Dead & Company: 11/14/2015

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This is the newest stub in the collection, and I figured I would post while the memory is fresh.

Sometimes, something magical happens at a concert, and that was the case with this show. First off, it was almost 35 years ago to the day that I saw my first Grateful Dead concert, so there was some definite nostalgia happening. But it was also special because I went with my youngest daughter and it was her first time seeing a “Dead” show. She was very excited and she pointed out that although I had taken her to some great concerts over the years, this was the first time that it was just the two of us, so it was really great father/daughter bonding.

We drove to Greensboro, which is about a two-and-a-half hour drive. We got there early and decided to grab dinner first. Hops burgers place was highly recommended, so we went there. It supposedly has the best burgers in the country. Don’t know about that, but the burgers were pretty damn good!

After we ate, it was a short drive to the Coliseum. The first thing I noticed was that parking was $20! Talk about sticker shock. That was less than what I paid for many of the concerts I’ve seen over the years, but I paid my dues and we got a nice spot right near the exit.

In keeping with Dead tradition, there was the typical parking lot bazaar with vendors selling all kinds of stuff: some legal, some not so much. I bought a couple tee shirts and my daughter bought a nice hoodie. I marveled at the throngs of people who were still desperately trying to keep the legacy alive.

We went inside and our seats were on the side of the stage: not bad, but we could not see the screens that made up the background. We decided to move to some open seats, which ended up being fine because no one else came to claim them. The move afforded us a great view of the band and the colorful light show.

The band sounded great. John Mayer did a nice job playing lead guitar, and the rest of the band sounded relaxed and together.

So here is the magic moment. My daughter’s favorite Dead song is “Friend of the Devil.” The Grateful Dead played it the first time I saw them and I was hoping, for her sake, that they would play it this evening. The first set ended, and no “Friend of the Devil.” I told her that it was highly unlikely they would play it, since I have only ever heard the song played in the first set. She seemed OK and was really enjoying the music and the dancing. Second set ended, which was an amazing set, but still, no “Friend of the Devil.” Then Bob Weir and John Mayer brought out acoustic guitars for the encore. I figured “Ripple,” but no, they played an amazing acoustic version of “Friend of the Devil.” I could see the joy and excitement bursting from my daughter’s happy eyes. I felt like they played it just for her. It was truly one of those special concert moments when the unexpected happens and it makes the live concert experience something transcendent.

Anyway, here is a video clip of the encore from the Greensboro show, a moment that will live on in my memory as one of the best concert experiences ever.

Grateful Dead: 11/26/1980

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This ticket stub is from the first time I saw the Grateful Dead, who would become a major creative influence in my life. I figured it was appropriate to write about this stub today because next week, almost 35 years to the day, I’ll be taking my daughter to see Dead & Company, with surviving band members Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, and Bill Kreutzmann, along with guitarist John Mayer.

I suppose I should first say a little something about the infamous Hollywood Sportatorium. The Sportatorium, fondly referred to as the Sporto or the Sport-hole, was located out in the boonies of what is now the Pembroke Pines area of South Florida. Back then, it was the sticks. You drove past miles of cow pastures on a long road that was only one lane each way until you reached what looked like a huge barn in the middle of nowhere. The parking lot was a mud pit, the acoustics were wretched on a good night, the facilities were poorly maintained, but this was home for concert goers when I was growing up in Miami.

I’d started listening to the Grateful Dead at a young age. I had a friend whose nickname was Ola and he introduced me to the band, making me my first cassette tape that included songs like Morning Dew, Truckin’, and China Cat Sunflower. I started buying records and immersing myself in the music, sitting for hours with my guitar and learning the songs. When I heard that the Dead were coming to the Sporto, I rushed out and grabbed a ticket.

I’m not 100 percent sure, but I am fairly confident that I went with my friends Mark and Dean to this show. What I do remember was the feeling I had when the lights went down and the band came on stage. The band unassumingly walked out and began their tuning session while the audience energy began to build. I felt my heart rate increasing, anticipation crawling over me. Finally, after the short eternity, the band turned and faced the crowd and launched into “Alabama Getaway.” I was so blown away that I nearly fell backwards off the chair I was standing on. From that moment, I was completely hooked.

Years later, when I started collecting tapes of Grateful Dead shows, I acquired a copy of this show, which allowed me to relive the experience of when I first saw the band whose music continues to inspire me today. The tape has long since deteriorated, but thanks to the digital age, I was able to easily find the setlist online. My daughter told me last night that “Friend of the Devil” is her favorite Grateful Dead song. They played it the first time I saw them, so it would be truly special if they play it again next week.

Here is the setlist from the Sporto show, 35 years ago.

Set 1:

Alabama Getaway
Greatest Story Ever Told
Friend of the Devil
On the Road Again
Jack-A-Roe
Minglewood Blues
It Must Have Been the Roses
The Race Is On
Althea
Lost Sailor
Saint of Circumstance
Deal

Set 2:

Cold Rain and Snow
Samson and Delilah
China Cat Sunflower
I Know You Rider
Estimated Prophet
Eyes of the World
Drums
Space
Wharf Rat
Around and Around
Good Lovin’

Encore:

(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction