Sunday, April 25, 2010


April Dead (Part 2 - Spring '89)

4/2/89 - Grateful Dead @ Civic Arena - Pittsburgh, PA

This was the first show that Steve and I drove a long way to get to. Only about 4-5 hours, but at the time it seemed like a big deal. I remember passing a VW bus full of hippies on the PA Turnpike and thinking how silly they looked. We had a good laugh over that. "We'll never get like that," I remember saying to Steve. See any of my Spring '90 posts to see how we were doing a year later. Yeah. So anyway...

The show was on a Sunday. We drove up a day early and stayed with our good friend Diane. That would be a recurring event every time we headed into the midwest in the coming years. She was quite a trooper to put up with us. We still owe her for all of the trouble we caused.

Another typically great Spring '89 show. They opened with a killer "Iko Iko" and never really let up. That second set is still a favorite. A total dance-fest. The closest thing to a ballad would be "Dear Mr. Fantasy" in the typical slow-Jerry slot. "Shakedown," "Women Are Smarter," "Foolish Heart," "GDTRFB," "Lovelight"...yowza. I seem to recall we spent most of this set dancing in the hallways.

This was also the first time we would have a long drive home after a show so we could get back to work the next morning. We'd get very used to that. Diane later reported that there were all kinds of problems at the arena. People smashing in a door or something and lots of people rushing in. I don't think The Dead ever played here again.

This show was one of the few they released as part of their short-lived (and over-priced) download series. It the only one of these downloads I purchased. Nice upgrade from the multiple crappy audience tapes I went through over the years.

Update: I just realized you can download this show (and the next night) at Amazon. Two shows - 42-songs - for $18. That's not bad at all - if you don't mind mp3s.

4/8/89 - Grateful Dead @ Riverfront Arena - Cincinnati, OH

The following weekend we were on the road again - this time much further to Cincinnati. Drove to Pittsburgh Friday - stayed with Diane (see?) and off to Cincinnati on Saturday.

Cold and rainy. Blech. We were in a parking garage rather than a parking lot. That was a mixed-blessing. It kept us out of the rain, but the vending was spread over multiple levels of the garage, giving the whole place a hippie-mall kind of feel.

Steve's 3rd show and the 3rd time he's seen them cover Dylan's "Queen Jane". He commented on that, just as Bob got to the line "When you find yourself sick of all this repetition..." heh. More Dead synchronicity. They were at the beginning of a renaissance in early '89. Strong playing all-around. Highlights were "Blow Away" "China->Rider" and an unexpected (though appropriate) "Box Of Rain" encore.

We had a fantastic time at this one. We didn't want it to end. In one of our many acts of complete irresponsibility, we said "fuck it" and decided to go to the Louisville show the following day. We didn't have tickets, we were broke and there was no way we'd get back to work on Monday. We didn't care. We wanted more.

4/9/89 - Grateful Dead @ Freedom Hall - Louisville, KY

We weren't prepared for this one at all. We had no place to stay and no idea where we were going. We literally decided to just follow any VW bus we saw leaving Cincinnati, or any car with a lot of Dead stickers on it. That actually got us to Louisville at around 3am. We stopped at a mini-mart store and asked for directions to the arena. We finally found it a short while later. The parking lot was already open and there were a few dozen cars/buses full of deadheads there. A lucky break for us, but not entirely unexpected. They still allowed camping at shows in early '89, so it wasn't uncommon for people to show up the night before a show. We just parked the car ("The Awesome Apollo") and crashed. I can't say I recommend trying to sleep in the front seat of a Buick Apollo.

We woke up to find that the parking lot was shared by another venue that was holding some sort of giant flea market that Sunday morning. That created a very fun mix of little old southern ladies and sleepy, smelly hippies.

We found a tiny grocery store down the street and got some food. Most likely just cheese, bread and beer. We asked the guy at the store what he thought of the circus that just arrived. He said he loved it. He thought we were generally very polite and business couldn't be better. Come back anytime. That was nice to hear for a change.

We spent most of the day unsuccessfully looking for tickets. None to be found - not even the regular scalpers seemed to be around. Weekend shows were always tough to get extras. Fairly close to showtime we saw one guy with a small crowd around him. He had a huge stack of tickets. We were able to get tickets for (I think) $35 each. Twice face value, but worth it, considering how far we had come. That left us a bit short on cash, but we were in. That's all that we cared about.

I seem to recall thinking the tickets were fake though. I don't remember if it was the row or the seat numbers that were off, but we had a hard time finding our seats. So did quite a few other people. It didn't matter though. They were good enough to get us in the door. I eventually settled for sitting at the very top of our section and just taking it all in. I would never buy another ticket from a scalper though.

This show was quite laid-back compared to the rocker of the night before. Lots of sweet slow songs tonight - "It Must've Been The Roses," "Ship Of Fools," "Desolation Row," "Sugaree" and our first "Knockin' On Heaven's Door." This show was the first time I noticed there were speakers setup in the hallway - so it even sounded great if you were out there dancing or grabbing a bite to eat. The big surprise came at the start of the second set. They opened with a slow, bluesy version of "Louie Louie." Really. "Louie Louie" in Louisville. Get it? haha. That alone was worth the irresponsibility of going to this show.

Speaking of irresponsibility.... we were out of money. We each thought the other had enough money to get us gas for the trip home. We were both completely broke. Our only hope was that my severely over-the-limit credit card could get us a tank of gas. So we went to the gas station and the guy tells us that his credit card scanner is broken, and he'd have to do the old-school carbon paper thing and look us up in one of those old paper "these cards are invalid" books. No problem there, so we got the gas and also loaded-up with enough food and drinks to get us home. The lack of reliable technology in Kentucky got us home just fine. :-)

Saturday, April 10, 2010


April-ish Dead (Part 1)

3/30/90 - Grateful Dead @ Nassau Coliseum - Uniondale, NY

So we last left-off with us in Albany... We drove home that Monday, only to leave work early on Friday and head to New York again. This time we were off to Long Island. We took my car rather than the bus, since speed and reliability were important. This was more of a mad-dash trip than one of our regular journeys. We picked up Mike in Princeton and arrived at Nassau Coliseum around 6:00. Just enough time for a beer or 3 before the show.

I don't remember anything particularly bad happening, but I also remember hating this place and vowing never to go back. My guess is because their security sucked and the crowd was obnoxious. Go figure. Anyway - we held true to that and never returned there.

The show, however, was fantastic. It often gets over-shadowed by the previous night, when Branford Marsalis sat-in with the band. Dammit. We missed another legendary gig by one day. Oh well...This show definitely holds its own.

Opening with a nice, slippery "Help->Slip->Franklin's" is always a treat. While there are some songs we always seem to miss, we saw this combo a helluva lot. No complaints here. Otherwise, lots of semi-rarities tonight. "China Doll", "It's All Over Now", "Tom Thumb", "Dire Wolf"...all played very well. The highlight was the encore - the only time we ever got to see "Attics Of My Life." The tape reveals that the harmonies were a little shaky at times, but it sounded perfect at the time. I wouldn't trade that one for anything. The "Help->Slip->Franklin's" ended up on "Without A Net".

This show was broadcast live over the radio (something they did quite a bit in early '90), so there were plenty of great sounding tapes available almost immediately. This show got a ton of play over the years. It's one of those I can identify after hearing about 10 seconds of it. Bad venue. Great show.

Back to the car as soon as they were done. Zipped back to Jersey. Dropped off Mike and headed straight home. We probably got home around 5:00am. We got a few hours sleep, packed a bag and loaded up the bus. It was time to hit the road again.

4/1/90 - Grateful Dead @ The Omni - Atlanta, GA

We picked up Joby in College Park, then drove into Virginia to grab Pete. We were officially on the road to Atlanta by noon. Pete's a drummer/percussionist, so he brought lots of musical toys for us to play with. It was quite the gin-soaked, musical drive to Atlanta.

Steve's girlfriend actually lived in FL at the time, so she drove up to meet us. She insisted that we get a hotel room and made reservations for us at a Hilton not too far from downtown. So we roll-up to the Hilton in our VW bus, stinking drunk, exhausted and haggard from only a few hours sleep and driving up and down the east coast in the last 24 hours or so. Did I mention it was Prom Night? We were surrounded by teenagers in tuxedos and tacky dresses. Steve's girlfriend was horribly embarrassed. We thought it was hilarious. She wanted to scuttle us off to the room, but we were hungry. We decided to slip into one of the proms and grab some snacks. We were promptly asked to leave.

Remember when I said I had a sign in Albany saying we were looking for Atlanta tickets? Well, we never found them, so we were short 2 tickets (for Steve's gf and her friend). Steve was a nice guy and gave his ticket to her friend and skipped the show to hang with his gf. awww. This must be serious - lol. (Actually it was serious - they eventually got married.)

The show was swell. It was my 28th and the first time I could say I had seen every song before. Up until this point they managed to pull-out at least one tune I had never seen before. Impressive. Another fine Spring '90 show. We were on the back of the floor. The last row, I think. Long first set - 10 songs - including one of my favorite transitions: "Victim->To Lay Me Down->Music Never Stopped". Wow. I don't even like "Victim" very much, but it was perfect in this context. The crazy, dischordant, psychedelic chaos melted into a super slow and sweet "To Lay Me Down". A rarity for that one (I only saw it twice) and perfectly placed. The slow, sweet melancholy of TLMD went straight into the the fun, bouncy dance-fest that is "Music Never Stopped". Wow. What a twisting of sound and emotion. Just exactly perfect. I love this band. The second set was typically great for '90. Nothing really sticks-out, but it was solid and a really good time. Steve's gf's friend had a great time and was a blast to hang out with. "China Cat Sunflower->I Know You Rider" and "Dear Mr. Fantasy" ended up on "Without A Net."

4/2/90 - Grateful Dead @ The Omni - Atlanta, GA

The next day was more of the same. Steve's gf and her friend headed back to FL, so it was just the boys hanging out today. I remember there were men walking around with bagpipes...a billboard with the largest 3-D Chuck Taylor I'd ever seen....hippies all over town. I remember riding around in the bus when it started making horrendous pounding noises. Loud enough that everyone would stop and turn to see where the hell it was coming from. Steve was driving through the streets of ATL with a very drunk Pete hanging his head out of the open sliding door, trying to look underneath the bus to see what it was. Upon reflection - quite dangerous. Did I mention the gin? It was flowing quite freely. Eventually the noise subsided. I'm not sure if we ever figured it out, but it went away. (shrug) #2. Another all-time fave. I listened to crappy audience tapes of this one for years. Never did find a really good copy.

We were on Phil's side about halfway back, just off the floor. Perfect. I love when they open with "Stranger"... "You know it's gonna get stranger, so let's get on with the show!" and this one was no slouch. Followed-right up by probably the best "Mississippi Half-Step" I've seen. They nailed the "Rio Grande" ending. The highlight of the night came next, when they took the last chord of "Half-Step" and dropped right into a cover of The Band's "The Weight". The place just erupted. It was only the 2nd time they had ever played it - the first being last week at Nassau. What a great sing-a-long that was. They'd end up playing this a lot, but the reaction to this version puts it at the top for me.

The rest of the show was also top-notch. a "Foolish Heart" that just rolled on-and-on (in a good way!), probably the best non-Donna version of "Looks Like Rain" I've ever heard - complete with thunder! They played the last-ever version of "Death Don't Have No Mercy" and my final time seeing "Black Muddy River." This was one of those shows that had a great mix of rarities, but even the old standbys were bumped-up a notch. Shows like this were the reason we kept coming back for more.

I think we drove home right after the show. Steve drove through Georgia and South Carolina. We stopped at a Waffle House in Charlotte, where Steve opted for sleep rather than food. I took over the driving duties for a while from there, although every time we stopped for coffee (which was often) I had to wake up Steve. There was some trick to putting the bus in reverse that I never quite mastered.

I used to love driving the bus late a night like that. I'd do it quite a few more times - in several different buses - over the next few years. Nobody on the road...long stretches of nothing...The Dead quietly playing in the background while everyone else slept. It's little things like that that I tend to miss a lot.

Spring '90 comes to an end. Gone are the days...

Update: I found the flyer for the Atlanta shows:

Monday, April 05, 2010


"I Can't See Myself At 30..."

Happy Birthday to R.E.M., who turn 30 today.

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