Second in a series of flashbacks leading up to the GD50 “Fare Thee Well” shows…
“Man —these shows are gonna be great! Too bad we can’t go.”
I’d just gotten in from work and my roommate, Jeff’s, band had just finished practice. A couple of his bandmates, Bill and Lynn, were looking at a full-page ad for the Grateful Dead’s 15th anniversary shows coming up in June in Boulder in Rolling Stone.
“No way we can go,” Bill agreed, shaking his head.
There was certainly no way I could go. In the year since the Summit show, I’d quit my job, broke up with my girlfriend, ran off to join the Renaissance Faire — and promptly got banished by the King. Hank, a friend first met during that Chicago run, had moved to Austin for graduate school and let me catch my breath sleeping on his sofa a few weeks while I tried to get back on my feet. Once I got a job, it was time for me to move on.
Then, I spotted a “Roommate needed” sign on a bulletin board at SaferWay — the small organic foods store that would change its name later to become Whole Foods Market. after talking to the guy, I drove out to look at the place in Creedmoor, 15 miles south of Austin, and found a huge old house sitting alone along the road among rolling fields. Walking in the front door, I saw a framed painting from a friend’s art gallery. In the next room, there was a piano, drums, and a couple of amps, and a wall-sized “Shakedown Street” poster. “I’m home,” I announced happily as I met Jeff that first time a few weeks earlier.
“No way we can get tickets in Boulder,” Lynn said.
Even more than Lynn and Bill, I couldn’t go — for several reasons. I couldn’t afford it, I couldn’t get there, and I couldn’t take time away from work. None of those reasons would change any time soon. The answer was obvious: ROAD TRIP!
“I know somebody in Boulder who could get us tickets,” I said, and they looked up. With a possible ticket connection, Lynn quickly volunteered his van for transport, and they mentioned a friend’s cabin where we could stay — things seemed to be quickly lining up in support of our impossible scheme. That’s always a good sign.
So I called up my old buddy Donnie in Boulder (whom I hadn’t talked to in 4 years) and got him to buy us tickets, although he would not be able to go himself. I remember wiring him the money from the Western Union office in the old Alamo Hotel.
With tickets and ride and home base lined up, we were all set for the shows in Colorado.
DAY 1: The stage stood on the goal line facing the audience in the horseshoe end of the Folsom Stadium. we had a beautiful clear skies for these daytime shows, sunny and bright but crisp and breezy as well. Warren Zevon opened both days and the man was on FIRE. Strutting the stage on “A Certain Girl” and heading up a whole stadium-pack of howlers for “Werewolves of London,” he delivered one red-hot warm-up set.
Then it was time for the Dead.
They’d just released Go To Heaven, their first studio album in years, and they were still introducing Deadheads to the new keyboard player, Brent Mydland. On every song that day, he stepped right up, and especially when they played his songs, like “Far From Me,” the band backed him up and brought him solidly front and center. Brent earned this Deadhead’s seal of approval that day.
But these stories are not so much about the actual concerts as the experiences surrounding the shows I went to. So I’ll leave it to others to describe, recount, or review the shows itself. Here’s a link to the ever-important set-list from the first day.
After the show, we walked over to Donnie’s house, where my friend Nancy and her current love, Terry, were staying for the shows. We decided to regroup and refresh there before driving off to the mountain cabin near Evergreen where we were staying. Basking in the after-show afterglow, we were curiously quiet bunch. Then, Terry, a “Dead virgin,” spoke up to say, “I had no idea they were so..” he searched for the right word, “…dynamic.” Smiles and head nods and chuckles all ‘round — welcome aboard!
That night, still buzzing from such an incredible show, three of us started climbing up the mountainside behind the cabin. This cabin sat on National Forest, surrounded by nothing but rocks and trees, and the moon was shining bright — perfect conditions for crazed rock scrambling. We’d stop every so often to let out a round howls, trying for that werewolf edge. I don’t really recall coming back down later or lying down to sleep, but I awoke in the cabin the next day, rested and ready for round 2.
DAY 2: There were 2 ticket areas and, of course, we had cheap seats — reserved end zone stadium benches. The top ticket got you down to field level — standing and dancing room closer to the stage. Security folks in t-shirts patrolled the “perimeter” where a railing and a short drop separated us peons from the fun on the field. By day 2, though, you could just wait till the security folks walked past, and then slip under the railing and drop down.
Slipping under that railing felt like the final prank of this entire impossible escapade.
As the band roared back from the second set drums & space break (day 2 set-list here) and launched into Saint of Circumstance, the closing line rang ever more true on each repetition as the crowd joined in:
Sure don’t know what I’m going for —
but I’m gonna go for it, that’s for sure!
Here’s a taste of the local news coverage (love the off-stage live shot during “Wharf Rat”):
30 years? Ha! Try 50…
TO BE CONTINUED