Grateful Dead

Our First ’80s Box: The Complete 1989 Hampton “Warlocks” Shows on 6 CDs!

By Blair Jackson

It is a measure of the Grateful Dead’s confidence going into their fall 1989 East Coast tour that they decided to travel with the state-of-the-art Le Mobile remote recording truck so they could capture a bunch of their shows on 24-track tape, with an eye towards putting out a live album in the summer of 1990 in conjunction with a European tour that was already in the works. (Indeed the band recorded a number of shows on multi-track through the spring of 1990. The eventual album was Without a Net, released in September 1990.)

There’s no question that the band had been on fire for quite a while. If you’re familiar with the CD/DVD releases Truckin’ Up to Buffalo from July 4, 1989, Crimson, White & Indigo from July 7 (Philly) and the video-only Downhill From Here from July 19 (Alpine Valley, Wis.) — not to mention the earlier nationwide telecast of the Summer Solstice show from Shoreline Amphitheater (Mountain View, Calif., June 21) — you know the group was playing at an exceptionally high level, arguably getting stronger each tour since Garcia’s remarkable resurrection following his Summer ’86 meltdown/near-death. The band had also been in the studio working on a new album, Built to Last (released Halloween ’89), and that newish material was starting to sharpen up on the road, too.

When the first few dates of the October ’89 East Coast tour were announced, the Hampton (Virginia) Coliseum, long one of the band’s favorite places (and the site of many a fine Dead show) was not included on the list. You see, there had been some problems outside the last shows the band had played there — too many ticketless folks, too crazy a scene — and the powers-that-be in Hampton weren’t sure they wanted the Dead back at all. This is a problem the Dead encountered a lot during their post “Touch of Grey” renaissance, so the band got creative: Just ten days before the tour was to begin, the Dead suddenly announced a pair of “stealth” shows at Hampton set for October 8 and 9, 1989. There were no mail-order tickets sold for these gigs (as was common in those days); in fact, ducats were only sold in Southern Virginia through local ticket outlets, as a way to keep out the inevitable Dead Head invasion that followed the band everywhere. Instead of “Grateful Dead,” the tickets said “Formerly The Warlocks” on them, and when fans arrived at the gig those nights, the marquee read “The Warlocks.” Non-Deadheads passing the Coliseum must have been very confused seeing a band they’d probably never heard of headlining the arena. That, of course, was the point.

The folks who were lucky enough to score tickets for the “Warlocks” shows in Hampton were treated to two of the most exciting shows of the year. Because not only was the group playing great, they had also taken the time to rehearse some old favorites they hadn’t tackled in a number of years, including “Dark Star,” the glorious triumvirate of “Help on the Way” > “Slipknot!” > “Franklin’s Tower,” “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” (played just once at Shoreline 11 days earlier), and perhaps most surprising of all, “Attics of My Life” (unplayed since 1972!). Not surprisingly, the crowd greeted these “revivals” with ecstasy bordering on hysteria. Can I get a “Woo-hooooo!”?

Over the course of the two concerts, the band offered up what was practically a career retrospective, delving into crowd pleasing nuggets ranging from “Playing in the Band” to “Bird Song” to “Uncle John’s Band” to “Eyes of the World” to a spectacular “Morning Dew”; raucous rockers including “I Need a Miracle,” “Good Lovin’” and that incendiary Brent-Phil stomper “Gimme Some Lovin’”; and recent tunes such as “Foolish Heart,” “Victim or the Crime” and “Built to Last,” among many others (“Dear Mr. Fantasy”! “Stuck Inside of Mobile”! Lotsa good stuff, for sure.) You can find the complete set lists here.

The Formerly The Warlocks box collects every note of the band’s two nights there, spread over six CDs. The concerts were originally recorded by Grateful Dead sound wizard John Cutler in the Le Mobile remote truck, and mixed recently by longtime Grateful Dead-associate and Bob Weir/RatDog studio engineer and front-of-house mixer Mike McGinn. As always, the discs have been mastered to HDCD specifications, so needless to say, it sounds like you’re there, in the best seats in the house.

As this is the latest in a distinguished line of remarkable complete-run boxes (which includes Fillmore West 1969, and Winterland 1973 and Winterland June 1977), the folks at Rhino have gone above and beyond to design a package that’s (almost) as exciting as the music. This time out, they’ve packaged the CDs in a wooden replica of a cigar box (Virginia being a tobacco state dating back to colonial times), and filled it with all sorts of goodies, from a photo-laden historical essay by your humble narrator, to various pieces of cool memorabilia from the time/shows we won’t spoil for you by describing here.

All in all, it’s a potent blast of the Dead at their late ’80s best that you won’t want to miss. To order your copy of the Formerly The Warlocks box, click here!

NOTE: Now available for PRE-ORDER ONLY. Item is estimated to ship on September 7, 2010.


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Joined: Jun 4 2007
ordered 9-8; arrived today in wisconsin

I was happy to find my package promptly at 4:20 on my doorstep today. Yes, that's when I looked. Somebody spoil it, what's inside? I was a little puzzled to find there's a handwritten set list for 10-8 on the back of a postcard (depicting the Hampton coliseum - which looks a little like the Gravitron or a spaceship to me; how apt), but nothing with a set list for 10-9. Is this random, anyone have the penciled lists? Wierd. Did you rip it open or carefully peel off the sticker? It was humorous to see the replica newspaper (probably the most expensive newspaper I've ever purchased) and that picture of Oprah and Geraldo to remind us how much time has flown. I plan a weekend with the Warlocks and hope you get to too.

Joined: Apr 23 2008

I'm with Blair...very partial to c. 89 shows, especially after Jerry got the MIDI hookup on his everyday guitar. The multitrack mix is stellar, with Weir's guitar sounding particularly sultry. The packaging and design are superb and make this a true keepsake (as well as a shitload of great tunes). I understand it may seem a bit "extravagant" to some (re: price), but I have to say keep these coming. In the age when fewer and fewer folks are buying CD, it's sets like these that still make 'em special. IMO, this is the best box since the Complete Fillmore (of which I'm a proud owner).

Now the RT on the other hand is forgettable. The source tape has the vocs way up in the mix, which virtually kills the instruments underneath. With Weir's guitar sound at the height of its chinka-dinka phase, this makes for a bad listen. Nevertheless, the RT series has been a good replacement for DXPX, and I look forward to the next offering.

JeremyP's picture
Joined: Jun 8 2007

What I should have noted is that my order hasn't shipped yet; always takes a little while (I'm in the UK), but 9 days seems a long time to put it in a jiffy back and mail it.

I mailed a letter...

JeremyP's picture
Joined: Jun 8 2007

Yeah, Jerry's emotional touch is beyond compare. No doubt about it. Drop you with one note, as a friend of mine said to me.

Underthevolcano's picture
Joined: Feb 6 2008

BTW-I didn't get mine yet either-still waiting. But Jerry-Jimi-two whole different phenoms in my opinion. I don't bother to compare but I think Jerry for my money could play any emotion but also kick some serious booty as well. I love Hendrix-esp. "Electric Lady Land" and the Band of Gypsies stuff and it would have been interesting to see what would have been but I always go back to listening to Jerry with and without the Dead.

Joined: Sep 11 2008

My order shipped on September 8th and arrived in Minnesota yesterday (Sept 16th).

I combined this box with the RT release and selected the "free shipping" option.

They ship these USPS media class so they can take up to two weeks to arrive.

Great sounding shows!! A little overboard on the packaging and price but...

Hope everyone gets their package soon.

Best Wishes-Jimmy the Cop

mato1949's picture
Joined: Jun 6 2007
Getting very bummed out!

Rant on.

OK, so here's the deal. I ordered on August 28th, pre-order with the promotion that orders "estimated" to be shipped on September 7th. I got the Shipping confirmation that my order was shipped 10 days ago on September 8th. Yeah yeah, I know I took the cheap way out and opted for free shipping via USPS priority mail...


The company I work for uses USPS priority mail to ship hundreds of packages around the country, Florida to California, to Washington, to Texas, to Virginia and on and on and we never get delivery times more than 6 days. Never!

The only possible reason for this order not being delivered by this time is...

It was not shipped on September 8th. Maybe the order was put in the box, maybe the mailing label was printed, maybe the postage was affixed by September 8th, but it wasn't picked up by the USPS on September 8th, or it would have been here by now.

So for the individuals responsible for shipping that read this. If it ain't shipped yet, don't tell us it was shipped. That just pisses us off and makes all the people that work so hard on these projects look bad. They don't deserve it. Just tell us the truth.

We can handle the truth.

Rant over.

Have a wonderful and Gratefully Blessed day!

On the BUS since 12-29-1968, and I'm never getting off.

"When I die bury me deep, put two speakers at my feet, pair of ear phones on my head, and always play The Grateful Dead."

Joined: Jun 10 2007
Well This Sucks

Ordered on the 27th, shipped on the 8th, and still not here. Will call my bank today and have the charges reversed. The last straw in my struggle with this company. I'll just download it elsewhere.

kevjones's picture
Joined: Apr 28 2009
Hampton 89

Well folks, after ready about all of the positive feedback on this release I decided to break down and buy it. I can't really afford it, but I just love late era Dead. I was jamming MSG 90 last night while working. I have 9/16/20 (Dicks Picks) and a rippin soundboard of 9/20/90. Amazing! Just love Jerry's voice. I am excited to blast these shows in the month of October! Gonna be epic!

I must say, it was all of the positive feedback that made me buy it.

Gonna pass on Road Trips this time around, may grab it at a later date since there is no bonus disc. I miss the bonus disc though.

Looking forward to blasting Promised Land!

Big_river's picture
Joined: May 17 2009

Jerry was a player who developed and adapted before and during the life of the Grateful Dead. He overcame a handicap early in life and essentially re-learned his craft after his coma. He developed a style all his own, based on banjo technique and jazz sounds--melding a few of the numerous American musical styles, and incorporating some British troubadour style. He was not the first popular psychedelic guitarist--hand that to the late James Gurley. However, Garcia had a relatively long career arc and played in numerous bands, even dabbling in the pedal steel guitar. My contention has always been Jerry was a study in contrasts, and that influenced the coloring of his mood and emotion in the music, as well as his place as a front man and band leader. Insert Bobby comments here, although I fairly well agree with the previous poster about the Weir vocal gymnastics... What made the Dead so interesting is being able to be assaulted and caressed by so many cultural and emotional influences at one sitting. "His job is to shed light and not to master."
Concerning Hendrix, he came from a special place as well, crafting sounds from his culture and background. Early on, he developed a showman's persona, which got him in trouble with the bandleaders he upstaged in his early career. His musical background is essentially American as well--rhythm and blues and the blues--and shares a Dylan influence with Garcia. Hendrix was scouted by music industry insiders and fit into the Experience--a band which was meant to compete with the popular music at the time (i.e. Cream). In that context, he set the world on its ear, assaulting the pop charts with a very raw, heavy sound. It was a short career path, although longer if you include the "chitlin' circuit" years and the work he was doing with Band of Gypsies at Electric Lady Studio. He had a special guitar technique, and channeled unique sounds by becoming one with the electricity and audio output. As a bandleader, he didn't have a foil to play off of, and the music comes off more as a seduction than a complete emotional experience. "Let me stand next to your fire!"
To most people Hendrix comes to them as fully formed-discovered with flames at Monterey Pop. Garcia and the Dead were known to those at Monterey as both loving of their fans and brutal to the music industry. They were already in their second phase of development, with many more to come. It's not really fair to pit these legends head to head, but enjoy them both for the outstanding work which survives on tape. Concerning the visual aspect of their stage presence, I'm much more into looking at Garcia, but I'm sure it really all about the music for both of these musicians, so that aspect is up to personal tastes. Both musicians were shamanistic, which leads me to my next point--who's better--Jim Morrison or Otis Redding?


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