DISCLAIMER - This is mainly about my incredible experience at my first GD show. There is a highly biased show review inside this tale, highly biased. Just wanted to put into writing what I experienced at my first show. In retrospect, the show is only decent, but I will always love it!
Until 1994, the only exposure to the Grateful Dead I had had was the Touch of Grey video on MTV, way back in 87 (which I loved). It was probably a pretty shrewd approach of my parents to never once mention the GD. Whether by design of by accident it kept me from any GD listening, because everything I was told was “bad”, I made sure to research and experiment with on my own to verify such claims.
Around the time I was getting my doors of perception really opened, a good friend of mine said, close your eyes and listen to this. He put on 5/8/77 S>F (he was new to the GD at the time too). Well, that was all it took. I was hooked. In the course of a year, I had gone from a relatively clean cut kid to a minor hippy in my high school, much to my parents’ chagrin.
Like a complete fool, who needed the money, I was slated to work both when the GD were in DC, and when Pink Floyd was there on their last tour (Summer 94), and I didn’t go… because I worked. Talk about bad decisions and regret. I think only Lucasmcain’s not seeing 10/9/89 when he had tickets is more disappointing than missing the last Floyd tour.
In the meanwhile, I had started collecting bootleg tapes, and my collection was still small, but I enjoyed it very much. The thrill of finding new tapes was especially satisfying. I was also buying the Italian Bootlegs from “Kiss the Stone”, and those were always exceptional, though pricey.
When Fall Tour 94 came around, I was determined not to miss it! I got tickets for the first night in Landover, MD (10/9/94). I had a friend (I was now in college), who had been a long time deadhead that was entering rehad… I picked his brain, and asked him for one last favor. This favor resulted in a ten strip of “dancing skeletons”. When I look back, that was pretty low of me to ask him to do it, but we were desperate. “We” had changed, I hung with a new crowd now, from my local college where I went to school, all the old friends were going elsewhere. There would be four of us.
When the big Sunday came, we hopped in the car, popped the doses (2 plus each), and headed to USAir Arena… um… no one knew how to get there! Luckily, it was easy enough, right off the highway, then just follow traffic.
We didn’t leave early enough for any parking lot action, which was fine, since the local cops at the USAir Arena were like gang busters! We rolled up, parked, and walked right into the stadium. Well, 3 of us walked, a 4th rolled, because he was wheelchair bound after a car accident when he was in high school. This meant we got special seats, or not so special, depending on how you look at it. We were not really in a good place, but whatever. We were wasted, and the band was tuning up for the opener when we got to our spot.
The First Set
I recognized Hell in a Bucket
right off the bat, which was cool. My 3 friends were not huge fans like me by any means, so I knew they didn’t know, and I let them know. I thoroughly enjoyed it, Bobby get really excited, which got us all excited. This was followed up by Bertha
, another one I knew. Dancing was at full steam. No real jamming at this point, right. Then came a song I didn’t know, Spoonful
. No matter, the Koch Train kept on rolling. My friends pulled out some hash & buds, and as soon as we each had one hit, the Arena Security was on us, confiscating our greenery and pipage. Very upsetting, but we were in very visible handicapped seats. Stagger Lee
followed, the outro jam may be the highlight of the entire show, X-factor was reached. I knew this song vaguely, so I was really able to enjoy it. It was probably at this moment that I was completely a deadhead, no turning back. Broken Arrow
followed, and I had no clue what it was, but loved how it had that looping/arching sound to it. Then I got a cowboy combo with MAMU>Big River
. Anyone who has ever listened to three tapes has probably heard these songs, so I was all over it. I had also always been a Cash fan, so Big River was really cool. I didn’t realize they went acoustic, because our seats were sooooo far and they looked so little on stage. So Many Roads
come next, and the smell of herbs in the air was really at a peak here. Nice performance of a beautiful song. To close out the set came Promised Land
, again, another song I knew well. It rocked as it should.
During the set break the Arena lights came on. I pretty much stayed at my seat. I had never sat down since we got in anyhow. So, there I was when an acquaintance from back in high school rolled up, and I had always knew him as a total square, but things change when you go to college of course. His name was Chad, I asked Chad if he was tripping, he said he was (to this day I doubt it), but I knew I was, and HARD! I asked Chad who he came with, and amongst the names was Sarah J_____.
My jaw dropped, luckily I was tripping my face off or I would have probably sunk into a deep depression. Anyhow, I was shocked, because Sarah… oh Sarah. I had carried a torch for Sarah my entire senior year. When I finally got her to start liking me, after a year of showing off daily in our World Lit class, some fucker told her I burned… Sarah was a total straight edge, and this was unacceptable to her. Nor would I quit for her, as I didn’t see anything wrong with it. I was devastated by her dropping me, but what could I do (other than quit). Anyhow, Chad left, and a couple of minutes later…
Sarah was pulling at my sleeve, I turned to see her, and love filled me up… now, when love for someone you haven’t seen since Graduation (so, several months) is added to 2.5 hits of really awesome cid, it is pretty amazing. I could see well into her eyes, further than she would ever know. Unfortunately, I was so wasted, I could barely even talk… you know, that laugh/talking state when you are going up up up still. We chatted for a moment, and I, being retarded wasted, asked her if her friend Chad was in fact tripping because he said he was… Talk about narcing a guy out… She told me, no, of course he isn’t tripping… then came the question I dreaded.
“Rob, are you tripping?”
“No, me, hehehe, no hehehe, just smoking tonight, hehehe” looking down at my cigarette… “smoking cigarettes I mean, hehehehe”… I am sure I was very convincing.
Anyhow, the rest of our talk we just pretty much talked about how we both had gotten into the Dead, it was a first show for both of us, etc. At some point, she politely excused herself, my heart in her pocket, and went back to her seat.
Talk about some shit.
The Second Set
So, as the Arena lights went out again, we were all really tripping hard, it was great. Here Comes Sunshine
(which I was unfamiliar with at this time) was the set opener. You guys can knock the rebirth of HCS all you want, but it was great. The harmonies, the lights, everything. This was the highlight of the show for me... I was completely in tune with the music, the lights, the band, the people... this is my transcendental moment of bliss. The lights rose with the harmony perfectly during the chorus "here... comes.... sun... shine..." Only orange and yellowish lights were being used. I had just seen my sunshine (Sarah) during the intermission, all these elements were coming together in perfect lysergic synergy. I had never heard this song before this night, but it completely clicked for me.
Next was time for Bobby’s Sunday night sermon (Samson & Delilah
), and the drummers led us into it. I remember the energy levels getting pretty high during this one, and you could even sense the building being torn down was meant by most everyone, since the USAir Arena was seriously flawed for a Grateful Dead concert venue (though scene of many an important show, as it was also know as the Capital Centre of course).
I didn’t really appreciate at the time that WTGH
was overplayed in general. It sounded fine enough, but of the pre-drums selection, was probably the weakest.
Next was a song I was fully aware of, and again, the lighting for it was perfect. Ship of Fools
ladies and gents. I have always loved this song, and it was a real thrill to get to hear it live.
This went into a decent St. of Circumstance
, though a bit sloppy. I didn’t really know this song at this point, since most of my bootlegs were from the 70s, except the few I had bought the import CDs of (90s). I was a dancing fool nevertheless… and kept dancing through the entire drums
! I was probably one of 2 people that stood (within my vision) for the entire drums. Finally, when space started… I took a seat.
basically blew my mind, as I expected it would. The rafters were shaking... Man, great stuff.
The last ever Comes A Time
emerged carefully from space. I was definitely not in the know regarding the significance of the song. I did enjoy it, and when I listen back, I still do.
of In The Dark fame (to me) followed. I was a dancing machine again, and I really liked the imagery on the screen for this. The bright blue ball disintegrated nicely into Lovelight
, which was nice. Bobby got really excited again, and stopped playing the guitar to throw his hands in the air (how many times? Seemed like a lot to me at the time). I thought that was pretty cool. I definitely was more entertained by Bobby’s onstage antics than Jerry’s, but that should be no surprise.
Encore time! Rain
! Again, this was pretty cool, even though the Beatles’ covers are not the best for the boys. I enjoy the Beatles, so I enjoyed this.
When we got outside, it has started raining, and the po-po were waiting right at the exits to move us along swiftly… party poopers man.
My friends and I found the care (somehow), and drove off… it seemed like it took a minute to get out of there, though I am sure it was worse what with thousands of people leaving at the same time. I was still riding high.
We went to Shoney’s to discuss the show. Everyone had a good time, and especially me. I was sold. I got home (I was in my last year of living at home while I went to community college), and it was about 3am. There was no way I could sleep… so… I decided to clean my room. An odd choice, as my mom thought when she came in to see why I was making noise at this odd hour. She didn’t really harp on it though, and that was that.
Later, I wrote a letter to Sarah, explaining that I had lied (because, my torch was still lit for her, and I felt awful about lying to her). The letter fell out of my binder on the way to class one day, my mom read it… and, let’s just say, that led to me moving out a LOT faster than I had planned on. I am glad I did though!
Anyhow, Sarah blew me off in the long run and went off to the Coast Guard Academy.
It was cool to support the Rex Foundation too.
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