Entertainment Magazine / AZentertain

Christopher Happ

On Dead & Dying

By Christopher C. Happ ©2004, all rights reserved

I attended the Cricket Pavilion show put on by The Dead, on June 22, 2004, in Peoria, Arizona.  I got a call from an old buddy offering to buy my ticket.  This is a good thing, because two general admission lawn tickets rang up at just over ninety-eight dollars, ouch!  A far cry from my first show in 1975; a meager $6. 50.

I had called the box office the day before to get information and pricing. A man answered the phone and I asked, "How much are tickets for the Grateful Dead?"  "It's not the Grateful Dead, it's The Dead; Jerry's playing at a different venue." he responded tersely.   Asshole! This should have been my first clue of what was to come.

The gates opened at 5:00 p.m. and the show was slated to begin at 6:30 p.m. We arrived about then and hung out in the parking lot, drinking beer with some folks from Four Peaks brewery that had chartered a bus and had a keg aboard.  The parking lot is usually just as much fun as the show and sometimes more.

I had read that Warren Haynes, ( Government Mule and The Allman Brothers) was going to open the show with an all acoustic set.  I could barely hear it, but right before we decided to enter; I could hear 'Throwing Stones," one of Bobby Weir's tunes.

We bought tickets easily right at the window outside the entrance.  I was rather shocked when I approached the turnstile and was confronted by a security guard directing me to put my arms out to my sides.  He said, "I have to frisk you."  "Fine, I said, "Expecting trouble are we?" I queried. "Yes," was his only response.  

I brushed by and walked up the hill to stake out an area near the bar. It was now 7:10 and I guess the band had been on for a few minutes, but with the pitiful sound system, I could not discern any tunes until I was directly facing the band shell.

Bottled water sold for $3.75 and sixteen-ounce beers went for $7.50.  We got a beer and I began chatting with a group of women.  There was a blond girl named Ingrid, (Who was Finnish) and her friends, Julie, C.J. and Christina. Ingrid said her first show was in 1986 and she just got divorced, I consoled and offered her sips of my beer which she gladly accepted.

Julie was thirty eight, married and quite friendly and pretty.   She told me that this was a girl's night out.  This was the highlight of the evening, as I chatted with Julie and Ingrid most of the night.  The girls passed around a joint and we would all stand up occasionally and swing and sway to the tunes.

As I looked at the stage from way up the hill, I noticed the colorful backdrop to the stage.  There were purple and blue lights and two clear pieces that looked like carved ice but were probably plastic.  I tried to decipher what they were, because to me they looked like dueling penises.  This was weird, as Hell.  Julie confirmed my suspicions and we never did figure it out.

The band consisted of Bob Weir at his usual center stage spot, the two drummers, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzman in the back and Phil Lesh At his usual spot on the audience's left.  That comprised all of the original living members of The Grateful Dead. Next to and behind Phil was a keyboardist Jeff Chimenti.  Warren Haynes was to Bobby's left and forward, near Garcia's spot on the audience-right side of the stage.

The show was lackluster at best.  The sound was almost non-existent.  Gone are the days of The Wall of Sound, this sounded like an AM radio.  There were video monitors on both sides of the stage that focused on each member and occasionally people in the crowd.

Bobby looked and sounded tired.  After forty years on the road; who wouldn't?  But that was no consolation to me.  There were a few jams that were perhaps attempts at new material; although I don't believe that this group will be doing much in the future.  All of the original band members are filthy rich and with all of the side businesses, like merchandise, recording labels, etc., I don't even know why they work.  I certainly wouldn't.

They played St, Stephen, Brown-eyed women, Passenger, Good Morning Little School Girl and after the second break, played Love Light.  Warren Haynes played Allman-like licks and at one point I thought they would bounce into the Allman Brothers Mountain Jam, but no.  Of course there was the usual Drumz [sic] into Space, a little thing that they have done for years. Mickey and Billy do a long drum solo and out of the rubble comes Space which is simply eerie spacey-sounds produced by guitar strings scraped with picks and all around noodling, percussion and keyboard  and bass tricks.

The high point of the show was when they played Dylan's, "Like a rolling Stone." Phil sang this one with Bobby's help.  I must say this and I know it may sound sacrilegious to some, but oh well.  I do not know why Jeff Chimenti is part of the band; he added nothing that I could hear.  Warren Haynes was okay but the whole thing was just so different from the older real shows.  There were some attendees my age and many younger.  I think more women than men.  A lot of these folks just wanted to be able to say that they had been to a show.  Too bad they really hadn't.

During some song or jam, I distinctly heard the sound of Donna Jean Godchaux's voice.  I did not see her on the video or stage, but maybe they have a female vocalist hidden in the background.  Donna Jean and her keyboardist husband, Keith Godchaux were with the band throughout the latter half of the seventies. Donna's voice really complemented Weir's strong vocals.

Playing keyboards for the Dead is a death sentence it would seem.  Rod McKernan, alias Pigpen, died of liver failure in 1969. Keith Godchaux was killed by a train, in the seventies.  Brent Mydland died of a heroin overdose in the eighties.  Jeff Chimenti looked healthy but if the curse continues, his days are numbered.

They also played Big Boss man; one of Pigpen's arrangements from the past. The show ended at 11:15 and there were two twenty-five minute breaks by the band.  They closed the show with Jaco mo fina, a Bahamian or Jamaican tune, I think.

No encore, stage dark.  I was chatting with Julie and we discussed Jerry's passing August 9, 1995.  "That's my birthday!" she said..  Strange.  I had enjoyed talking with her, but she was married.  She hugged me and thanked me for a great time, as did Ingrid; as Julie embraced me, I said, "We will never meet again, will we?" "No, she patted my arm and smiled broadly.

Then it got super-weird.  Phil Lesh came out and told us that he had a liver transplant five years ago, (for those who weren't aware, I guess.) and that is why he was there today.  He encouraged all to be organ donors.  Then Bob Weir took the mic and said something about, "If you want to change things, you all need to get out and vote.  I am not sure if this was Bush-bashing or Kerry-bashing.  The Dead were never very political and I respected that.

Unfortunately on August 9, 1995 a lot of things died.  Jerry Garcia, The Grateful Dead and a small piece of me. What a long strange trip, it was......

Christopher C. Happ ©2004, all rights reserved

Buy Tickets to the Dead at Ticketsellers.com

Return to Christopher Happ's Home Page