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.