Wednesday, December 31, 2008
So This Is The New Year
New Year's Eve is always a big disappointment to me. It very rarely lives up to the hype, and it usually turns out to be more of a drag than it is fun. I think maybe I've set the bar too high though. I've had 4 incredible New Year's Eves. 12-31-88/89/90/99.
The first 3 involved me going to see The Grateful Dead in Oakland, CA.
12-31-88. There ain't no place I'd rather be. Best. Party. Ever. My first trip to California. My first huge road-trip to see the Dead. Tom Tom Club opened. Clarence Clemons sat-in for a good part of the show. Babatunde Olatunji and Sikiru Adepoju taught me about the power of drums. Bill Graham entered the arena at midnight, dressed at Father Time, flying across the length of the arena on a giant disco ball. An amazing night.
12-31-89. After hearing me gush over 12-31-88 for a year, I convinced friends, neighbors and co-workers to head west with me. My roommate and next-door-neighbor drove from Greenbelt, MD to Oakland, CA in just under 48 hours. I wasn't even sure they were going. They got tickets, but they were both totally broke and couldn't afford to fly out there. Two days later, there's a knock on our hotel room door. They made it in plenty of time. One of my all-time favorite concert experiences. On the road with a ton of friends, the biggest New Year's party I've ever been to and 2 nights of The Grateful Dead. Oh yeah, Bonnie Raitt opened and sat-in on "Big Boss Man." That didn't suck. The midnight festivities included Bill Graham dressed as a giant psychedelic chicken dropping from the ceiling onto an huge egg, then traveling the length of the floor during the countdown. The egg broke open and there was Baby New Year. Maybe even a few of them. I forget.
12-31-90. Quickest trip to California I've ever done. I got to SFO at about 11:00pm on 12/30. Checked-in at the hotel. Got the rundown on that night's show and went to bed. Up early on 12/31...at the show by 2:00 or 3:00. Branford Marsalis opened. Bruce Hornsby sat in. Hamza El Din sat in too. Damn - he was amazing. A little parking lot time. Back to the hotel. Back to SFO at about 6:00am and headed home. Total California time approx. 32 hours. It was at this point my friends and family realized that this was more an addiction than just another musical phase I was going through. Now they're all jealous they didn't go with me. Midnight included Bill Graham dressed as some sort of tribal chief/witch doctor, a flaming cauldron and hot bungee jumpers dropping from the ceiling. I never understood that one. I have an old cassette of this show. It's pretty funny listening to the radio announcers trying to describe this one. Those pics are from this site.
That was my last NYE with the Dead. They only did it one more time. Uncle Bobo died in late '91.
The last great NYE I had was the big one - 12/31/99. Don and I went up to NYC for the festivities. We didn't go down to Times Square, but we did watch the ball drop from WAY up near Central Park. We were pretty far away from the madness, but even that far away, there were probably a couple thousand people around us. We had a great few days of drunken debauchery and celebrated harder than we had since we met a few years earlier. Great, great time.
Ever since these events, NYE is always a let-down. We decided to just skip it altogether this year. No parties. No bars. We spent the night taking down our Xmas decorations. Had one beer. Got the best kiss of the year at midnight, then went to bed. Probably the best NYE I've had in years.
Happy New Year.