songs from nearly every album (tracks from Murmur a glaring omission) and they all sounded great. This was the band I fell in love with. Good to have them back. Even better from the 3rd row.

The big surprise for this tour was the return of "Permanent Vacation". This song is so old they dumped it before they even recorded their first single. It never even made it onto an actual record. I would have bet they'd play in my backyard before they pulled out something like this. Wrong again - although the backyard show would be pretty sweet.

Finest Worksong / Begin The Begin / Exhuming McCarthy / Drive / Animal / Fall On Me / Daysleeper / Bad Day / The One I Love / (Don't Go Back To) Rockville / Orange Crush / World Leader Pretend / I Believe / Losing My Religion / Find The River / She Just Wants To Be / Walk Unafraid / Man On The Moon

encore: Life And How To Live It / Nightswimming / Final Straw / Imitation Of Life / Permanent Vacation / It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

setlist from the awesome remtimeline

10/8/07 - Klaxons/Washington Social Club @ 9:30.

We went to this one just to see WSC. We didn't know jack about the Klaxons. It was pretty damn crowded though, so I guess they were pretty popular at the time. We stayed for a few songs and just didn't get it. A little too much on the dance side of dance-rock for me. Some people were going nutso for them though. Good for them. shrug. I'll chalk this one up to us being old.

WSC was kickin' though.

10/8/2008 - Against Me!/Ted Leo and the Pharmacists/Future Of The Left @ The Black Cat

I went to this one just to see Ted at the Black Cat again. Ted never disappoints. I kind of liked Future Of The Left - although they were too loud. Hints of No Wave and occasional bursts of power-rock. Nice. Ted was great - as always. No nonsense tonight. He just blasted through 10 or so songs without a break. Old and new. I never get tired of Ted. He brought up a special guest to sing the last song, but I have no idea who the guest was, or what the song was. Was that James Canty of French Toast playing guitar? I didn't know he was touring with Ted. Yep. Wikipedia says so, so it much be true. Excellent.

Mark Anderson of Positive Force came out and talked about one of the projects he's currently working on - We Are Family. It kind of evolved into a general "get involved - it's the punk rock thing to do" sort of speech. Unfortunately - most people just kind of ignored him. I thought it was pretty inspiring at first, but I'll admit he may have gone on a little long. But this guy does great things for the community and was putting on punk rock benefit shows before half of that crowd was even born. Show a little respect, kids. He's one of the good guys. His book Dance Of Days should be required reading.

I didn't know anything about Against Me! The kids loved 'em. I probably would have liked them better if it wasn't already late on a school night. I left after a few songs. I have 5 shows this week. I need sleep.

I got stuck at an Against Me! set last year when Cold War Kids canceled their regular tour date and played a radio-fest date with them and Spoon.

I assure you, you didn't miss a thing.
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