The Spectrum in Philadelphia holds a lot of great memories for me. Like, Frank Rizzo's mounted police, a suprise first mini-set where the entire band played percussion and many trips. Strangest among them was walking out of a show (year?) to discover that several inches of snow had fallen. Lots of underdressed freaks trying to figure out which snow covered car was theres. Million laughs.
This was my 2nd Dead show, I was very interested after my 1st show (12/30/77-Winterland) but the hook hadn't been set yet. I was a Freshman at UCSB, and we camped out all night to buy tickets. Pacific Alliance - No Nukes Benefit. We got thirteenth row seats (8 of us). On the glorious day, we prepared ourselves appropriately, piled in the cars and drove to the gig. The interior of the theater was beautiful - faux starlit sky ceiling, spanish courtyard facade sides with balconies. There we were - 13th row on Friday January 13th. Things got interesting after someone sitting in the row in front of us lit up, and a security goon rushed over and began hassling him. No lighting up at a Dead show? Come on. So we waited until the lights went down and imbibed discreatly. The show was incredible - the band was full of energy, and rocked the place! Even though Jerry lost his voice half way through Wharf Rat in the 2nd set , he just stepped back and began jamming like a demon possessed. It was my revelation of how great a guitarist he was - me and my friends were dancing and gyrating wildly to the music. We were totally spent after the encore, and fell limp into our seats. Bill Graham came out and made an apology about the "hassling by event security" that night. He offered to allow anyone with a ticket free admission to the next night's show in Bakersfield. I gladly gave up my ducat stub to a grateful person who was following the band. Needless to say, and some 200 shows later, the hook was definately set deep that night......
I decided during El Paso to see where it would take me. A long strange trip indeed. . .and it continues. . .
Of course everyone has heard the 11/1 show and probably recordings of 11/2, but my GF, my best friend and I drove through horrendous rain and traffic to get to Richmond in time for the first night. Traffic through DC was so bad, we only arrived and parked like 10 minutes before the show was to start. The parking garages were mostly devoid of humans by this point and I was panic-ing.
We knew our seats were pretty good, first level, in front of the stage, Phil side. We got our seats, quickly ingested some shroomies, and sat back. After the Dancin-Cold Rain opener,through to the Jack Straw, by then many bites of fungus later, we were amazed at the energy in the coliseaum. It was so damp from the rain and everyone was chill-focused on the music. Almost New Enland show like, which the band seemed to notice too.
THe 2nd set started with Sampson, definitely NOT one of my faves, I would trade one of these for the lamest of China-Riders or Scar-Fires.....SO I danced whilst grumbling. When they went into High TIme. the entire place erupted and everything went into frenetic slow motion.
From that moment on it was just amazing. Nothing was contrived about it until the frickin Day Job. Comes A Time! Gloria for Christ's sake!
That parking lot energy after the show was amazing. Everyone knew they had just witnessed some real love our way from the boys.
We were all geared up for the next night expecting a nose dive and we were all sober (well a few beers and smoke wisps). At this point I couldnt even count how many times the show or two after a peak show was average and just them playing along. Boy was I shocked when the second night was strong too!
The Candyman in the first set was incredible. The second set From Estimated through Dew was seriously wonderful. Plus that slow motion frenetic thing was still apparent. First night I blamed the shrewmz, the second night I blamed the band!
Anyway, this was life changing for me as from then on I enjoyed every show no matter what they played. It made touring more fun, instead all competitive and road icked annoyed cuz they played Wharf Rat for the 223535232 time or some other whiner crap!
Of course there was that show in Niagra falls in fall 84 when me and this chick had sex under the bleachers during drums - life changing in that "oh my god, I am having sex at a dead show" kinda way - Thank God for Pnchos!
It's impossible to pinpoint an individual life-changing show (there were too many) because both your life experience intertwined with the Dead experience continue to evolve.
It's a lot easier to single out life-changing shows when you introduced someone, particularly a skeptical nonbeliever, to the Dead and saw their life change forever. Decades later they still can't stop talking about it and thanking you for converting them. It goes without saying that, no matter what their previous concert experience or musical preference was, they had never been to anything like that Grateful Dead show. Even today, I clearly recall seeing newborn deadheads' eyes light up the first time they saw the Dead burst into a memorable improvisational jam. You just knew they were transformed when they walked out of the venue in silence and could hardly speak for an hour or so after the concert.
Cape Cod Col, October 28, 1979 ... a day that turned my head around! Somewhere in mid-to-late first set I decided I needed to be closer to the stage. As intermission broke I made my way forward into a wall of people. Not a path opened and I shuffled the edge of the mass until I walked right into a Hell's Angel. "Where the hell are you going?" he demanded. With a huge grin on my face I blurted out the most nonsensical thing that came to my head and he broke into laughter. Now grinning ear-to-ear, he waved me through and a magical path opened up right ot the front of the stage!
I was pressed elbow to elbow and thought I was suffocating from the heat. I closed my eyes and heard, very distinctly, "come on up here where it's cool!"
Suddenly I was OBE in a sort of 3 dimensional darkness, surrounded (I felt) by many loving, happy, laughing people. I knew inside that at that moment I could ask anything at all and get an answer. Did I ask about life, universe, and everything? Well, sort of. I asked a wholly nonsensical question that made perfect sense to me at the time and wise heads pondered. I got my answer ... And suddenly I realized I'd squandered my opportunity!
Instantly I was back in Cape Cod Col and the band was playing Ship of Fools, and oh my did I ever feel the fool!
I spent a lot of time trying to find that magical space again until I realized I'd never left it. But something happened to me that night, something special, and it took a long time to piece it together.
Went back all those many years later to see The Dead on their first Summer Getaway. Only then did I realize that on that night in Cape Cod did I become a member of the tribe, and had always been since that night. It was me who forgot in those fallow years after 1995; but I was then and am still as dead as I can be. And loving it!
1981 Landover MD. that's when i first understood what it was all about... :)
Laguna Seca, Ca. 1988. My first show, I was hooked. Almost 20 years ago and I am still a die hard fan. Following the Dead were some of the best times of my life, they shaped who I am today.
and cool grandpa too!
9/18/1993, Madison Square Garden...
I was a sophmore at URI and wanting desperately to take my then girlfriend to her first show. I called my late Grandfather who had some connections, asked him if he could do what he could to get me 2 tickets, good seats. He said OK I will try. Well he came through for us and told me to pick them up at the MSG Box Office. I asked how the seats were, and he said I told the guy this is for my Grandson, don't f*&k this up!
We show up at the Box Office and pick them up... and I nearly began to cry. We walked into the arena and our seats were FIRST ROW on the floor, DIRECTLY underneath Jerry's microphone. I nearly cried at this point, but I actually did shed a tear when they came out and he started singing 1/2 step standing right above me. I screamed my head off after the first track and he looked right down at my girlfriend and I and was grinning from ear to ear.
I have seen DOZENS and DOZENS of concerts since this time... but yet whenever anyone asks what my all time best show was there is no hesitation from me... it's 9/18/1993 all the way.