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

Phil Lesh & Friends: 4/14/2001

Not a whole lot to say about this show, other than it was great. This was the second show of a two-night run at the Sunrise Musical Theatre, and my wife went with me the first night, which was an experience because she was late in her pregnancy. This night, I went without her and hung out with friends, which was fun. I had a lot of Deadhead friends in Florida at the time, and it was like one big party with my peeps. We all danced and sang along until late in the night.

Here’s the setlist. Although they didn’t play a lot of songs, they played a long time. It was just over three hours, if my memory serves me correct. Rock on!

Set 1:

  • Jam >
  • Comes A Time >
  • Eyes of the World >
  • Just a Little Light >
  • Help on the Way >
  • Slipknot! >
  • Franklin’s Tower

Set 2:

  • The Golden Road >
  • Viola Lee Blues >
  • Wharf Rat >
  • Viola Lee Blues >
  • I Know You Rider
  • Dark Star >
  • Night of 1000 Stars >
  • Dark Star

Encore:

  • Box of Rain

Phil Lesh & Friends: 4/13/2001

This was my first time seeing Phil Lesh and Friends. As a long-time Grateful Dead fan, I was pretty psyched. The Sunrise Musical Theatre was an intimate venue, so getting to see Phil there promised to be a treat.

This incarnation of the band consisted of:

  • Phil Lesh on bass and vocals
  • Warren Haynes on guitar and vocals
  • Jimmy Herring on guitar
  • Rob Barraco on keyboards and vocals
  • John Molo on drums

The band was playing two nights, and I of course was planning to attend both shows. My wife though, who was very pregnant at the time, was only up for going this first night. And when I say very pregnant, she was well into her third trimester and looked like she would go into labor at any minute.

We got to the theatre, and someone from either security or management must have seen my wife and become very concerned. From the moment we walked in, there was someone near us, with walkie talkie, making sure that nothing happened to her. We were basically ushered to our seats, if my wife needed to go to the bathroom, someone was right there to clear the way for her, and once, someone down the aisle from us spilled a drink, and a maintenance person with a mop was immediately dispatched to clean it up. It was a little surreal, but we just went with it and enjoyed the VIP treatment.

The first set began with a poetry reading, which was pretty cool. Here is the excerpt that Phil read:

“Invocation to the Sun, the Prologue to The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel” by Nikos Kazantzakis (part 1)

O Sun, great Oriental, my proud mind’s golden cap,
I love to wear you cocked askew, to play and burst
in song throughout our lives, and so rejoice our hearts.
Good is this earth, it suits us! Like the global grape
it hangs, dear God, in the blue air and sways in the gale,
nibbled by all the birds and spirits of the four winds.
Come, let’s start nibbling too, and so refresh our minds!
Between two throbbing temples in the mind’s great wine vats
I tread on the crisp grapes until the wild must boils
and my mind laughs and steams within the upright day.
Has the earth sprouted wings and sails, has my mind swayed
until black-eyed Necessity got drunk and burst in song?
Above me spreads the raging sky, below me swoops
my belly, a white gull that breasts the cooling waves;
my nostrils fill with salty spray, the billows burst
swiftly against my back, rush on, and I rush after.

After the poetic invocation, the music kicked off and the band performed “Celebration,” which the Dead archivists assert was the first time this was ever performed. Pretty cool! The first set also included “The Eleven,” possibly my favorite Grateful Dead song ever. I was ecstatic.

After the first set was over, my wife ran into a friend of hers, who had been up toward the front. This friend kept raving about “The sickness of the jams!” That became our catch-phrase for the evening.

After the break, the band took the stage again for the second set, which was stellar, and loooong. My wife was definitely hitting her limit by the end of the night. She said that while it was great, she was glad she was not going the next night.

I’ve often thought about our unborn child, exposed to that long night of music. I think the sickness of the jams must have penetrated into her being, because she has had a deep love of music her whole life, and has since become a multi-instrumentalist.

Anyway, here is the full setlist. Rock on, and may the sickness of the jams ever plague you! (ha ha)

Set 1:

  • Poetry Reading: Part 1
  • Celebration >
  • Jam >
  • The Eleven >
  • Space Jam >
  • Soulshine >
  • Uncle John’s Band >
  • Get Together >
  • Not Fade Away

Set 2:

  • Low Spark Jam >
  • China Cat Sunflower >
  • Uncle John’s Band Reprise >
  • St. Stephen >
  • Sugaree >
  • St. Stephen >
  • I Am The Walrus >
  • Taste Like Wine >
  • The Wheel >
  • Lovin’ Jam >
  • The Wheel >
  • The Other One >
  • Celebration Reprise

Encore:

  • Here Comes Sunshine

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

Grateful Dead and New York City Percussion Ensemble: 9/16/1987

For the second night at Madison Square Garden, we had seats straight back in the lower level. When we got in and took our seats, I noticed something different about the stage—there were chairs set up along the front of the stage. My heart began to race! I immediately assumed that this meant the Dead were going to play an acoustic set. I had never seen the Dead play acoustic, but had heard recordings and was psyched at the prospect. Alas, they did not do an acoustic set, but we were treated to a nice surprise.

The New York City Percussion Ensemble opened the show, unannounced. They were awesome, and had some incredible African dancers accompanying the drummers. One of the people sitting near us said that Babatunde Olatunji was one of the percussionists. I have not been able to confirm this, but I am going with the belief that he was there and that I got to see the legendary drummer perform.

After the drummers, the Dead came out and played two solid sets, so it ended up being quite a long night of music. High points for me were Brent singing “Devil With a Blue Dress > Good Golly Miss Molly,” and a roaring version of “Truckin’” coming out of drums and space.

A side note about this show that is pretty amazing. There were a couple of guys sitting in front of us, and we chatted a bit between sets. Well, after the tour was over and we were all back in South Florida, my friends Julie and Miriam (same friends I was at these shows with) went with me to a Grateful Dead night at a club in Fort Lauderdale. While we were there, these two guys came up to us and said “Hey! Weren’t you at the Dead shows at Madison Square Garden, toward the back, on the second night?” They were the same dudes who were sitting in front of us! We exchanged phone numbers and became close friends. In fact, one of them, Armando, is still one of my closest friends today. It was kind of like some strange twist of fate.

Anyway, here is the full setlist from the show. “New York’s got the ways and means; but just won’t let you be, oh no.”

Set 1:

  • Touch of Grey
  • Scarlet Begonias
  • Little Red Rooster
  • Dire Wolf
  • My Brother Esau
  • High Time
  • Let it Grow
  • Don’t Ease Me In

Set 2:

  • Bertha
  • Greatest Story Ever Told
  • Devil With a Blue Dress
  • Good Golly Miss Molly
  • Devil With a Blue Dress
  • He’s Gone
  • Drums > Space
  • Truckin’
  • Wharf Rat
  • Throwin’ Stones
  • Not Fade Away

Encore:

  • Black Muddy River

Grateful Dead: 9/15/1987

The day after the third Dead show at the Capitol Centre was a travel day. So me and my friends, Julie and Miriam, packed up our stuff and boarded a train from D.C. to New York City, ready to see another four shows at Madison Square Garden. The band was playing five nights, but we were heading back to Miami after the fourth night. We had lives we needed to get back to.

We passed the time on the train ride creatively, making woven bracelets to sell outside the Garden. Cash was already running low, so we had to generate a little income, if possible.

We arrived in NYC and were supposed to meet my brother who was living in Jersey City at the time. He was working, so we had some time to kill. The three of us sat on the sidewalk and leaned against a tall building, feeling somewhat frazzled. We must have looked even worse than we felt, because some older gentleman who was walking past reached into his pocket and tossed us a small stack of bills, then kept walking. We were taken aback, to say the least, but grateful for the extra cash. We added it to the communal funds.

Later, we met my brother and took the bus from the Port Authority to Jersey City. He and his wife had a nice townhouse there, so we basked in the comfort.

The next day, rested and refreshed, we got instructions from my brother how to get into the city and how to get back home afterwards, then headed out for the first of the Garden shows. When we got to MSG, we were greeted by swarms of tie-dyed freaks crowding the sidewalks as business people in charcoal suits zig-zagged through the sea of color. Looming over the entrance to the Garden was a giant inflatable King Kong, sporting a tie-dye shirt. It was quite the spectacle.

Upon entering the Garden, I got somewhat annoyed that the ticket taker gave me such a crappy ticket stub. I even asked if he could give me the part with the band’s name on it, but he rudely refused. Not much I could do about it.

We got inside and found our seats. The Garden is massive, but after the uncomfortable experiences at the Cap Centre, it felt safe and pleasant. A much better vibe, right off the bat.

The show was solid, and Brent got things rockin’ right off the bat with a great version of “Hey Pocky Way.” Second set was really fun, and “Gimme Some Lovin’” echoed how I was feeling—so glad I made it! “Baby Blue” encore was a sweet way to end the night.

Catching the bus back to Jersey was uneventful, although there was no shortage of strange folk lurking around the Port Authority. But we caught our bus, made it to my brother’s, and wound down the evening.

Here’s the full setlist.

Set 1:

  • Hey Pocky Way
  • New Minglewood Blues
  • When Push Comes to Shove
  • Me and My Uncle
  • Mexicali Blues
  • Row Jimmy
  • Queen Jane Approximately
  • Tennessee Jed
  • Music Never Stopped

Set 2:

  • China Cat Sunflower
  • I Know You Rider
  • Estimated Prophet
  • Eyes of the World
  • Drums > Space
  • The Wheel
  • Gimme Some Lovin’
  • Black Peter
  • Sugar Magnolia

Encore:

  • It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue