Monday, December 28, 2015

My Life With The Grateful Dead, Part 3: Road Stories Take 1

I went to many Grateful Dead shows between 12-30-85 when I was 15, and my last show, which I walked out of, during a short and depressing show, somewhere during Drums on 09-17-94. I went to a lot of shows with friends, and many on my own. I saw the Dead in a few different states (geographically and of mind). I enjoyed the parking lot experience, but I would never show up without a ticket. The band begged people never to do that. I can only imagine what the scene would have been like had the "fans" actually listened to the band.

I partially blame MTV for this. In 1987 MTV ran a weekend-long cutaway news series called "Day of The Dead".  Soon after this aired so many people, who's only interest in the band had to do with the party in the parking lot, started to show up, often without tickets, to take advantage of the 24 hour drug binge that was going on before and long after the show. I was a senior in high school in 87/88 and I recall so many people who never would have considered the Grateful Dead before that broadcast, now just had to be at the next show. Madonna fans were changing their style from lace to tie-dye. I was thrilled for the band to have new fans, after all I wasn't around in the 60s to see them perform. And my first show wasn't until 1985! Who was I to talk? My problem had to do with those who only wanted in on the party and didn't care for the music.

That aside, my memories of the parking lot, the venues, before, during, and after the shows, and traveling far and wide to see the band, are pretty much all on the positive side. Some of my greatest times were the anticipation of the show, straight through to the encore.

I'll be posting one show memory at a time, and I promise not to make them too long. Most links are to a soundboard version of the show on the site. Other links will take you to official band sites, and sites to purchase music, or readings I think are relevant.



May 10, 1987, Laguna Seca Raceway, Monterey, CA

I was 16 years old, living with my dad in San Mateo, about 15 minutes south of San Francisco, This is where I went to high school, and really grew to love the Dead, among other amazing bands and genres. I had already seen the Dead about 15 times since my first show in December 1985, and I really wanted to make it down the coast to Monterey to see at least one of the shows with Ry Cooder and Bruce Hornsby opening. I drove my 1981 Toyota Corolla Tercel (yes, that was an actual Toyota model) down to Monterey all on my own to see the Sunday show. I have a very trusting father.

1987 was a stellar year for the Dead. They really hit an artistic stride that year, months after Garcia returned from his diabetic coma. They were seriously firing on all cylinders. The Sunday show was tons of fun. I went on my own, but I met so many freaky and friendly Heads, that it just didn't matter.

I was standing about 15 yards from the stage, on stage right, in the "Phil Zone" before the encore of the Sunday, May 10th show, when I started to shout the "Not Fade Away" chant the crowd sings at the end of the song: "you know our love will not fade away (clap, clap, clap, clap clap)". Some guy in front of me shot me an annoying look, and told me to quiet down. I refused. I think this may have prompted others around me to join in the chant. Next thing you know hundreds of people around the front of the stage are chanting it, loudly. The band came back out and made Not Fade Away their first encore. How you like that, fella? He did give me a high-five following that, btw.

That reminds me, in November 1987 I saw Chuck Berry at the now defunct Circle Star Theater in San Carlos, California. He was taking requests, which is very common for CB. I was 17, sitting in the third row, and I shouted out "Promised Land" because the Dead play it, and I love that song. Some guy, probably in his 40s or 50s turns around and grunts "he already played that song, kid". The stage rotates in the center of the room, and at that exact moment the guy was yelling at me for being so naive regarding the repertoire of the master on the stage, Chuck was right there. He heard the guy yelling at me, and responded by saying "No I didn't. Here it goes!". HA! In your face, asshat! Fabulous. Thanks Chuck.

Thanks for reading. I'd love to hear your stories as well. Please feel free to leave a road story of your own in the comments.

Click here to read my previous story about my tape-trading history with the Grateful Dead.


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Here's an interesting studio/live mashup of Not Fade Away from what is actually 1985 (it says 1987 in the credits, but it's not). Great jam here, indeed. Enjoy.

1 comment:

Malderor said...

Huh, I was at that Laguna Seca show. My first Dead show, and the last one that allowed camping in California, if I recall correctly. I don't remember if it was Saturday or Sunday, but they did a version of "Morning Dew" that absolutely made my hair stand on end.