Saturday, March 06, 2010
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.