To actually feel the rumble of the bass line intro into Whipping Post on my body, and to hear those clear, beautiful voices as they sang out with joy; "I Was Born a Rambling Man...", was enough to get me hooked forever...That was one concert experience that i will never forget!!
Alpine 82 was when all cylinders fired for me. I had seen several shows at the Uptown that were fun and all but Alpine was my first back to back shows. The reverberation of music and drums through out the parking lot, the Shakedown St. with all the vendors, veggie burritos and 2 of my favorite shows all in the rolling green hills in Wisconsin was just soooo incredible. The first night the friend of mine that I was sitting with had a connection with security at Alpine and they let the two of us in before the gates were open. We were the first two people in the entire theater.
Just then the square meals were kicking in. 15th row center at Alpine was perfect because the first 13 or 14 rows were on flat ground and then it begins to go up. So we were at about eye level with band looking right over everyone ahead of us. Great show! And then afterwards, I remember these guys next to us in the parking lot dancing around this candle chanting frog candle, frog candle, frog candle... Then one of them picked it up and lifted it over his head and said "Jerry looked at the frog candle". Sounds crazy but we had a few good laughs!
Alpine was the first complete experience with many more to follow.
The other times that are burned into my memory that were also amazing.
The scene at Chief Hosa campground during Red Rocks 84. Red Rocks 85 and then Telluride 87. Some of the best, fun, crazy days of my life.
Then there's McNichols '90
I wrote this shortly after seeing these shows.
"Twas a winters night with Christmas in site
nothing but joy filling the air.
For the Cosmic Clowns were coming to our town
and they were bringing their magical lire.
I new we were in for a treat so to speak,
but knew nothing of our fate,
But on 12/12/90 I was turning 28.
Now you would never know what you would see at a show,
It could have easily been another night
The Star hadn't crashed here in many a year
But there was a chance that it might
The first few notes after 'Jac-a-moe-fino'
The center of the universe seemed to change.
It was the good old Dead, playing Dark Star live.
with the sounds they has arranged
Those beautiful, transcedental notes that had been writen on my head
were for the first time being played before me.
God! I Love The Grateful Dead!
So thanks Boys for one of the best nights of my life.
I wish I could repay.
It won't do it justice, but I'll tell you right now,
That show F*cking blew me away"
Charlie_Running_Horse, that is one great story, and you are one fine raconteur! I just loved it!
(It parallels some of my experiences "back in the day"!)
Hello, my name is Jason and I am a Deadhead.
I saw 19 shows, started at Soldier Field in '91 and ended there with the last shows. Most of the shows were in the midwest - Alpine, Deer Creek, St. Louis, Memphis and Detroit. I saw a couple shows at Oakland Coliseum in Dec. ‘94 which stand out because I guess you just have to see a favorite band play at their home at least once. Shows in my neck of the woods always still had the usual percentage of "Touch of Grey was kind of cool so let’s see what the fuss is about" folks, but the vibe in the bay was concentrated. 2 memories from there: looking to see where the walking dude with the spinning light wand was throughout the shows and sitting in the parking lot before a show listening to a tape and having someone pull up in the empty spot next to us then call out the date of the show we were listening to.
For me the middle night of a 3 show run in Charlotte, spring tour 1995 was It. I went with my little sister (her first show), one of her friends, 2 friends of mine from high school and a fist full of Blue Ladies. We had great seats to the side of the stage, mid way up, just above stage level. It took a few moments for me to catch up with what the grand piano on the stage meant for our fortunes. Bruce. The 1st set was solid, ending with a huge So Many Roads. Set 2, the stories of the Unbroken Chain in Philadelphia were confirmed and came at us full color to start my favorite set of all-time Scarlet>Fire>Corrina>Matilda>Drums>Days Between>Good Lovin E: The Weight. The feeling of exuberant joy that I felt when I recognized Unbroken Chain’s first notes was the purest excitement I have ever experienced in my life. As the song’s last notes were fading, the room really literally crackled with energy and before I could communicate anything verbally to anyone around me the first notes of Scarlet Begonias danced out of speakers and I, along with everyone I could see around me, started to jump and yell like it was a Beatles concert in 1964. I had seen a couple ScarletFire’s before but Jerry and Bruce together made this one epic. I didn’t like Corrina until this show. My first Matilda that lead into a great pre-Drumz jam with the drummers and Bruce. Best drums/space I ever heard live. A sweet, sweet Days. The most swinging Good Lovin I had ever heard played live, then The Weight.
This might just sound like a show review but it was the incredible music and energy at this show that ripped me into new territory. Everyone else in our group felt similarly rocked and we all talked about it afterwards in a way that was more wide-eyed than usual. My sister and I have had a closer, more real relationship since this show and we both to this day agree it’s true. I long ago stopped caring whether or not I sound or seem foolish so I’ll say this: I think now that I actually learned what the basic act of loving another human being is all about at this show. I guess up to that point youth still had me a selfish, self-centered person but during that second set I became more aware of the people around me than ever before. I was having the time of my life and the thought or the care that those around me were having the time of his/her life had become important to me for the first time. When everywhere I looked there was amazement like mine happening that made me happier and happier. I lost all sense of myself and my own thoughts, I think I heard other people’s thoughts and I know they heard mine because I got apt responses to statements I’m positive I never spoke. If you’re experienced you know a degree of this was helped by party favors but I’m saying, for the record, that I was clear-headed and sober when I left that place and I had no business to be that way. Whatever consciousness chasm a man made substance can help you build a bridge over I leapt over that AND the bridge with my own energy along with the band’s.
3/22 was a good opening show and 3/24 I zoned out with bad upper level seats but I think I still wore a grin from the previous night. I heard Gans or Latvala played the SBD from the second set of this show at Garcia’s public wake/celebration at Golden Gate Park later that year and I’m not surprised. You know how you can start to feel high just before you light up? Well whatever deep-brain activity that let’s that happen goes crazy when I listen to this set and even now just writing about it. I get a buzz, a really heavy buzz going and whatever is going on in my life at the moment I start to feel a little more human and a little less like a walking “thought machine”. Maybe I should end this post but it’s also at these moments that I think about the possibility of time travel. Not to jump in a time machine to make it back to this or any show per se, but I start to think how time is a fuzzy continuum where numbers never seem to have a great hold on their order. When I listen to this set I think, really believe that it’s happening in real time at this moment and it’s just my current, conscious, physical self that isn’t there. I feel sometimes that I have the ability inside me to somehow get there again. Maybe it’s because I have carried so much of the power of that experience with me the memory feels more present than most others. Or maybe I am really still there now, at this moment, and that’s why I keep changing verb tenses so much.
worcester 83'...truckin' up 495 towards the show and passing a whole group of cars flying their flags...we splurged and got a case of heiniken for the ride...the boys opened with bertha and then it was all over...next year we saw larry bird and bill walton at the show...been grateful deading ever since...didn't know about bootlegs and wondered how everyone had all this great music in the parking lots...bought one of my all time favorite shirts and lost my ticket stub...ahhh, the circus was in town...
roosevelt stadium, jersey city, nj in the mid 70's. jerry's b-day bash. had only been listening to the boys for about six months or so and was loving them. but came the day of the show and i was completely blown away. i sat in the outfield under a blue sky and took in all the sights and sounds of everyone around me. nrps took the stage and set off one of the most memorable experinces of my young adult life. darkness came and jerry and co took the stage and lit me up like an xmas tree. felt like it was xmas morning and i was opening my gifts. the music touched something deep inside my core and has never let go. we wound up at the front of the stage for the second set and i will take that experience to my grave people dancing, gyrating, swaying to and fro. the smoke, the music, the sweat, what an incredible night.
We got off just as we were walking through the front door. In othe rwords, almost instantaneously.
And after drinking all that beer, I had to piss really, really bad. I headed downstairs towards the Men's room but I kept getting distracted by all the cool things on the wall and all of the cool architecture.
When I finally got to a urinal, I had to concetrate really, really hard. I kept forgetting where I was and what I was supposed to be doing.
I finally managed to complete the process without pissing all over myself, and joined the other guys and we went to find out seats... which happened to be second row dead center. Can this really be happening? Are we this lucky?
Right about then, everything turned red... that is, except for the New Riders of the Purple Sage who just walked out on stage... and all the saguaro cactuses that were springing up all over the place...
Garcia was on pedal steel, and the set was excellent... no offense to the NRPS, but in our condition, a constipated polar probably would have sounded pretty good.
When they began "Last Lonely Eagle", Fred threw his cowboy had in the air.... and it never came down. Or, it did, but not near us. And throughout the evening, we could see it floating around the room, on different heads. Someone would wear it for a while and then it would move on to someone else.
So the Dead come on finally. Man, they were on fire that night. Rockin' like there was no tomorrow. And Pigpen was at his most Pigpen, strutting around the stage, barking into the mike, and just... Pigpenning.
At some point, we began to smell a weird smell. And pretty quickly we determined that someone next to us had dropped some ashes into one of these theater seats, and it was smoldering. Most people around us were too loaded to do anything but stare dumbly at it.
It could have been very bad.
But, I happened to have a beer in my jacket that I had been saving for a Pigpen moment. I calmly reached in, pulled the top off and poured it on the seat. Hey, crisis averted, now back to the show.
I guess by now, the ESP experiment is pretty well documented other places, so I won't really go into that other than to say that, in all honesty, I don't remember a whole lot about it. That is, other than the fact that they were projecting some very bizarre pictures (I later discovered that some were Magritte paintings) and asking everyone to concentrate on sending them telepathicaly to a lab in Brooklyn.
I read about the experience later in Psychology Today, among other places, and apparently it either was or wasn't successful, depending on your source of information.
No matter. We were there for the music.
The lights went out and everything turned red again.
The Dead came back for the last set of the night, and once again, blew everyone away. I remember Pigpen stalking around on the stage like a lion looking for prey. He was into one of his raps in the middle of "Lovelight" and was blazing hot! He pulled a couple on stage with him and they were dancers to his puppetmaster.
And then finally, it ended.
I felt like I needed a cigarette... and I didn't smoke!
And as the last notes began to fade away, lo and behold, Fred's cowboy hat made it's way back to him. Dunno how it happened, We were startiing to leave, and I turned around and there it was, on top of his head, and all you could see underneath was his glasses and a huge Grateful Dead smile!
But the adventure was not quite over.
We were going to drive back to Virginia, still high from the acid, the Southern Comfort and beer, but mostly from the music.
Somewhere along the line, we picked up a hitchiker who introduced himself as "Gabby".
Never have I met a human being more aptly named. This guy talked non-stop all the way from New York to Virginia when we let him out.
Turns out, that this was a good thing because I was driving and everyone else fell asleep. Gabby's gabbing kept me awake and even helped me navigate through the maze of dwarves with protest signs that kept running acrross the interstate highway all the way through Maryland. These guys musta been picketing Disney, because they all looked like they walked out of "Snow White", beards, hoods, and all.
I had to swerve to miss them, and all the time Gabby kept talking... apparently I was the only one who saw them.
The biggest lessons I learned was to expect the unexpected, things are often not what they seem... and don't take apple juice from strangers.
I would have to say it was the 2/20/71 show at the Capital Theater, aka, the ESP show.
We were four guys from Nowhere, VA who decided at the last minute to drive to New York to see the Grateful Dead. Tickets?? Ha! They aren't that popular, they'll never sell out. We'll just buy tickets when we get there.
Well, from the get-go, this was a classic long strange trip, beginning with the great wallet hunt.
We went to a party the night before, and my friend Fred lost his wallet somewhere outside the building. So at 4:30 AM, pitch black, we were searching in the dark outside of an apartment building (no one called the police, surprisingly!) for the wallet. And guess what?!? We found it within five minutes! And off we went.
Three hours later. New Jersey.
At the time, the NJ turnpike was notorious for stopping cars with longhairs and performing some pretty aggressive roadside searches. I experiencedthat dubious pleasure myself, two years before.
So as we were finishing a bowl, I glanced in the rearview mirror and saw a cruiser just tearing up the road and getting right on my ass. Now, you have to understand that we were in a beat-up, smoke-filled VW bug with a bumper sticker that said "Don't like your police? Next time you're in trouble, call a hippie!"
So I thought, "OK, this is it! We are all going to jail!"
He pulled up to within about 3 feet of my rear end, suddenly pulls out into the other lane, and blew right by me, without a glance. Naturally, we assumed that we somehow became invisible.
After that, the rest of the drive was uneventful... other than convincing ourselves that we somehow got turned around on the NJ turnpike, and were headed in the wrong direction. Got off the turnpike and turned around, and didn't realize our mistake until we got to the "Welcome to Delaware" sign. Ooops!
Somehow we made it to Port Chester and walked up to the box office to buy our tickets. The guy behind the counter looked at us like we were insane (we were!) and told us the concert had been sold out for months.
Huh?!?!? For months?
We were crushed. Time to regroup and think out this problem. Which in translation meant, time for a bottle of Southern Comfort.
Things began to look more promising at that point, especially when the two derelicts came up to us and told us they were friends of the band and for $10 each, they would get us backstage passes. We wanted to think about it (we were, maybe, naive?) and while we talked about it, passed them the bottle. Big Mistake!!
Between the two of them, they finished the bottle in two swigs.
Depsite the fact that one of the guys said "These guys seem OK. Let's do it.", we took a pass and decided to buy some more beer.
Throughout the afternoon, we kept going back to box office and talking to the guy, not really expecting anything, he just was the only person we "knew". He was actually pretty friendly and didn't have any objections to us slippling him a beer every now and then.
The evening's crowd was filtering in all afternoon, and the area around the Capital Theater was starting to look like a party. We got in the spirit, and after a while it really wasn't that important if we got in or not.
The doors finally opened, and as people were going into the Capital, the guy in the box office motioned us over. He looked around, and lowered his voice and said,
"I'll probably lose my job for this, but I like you guys. I have four tickets I was holding but it doesn't look like they're gonna show up. So you can have 'em for face value!"
We were ecstatic! It was beyond a miracle! It was waaaayyy beyond anything we were even hoping for.
We were jumping around, slugging back brews and generally raising hell! We almost got run over by a U-Haul truck that was trying to park. The driver parked the truck, opened up the back, and there musta been 25 people that jumped out.
One girl had a large plastic container that had a light-colored liquid and she came up to us with a big smile and said "Do you want some apple juice?"
After drinking beer all day>? Sure!!
We all took a big slug, and passed it on. By the time it got to my brother, he was ready and took a deep, deep drink.
"Whooaa, hold one! That's got 30 hits of acid in it!'
End of Part 1
100+ degrees, good liquid lsd from a visine bottle, Giants Stadium parking lot, good friends, and an Eyes opener and a light rain to cool us down. Felt like I was on another plane of existance. truly marvelous life changing day.
The first time I saw the Grateful Dead I was 8 years old about to turn 9 at a Human Be In in El Camino Park in Palo Alto. It was the beginning of the "Summer of Love". My nickname was Pig Pen as I was a messy kid and when Jerry turned around on the flat bed and called to Pig Pen, I thought he was talking to me. He wasn't, not that time. Then came Maples Pavilion at Stanford six years later. No Pig Pen lots of new material and a bouncing floor. The next biggie was the Cow Palace and the wall of sound. Seeing that mountain of speakers was awesome and they worked it that night. Memorable was the closing of Winterland watching Belushi do back flips across the stage and an end to the SF Dark Star drought. (1195 days since last SF Dark Star) I think it was a June show of '77 at Winterland where the top of the building disappeared and we all went hurtling through the cosmos that I made the decision I would ride this to the end. There was no other thing on the planet that could do this thing and I liked it a lot. It made having a day job a pain in the ass so by the early 80's I figured out many ways to make it work. It was the field trip in '82 where I made the leap. I was now deep in the pudding and surrounded by Grateful Dead family and friends. It became a Grateful Dead world where I would spend years taking care of my fellow Deadheads. Then came the "In The Dark" explosion of '87. Who are all these people?
Spinners and twirlers and dirt surfers, gate crashers tweakers, freakers and DEA. Our little villages of happy campers became cities overnight. There were lots of tears and joy over the years as the dark background grew darker to make the stars shine brighter. Death, birth and more death punctuated this journey and cemented us together. At Foxborogh in '89 I met my wife and we have two kids now. Several dozen shows later I would find myself backstage with a hand full of friends who shared the same birthdays and the assembled crowd sang us happy birthday; among the singers was Jerry Garcia. That was the last time I would ever see the Grateful Dead. Those friends who shared this journey are still my best friends in the world. Today our numbers are shrinking. Someday the last Deadhead to ever see a show will perish from this earth. Summer flies and August dies and the world grows dark and mean...