Saturday, July 30, 2005

DeadLinks Note

I'm constantly on the look out for cool, active Grateful Dead websites. I have 24 listed now, just adding The Set List Program tonight. I've reorganized the links to, starting with Dead Downloads, Podcasts & Streams; followed by Dead Reference; Jerry Garcia sites; Dead Blogs, and some miscellanous Dead sites. If you are aware of any others, please let me know and I'll add them to the list. The list is getting pretty comprehensive to date, but probably far from complete. Happy surfing!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

DC Dead: The Capital Centre

Earlier this week, I downloaded my first Cap Centre show (3/14/90), and what a show that was! Check out the first set in particular, one of the best of the 90s. From 1974-1994, The Grateful Dead played 29 shows there, 12 of which I had the pleasure of seeing myself. Add 2 more Jerry Garcia Band shows, at least 13 concerts from other bands, and a multitude of NBA (Bullets), NHL (Capitals), Box Lacrosse (Wave) and College Basketball (Maryland Terps) games, and needless to say, I spent many, many evenings there over the years.

When The Capital Center was built in 1973, it was at the time considered state-of-the-art, complete with a large screens in the center of the arena, skyboxes (that were truly SKY-boxes), wide concourses, a restaurant, etc. By the time I started going to athletic events and concerts there in the 80's it was already obsolete. The acoustics sucked, traffic was hell getting in and out of there, and it had a very dark and cold feel to it. That said, I still had a great time most every time I went out there.

By the time I 'got on the bus' in '89, camping had pretty much ended, but the Cap Centre 'Scene' was still always lively and fun. Yeah, the Fuzz would stroll through on horseback and crack a few heads from time-to-time, but it was never as bad as some people made it out to be. Inside, The Dead transformed this cold, dank, potato chip roof-shaped arena into a hot, wild psychedelic circus. They played some great shows over the years there, including 11/8/79 (memorable Morning Dew), the 3/14/90 show mentioned earlier (highlighted by the return of Loose Lucy), 3/16/90 (return of Black Throated Wind), 3/21/91 (Stir It Up Jam!), and many more.

Bottom line was that The Capital Centre wasn't the greatest arena in the world, but regardless, I saw some great shows there in the early 90s. And yes, I'll admit that I got a little teary-eyed when they demolished it 3 years ago. Once they built the MCI Center in downtown DC, the old arena in Landover, MD was made irrelevant. It's a shopping center now, The Boulevard at The Capital Centre. I find that to be a little depressing, but all in the name of progress, I guess.

BTW, it will always until the end of time be The Capital Centre. Never, EVER The USAir Arena (blech!)

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Build A Set List - The Late 70s

Last week, I started a Build Your Own Set List series. Today, it's time to try one from the late 70's (1976-78), essentially, post-hiatus to pre-Brent. This period is one of the most popular amongst Deadheads, including possibly their best year overall of live music, 1977. They had left their most experimental psychedelic and jazz influenced days behind them, for the most part, and had reformed post-hiatus with a much fuller and more precise sound. With this came, it seems, a shorter list of songs that were in their regular rotation, but with several excellent new songs in the mix.

Same rules apply as from the first in this series. Basically, just try to keep with the basic format of the shows from that time.
Late 70s ('76-'78) Ultimate Set List:

Set 1
Help On The Way>
Franklins Tower
Jack Straw
They Love Each Other
Brown Eyed Women
Looks Like Rain
Might As Well
Lazy Lightning>Supplication

Set 2
Promised Land
Crazy Fingers
Samson and Delilah
Scarlet Begonias>
Fire On The Mountain
Estimated Prophet
Good Lovin'
The Wheel
Sugar Magnolia

One More Saturday Night

Any resemblance to any set this The Grateful Dead may of performed at this time is purely coincidental.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Ben The Deadhead: All of My Friends...

Looking back 15 years, I had some very good Deadhead friends. Some, like Greg and Hal that had many more tapes and went to many more shows than I did, and others like some of my buddies from the Rugby Team that were a bit more casual about it than I was. Hooking back up with Greg again recently after all these years has certainly brought back alot of memories. He once drove me back home to Northern Virginia from Hampton after a Jerry Garcia Band show. I assumed that he was going to his place nearby too, but it turned out that he and his other friend were actually heading back to Staunton, VA, his hometown. He went several hours out of his way for me that day, something that only a true friend would do, and something that I will never forget.

Hal and I did the Philly Trip together, and went to a number of other shows as well, including our first one at RFK in '89. We were very close friends through high school, but lost touch somewhere in the early '90s. Last I heard, he was doing pretty well for himself in Mississippi, it would be great to make contact with him again someday.

When I got to The University of Maryland in 1991, I made a few Deadhead friends, but none of them were that close. I took a few close friends to some shows, and they always had a good time. When I met my wife there in 1992, I was wearing one of my Dead concert T-Shirts. That didn't scare her off, so I took her to a couple shows, she never really got into them though. I think she preferred the Jerry Garcia Band shows that I took her to more. By the time I graduated from Maryland in '94, I had gravitated more and more to her musical tastes. I always joke that I listened to more 'college' music after I graduated from college than when I was there.

My memories of The Grateful Dead have been just as much tied to those who I shared the experience with as they were to the music itself. Those shared experiences were a critical part of what made that time in my life so special. I could go on and on with other stories, and probably will in future posts.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Build A Set List - The Late 80s

And now, for the interactive portion of this blog...

Thought it would be fun, and possibly a bit interactive to see what your ultimate Set List, or Mix Tape would look like. Here's the deal. I'm going to pick a period in time (in this case, the late 80's, 1986-89), and create what would the best possible set list that they could of played at that time. There are some rules, such as you need to pick songs that were actually played during those years, the show format needs to be similar (in this particular case, 1st Set>2nd Set w/Drums>Space>Encore) and the placement of songs should be similar as well as far as what set they would be in, what songs would lead off and end sets, etc.. You need to figure in what would of been an average length of a show too (in this case a 60-75 minute first set, a 70-90 minute 2nd set, 1 encore song). And of course, toggling songs between Jerry & Bobby, with the occaisional Phil, Brent, Pigpen, etc. song.

I hope I've explained this well enough, probably not, but once you take a look at my list, you'll get the idea.

Late 80's ('86-'89) Ultimate Set List
Set 1
Hell In A Bucket
Jack Straw
Ramble On Rose
Bird Song
Music Never Stopped
Don't Ease Me In

Set 2
Playing In The Band
Uncle John's Band
Terrapin Station
I Need A Miracle
Wharf Rat
Sugar Magnolia
Not Fade Away

Box of Rain

So, there it is. Try not to spend too much time thinking about it. Make the list from what comes to your mind first. They may of actually played this show, but I don't know myself, I just made it up, and that was the fun of it. Give it a try as a comment. I'd like to see what you come with...

Sunday, July 17, 2005

DC Dead - RFK, Part 2

Last month, I wrote about my experiences with The Dead at RFK Stadium. Last week, I finally bought View From the Vault II (VFV II), which is the DVD of the 6/14/91 show at RFK, plus filler from the 7/12/90 RFK show. Wow! Did that bring back some memories! Seeing RFK in it's full Grateful Dead glory once again almost brought a tear to my eye. Looking out from the stage view into the masses on the field of RFK, knowing that I was somewhere out there myself both shows, was pretty cool.

I'm not going to go into reviewing the shows themselves or the DVD in detail, but highlights for me included the Maggie's Farm & Music Never Stopped in the First Set, and the Dark Star & Drums in the Second Set of the '91 show, and the trippy Take A Step Back & Box of Rain from the '90 show. Overall, I prefer the '90 show to the '91 show and wish that the '90 show was featured with parts of the '91 show as filler, but oh well. From the '91 show though, it was cool to see the 'I can't believe that I'm playing (still) with The Dead' look in Bruce Hornsby's eyes, and watching Mickey attack The Beam full force during drums. I'm going to have to check out some of the other VFV DVDs to see how they match up. They just released a new one, Truckin Up To Buffalo, that looks pretty good.

The liner notes from this DVD are very telling about RFK too. The notes describe the acoustic challenges that The Dead sound crew faced there:

Of course, its shape - wider than it was deep, with a back wall that made a vicious echo - made it less than perfect for concerts...

The fact that Healy & crew were so successfully able to tame the horrendous acoustics there, and deliver great sound to all, was a testimonial to how good they were and how much they and the band cared about the experience for all those who bought a ticket, whether you sat up front or at the top of the stadium.

I saw several bands other than The Dead at RFK, and few did as good of a job with the sound. Pink Floyd with their quadraphonic sound had amazing sound, possibly even better than The Dead. The Stones, The Who and U2 had good, but not great sound. The sound for The Eagles was absolutely horrible, with the sound bouncing & echoing everywhere, just about ruining that show for me. Very few bands made the effort to tackle the acoustic challenges of each of the venues they played as much as The Dead did. I plan to post more on this subject later. I saw something several years ago describing how they did it, I need to find that again to provide the details.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Looks Like Rain

Well, I'm bummed-out tonight. The tropical air-mass that has been sitting over the Mid-Atlantic for the past several days has dropped enough rain on us today to cancel tonight's Rock Creek Band show. I was definitely looking forward to some good music tonight, but the forecast is for more storms, and it's still pretty damp outside, so I certainly understand the cancellation.

Oh well, guess I'll just listen a bit to the real thing tonight. For an excellent version of Looks Like Rain, check out the 5/11/77 show at the St. Paul Civic Center. Donna adds a very sweet touch to this naturally beautiful song.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005 Live Music Archive Forum

I've been visiting for months now, but just discovered the Live Music Archive Forum for the first time today. Shame it's kind of hidden there from the main Grateful Dead Page. I've been looking for a way to make sense of it all on that site for a while, often wondering blindly searching for shows. Dead on Friday is a very good reference point for finding hidden gems, the Forum however appears to be another great place to go to find great shows, great versions of songs, etc.

The Internet and The Grateful Dead = You got your chocolate in my peanut butter! You got your peanut butter in my chocolate! Hmmm...

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

One More Saturday Night

Coming this Saturday night (July 16) to The Star Diner at Kentlands Market Square in Gaithersburg, MD is The Rock Creek Band, a very good Dead tribute band. I saw them a couple years back at the same location one night when I was walking with the wife and kid in The Kentlands, and heard some very familiar music. We stayed for a few songs before we had to get my son back home to bed. I liked what I heard, but never got the name of the band.

Earlier this summer, I was curious again who they were and did a Google search on local Dead cover bands, and there they were, their website full of pictures of them playing at that exact same spot.

They will be playing a free show outside the Restaurant for all to come and enjoy. So if you find yourself in Gaithersburg (recently named the 17th Best Place to Live in Money Magazine, I'm so proud) on Saturday night, stop by to hear some live Dead, dance a little, and of course, don't forget to tip your waitress :-)

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Ten Years Gone

Today is the ten year anniversary of the last Grateful Dead concert. Held on July 9, 1995 at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL, this show will never be remembered as one of their better concerts. Jerry's health was clearly fading at this point, and the year had been difficult for the band in general. Interesting irony in this show ranged from Touch of Grey ("I Will Survive!") to Box of Rain (written for Phil's dying father).

This year, we remember the beginning and the end of The Grateful Dead, 30 years of magic, mystery, madness and most of all, music. Even though they have been gone for 10 years now, the music still lives on, as do our memories.

Note: Picture is actually from Soldier Field on 7/8/95. Closest I could find.

Set 1
Touch of Grey
Little Red Rooster
Lazy River Road
When I Paint My Masterpiece
Childhood's End
Cumberland Blues
The Promised Land

Set 2
Shakedown Street
Samson and Delilah
So Many Roads
Samba In The Rain
Unbroken Chain
Sugar Magnolia

Black Muddy River
Box of Rain

Friday, July 08, 2005

Grateful Dead #7 (According to USA Today)

Not that I would normally care about a poll by USA Today (the McDonalds of Media), but they just put out this week the results of Who Is The Greatest American Rock Band Of All Time. The results were kind of interesting, but ridiculous at the same time. The Dead were #7, and objectively, I would of probably placed them somewhere between #4 and #8 myself.

Some of the other bands and their place on the list were just silly though. Journey and Queensryche in the Top 10? Give me a break.

My Top 10, in no particular order, include:
- The Grateful Dead, of course ;-)
- The Beach Boys
- The Pixies
- Van Halen (pre-Sammy Hagar)
- The Eagles
- Creedence Clearwater Revival
- Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band
- Pearl Jam
- Metallica

That's my opinion, and you know what they say about opinions, right :-)

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Early 80's Dead

For most of the time that I have listened to The Dead (the first time around, and now), I never thought much of the early 80's. I knew that plenty of great shows could be found '70-'74, '77, and '87-'91. Not sure what my bias was here, maybe the stories of Jerry being strung-out, the lack of good quality recordings, or their simply fading into the musical background at the time, but the more I explore shows from this era, the more I like. I'm downloading 8/7/82 now, and what a show that was! I'm finding other hot shows too from '79-'84. Maybe they were a little more inconsistent those years, but when they were on, those shows match up with many of their other great ones from other years.

One song (medley actually) that I love actually is Lost Sailor>Saint of Circumstance, which you was pretty much only played during that time period. As two of the more overlooked and underrated Bobby songs, Sailor starts off quiet and serene, building in intensity before the transition to an inspirational, fun Saint that left Deadheads dancing, clapping, and singing along "I sure don't know what I'm goin' for, but I'm going to go for it for sure!"

Other hot shows from that time period that I've downloaded include 11/30/80 and 9/6/83.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005


When I got in my car this morning for my 30-40 minute commute to work, I was in one of those moods where I needed some serious Drums. I needed The rhythm Devils to pound their way into my brain. As I'm headed down I-270 towards my office in Virginia, I crank up the Drums from the 12/28/79 to '11', and my day is now ready to begin.

The Drums segment was a highlight of a Grateful Dead show for some, a good time to take a piss-break for others. I personally enjoy just listening to what Billy and Mickey could create purely out of thin air night after night. In a previous post, I expressed my love for Mickey's Beam, but over the years, they were able to do things with a variety of percussion instruments that very few others have even tried to replicate.

Early on, a Drums segment was common, even during Mickey's hiatus from the band (1971-1974). It wasn't until 1979 that the 'Drums/Space' segment became a standard, free-flowing, improvisational mid-second-set ritual. Billy and Mickey were never afraid to push the limits, employing about every piece of percussion imaginable.

This was not your average concert drum-solo either, not a chance to show off what they could do behind a drum kit. Rather it was almost a religious, even primitive exploration of rhythm. Whether it was reaching into African influences, using various MIDI/electronic effects, tapping on the 'Tar', or pounding on 'The Beast', they were truly the most creative and innovative drumming duo in Rock & Roll history. It's that spirit that gave me inspiration when I needed it this morning.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Ben The Deadhead: The Philly Trip

In September 1990, my buddy Hal and I decided that we were going to catch 2 of the 3 Dead shows at The Spectrum in Philadelphia. Neither of us 'toured' with The Dead, most of the shows we saw were either at RFK or The Cap Centre, so this trip was going to be a new experience for us. Looking for adventure, we got our tickets, and headed to Philly without a place to stay.

When we arrived for the first show on 9/10/90, we found a great scene along one side of the long-since gone JFK Stadium. When we got into The Spectrum, we found an electric crowd ready to rock. The Spectrum itself was an old, intimate arena, where even in the very top row of the house, you felt like you were right on top of the action.

"Don't tell me this town ain't got no heart..."

The show kicks in with a powerful Shakedown Street and the crowd is in ecstasy. A hot first set continues with great versions of Peggy-O, Memphis Blues and Promised Land. The highlight of the show for me though was the Scarlet>Fire in the second set, which had the entire arena dancing up a storm, screaming for more. The band fed off of the crowd all night, and the crowd got a great show in return, surprising for many who may not of been expecting much considering that it was only Vince Welnick's 3rd show with the band.

Following the show, Hal and I head back to the scene to get some ideas of where we can stay. We meet up with a few people who say that they are heading out to a campground in South Jersey. The give us directions, follow them out, but just our luck, lose them somewhere half-way there. We eventually find the campground, but can't get past the front gate. It's about 1AM now, stuck in the middle of nowhere. Not happy with this situation, we find our way to a road that takes us back to Philly. As I'm driving back, Hal zones out into what he later described as a 'flashback'. Fortunately he snaps out of it by the time we get back to where we started in South Philly. We quickly decided that our next best option was to head towards the Airport where we could at least find a hotel. The first hotel we see is an Embassy Suites, and in the parking lot, some fellow Deadheads who themselves had just arrived. We weren't planning on staying there, but we got to talking with this group, and decided to join them and split a couple rooms. Hal crashed, but I was still rather wired, and ended up hanging out with a couple folks the rest of the night.

Honestly, I don't remember much of the show the next night or the trip in general as I was pretty beat, as you can imagine. The 9/11/90 show was pretty 'garden-variety' except for a rare Spoonful in the second set. Overall a solid show, but nowhere near as hot as the first night was. I'll always remember The Spectrum as a great place to see a show, if not just for that first amazing night on the 10th.