Dead & Company: 12/31/2019

Although I am a long-time Grateful Dead fan, and saw my first Dead show back in 1980, I was never fortunate enough to make the pilgrimage to the west coast to see the Grateful Dead do a New Year’s show. But now that I am here living in the Bay Area, I was not going to miss my chance to see Dead & Co. on New Year’s Eve.

When tickets went on sale, I logged onto everyone’s favorite Ticketmaster website and was put in a queue, and I waited… and waited. Finally I got in and nothing in my price range. But I was patient. Refresh… refresh… refresh. Finally, a single ticket appeared at face value for under $100, so I snatched it up. The rock and roll gods had smiled down upon me.

As NYE approached, I weighed the options on whether to take the train into San Francisco, or drive, which is less than an hour. I opted to drive, since I don’t indulge. I was unsure how late the concert would go and didn’t want to miss the last train, which was about 2:00 am.

On New Year’s Eve, my kids were in town for the holidays. Thankfully, my family was very understanding about my need to go to this show, and they were planning a chill evening at home. I headed off after an early dinner and drove into San Fran, getting there a few hours before the show.

As I pulled up to the Chase Center parking area, I asked how much parking was. The attendant told me $50. “$50?!” I replied, aghast. “No thanks.” I drove about a mile or so away from the venue to another lot, and that was also $50. I couldn’t believe it! I’ve paid half that much for concert tickets. I grudgingly turned around and went back to the lot right next to the Chase Center. If I was going to get hosed for parking, at least I wanted to be close.

After parking and finding a restroom, I made my way to the hippie vending area (nicknamed Shakedown Street). Lots of tie-dyes, stickers, and an abundance of illicit substances. While I generally don’t care what anyone chooses to do in regards to intoxicants, I confess that all the people selling nitrous oxide balloons and all the freaks huffing them pissed me off. I wanted to yell at them and say “Hey! You know that nitrous is one of the major global warming gasses, right? You selling nitrous to make a quick profit makes you just as bad as the oil execs pushing fossil fuels to make a buck.” But, I bit my tongue, purchased a “Making America Grateful Again” tee shirt, and got in line to enter the venue.

My seat was straight back, so I had a good view of the light show, and the sound was decent for an arena. The band took the stage right at 8:00 and launched into “In The Midnight Hour,” a great song to open a New Year’s show. They played two sets, and then took a somewhat longer break as the countdown to midnight began.

Shortly before midnight, the lights went down and the celebration began. A huge art deco clock was lowered behind the stage, and a biplane took off, circling the arena with some skeletons sitting on the wings. Then the dancers hit the stage, kicking up their heels in a “roaring 20’s” display that was very cool. As the sequined dancers kicked and shimmied, Father Time stepped out and began the countdown. “5… 4… 3… 2… 1… Happy New  Year!” Colored balloons cascaded down from the rafters as the band started playing “Sugar Magnolia.” Perfect! Everyone danced throughout the third set, and the band closed the night with “Touch of Grey” as the encore. Yeah, a new decade, and I will survive.

The drive home was uneventful. I had a bottle of cold brew coffee in the car, so I drank that and listened to the Stones’ “Exile on Main Street.” Good driving music for a late night drive home.

Anyway, here is the full setlist, along with some picture I took from the show. Rock on, and may 2020 bring you lots of live music!

Set 1:

  • In the Midnight Hour
  • Big Railroad Blues
  • Iko Iko
  • Mr. Charlie
  • Loser
  • Tennessee Jed
  • Sugaree
  • New Speedway Boogie

Set 2:

  • Help on the Way >
  • Slipknot! >
  • Franklin’s Tower
  • Estimated Prophet >
  • Eyes of the World >
  • Drums (with Zakir Hussain) >
  • Space (with Zakir Hussain) >
  • Milestones
  • Standing on the Moon
  • Not Fade Away

Set 3:

  • Sugar Magnolia >
  • Uncle John’s Band >
  • Scarlet Begonias >
  • Fire on the Mountain
  • Sunshine Daydream

Encore:

  • Touch of Grey

Grateful Dead: 9/11/1987

This concert marked my first deep dive into the Grateful Dead counter culture. While I had been listening to the Dead since the 70’s and had seen them numerous times prior to this, this marked the transition into lengthy travel to catch a long string of shows, as well as engaging in the sale of arts and crafts in the parking lot to offset the costs.

Three of us had decided to embark from Miami to catch three nights at the Capitol Centre in Maryland, followed by four nights at Madison Square Garden in NY. (The band was playing five nights at the Garden, but we could only manage four.) It would be me and my friends Julie and Miriam. In preparation, we spent long hours making beaded necklaces and woven bracelets to sell while on tour. Luckily, we were able to sell a fair amount prior to getting on the road, just at local concerts and events in Miami.

We took a flight from Miami up to the DC area (I forget which airport) and rented a car when we got there. Julie had also secured us a place to stay in Silver Spring near the venue with someone she knew (more on that fiasco in a subsequent post). I have a great memory of Julie helping herself to some little bottles of booze on the plane as the service cart was alongside our seats. We imbibed and enjoyed flying the friendly skies!

Upon arrival to the concert venue, we began our tour of the parking lot, hawking our beads. Julie was the ultimate salesperson. She somehow managed to lure dazed hippies our way who eagerly parted with their money in exchange for a strand of beads.

While we were wandering the rows of cars and campers, I noticed two people walking briskly toward us. It took me a moment to realize that it was my brother Mike and our friend Jon. Unbeknownst to me, they drove up from Gainesville, Florida for the shows, intending to surprise me. After some warm embraces, we spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out together and catching up. Already, it was feeling magical.

Despite the festive mood, there was an undercurrent of tension that was palpable. By this time, the merry band of intrepid deadheads had swelled in number and authorities in cities where on high alert. Prince George’s County’s finest were certainly out in force, and before the three-day stint was over, there would be problems.

But that is another stub and another story. For this show, we went inside without any problem, found some seats together, and danced our asses off. It was also Mickey Hart’s birthday, which made it even more special.

Here is the setlist. Check back soon for my memories of the second night.

Set 1:

  • Bertha
  • Promised Land
  • Candyman
  • New Minglewood Blues
  • When Push Comes to Shove
  • Tons of Steel
  • Desolation Row
  • Deal

Set 2:

  • Happy Birthday Mickey
  • Sugar Magnolia
  • Sugaree
  • Estimated Prophet
  • Eyes of the World
  • Drums > Space
  • Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad
  • Dear Mr. Fantasy
  • All Along the Watchtower
  • Wharf Rat
  • Sunshine Daydream

Encore:

  • Touch of Grey