New Riders of the Purple Sage: 6/16/1989

Pretty sure I went to this show with my friends Crispy Craig and/or Joe the Mailman, but not 100% sure about that. What I am sure about is that was that I got the late John Dawson (aka Marmaduke) to sign my copy of the NRPS’s first album (see below). THAT was way cool.

So Musician’s Exchange Café was a small venue in Fort Lauderdale, and there were tables so you could sit around and watch the musicians perform. We got there early (not that difficult for a concert starting at midnight), and secured a table in the front. That was how I was able to slip my album up to Marmaduke and have him sign it.

John Dawson made his final ride into the psychedelic sunset on July 21, 2009. I still treasure this album.

Sorry, could not find the setlist for this show, but it was a damn good performance, and they played “Sutter’s Mill,” which made my night.

New Riders of the Purple Sage with Robert Hunter: 7/26/1978

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This stub is old and faded, kind of like my memory of the show, but there are some things which I remember vividly about that night.

I was pretty young when I went to this concert, which was held in the gym of Stony Brook University in New York. I went with my friend Bob, whose nickname was Ola (in NY, you were either called by your last name or by a nickname at that time). It was general admission, as was the norm during the 70s, so we got there early and spent a good part of the day hanging out in line.

We went inside and I got separated from Ola almost immediately, which kind of sucked because I was now by myself for the entire concert. There was no such thing as text or cell phones at that time. If you got split up, that was just too bad.

I found myself a spot on the first row of bleachers, which seemed like a prime location because I could stand and see just over the sea of heads packing the gymnasium floor. Robert Hunter was the opening act, and I was pretty psyched to see him. By this time, I was already a Grateful Dead fan, and Hunter being the person who co-wrote many of the Dead’s songs with Jerry Garcia, it was almost like seeing one of the Dead for me. It was just Hunter by himself with an acoustic guitar, but I remember the thrill of the performance. The crowd was very energetic and appreciative.

After an intermission, the New Riders came out. My memory of their performance is foggy at best, vague and distant impressions of peering through a thick haze of smoke at the band on the stage. It was during the New Riders’ first set that something very, very unpleasant happened. This part of the concert I remember clearly to this day.

As I mentioned, I was on the first row of the bleachers, looking just over the top of the crowd on the floor. I was engrossed in the music, when something caught my attention—a girl, struggling through the crowd, in my direction. I recognized the look of distress on her face. I quickly looked around me, but there was no where I could go. It was like one of those bad dreams, where everything slows down and all you want to do is escape, but you cannot for the life of you move. Complete and total panic. There was nothing I could do. She came right to me and proceeded to empty the contents of her stomach all over my shoes.

I decided I needed to get outside for a bit. I relinquished my “prime” spot and exited the gym. (Back then, you could leave and renter a show with your stub.) I found a piece of cardboard and managed to scrape the vomit from my shoes. I sat by myself under a tree for a while, enjoying some fresh air and a break from the human congestion. I could hear the music in the distance. After a while, I gathered myself back up and went back in for the rest of the concert.

Gratefully Yours: 10/26/1991

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The world is full of Grateful Dead tribute bands, but this one was unique because it featured Tom Constanten, original keyboardist for the Grateful Dead, along with David Nelson from the New Riders of the Purple Sage.

Summers on the Beach was a stereotypical Fort Lauderdale beach bar, but they used to get some decent acts in there. Being a life-long Dead fan, I was not going to miss this opportunity to see Constanten perform. Also, I do love me some NRPS, so I was psyched to see Nelson too.

The show was a lot of fun. The band sounded great and they really dug deep into the repertoire, playing some choice songs like “Mountains of the Moon” and “The Eleven.” I knew a lot of people there, since South Florida had a pretty close-knit Deadhead community. We all danced and sang along. It was just a fun night of great music.

The coolest thing, though, is that Tom Constanten came out after the show and mingled with the audience, chatting and offering to sign autographs. As you can see, I got my ticket stub signed by him. It was the perfect ending to a great night of live music.