Grateful Dead: 3/31/1989

While this show is also fuzzy, I remember more about it than I remember from the previous night’s show. We had general admission tickets for this one, so we were on the floor, which always adds to the surreal experience. I can still envision dancing in smoke that was thick as the Mists of Avalon. A thriving mass of movement, swirling and swaying to the free-form flow of the music. And the lights seemed unusually vibrant.

I recall the second set being exceptionally good. Brent kicked it off with a killer version of “Hey Pocky Way,” which was included as part of the “So Many Roads” compilation set. Then we had “Truckin’,” “Terrapin Station,” “Morning Dew,” and “Good Lovin’,” with “Brokedown Palace” for an encore, which in my opinion is a great encore song.

Anyway, it was yet another night on the long strange trip. Here’s the full setlist.

Set 1:

  • Hell in a Bucket
  • Sugaree
  • Minglewood Blues
  • Peggy-O
  • Me and My Uncle >
  • Big River
  • Loser
  • Victim or the Crime
  • Standing on the Moon

Set 2:

  • Hey Pocky Way
  • Truckin’
  • Terrapin Station
  • Drums > Space
  • I Will Take You Home
  • All Along the Watchtower
  • Morning Dew
  • Good Lovin’

Encore:

  • Brokedown Palace
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Grateful Dead: 3/30/1989

The two shows in Greensboro are somewhat blurry, but there are snippets I remember. I definitely recall hanging with my friend Nancy, and I’m pretty sure I was with my friends Jon, Julie, and Miriam, although not totally sure about that. What does stand out distinctly is the sheer chaos in the parking lot scene before each show. Way too many people, many of whom had no tickets and were looking for a miracle or just there for the party. This led to problems in a town that did not seem like it was ready to host a psychedelic circus of freaks. There was a news story where an irate resident near the coliseum expressed his dismay at the fact that someone actually squatted and took a crap on his front lawn. It really seemed like the people who were getting on the Dead caravan were losing touch with reality.

I wish I had more to share about this first night, but I don’t. I am including the setlist though, which looks like it was a good show, but again, no way for me to tell. Maybe I should give the show a listen via ETREE.

Set 1:

  • Bertha
  • Jack Straw
  • Row Jimmy
  • Blow Away
  • When I Paint My Masterpiece
  • Bird Song
  • The Promised Land

Set 2:

  • China Cat Sunflower >
  • I Know You Rider
  • Looks Like Rain
  • He’s Gone
  • Drums > Space
  • The Other One
  • Stella Blue
  • Sugar Magnolia

Encore:

  • Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door

Grateful Dead: 4/3/1990

This was the third and final night of the run of shows at the Omni. Things get stranger and stranger the more time you spend in the Grateful Dead environment, and while the first two nights proved weird (first night / second night), this day was not without its weirdness.

As was par for the course, we managed to get to the show early and found a spot amid the colorful caravan of freaks in the parking lot. Armando, Tim, and I were hanging out, sitting on the hood of the car, watching the parade of oddities move past. Then this one particularly wild-eyed casualty came up to us. His face looked recently scabbed, like he’d taken a nasty fall and scraped his face on the asphalt. He walked up to us with eyes darting schizophrenically around, like a cartoon character.

“Have you seen the Easter Bunny?”

The three of us were puzzled. Armando pressed him for more information: “The Easter Bunny?”

“Yeaaaaaah. I keep hearing the Easter Bunny. Don’t you hear the Easter Bunny? I hear the Easter Bunny!”

I replied sarcastically, “Oh yeah man, I hear the Easter Bunny too.” I had no idea what this guy was talking about.

Then he excitedly pointed to a car a little ways down the aisle, where a crowd of freaks was standing around an entrepreneur with a tank of nitrous oxide gas, selling balloons full of nitrous. “There’s the Easter Bunny!!” And he stumbled off to join the line of people waiting to buy nitrous gas. We finally figured out that this dude must have thought the balloons looked like Easter Eggs. The guy clearly spent way too much time in Grateful Dead parking lots.

After a while, he came back, balloon in hand and smile on his face. “Easter Bunny.” He proceeded to inhale the gas, and we watched as his eyes rolled back in his head and he muttered incomprehensibly. After a while, he wandered off, and we concluded that the Easter Bunny dude must have blacked out from huffing gas, smashed his face on the ground, and sustained his injuries. I felt sad for him. Another lost soul.

The rest of the day was uneventful. We went in to the concert and ran into some friends of ours from South Florida, which was cool. We all hung out together, danced, and had a great time digging the music. The next day we would make the trek back to Miami.

Here’s the setlist from the show.

Set 1:

  • Shakedown Street
  • Hell in a Bucket
  • Sugaree
  • We Can Run But We Can’t Hide
  • When I Paint My Masterpiece
  • Row Jimmy Row
  • Picasso Moon
  • Tennessee Jed
  • Promised Land

Set 2:

  • Estimated Prophet
  • Scarlet Begonias
  • Crazy Fingers
  • Playin’ in the Band
  • Drums > Space
  • I Will Take You Home
  • Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad
  • Throwin’ Stones
  • Not Fade Away

Encore:

  • We Bid You Goodnight

Grateful Dead: 4/2/1990

This was the second of a three-night set of shows at the Omni in Atlanta. My friends and I got to the show early (well, as early as possible considering the long night of music the night before), parked the car in the lot, and proceeded to hang out, enjoying the people watching.

At one point, another vehicle pulled into a space near us with obvious trepidation. We watched as the driver slowly and carefully maneuvered the car into the spot, then backed out, and pulled back in again. And backed out, and pulled back in again. And backed out… After several attempts, the dude pulled completely out, then moved on to a new spot a little further down the row. And pulled in, and backed out, repeating the same back and forth as in the first spot. We decided to make a game of it, trying to anticipate his next move. This resulted in a fit of laughter that lasted until the driver finally gave up and drove off and out of view. When it was time to go into the show, I couldn’t help wondering if the guy ever found a comfortable parking space.

This evening, our seats were in the upper left, also known as the Phil Zone because of the proximity to bassist Phil Lesh. IT was actually was one of my favorite areas to sit at a Dead show, since it provided a good view of the band as they were interacting. Anyway, during intermission, my friend Tim began to exhibit some strange behavior, which caused Armando and myself some slight degree of concern.

Tim: “Is this fun?”

Armando: “Well, yeah. We’re seeing the Dead and having a good time. It’s fun.”

Me: nodding in agreement.

Tim: “I just realized. I’m the creator!”

Me: “Oh yeah. I understand. That’s cool.”

Tim: “No! You don’t understand. It’s like… I’m the Creator!”

At this point, I figured it best to disengage. Thankfully, not long afterwards, the lights went off and the band came out for the second set. I snuck an occasional furtive glance at my friend, who was sweating and struggling, but eventually he seemed to shift into a better space. Before long, he was dancing and back to his old self. Tragedy narrowly averted.

As far as the show goes, it was a solid show, with a bit of a surprise. They played “Death Don’t Have No Mercy,” which they did not seem to play much, and was the only time I had seen the band perform that song. I distinctly recall Jerry delivering a powerful vocal performance, reaching deep and expressing some strong emotion. I wondered if someone close to the band had recently passed away, especially since they also played “He’s Gone.” I never found an answer to the question, but I definitely had the sense that the song selection conveyed someone’s death.

Here is the full setlist from the show. Rock on!

Set 1:

  • Feel Like a Stranger
  • Mississippi Half-Step
  • The Weight
  • Queen Jane Approximately
  • Easy to Love You
  • Brown Eyed Women
  • Let it Grow

Set 2:

  • Foolish Heart
  • Looks Like Rain
  • He’s Gone
  • The Last Time
  • Drums > Space
  • The Other One
  • Death Don’t Have No Mercy
  • Around and Around
  • Good Lovin’

Encore:

  • Black Muddy River

Grateful Dead: 4/1/1990

Another Spring Tour with the Grateful Dead. By this point, it had become a tradition. I made the trek from South Florida to Atlanta with my two friends, Armando and Tim, who I met at a Dead show at Madison Square Garden.

This first night was an April Fool’s show, which was recorded and several songs later appeared on an album.

The Grateful Dead performed three consecutive shows during their Built to Last Tour on April 1–3, 1990. The shows were recorded and three songs from their April Fool’s Day show “China Cat Sunflower/I Know You Rider” and “Dear Mr. Fantasy” were included on their live album, entitled Without a Net.

(Source: Wikipedia)

We made it up there with no mishaps, secured our hotel accommodations, and went to the first night’s show. We got there early and spent some time checking out the parking lot scene, procuring tee shirts and other wares which were being hawked.

After shopping, we were hanging out by the car when a strange person approached us… strange even by the Grateful Dead parking lot standard. The young man clearly was suffering from chemically induced mental illness. As he began conversing with us, it became clear that he was a crack head struggling with his addiction to crack cocaine. He talked to us about Mr. Rocky, who was an anthropomorphic embodiment of crack rocks.

“Mr. Rocky. You know Mr. Rocky, right? Mr. Rocky. He destroys you mentally, and physical-al-al-lee.”

We talked with the poor soul for a while, before he meandered off on his lonely way. I felt sad for the guy. I had seen people go down that road, and it is a sad road from which few can redeem their lives.

When the time came, we went into the Omni and took our seats, which were lower section at the side of the stage. The show was very good, and hearing Jerry sing “To Lay Me Down” was particularly moving. It is a song that I still love to play on the acoustic guitar, which transitions between major and minor chords in such a way as to stir deep emotion.

Anyway, here is the full setlist from the April Fool’s show.

Set 1:

  • Touch of Grey
  • Walkin’ Blues
  • Just a Little Light
  • Candyman
  • Me and My Uncle
  • Big River
  • Althea
  • Victim or the Crime
  • To Lay Me Down
  • Music Never Stopped

Set 2:

  • China Cat Sunflower
  • I Know You Rider
  • Ship of Fools
  • Man Smart/Woman Smarter
  • Drums > Space
  • Dear Mr. Fantasy
  • Hey Jude Reprise
  • Truckin’
  • Stella Blue
  • Sugar Magnolia

Encore:

  • It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue

Grateful Dead: 9/19/1987

This was the last show of our Dead tour. The band would play another night at the Garden after this, but I would be heading back to Miami with my friends Julie and Miriam. My brother, who graciously provided us a place to stay while in New York, was planning to go with us to this show. He did not have a ticket, and the show was sold out way in advance, but he went into the city with us hoping to find a ticket.

Scalping was illegal in New York at this time, but there were still people outside trying to hawk tickets. One of them came up to us and asked if we were looking for tickets. My brother inquired as to how much, and he replied $100. Now my bro fully expected to pay more for the ticket, but $100 for a ticket that cost $18.50 was insane, so he declined. But immediately, this tall, skinny hippie came up and addressed the guy selling the tickets.

“Hey man. You got a ticket for sale?”

“Yeah. $100.”

“A HUNDRED DOLLARS! YOU’RE CHARGING A HUNDRED DOLLARS FOR A TICKET?!”

The skinny hippie dude was broadcasting this to the world. Obviously, the scalper got a little nervous.

“Shhhhhhh. Be quiet.”

“NO! I WANT EVERYONE TO KNOW THAT YOU’RE CHARGING A HUNDRED DOLLARS FOR A TICKET!”

At this point, a mass of tie-dyed freaks surrounded the scalper and began chanting: “Scalpers are Scum! Scalpers are Scum.” The scalper slunk away like a rat, crawling back to the sewers.

Anyway, my brother eventually scored a ticket (I think he paid $50, which he was happy about), and we went in to see the show.

This particular show was simulcast on TV as part of Farm Aid III, which I thought was pretty cool. Bob Weir made a point of mentioning the plight of farmers and making a plug for Farm Aid as they were segueing into “Maggie’s Farm.”

After more than a week of travelling around with the intrepid Dead community, I was feeling pretty frazzled. During the intermission, I had left my seat to get a refreshment, and as I was walking back up to our seats in the upper decks, I felt everything begin to spin. The next thing I knew, I saw what appeared to be the Hand of God reaching out of the clouds to help me up. As things came into focus, I realized it was Miriam’s hand. I had passed out and had a near disaster. Falling backwards down the stairs at Madison Square Garden would have been a most unfortunate way to end the tour, but thankfully someone was behind me and caught me as I fell. Miriam would later recount how my eyes rolled back into my skull as I began the fall backwards. To this day, I am grateful to whoever it was that saved me.

Overall, the show was great, but I confess being a little disappointed with “Black Muddy River” as an encore, especially since they had played it already as an encore the second night at MSG. But I quickly got over it.

We had a roll of 69¢ stickers, so on the way back to Jersey City, we strategically pasted stickers around the Port Authority. My brother told me that for about a year afterwards, he kept seeing those stickers and would chuckle inwardly, remembering the good times we had at the show.

Anyway, here is the setlist, and that concludes this run of Dead shows. “What a long, strange trip it’s been.”

Set 1:

  • Mississippi Half-Step
  • It’s All Over Now
  • High Time
  • Mexicali Blues
  • Big River
  • When Push Comes to Shove
  • Box of Rain
  • Don’t Ease Me In

Set 2:

  • Crazy Fingers
  • Uncle John’s Band
  • Playin’ in the Band
  • Drums > Space
  • I Need a Miracle
  • Maggie’s Farm
  • Black Peter
  • Around and Around
  • Turn on Your Love Light

Encore:

  • Black Muddy River

Grateful Dead: 9/18/1987

This was one of the best Grateful Dead concerts I have ever seen. But before I get into the details of this show, I want to share what happened the day before.

The band was taking a night off after the second Madison Square Garden show, so Julie, Miriam and I decided to cruise around the city for a bit and see the sights. While we were on the subway, I noticed a crazy person get on at one of the stops. He was looking around for someone to mess with, so I avoided eye contact, but kept him in my sights. Well, some poor schmuck seated near the doors must have made eye contact with this nutbag, because he laid into him.

“What the fuck are you looking at? You want my fuckin’ shirt? Huh? You want my shirt? I’ll kick your fuckin’ ass!”

The poor dude was obviously taken aback and calmly offered his seat to the crazy guy. This only escalated the situation.

“I don’t want your fuckin’ seat! You want my fuckin’ shirt? I’ll kick your fuckin’ ass!”

The train pulled to a stop at the next station, and the poor victim got up and made a quick exit, but not quick enough. Crazy dude followed him off the train.

“Hey! Come back here! I’ll kick your ass! Want my fuckin’ shirt…”

And the abuse trailed off as the doors closed and the train pulled away. I felt sorry for the guy who was being harassed, but was very grateful that we avoided the wrath of Crazy Shirt Dude.

Anyway, the next day, we were back to seeing the Dead. For this night, we had seats to the left of the stage, affectionately known as the Phil Zone. While we were hanging out, we noticed a person near us frequently checking his watch and marking down notes in a notebook. The first set started, and we danced and had a great time, but we kept noticing this guy with his watch and notebook. Now, I’m used to people writing down setlists, but this seemed a little extra.

After a somewhat short first set, the lights came up and the guy was busy again checking his watch and making notes. We asked if he was keeping the setlist, and he explained that he was timing everything. He then went on to explain in painful detail all the timing of the first set: what time the lights went down, what time the band came on stage, how long they tuned, how long each song was, the amount of time between songs. It was mind-boggling the amount of data this guy gathered. After showing us all the info, he deduced that the second set would be phenomenal, based upon all the time data he recorded during the first set. The dude was right!

I don’t think the setlist, or my words, can adequately convey the energy that was generated in this second set. Not only did they play what may be my three favorite Dead songs in the same set: “Shakedown Street,” “Terrapin Station,” and “Morning Dew,” but everything about this set was awesome beyond description. While I considered myself a Deadhead already, it was during this set that I was transported to a level of Deadication that I had not felt before. If you are a Dead fan, go and listen to the show on Archive.org. You’ll see what I mean.

Here is the full setlist.

Set 1:

  • Hell in a Bucket
  • Sugaree
  • Walkin’ Blues
  • Candyman
  • Masterpiece
  • Bird Song

Set 2:

  • Shakedown Street
  • Man Smart/Woman Smarter
  • Terrapin Station
  • Drums > Space
  • Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad
  • All Along the Watchtower
  • Morning Dew
  • Good Lovin’ >
  • La Bamba >
  • Good Lovin’

Encore:

  • Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door