Saturday, April 10, 2010
April-ish Dead (Part 1)
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)
Anyway....show #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: