Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Dead Has Arisen

The still-alive members of the Grateful Dead recently announced a spring tour beginning April 12th, with 19 shows around the country, as "The Dead". It has been nearly 5 years since they last toured (summer 2004).

Though the Dead hail from California, their most dedicated and reliable fans have always hailed from the northeast and mid-Atlantic. Thusly, the tour is heavily-centered in these areas...15 of the 19 shows are within a few hundred mile range of Delaware.

The remaining four shows they head back west, finishing the run at their own legendary performance home, built by Bill Graham : Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California.


Most exciting to this Deadhead are the two scheduled shows at The (even more legendary) Spectrum in Philadelphia. The Spectrum is where I first saw the Grateful Dead in the 80's (in addition to countless Sixers games) and many times after, up to their final show there in March 1995.

I met (or briefly said a timid hello to) Jerry Garcia backstage at that first show. I was barely 16 and knew little more of the band than what I had learned from having listened to their albums Workingman's Dead and American Beauty for a couple of years.

The Spectrum is now slated for demolition to make way for....well, whatever. [Nice tribute site : Remember The Spectrum].

I love that venue and have so many memories there, whether concerts or sports events or even seeing Ringling Brothers Circus as a little kid. Seeing the last shows there by the Dead will be an emotional stroll down memory lane, especially if my brother can make it. We were there together many times, especially when my Dad took us to so many amazing Sixers games in the early 80's, but also many great concerts in years after, including many Grateful Dead shows.

I doubt the Dead's final Spectrum shows will be as crazy as when the Grateful Dead gave the last performance ever (not their last performance, though) at Philadelphia's JFK Stadium on July 7, 1989 (I can attest the Stadium was nearly crumbling by show's end). To listen to that show click here, or :

No doubt the Spectrum will rock this May 1st and 2nd.


The Dead's proposed tour schedule looks to be a nostalgic return to some of the most storied venues in their performance history. Madison Square Garden, Knickerbocker Arena, Nassau Coliseum, Brendan Byrne Arena, and of course The Spectrum.

Some of these names may not be familiar, at least to younger readers, since some long ago were cheaply bastardized to smarmy corporate self-promotion that spends millions in shareholder money for venue naming rights (e.g. Tampax Stadium, Masengill Amphitheater, Depenz Arena, etc etc).

But I digress...


For Obama lovers out there, the Dead played a giant Obama rally at Penn State last October. I heard good reviews from friends in attendance.

When the band was the Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia wisely kept the band miles from the shifting politics of the times (as well as of his fellow band members).

Garcia was famously quoted : "Voting for the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil." Amen, Jerry.

Probably the furthest Garcia ever went in making a sort-of political statement was in 1967 on CBS :

"What we're thinkin' about is a peaceful planet. We're not thinkin' about anything else. We're not thinkin' about any kind of power, we're not thinkin' about any of those kind of struggles. We're not thinkin about revolution or war or any of that. That's not what we want. Nobody wants to get hurt. Nobody wants to hurt anybody. We would all like to be able to live an uncluttered life. A simple life, a good life, you know, and think about moving the whole human race ahead a step or a few steps."

The Dead ain't what they used to be, and never will be again. To me personally, the best live performers of the Grateful Dead's rich legacy of music are now Dark Star Orchestra.

The Grateful Dead's remaining players, bass titan Phil Lesh, rhythm guitarist Bob Weir, and drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, are pretty much all in their 60's now (Phil is almost 70), having literally almost continuously performed since the 60's.

But there is always something to be said for the "masters", as long as they want to say something. These guys still have something to say...


Anonymous said...

I was at that last show at JFK, and I don't remember seeing you there. But I can certainly vouch for the fact that the stadium was falling apart, I remember crumbling steps and loose seats...

Tyler Nixon said...

How did we miss each other amongst the near 100,000 people there, Maria?!?

Must have been the heat stroke...

Remember the enormous bonfire set in front of the north side entrance after the show? It was like 50 feet high!

tom said...

I'm quite impressed that Tyler managed to announce the Dead tour 8 hours before WMMR did.

Unfortunately, I've lost my taste for big-venue shows largely due to the increasing oppressiveness of their "security" measures, which often rival the TSA for their arbitrariness and stupidity.

For example, at the last big concert I went to, security confiscated my ball-point pens on the way in. When I asked why (after getting over his disbelief at being questioned) the guy said it was to prevent stabbings. Almost made sense -- except that he didn't frisk me thoroughly enough to find either of the knives I routinely carry most places w/o a second thought; and once inside, they had no qualms about selling me beer in glass bottles at three times the typical bar prices.

It also didn't help that Dead shows in many places have been disproportionately targeted for undercover drug enforcement.

I too was at the last JFK show and
Tyler might be understating it. By the 2nd set some parts of the stadium were literally crumbling around us. concrete dust was falling out of cracks in some of the hallway and bathroom walls in time with the drumbeats, and a few sections of seating had to be evacuated because they were on the verge of collapse.

The band became significantly less apolitical around the time In The Dark came out. Consider for example the Bob song "Throwing Stones". Probably their biggest venture into the political arena was in the late 80's or early 90's when Jerry & Bob testified before Congress about the deforestation of the Amazon (certainly a worthy cause, though how they qualified as experts or what Congress was supposed to do about it I'm not sure).

Anonymous said...

I had a chance to go see the last show and declined. was a dead fan back then....man do I regret that

tom said...

Listening to it now...

Tyler Nixon said...

You beat me to it, Tom!

I added a link to SBD of the show.

I was literally front row for the first set...it was hot as hell and LOUD AS SHIT!!

Thanks for your thoughts. I have found security isn't as ball-busting as it was in the Dead's heyday, by any stretch.

You should catch at least one show this spring.

Tyler Nixon said...

Actually, my link is a (Dan) Healy mix, not a straight soundboard.

I had a chance to meet and get to know Healy this past Nov/Dec. He is doing Dark Star Orchestra's sound now. Great guy. Very down-to-earth, humble, as in love with the music as ever.

tom said...

I look more like a hippy than you, but then Philly was never particularly bad in that respect. Nothing like the sadistic thugs that Giants / Brendan Byrne hired as security.

I probably will try to catch one of the Spectrum shows.