The Beginning of the End — Boulder Dead 2019, night 1

Continuing my Dead Run 2019 story…

Leaving Texas the third day of July meant we were a day early (according to “Jack Straw,” one of the tunes we heard in Dallas). Albert went ahead to Boulder on the 4th for a Red Rocks’ show that night with some friends in from Austin, but I was waiting to ride up on Friday with Sara instead. My wonderful wife, Sara, happily accepts her fate as a “Dead show widow,” always willing to send me off with a smile and an admonition to “Have fun—but not too much — and come home happy.” The fact that she gets to spend time with our old friends and welcoming hosts, Rory & Jane & Matthew, certainly helps. And though she doesn’t hit the shows — she’s none too fond of huge crowd scenes — there’s also the attraction of leaving household duties behind.

We arrived at their house in north Boulder in time to visit a bit before Albert showed up to get ready for round 1 of our back-to-back Boulder shows. From their house, we headed over to where Albert had stayed the night before at an Air B&B within walking distance of our shows at Folsom Field rented out by several friends from the Deadhead scene in Austin.

Dead-Boulder 2019 Austin Crew

Absent from Austin now two years, I knew some of these people, a few by name, more by sight, and several from Facebook groups. I knew Leo well, Nicole kinda well, and Diana and Greg by sight mostly. This would change as I hung around more, but on Friday afternoon, it felt like there was always one or two more people that I had not yet met joining us before we started off to the stadium.

Only when we start trying to move out the door, down the street, and towards the show did Albert refer to the group as the Crew, and that stuck in my mind, especially since I still did not know everyone’s name, much less who everyone was.

Getting the group moving in a forward fashion while hanging together proved a fun challenge but we held it together pretty well until we approached Shakedown Street. Some of the Crew wanted to cruise Shakedown before heading in, but some of us — me & Albert included — were anxious to get into line.

I’m willing to wait extra time in line in anticipation of getting to the “sweet spot” on the floor pit where the sound is near-perfect: directly in front of the sound booth (best mix), as close to mid-line as possible (best balance). With a walkway running from the stage to the sound booth, there’s also a “middle rail” section that allows for some great sight lines to the stage if you’re close to it. Standing in either back corner there provides excellent sound & viewing, my two requirements for a grea show.

A lot of people flowing in early rush to be much closer, but closer to the stage means closer to everyone around you and I still get ever so slightly claustrophobic in a crowded area. At the very least, it distracts me from the music — and that is what I’m there for. Moreover, my old friend, Gordon, an audio man, taught me to hit mid-line however far back you had to go and that the sound is always better by the sound board than at the front.

As I headed directly over to the middle rail and that corner in front of the sound board — the sweet spot — I spotted John & Amy a couple of friends from L.A. we had met at the exact same spot last year. Laughing in recognition, we all had a great reunion recalling last year’s shows.

I had just been telling the story of Amy’s attempted selfie with Bill Walton to Sara so we laughed remembering that as well. See, Amy is short — that’s why they hang on that middle rail: to allow her a chance of seeing the stage down the alley. Well, the prior year, Amy looks up to see Bill Walton, the World’s Biggest Deadhead (in more ways than one) walking up the alley and stops him to ask for a selfie. He agreed and she snapped a photo before he walked off. But when she checked it, she discovered you couldn’t see anything but her and Bill’s chest. Figuring it was a lost opportunity, she was delighted to find a photo of her trying to get the photo in the next day’s newspaper, allowing her to save the moment after all. Anyway, it was  great seeing them again.

Once you’ve found a place to be in that sweet spot, the crowd starts filling in, and trying to hold space for your friends — and yourself — becomes important. For a while, Albert and I were in the business of trying to “appear large”  until our Crew filled in beside us. As more people pushed in, filling the pit, I found myself drifting closer to the walkway, which moved me away from the growing circle of friends over with Albert and the Crew. Again, I don’t mind — it’s the music I am after.

Finally, there was nothing left but to wait. Some folks love guessing the opener but I’ve never been into that much. Me, I like surprises, so I’ll let the band decide.

“Not Fade Away” certainly did surprise us as the opener. The Buddy Holly classic generally helps close out a show, with the chorus “You know our love will not fade away,” used as a sing-along by the crowd to call the band back to the stage for an encore. Kicking off a double-show tour closer with it stood any of our expectations on our collective heads.

The weather forecast had warned us about storms coming in during the evening, so it was no surprise the band launched into the weather-appropriate “Cold Rain and Snow.” Okay, we had no snow coming down, but the rain started kicking in and sure enough, as they wrapped this second song up quickly, Bob Weir announced they’d be taking a break due a “weather situation.”

That was followed by a PA announcement to evacuate the field and the bowl and seek shelter. Initially, that provoked little reaction and a slow response — until the hail started. Beyond our view down in the pit, lightning danced behind the stadium, and soon, most people were moving off the field into the covered concourses up in the stands.


The weather delay lasted well over an hour. It took quite a while to empty the seats and the floor to the extent that they did empty. Some people never moved, and a lot of folks returned once the rain started to slack off but while the PA still intoned its dire warning to evacuate and seek shelter. I returned a little early, too, after the hail stopped and the rain slacked off, just a little concerned I might lose my “spot.” I was already soaked to the bone but at least I had brought a rain jacket, thus saving my wallet and phone from drenching. Not my feet, though.

Eventually, they returned to the stage and reprised a verse from “Cold Rain and Snow” before throwing in “Bertha,” a rare repeat from the prior show. With the line, “Ran into a rainstorm,” though, it was a natural fit for the night, and the crowd roared in recognition and approval.

After picking up the set, Bob made an announcement that the band would look to make up some of the lost time by skipping the traditional set break and playing straight through. “So, if you need to take a break, don’t wait for us, cuz that ain’t comin’.”

Then, they proceeded to take us on a non-stop ride into the night. and, oh, what a ride…

Set I: Not Fade Away, Cold Rain and Snow*

Set II: Cold Rain and Snow > Bertha > Me and My Uncle, Ramble on Rose, Half Step Mississippi Uptown Toodeloo > Cassidy > Deal > Box of Rain, China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider > Terrapin Station > Drums/Space > Casey Jones > The Other One > Morning Dew
Encore: The Weight > U.S. Blues

By the time the band encored, we were exhausted and drenched and wandered back to the Crew HQ weary and wet. Albert had tickets for an after-show from Ghost Light but both he and I wanted to head back to Rory’s quickly to get into dry clothes first. And as much as I wanted to see Ghost Light and the amazing Holly Bowling, I knew I needed to rest instead. Albert headed back to the show but barely caught the ending by the time he got there.

The end of the night left me with the distinct feeling of “Try again tomorrow.”

About bullersbackporch

I am a native Austinite, a high-tech Luddite, lover of music, movies and stories and a born trainer-explainer.
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