Thursday, June 30, 2005

DC Dead: RFK


Went to another Nationals game at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium last night. Each time I've been, it brings back a flood of memories. RFK is hallowed ground for me. For years, I enjoyed Redskins games and a slew of great concerts there. No memories were greater though than the Dead shows that I saw there form 1989 to 1994. I was telling the friend I was with about some of those great times as those memories were rushing back. Two memories stick out in particular.


There was nothing like a Grateful Dead concert, but there was also nothing quite like camping out for Grateful Dead concert tickets. I did that in 1990 with 500 close Deadhead friends in the South parking lot of the Stadium. It was an all night party, everyone in great spirits, anticipating the next morning when we would get our treasured tickets. Early the morning the tickets went on sale, a buddy and I were sitting on a grassy hill chilling out before everyone lined up. We got talking to a couple other guys next to us for an hour or two, and had a great time. A year and a half later, on the eve of the 1991 Superbowl (Redskins vs. Bills), I went to a party to watch the game. I didn't know whose house it was, but when I got there, it just happened to be the same guy that I met on the grassy hill early that morning when we got our Dead tickets. I hadn't seen or spoken to this guy since we left that hill that morning, then I show up to his house a year and a half later to celebrate a Redskins Superbowl Title. Amazes me to this day.

My other great memory was from the 1992 show. During Drums/Space, we headed up to the very top of the West side of the stadium to hang out for a while. I took a look outside into a peaceful summer DC night and saw the Capitol building. I looked back into the stadium and saw this bizarre psychedelic blend of music and color and dancing and general madness. I looked back out again and saw conservative, buttoned-down Washington. I looked back in and was blown away by the polar opposite scenes that I was witnessing.

Yes, DC is a very culturally conservative town, but it was always full of Deadheads too, just ask Senator Patrick Leahy! According to Dennis McNally's book, "A Long Strange Trip":

Senator Patrick Leahy, who recognized the invigorating energy of the concerts, "...traded his pinstripes for tye-dye and shorts at shows and then danced up a storm." During the 1993 RFK Stadium concert's opening act, the Senator received a message from the White House. "The Senator requested a phone...and returned the call, to Secretary of State Warren Christopher. Christopher briefed the Senator regarding actions to be taken against Saddam Hussein, "...and the went on to remark that the radio was on rather loud where the Senator was. 'No, that's Sting.' There was silence. 'Sting, the musician.' Silence. 'He's opening for the Grateful Dead.' A very deep silence ensued, until Christopher replied, 'Would you have time for the president?'"

I love that story!

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

DC Dead

From 1970 to 1995, The Grateful Dead played 53 shows in the Washington, DC area. There were many great moments over those 25 years, from the double-bill with the Allman Brothers at RFK in 1973 to the return of Casey Jones at RFK in 1992. All but 3 of the shows that I saw were at either The Capital Centre or RFK (in Bold).

In future posts, I'll talk more about some of my memories of those two venues. In the meantime, here's a rundown of all their DC-Area appearances:

The Capital Centre/USAir Arena - 1974, 1976, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1987 (3 shows), 1988 (4), 1990 (3), 1991 (4), 1992 (2), 1993 (3), 1994 (3)

RFK Stadium - 1973 (2 shows), 1986 (2), 1989 (2), 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993 (2), 1994 (2), 1995 (2)

Merriweather Post Pavillion - 1983 (2 shows), 1984 (2), 1985 (2)

McDonough Arena, Georgetown University - 1970

American University - 1972

Cole Field House, University of Maryland - 1981

Monday, June 27, 2005

Dead Blog Names

Still experiencing technical difficulties from home. I hope to get back online by tonight. Meanwhile, a little light humor for a Monday morning.
Looking to start your own Grateful Dead Blog? Need a name for that blog? Here's a few that I came up with this morning:
- Attics Of My Blog
- Blog Song
- Black Muddy Blog
- Blog of Rain
- Blog-Eyed Women
- China Blog
- Cumberland Blogs
- Blogs of the World
- Feel Like a Blogger
- Blog on the Mountain
- Blog of the Devil
- Blog in a Bucket
- It Must of Been The Blogs
- Let It Blog
- The Blog Never Stopped
- Ramble On Blog
- Blogdown Street
- Blogger Lee
- They Blog Each Other
- Touch of Blog
- Bloggin'
- Uncle John's Blog
- U.S. Blogs
- Workingman's Blog
- Anthem of the Blog
- Built to Blog
- Blogs for Allah
- Dick's Blogs
- Nothin' Left To Do But Blog, Blog, Blog
- What a Long Strange Blog It's Been

Friday, June 24, 2005

Experiencing Technical Difficulties

My cable modem at home is on the fritz and I'm unable to do much blogging here from work. I'll be back next week with more.

In the meantime, check out a show I'm in love with right now, 9/21/72. Once they get the mix right during Bird Song, this show from The Spectrum is truly amazing. Over 3 1/2 hours of great, tight music. Highlights include China Cat>Rider, Big Railroad Blues, Jack Straw, Ramble On Rose, He's Gone, one of my favorite Dark Star's ever, and NFA>GTRFB>NFA. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Midlife Crisis at 34?

Last night, my wife asked me if my renewed Grateful Dead obsession was a yearning for a simpler, more fun past. Maybe. I'll admit, I do 'obsess' about certain bands for extended periods of time, where I'll listen to that band and that band only. In my mind, all other music sucks, and the band of the moment is the only band that's worth anything in this world.

Over the years, bands in that category (other than The Dead) have included Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Yes, Genesis, Little Feat, U2, REM, Radiohead, Pavement, The Pixies and maybe a couple others. What typically happens is that I get in a certain mood, or hear a specific album or song, and then the obsession begins. I'll start by buying up every album I can get my hands on, then I'll see them live, maybe more than once. But typically, these obsessions last for a year or less.

My initial obsession with The Dead was different though. For 4+ years, I was a Deadhead, maybe not as devoted as some, but a Deadhead nonetheless. Today, maybe it is a hearkening back to yesteryear, before a career, before a family and kids, but for me, music is timeless. Great music is great music, regardless of when it was created.

One thing I know for sure, I'll ride this obsession out for however long it takes. The Dead have always held a deep place in my heart, even for those many years that I didn't listen to them at all. They are a part of me, and always will be.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Ben The Deadhead: First Road Trip

Deadheads come in many shapes, sizes, colors, etc. Some traveled the country and saw hundreds of shows, some saw The Dead only when they came to their hometown, and some never saw them at all. The only qualification required to be a Deadhead is a love of the band and their music.

That said, most of the 20+ shows I saw were here in DC, either at RFK or The Cap Centre. I did venture out of the area on two occasions though, once to Philly for two shows at The Spectrum in 1990, and once to Hampton.

While attending Mary Washington College in the fall of '89, my friends and I heard one evening that The Dead were coming to Hampton as 'Formerly the Warlocks', and that tickets were going on sale the next morning for two nights, sold only in Hampton and Richmond. The next thing you know, we are on the road to The Richmond Coliseum to get ours.

A week later we trek down to Hampton for the first of the two nights. Coming off of I-64, the road to the Hampton Coliseum was lined shoulder-to-shoulder with Deadheads looking for a Miracle ticket. Due to the last minute nature of the show, the scene was a bit mellower than usual, but once we got inside, it was unlike any Dead show I saw before or since.

The Coliseum was completely General Admission. The crowd was electric, and the Boys fed off of that from the start. Being 16 years ago now, I don't remember a whole lot from the show, but I'll never forget the crowd reaction when they started off the second set with Help>Slipknot>Franklins. It was the first time they had played that medley in a few years, and the crowd went insane. The whole second set was hot, a great, yet under-rated show.

For whatever reason, we only got tickets to the first night. Little did we know that the next night would be one of their most historic shows ever, bringing back Dark Star and Attics Of My Life. We missed that, but I have both shows on disc now, two of my favorite 80's shows to listen to. This was my second show, but if I wasn't hooked at that point, after that experience in Hampton, I certainly was from that point on.



More pics from the show can be found here.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Shows I've Downloaded

In college during the early 90's, I accumulated 70 some shows on tapes, trading mostly with 3 or 4 friends. Today, through the wonders of the internet, I am starting to rebuild my collection digitally. Thanks to great sites like www.archive.org, www.sugarmegs.org, and a few others, almost any show you could ever want is available for streaming or download.

I've been pretty selective in what I've decided to download so far. Quality of sound is pretty important to me, so I've been sticking mostly to soundboards, and always on the lookout for good Betty-boards, pre-FM's and Matrix versions. Strong overall set lists are important for me to, especially with 80's and 90's shows. I'm not a big fan of Brent's songs, not much of a fan of songs like Alabama Getaway either.

To date, I've downloaded 14 shows, and expect to download many more. My collection so far includes:

Fillmore East - 4/29/71 - Closing of The Fillmore East
Hollywood Palladium - 8/6/71 - A phenomenal Audience Taping
Winterland - 11/11/73 - Great Dark Star & Eyes
Selland Arena - 7/19/74 - Classic '74 Wall of Sound Show
Beacon Theater - 6/14/76 -Best show in the first year following their hiatus.
Swing Auditorium - 2/26/77 - Reviewed earlier. One of my favorite set lists of all time
Barton Hall, Cornell Univ. - 5/8/77 - 'Nuff Said
Oakland Auditorium Arena - 12/31/81 - Just downloaded this weekend. Amazing Playin>Terrapin>Playin
Red Rocks - 9/6/83 - Another great set list (minus the Alabama Getaway)
Madison Square Garden - 9/18/87 - Fun banter to start the show, incredibly powerful Morning Dew
Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum - 12/31/87 - Have this one on videotape, very underrated show
Hampton Coliseum - 10/8/89 - My second show, billed as "Formerly The Warlocks", first Help>Slipknot in 4 years. More to come about this show in a future post.
Hampton Coliseum - 10/9/89 - Dark Star! First Dark Star in 5 years, First Attics in 17 years.
RFK Stadium - 7/12/90 - 2nd RFK show, rained like hell that night, lots of rain references from the band including Box of Rain.

As I was creating this post, links and all, I started to download another show:
The Spectrum - 9/21/72 - Found this show like I have several, often hunting for a specific song, or just looking for a great quality show from a specific year. Just started downloading, looks good so far :-)

I'll update this list as I download more shows.

Friday, June 10, 2005

TERRAPIN!

I'm a Terrapin. A Maryland Terrapin that is. Graduated from The University of Maryland in 1994, and in addition to being a Terp-For-Life, Terrapin Station has probably always been my favorite Grateful Dead song. First played live on 2/26/77, Terrapin Station is probably The Dead's most majestic, inspriational song, and was a favorite of many Deadheads for the 18 years it was played on tour.

The following is my tribute to this classic piece of music, written while listening to one of may favorite versions of this song, played live at Hampton Coliseum on March 25, 1987:

"TERRAPIN STATION"
Words by Robert Hunter; music by Jerry Garcia

Jerry strums, easy, smooth, the band joins in, the story begins:

Let my inspiration flow
in token lines suggesting rhythm
that will not forsake me
till my tale is told and done

While the firelight's aglow
strange shadows in the flames will grow
till things we've never seen
will seem familiar

The calm flow continues, a tale is told:

Shadows of a sailor forming
winds both foul and fair all swarm
down in Carlisle he loved a lady
many years ago

Here beside him stands a man
a soldier by the looks of him
who came through many fights
but lost at love

While the storyteller speaks
a door within the fire creaks
suddenly flies open
and a girl is standing there


Eyes alight with glowing hair
all that fancy paints as fair
she takes her fan and throws it
in the lion's den

The imagery speaks volumes of a time long ago:

"Which of you to gain me, tell
will risk uncertain pains of Hell?
I will not forgive you
if you will not take the chance"

The sailor gave at least a try
the soldier being much too wise
strategy was his strength
and not disaster

Jerry's guitar solo soars to the highest heights, powerful yet beautiful at the same time:

The sailor coming out again
the lady fairly lept at him
that's how it stands today
you decide if he was wise

The storyteller makes no choice
soon you will not hear his voice
his job is to shed light
and not to master

The transition begins. Jerry leads the band into a flowing jam, growing ever more silent, silent...
...until a symphonic explosion...
...then calming down once again:

Since the end is never told
we pay the teller off in gold
in hopes he will come back
but he cannot be bought or sold

Another transition, to inspriation!

Inspriation, move me brightly
light the song with sense and color,
hold away dispair
More than this I will not ask
faced with mysteries dark and vast
statements just seem vain at last
some rise, some fall, some climb
to get to Terrapin

The crowd roars with delight at the mention of Terrapin!

Counting stars by candlelight
all are dim but one is bright:
the spiral light of Venus
rising first and shining best,
From the northwest corner
of a brand-new crescent moon
crickets and cicadas sing sing
a rare and different tune

Terrapin Station!
in the shadow of the moon
Terrapin Station!
and I know we'll be there soon

The entire Coliseum erupts...

Terrapin!! - I can't figure out
Terrapin!! - if it's an end or beginning
Terrapin!! - but the train's got its brakes on
and the whistle is screaming:
TERRAPIN!!!

And now for the best part...
...the band moves higher, then takes it down, wave after wave of highs and lows.
A symphonic masterpiece, 6 musicians as one, the audience screaming in ecstacy!
Will they ever stop, they could go on forever and no one would mind, wave after wave of highs and lows.
The Rhythm Devils pounding away, goading on their bandmates to keep it going, one passage more powerful than the next.
I can't see Jerry, but he must be smiling while he leads the band through this musical journey.
10,000 Deadheads are on this journey too, loving every minute.
Finally, the band takes it down a notch, then, closes out and transitions to Drums.

There's nothing quite like it, a tour de force performance like this. Terrapin is one of The Dead's most unique songs, hope you appreciate it like I do.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Ben The Deadhead: How Did I Become a Deadhead?

Every Deadhead has a different story about how they became a Deadhead. Mine goes like this.

My first true love in Rock & Roll was The Beatles. When I was 7 years old (1978), and all my friends were into KISS, I loved John, Paul, George & Ringo. For a short time in the early 90's, I was into the whole pop scene, Michael Jackson in particular. By 9th grade though, I discovered "Hard Rock". First it was Led Zeppelin, then The Rolling Stones, The Who and The Allman Brothers. By 11th grade, my tastes moved to early 70s progressive rock bands like Pink Floyd, Yes, Genesis, King Crimson, ELP, etc.

Around the same time, my Mom's sister moved in with us and brought her record collection with her. She had just about everyone on vinyl, but it was her Grateful Dead albums that peaked my curiosity. At that point, I was looking for something that combined the Rock&Roll power of bands like The Stones and The Who with the psychedelic weirdness of Pink Floyd, Yes, etc. I had also started listening to the Allman Brothers alot again, and got a true appreciation for their long, brilliant jams.

The first record I listened to was Europe '72, and I knew at that point that I had stumbled upon something. I listened to more and more of her albums, but it wasn't until July 12, 1989 that I saw my first show. That show at RFK Stadium changed my life. I had been to alot of concerts up to that point, but there was truly "Nothing Like a Grateful Dead Concert". The Scene outside, the madness inside, and most of all, the music took hold of me, and didn't let go until I graduated from college in 1994.

I'll continue to tell you about my Deadhead experiences in future posts. My next post on this topic will be about my first Dead Roadtrip.

How did you become a Deadhead? Love to hear about it.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

I've got a fever...more Beam!

Beam

No, not more cowbell, although the cowbell sounds great on songs such as Scarlet Begonias. My need is for more Beam. For those of you not familiar with The Beam, this was a very unique piece of percussion that Mickey Hart used from time-to-time during the Drums segment.

Dennis McNally describes The Beam in "A Long Strange Trip"
Beam sounds are the fullest expression of Mickey's muse, for the Beam produces not just music, but noise, and there is one part of Hart that simply wants to make the loudest, most attention-getting noise possible. The Beam is a slab of aluminum strung with piano strings over a magnetic pickup, and is based on the Pythagorean monocord....Mickey Hart uses a piece of pipe, his feet, and you-name-it to wrestle the nastiest sounds he can imagine out of it. It is like nothing any average music listener has ever concieved, a drumming on the very edge of magic - or, as one critic so evocatively misheard it, "drumming at the edge of madness."

The first time you hear The Beam, you jump back, "What the hell was that!" It has a very sci-fi sound, and typically led into the Space segment. The only show I've downloaded that has it is the famous 12/31/87 New Years show. I remeber specifically hearing it there because I've had a copy of the PPV video of that show for years.

I'm looking for more though, I'd love to eventually put together a mix of great Beam moments. Your comments/suggestions as always will be appreciated.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Favorite 1977 Show?

1977 was a great year for Dead Shows. They may of never had a tighter sound than that year. And for whatever reason, the quality of the bootlegs you can get from that year on average is unrivaled. Many people, myself included, that their best show may of been the 5/8/77 show at Cornell University. That's almost a given for most people's favorite.

So, what's your 2nd favorite then?

My vote goes to 2/26/77 show at Swing Auditorium in San Bernardino, CA.

Set List:
1st Set - Terrapin Station, New Minglewood Blues, They Love Each Other, Estimated Prophet, Sugaree, Mama Tried, Deal, Playing In The Band>The Wheel>Playing Reprise
2nd Set - Samson and Delilah, Tennessee Jed, The Music Never Stopped, Help On The Way>Slipknot>Franklin's Tower, The Promised Land, Eyes of The World>Jam>Dancing In The Streets>Around and Around
Encore - US Blues

A great quality soundboard kicks off with the first ever Terrapin Station, followed 3 songs later by the first ever Estimated Prophet. A hot Playin>Wheel>Playin closes a fun, tight first set. The second set includes a great Help>Slip>Franklin's and a scorching Jam between Eyes and Dancin led by Phil Lesh.

This is one of my favorite set lists of all time, including 4 of my favorites (Terrapin, Playin, Help>Slipknot>Franklins, Eyes). The fact that they are tight throughout, even with 2 new songs and this was the first show of the year, just reinforce the greatness of this show.

Any other '77 favorites? Love to hear your opinion.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Why Blog about The Dead?

Now that I've rediscovered The Dead, I'm constantly on the look out for great shows, great versions of songs, special moments, etc. I plan to use this blog to open a dialogue for those who visit about specific favorite Dead moments. We can all share in these results and we relive the best moments of this great band.

May The Dead Live Forever

Last fall, for a number of reasons, I rediscovered The Grateful Dead. I was a Deadhead in college (1989-1994), and in that time, saw about 20 Dead shows, 3 Jerry Garcia Band shows, and accumulated 75+ bootlegs. I wasn't as diehard of a Deadhead as some of my friends, but a Deadhead nonetheless. My musical tastes changed after I graduated from college, and pretty much stopped listening to The Dead alltogether. But even though I wasn't listening to them, they still always held a special place in my heart.

Then last fall, it all came back to me. It was as if the stars aligned once again to bring this great band back into my life. Those influencing factors included:
  • Listening to The Al Franken Show on Air America. Franken's show started off with Terrapin Station, one of my favorite Dead songs.
  • The Grateful Dead Movie and The Closing of Winterland were on PBS.
  • A Deadhead friend I hadn't seen in 12 years got in touch with me again.
  • I discovered Archive.org.

It was the last factor that really brought The Dead 'Alive' for me once again. If you haven't been there, almost every show they ever did is there, available for streaming and download. As I am typing this, I'm listening to a great quality Pre-FM recording of a show at the Capitol Theater in New Jersey on 11/24/78. I've downloaded 14 shows to date and have streamed countless others.

I'm a Born Again Deadhead, and there's nothing left to do but smile, smile, smile!