Sunday, March 28, 2010
3/25/90 - Grateful Dead @ Knickerbocker Arena - Albany, NY
Again - They were playing on a Saturday, so we decided to make a weekend of it. Steve's girlfriend (now wife) had a friend in Albany, so we had a free place to stay. It would be silly for us NOT to go - right?
Steve was driving "Stella" at the time - his late-60s/early 70s VW Transporter. It was basically a VW Bus without windows on the side - although it did have a skylight. It looked like a VW cargo van, but the inside was quite nice, with the fold out bed, table, seating, etc. Classy. It was always a struggle to keep it running, but it did fine this trip.
Back in 1990 I used to distribute Dupree's Diamond News pretty regularly. I gave out most of them before the show on 3/24, but I had a bunch leftover at showtime that I figured I'd just distribute inside. The security folks would have none of that. They told me I couldn't bring them inside. Ummm....It's just about 50 sheets of paper. You've got people bringing in their entire campsites on their back and I can't bring in a stack of paper? Fine. I stood right beside the woman and handed them to people as they walked in. I ended up missing the first two songs, walking in in the middle of "Slipknot". Dammit.
This show goes down as a classic. I've discussed the awesomeness of Spring '90 in the past, but the 3/24 show is one of the best of the best for the period. This run is documented on the Dozin' At The Knick cd.
The whole first set was incredibly solid - the highlight being "Loser" from Jerry. I'm still amazed that didn't make the cd. There was an oddly placed "One More Saturday Night" to close the first set, too. But the meat and potatoes of this show comes in the 2nd set, which was just jaw-dropping from start to finish. The "Playin'-> Uncle John-> Terrapin-> Mind Left Body Jam" was an amazing 45-minutes or so of perfection. Holy crap. The rest of the set didn't suck either, as evidenced by the fact that they included the entire set on the Dozin' cd. The "Bid You Goodnight" encore was the perfect ending to a sublime evening.
Back to the friend's place, where 2 things happened: 1) the girl's cat gave me a rather severe asthma attack, and 2) Steve slept with a down comforter, which caused his allergies to go completely haywire. We were both miserable the next day and just wanted to get things over with.
Our seats for 3/25 were directly behind the stage, which was fine by us. We had a great view of the drummers and were actually very close to the band. It's always very relaxed behind the stage, which was exactly what we needed, considering we both felt like crap.
3/25 often gets overlooked in favor of 3/24, but this one's no slouch either. An odd, but totally rocking "Greatest Story > Touch of Grey" opener... a rare "Never Trust a Woman" and BOTH "Bird Song" and "Let it Grow" in the first set. Yowza. That's one killer setlist.
Set 2 opened with "Eyes", which they just NEVER did. Steve and I just gave each other this "Are you kidding me?" look. A nice, slow, rollicking "Eyes" kicked-off yet another terrific Spring '90 set. Not a bad song in the bunch. The rockers rocked. The ballads were slow, soulful and pretty. A rare (for us) "Mighty Quinn" encore capped another great run.
Random memory: We ran into Sean, an old college friend in the parking lot. He would pop-up at various shows from time to time.
I think I could pinpoint 3/25 as the night I finally realized that we weren't just dressing up and playing deadhead any more. I remember after the show, feeling miserable, sitting in the bus, freezing, wrapped up in my poncho, putting my sign up in the window that indicated I was looking for Atlanta tickets for the following weekend , waiting for Steve and his girlfriend to get back so we could get a decent night sleep before the 7+ hour drive home. This girl walked by, looked at me, pointed me out to her friends and they all went "Awwww." simultaneously. I think I just chuckled to myself at the absurdity of it all, but apparently my life had taken a bit of a turn somewhere - haha.
The entire second set from 3/24 is on Dozin', as are 8 songs from 3/25. "One More Saturday Night" from 3/24 is also on Without a Net.
3/20/92 - Grateful Dead @ Copps Coliseum - Hamilton, Ontario, CANADA
3/21/92 - Grateful Dead @ Copps Coliseum - Hamilton, Ontario, CANADA
As much as I rag on 1992, this was one of my favorite runs. Our logic in attending these shows was simply "Well... We've never been to Canada and they're playing on a Saturday. What the hell. Let's go." Our friend of ours went with us. He had a friend that lived up there, so he figured it would be a good chance to catch up with her.
It never even occurred to us that there might be a problem crossing the border. That the authorities would just be waiting for the droves of hippies to come crossing over with all kinds of contraband. It didn't occur to us until we were sitting in line waiting to cross the border and saw car after car getting pulled over and searched. Crap. We weren't doing anything wrong, but it would make for a huge hassle to have all our stuff thrown on the side of the road while the authorities went through it. There was no slipping through under their radar either. Steve and I each had shoulder-length hair at the time. We were pretty much dressed head-to-toe in Guatemalan clothes. The car reeked of incense and sage and it was covered with about 20 or so Grateful Dead stickers. It was pretty obvious where we were headed.
But somehow we got through. Several cars in front of us got pulled over to be searched. The border patrol asked us why we were coming to Canada. We just said we were going to a show. They just kind of peeked through the windows, told us to have a good time and waved us through. Whew.
We got to the hotel, checked-in and drove off to the show. Time was closing-in though. There wasn't a lot of time left and the traffic was horrendous. The line to get into the parking lot went on forever. We eventually bailed and tried to find a parking place in a nearby neighborhood. After driving around for about 30 minutes somebody sitting in their front yard flagged us down. They told us we could park in their driveway for $20US. Awesome. We were only a few blocks from the arena with about an hour to spare. Sweet!
The 3/20 show was just fantastic. One of my favorites. The first set was nice enough, but the second set was just exactly perfect. A "Shakedown" that had the whole place dancing. Nice and long and relaxed. I love it when they just play and don't try to force it. Nice. Probably the best "Women Are Smarter" I've heard. No - seriously! Jerry was using the trumpet sounds and the whole song had this bouncy Mexican vibe to it. Great moment. A nice, spacey "Dark Star" - one verse sang, the other verse played by Jerry on guitar - nice. "Standing On The Moon" was another "best I've seen" version. They finally showed what a powerhouse ballad this can be. Wow. "Lovelight" has us all dancing and cheering again. And what better way to end a show in Canada than with a "U.S. Blues" encore. Ha! We were all thrilled after this one. There was no way they'd be able to match it the next night. (They didn't.)
We got back to our car after the show to find a note on our window. It said that if we wanted to come back again tomorrow, just park in the driveway and leave $20 in the mailbox. We were more than happy to do that. We came back the next day and left the money along with a note expressing our gratitude.
The next day we met up with J's friend in the parking lot. What a treat she was. It was too cold. The hippies were too dirty. She wanted to sit down. She didn't like the food. She didn't like the beer selections. Ugh. Steve and I just left them and told them we'd find them after the show. We didn't come all the way to Canada to have to deal with all that.
As expected, the second night didn't measure up to night #1. That's fine. We wandered around the arena, checking things out from various vantage points. Security was pretty non-existent. Good show. Good time.
After the show there was a HUGE bonfire in the parking lot. Eventually there was a big-ass drum circle, so we ran off to the car to get our drums (mine being the dumbek for which this blog is named.) We stayed there drumming for an hour or two. Everyone was playing, dancing, singing - just having a blast. The cops didn't care. They seemed to be kind of enjoying it. Somehow we ended up following a bunch of people over to a local mall, which was open, despite the fact that the stores were all closed. Inside the mall there were hundreds of deadheads - playing in the fountains, vending, drumming... just having a good ol' time. Again - the cops didn't seem to care. What a great f--ing time.
Drove home Sunday. I seem to recall there being a bit of a blizzard on the way home, which added about 3 extra hours to our trip. Ugh. It didn't matter though. Slow and steady got us home just fine.
Here's the flyer that came with the tickets. The bottom is torn, so I guess I made a donation to the cause - although I don't recall ever getting a cd. hrpmh.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
3-9-1992 Grateful Dead @ Capital Centre - Landover, MD
Oops - Looks like I skipped these. Not too surprising, really. 1992 kinda sucked.
These were the first 2 of 7 shows I'd see in the Spring of '92. I do recall these shows weren't really all that bad - especially for 1992. I have tapes somewhere, but I'm too lazy to dig them up. I never bothered to get digital copies. I should probably do that someday.
The only thing that sticks out from this run was the fact that I finally got to see "Big Railroad Blues" - a song they only played like once a year. This was the only time I ever saw it. The encores were a treat, too. "Mighty Quinn" and a cover of The Stones' "Satisfaction". I recall that one being sloppy, but lots of fun. I think that was the only time I got to see that one, too.
I was able to dig up some old USENET posts where I mention several times that I loved these shows. hmm... I remember thinking they were pretty good for 1992, but "loved" seems a bit strong. Maybe I do need to download these and re-evaluate.
You can stream the shows at the links below.
Let The Good Times Roll
Touch Of Grey
New Minglewood Blues
Ramble On Rose
Big Railroad Blues
The Music Never Stopped
Samson And Delilah
Way To Go Home
Looks Like Rain
Wave To The Wind
Drums > Space
All Along The Watchtower
So Many Roads
Not Fade Away
West L.A. Fadeaway
Me And My Uncle
Victim Or The Crime
Drums > Space
I Need A Miracle
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
3/15/90 Grateful Dead @ Capital Centre - Landover, MD
Holy crap. Please tell me it hasn't been 20 years since these shows.
There was always a lot of excitement surrounding the start of Spring Tour. It was always on the east coast, where most people hadn't seen the band in 4-5 months. For some reason they liked starting the Spring in my backyard - Landover, MD - about 15 minutes from where I lived at the time. Fine by me. No preconceptions with setlists. No recent shows. Anything could happen.
1990 was my favorite year of following the band around. It's the year when we had changed from ex-college kids who didn't want to grow up - to full-blown Deadheads. And they were just killing it in 1990. Every show was just fantastic. These 3 were no exception.
I'm listening to 3-14-90 as I type. Damn they were good then. Our seats this night were at the very back of the floor - on the riser 3 rows up - straight back from the stage. We were just behind the tapers, which mean we had some mic stands in our way, but the sound was terrific there.
What better way to ring-in Spring Tour than with a song called "Cold Rain and Snow." Always a favorite. Get everyone bouncing and singing along right off the bat. Here we go.... I got my first version (of only 2 that I ever saw) of "Never Trust A Woman." Some people hated that one, but I loved it. Good, dirty blues. The highlight, of course, came a bit later when they broke out "Loose Lucy" for the first time in about 15 years. The song is very different live than on record - slowed down to a bouncy, mid-tempo shuffle. It wasn't until the lyrics came that most of us recognized it and the place just freakin' exploded. It was one of those cheers of joy I've rarely heard since. Everyone was just elated and singing REALLY loud when Jerry sang "Thank You.......For a real good time!" And everyone lost it again. What a great moment. The rest of the show was a typically great 1990 gig. The "Let It Grow" from this show is included on "Without A Net."
This may have been the most anticipated show of the tour - Phil's 50th birthday. If you hold this ticket under a blacklight it reads "Happy 50th Phil!" Even the tickets were fun in 1990! Actually, all of these tickets say something under a blacklight - I just don't have a blacklight handy.
This show had quite a few highlights as well. Enough that The Dead eventually released it in its entirety as Terrapin, Ltd. The show opened with "Jack Straw" - complete with Bobby screwing up the lyrics, much to our delight. We got another breakout tonight - "Easy To Love You" - a Brent tune that hadn't been played in about 10 years. Lots of "We Want Phil" chants during the first set. Phil finally gave-in and sang Dylan's "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" - complete with the line "I'm going back to Foggy Bottom, I do believe I've had enough!" Nice. That "China>Rider" certainly didn't suck. The musical centerpiece of the night was the "Terrapin" that clocked-in at over 20 minutes. Yowza. No wonder they released this show. One more musical surprise for the night - the encore was a cover of the Beatles' "Revolution." First time in about 5 years for that one. They'd only play it one more time before they'd retire it forever.
"Walkin' Blues" and "Althea" from this show are also included on "Without A Net."
The last night of the Landover run. Our seats were exactly one row in front of where they were the night before. We were surrounded by the same people from the previous night. I used to love it when that happened. You could end up with new best friends for 2-3 nights in a row, sometimes it even happened in multiple cities.
This was the most mellow of the 3 nights. Things actually started a bit slow, but turned around quickly when the broke out "Black-Throated Wind" for the first time in 15 years. Damn - they did it again. So many tricks up their sleeves. They followed that with a nice trippy "Bird Song" followed by an unexpected "Blow Away" to end the set. Wow. The rest of the show was standard 1990 awesomeness, with the encore being a cover of The Rolling Stones' "The Last Time" It was only the 2nd time they had ever played that one, so we were thrilled to hear it.
We walked out of that last show thinking we had already seen what would be the best shows of the tour. Not even close. There was so much more to come.
Oh - I found the flyer sent with my tickets. Back in the pre-internet days these seating charts were awesome to have handy.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Is Radio Really This Bad?
I have 5 music stations programmed on my car radio - all rock-oriented, if you count the pop-rock-oldies-mishmash of JACK-FM. I only listen to/from work (about 30min each way) , to/from the gym (about 10min) and out to lunch a few times a week (maybe 10 minutes total) . Even then my morning listening is mostly talk-radio and I often listen to my iPod on the way home from work. Still, even with these limited listening times, it's incredibly apparent that the playlists on these stations are absurdly small.
My new theory is that I can't make a single trip in my car - at any time of the day or night - without hearing at least one of these 5 bands:
I can pretty much guarantee that if the radio is on for more than 10 minutes I can find at least one of these bands on the 5-preset music stations in my car. There are other bands that pop-up a lot (I'm looking at you, Aerosmith) , but these seem to be the most pervasive.
So I'm going to conduct an experiment where I try to write down every time I hear one of these bands on the radio. I'm not going to get too detailed re: stations, times, etc. After all, I'm lazy and I'm driving. But I'll try to make a note of how long I was in the car and what songs I heard.
So starting Friday 3/12 : On the drive home from work (about 30min) I heard parts of:
AC/DC - "Back In Black"
U2 - "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"
U2 - "Desire"
Led Zeppelin - "Dancin' Days"
Today - 3/14 - On the way to the gym (10 min) I heard:
Led Zeppelin - "Communication Breakdown"
and on the way home (10 min):
The Who - "Who Are You"
AC/DC - "Thunderstruck"
So far my theory is holding up quite well. We'll see how it goes.
Don't get me wrong - I love all of these bands. I just think it's sad that after 50+ years of rock music, we can't go 15 minutes without hearing these 5 bands.
Long Live Rock.
Saturday, March 06, 2010
Here's To Bob
Chinese New Year 1994
2/26/94 Grateful Dead @ Oakland Coliseum - Oakland, CA
Worst. Mail order. Tickets. EVER.
I'm not sure why I skipped Oakland in '93. You'd think I would have been anxious, having not seen Jerry post-coma yet, but I skipped it that year. Anyway...I made it back in '94. The band had been really hit or miss in '93. I decided if I was going to stay on the bus, I was going to make '94 special - focusing on "destination shows" rather than just seeing as many as possible. The most obvious starting point was to kick off the year in Oakland for the Chinese New Year run.
As expected, the shows really weren't all that special. I've been listening to 2/26 and 2/27 for the last couple days. Just when I think "wow - this is a lot better than I remember," Jerry forgets the next verse, or the band gets a little lost - kinda ruining it. But all-in-all, I think I was a little harsh on these shows. Maybe I'm just letting the nostalgia get to me today, but they're really not that bad - just not that great.
The "Cosmic Charlie" campaign was in full swing for these shows. They were a group that used to go to great lengths to try to get the Dead to bring back this song. Posters, fliers, buttons, shirts, etc. The band hadn't played it since 9/25/76 and there was little to no chance of it ever returning. That didn't stop them from trying though.
We saw a couple get married at one of the shows.
A guy in the row in front of us on the 27th had a video camera, which was extremely forbidden at the time. For as lax as they were about audio taping, video was absolutely forbidden. Yet this guy had a tripod with him. Go figure. Not quite as impressive as the time I some folks with a hookah inside a show, but that's a different story altogether. Gotta love the west coast. Anyway... This clip may or may not have been from that video guy. The location is about right (halfway back on Jerry's side, halfway up), but he's obviously not using a tripod. Could be though.
Jerry had just gotten remarried a couple weeks before these shows. The lyrics "Well I married me a wife, she's been trouble all my life" (from "Cold Rain and Snow") and "I was born to be a bachelor" (from "Althea") got lots of applause. Recent listening reveals that while Jerry was a bit forgetful with lyrics, the jamming in these shows was quite good at times. "Estimated," "Terrapin," and "Uncle John's Band" has some pretty serious stuff going on.
The big highlight of the run came in the Jerry-ballad spot on the 27th. They finished up "The Other One" and I figured they'd just go into "Wharf Rat" or "Black Peter" or maybe (if we were lucky) "Morning Dew." But Jerry started playing something on his own. A quiet little melody that slowly grew. By the time he was finished with the first stanza of the intro, the crowd had figured it out. It was "Cosmic F--king Charlie." For the first time in nearly 20 years. We all started going nuts as Jerry played the intro (really the melody) again - this time with the whole band. It was moments like this that made you never want to miss a show. One of my career highlights, to be sure.
That is....until about 30 seconds later. After the second round of the intro/melody, Jerry slid down the neck of his guitar and slipped in to "Wharf Rat." They didn't play "Cosmic Charlie" after all. It was just a tease. A nod to the Cosmic Charlie Campaign, but we didn't get the song. Cruel. Absolutely cruel. Audio here. You can hear the people groaning when they go into "Wharf Rat". sigh... so close.
This was my last Dead-related trip to California. Gone are the days.
Tuesday, March 02, 2010
Mardi Gras 1992
2/23/92 Grateful Dead @ Oakland Coliseum - Oakland, CA
Another February Grateful Dead tradition was a Mardi Gras celebration. In 1992 they did this instead of a Chinese New Year celebration.
I seem to recall initially heading out to this one on my own. I think I met up with my friend Joby later in the trip. Meanwhile, Joby's friend, Jeff - the guy we stayed with for the CNY run - did me a huge favor and picked me up at the airport and I stayed with him up in Larkspur for a few days. What a nice guy.
The Dead were at the start of their final downhill slide at this point. I don't really recall anything terribly special about these shows. In fact - They were pretty lame. The main exception to that being Drums on 2/23, which featured Hamza El Din. Absolutely amazing.
The other interesting thing about these shows was the introduction of 4 new songs: "So Many Roads" and "Wave To The Wind" on 2/22 and "Corinna" and "Way To Go Home" on 2/23. They played these in the first set on each night, then they played all 4 in the second sat of 2/24. That's a pretty lame batch of new songs. Getting each of them twice in 3 nights was a drag.
It was especially lame on night #3. The first set was possibly the shortest Dead set I'd ever seen - 6 songs. It ended with "Cassidy". They ALWAYS play something after "Cassidy" to end the set, but tonight they left us hanging.
Set 2 started out great. That's when the Mardi Gras parade came through, while the band played "Iko Iko". That was just awesome. The parade rolled through the floor of the coliseum - people throwing beads, noisemakers...all kinds of things. What a great party - matched only by the new years celebrations of years past. This 10 minutes or so was worth the whole trip.
And what would they follow "Iko" with? Maybe "Women Are Smarter" or "Hey Pocky Way?" Nope. Bob broke out "Corinna" - one of the dragging new songs they just introduced. Way to kill the party, Bob. That just sucked the fun out of everything. They loaded up the rest of the set with the other new songs and a few standards. What should have been a 90-minute party turned into a bit of a bummer.
I had a better time than the text above indicates. It was still a good time. But I had been to California enough now that just being there wasn't enough. The band didn't step up this time. That would become a more common occurrence in the coming years.
Here are a few pics from the parade. Note that this was pre-digital cams and I was using a disposable, cardboard camera with a flash that went about 4 feet. Believe it or not, these are the best pictures of my batch.
I'm pretty sure Bart was smoking a joint. Seriously. I also seem to recall Wavy Gravy on one of the floats. That tiny white figure in the distance of the last pic is Phil Lesh, I think.