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. :-)

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