Thursday, December 31, 2009

Today in Grateful Dead History

Grateful Dead live @ Oakland Auditorium (Oakland, CA) 12-31-1982

Set 1: 
Cold Rain and Snow, C.C. Rider, Cumberland Blues, Far From Me, Cassidy, Ramble On Rose, Looks Like Rain, Day Job

Set 2:
Sugar Magnolia, Sugaree, Man Smart/Woman Smarter, Ship Of Fools, Playin in the Band, Drumz, Not Fade Away, Deal, Sunshine Daydream

Set 3:
Turn on Your Love Light, Tell Mama Baby, What You Want Me to Do, Hard to Handle, Midnight Hour

E: Brokedown
*(Bill Graham rides in on a giant mushroom)*

Monday, December 14, 2009

Today in Grateful Dead History

Since it's my birthday, I thought it would be a good day to present another "Today in Grateful Dead History." While there are a number of great shows from the day of my birth (12-14-1982), I thought I would leave you with this gem - just two years before I was born. Unfortunately, they did not perform a show on the actual day of my birth. Must be they were celebrating!

Grateful Dead Live @ Long Beach Arena, Long Beach, CA 12-14-1980

Set 1:
Greatest Story Ever Told
Little Red Rooster 
Me & My Uncle 
Big River 
Bird Song 
Looks Like Rain 
Don't Ease Me In

Set 2:
Cold Rain and Snow
Samson and Delila
It Must Have Been The Roses 
Estimated Prophet 
The Wheel 
Other One 
Stella Blue 
Around and Around
Good Lovin

E: Brokedown

Other shows performed on my birthday:
1968 The Bank, Torrance, CA
1970 Unknown
1971 Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor, MI 
1990 McNichols Sports Arena, Denver, CO

Furthur Live @ Ashbury Park Convention Hall (Ashbury, NJ) 12-13-2009

Set 1: 
Box Of Rain
I Need A Miracle>
Wang Dang Doodle
They Love Each Other
Beat It On Down The Line
Estimated Prophet>
Cumberland Blues

Set 2: 
Lost Sailor>
St. Of Circumstance
Mason's Children>
Terrapin Station>
Help On The Way> Slipknot!>
Franklin's Tower

E: U.S. Blues

Furthur Live @ Ashbury Park Convention Hall (Ashbury, NJ) 12-12-2009


Set 1: 
Greatest Story Ever Told
Friend Of The Devil
Brown-Eyed Women
Fennario, Ship Of Fools
One More Saturday Night

Set 2: 
Playin' In The Band>
New Speedway Boogie>
Wharf Rat>
Golden Road To Unlimited Devotion
Viola Lee Blues
I Know You Rider

E: Gloria

Furthur Live @ Chevrolet Theater (Wallingford, CT) @ Oakdale 12-11-2009

Set 1: 
Shakedown Street
Alabama Getaway
Good Morning Little Schoolgirl
Pride Of Cucamonga
Loose Lucy
Minglewood Blues
Music Never Stopped

Set 2: 
China Cat Sunflower>
Eyes Of The World
Born Cross-Eyed> Dark Star
Strawberry Fields Forever
St. Stephen> The Eleven>
Not Fade Away

E: Goin' Down The Road Feelin' Bad

Friday, December 11, 2009

Furthur Live @ Hammerstein Ballroom (New York, NY) 12-9-09

Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Joe Russo, John Kadlecik, Jay Lane, Jeff Chimenti


Set 1:
Jam >
Feel Like A Stranger >
Deal (JK)
Crazy Fingers > (JK)
Stuck Inside of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again
Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo (JK&BW) >
Jam >
Bird Song (BW&PL)
Good Lovin'

Set 2:
Jack Straw
The Wheel (BW) >
Jam >
Welcome To The Dance >
Jam >
Uncle John's Band (PL)
Unbroken Chain
Let It Grow
Sugar Magnolia >
Sunshine Daydream

Encore: Donor Rap
Johnny B. Goode

*Stay tuned for my review from the 12/8 show in the coming days.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Furthur Live @ Hammerstein Ballroom (New York, NY) 12-8-09

Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Joe Russo, John Kadlecik, Jay Lane, Jeff Chimenti


Set 1:
Dire Wolf
Doin’ That Rag
Ramble On Rose
Reuben & Cerise>
Looks Like Rain
Cosmic Charlie

Set 2:
King Solomon’s Marbles>
He’s Gone>
New Potato Caboose>
The Other One>
Days Between>
Scarlet Begonias>
Fire On The Mountain
Cold Rain & Snow
Donor Rap / Band Intros
Touch of Grey (BW&JK)

* Stay tuned for a review of the show in the coming days.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Today in Grateful Dead History

Grateful Dead Live @ Dane County Coliseum (Madison, WI) 12-3-1981

Set 1: Jack Straw, They Love Each Other, Me & My Uncle, Big River,  Loser C.C. Rider, Althea, Beat it Down the Line, Cassidy, Deep Elem Blues, I Need A Miracle, Bertha,

Set 2: Scarlet> Fire on the Mountain, Estimated Prophet, He's Gone, Drumz, Truckin, Black Peter, Around and Around, Johnny B. Goode, It's all over now, baby blue

Monday, November 30, 2009

Today in Grateful Dead History

Grateful Dead Live @ Boston Music Hall (Boston, MA) 11-30-1973

Set 1: Morning Dew, Mexicali Blues, Dire Wolf, Beat It Down the Line, Brown Eyed Women, Black Throated Wind, Don't Ease, El Paso, They Love Each Other, Big River, Loser, Playin in the Band 

Set 2: Bertha> Promised, Row Jimmy, Jack Straw, H.C. Sunshine, Weather Report Suite Prelude> WRS Part 1> Let It Grow> Dark Star> Eyes of the World> Sugar Magnolia

Furthur Announces 2010 Winter Tour

Mail order tickets go on sale 11/30 @ 12 p.m. - 12/10 @ 6 p.m.

All other tickets go on sale 12/12/09 @ 10 a.m.

Miami, FL
Bayfront Park Amphitheatre
Doors 6 PM / Showtime 7 PM

Orlando, FL
Hard Rock Live
Doors 6 PM / Showtime 7:30 PM

Atlanta, GA
The Tabernacle
Doors 6 PM / Showtime 7 PM

Asheville, NC
Thomas Wolfe Auditorium
Doors 6:30 PM / Showtime 7:30 PM

Charlotte, NC
Bojangles Coliseum
Doors 6 PM / Showtime 7 PM

Hampton, VA
Hampton Coliseum
Doors 6 PM / Showtime 7 PM

Fairfax, VA
Patriot Ctr @ George Mason Univ.
Doors 7 PM / Showtime 8 PM

Ithaca, NY
Barton Hall @ Cornell Univ.
Doors 6 PM / Showtime 7 PM

Bethlehem, PA
Stabler Arena @ Lehigh Univ.
Doors 6 PM / Showtime 7 PM

Buffalo, NY
Shea's Performing Arts Center
Doors 6:30 PM / Showtime 7:30 PM

Manchester, NH
Verizon Wireless Arena
Doors 6:30 PM / Showtime 7:30 PM

Amherst, MA
Mullins Center @ Univ of Mass
Doors 6:30 PM / Showtime 7:30 PM

Utica, NY
Utica Auditorium
Doors 5:30 PM / Showtime 7 PM

Newark, DE
Bob Carpenter Center @ Univ of DE
Doors 6:30 PM / Showtime 7:30 PM

New York, NY
Radio City Music Hall
Doors 6:30 PM / Showtime 7:30 PM

New York, NY
Radio City Music Hall
Doors 6:30 PM / Showtime 7:30 PM

Uncasville, CT
Mohegan Sun Arena
Doors 6:30 PM / Showtime 7:30 PM

Atlantic City, NJ
Trump Taj Mahal @ Estess Arena
Doors 7 PM / Showtime 8 PM

Chicago, IL
Auditorium Theatre
Doors 6:30 PM / Showtime 7:30 PM

Chicago, IL
Auditorium Theatre
Doors 6:30 PM / Showtime 7:30 PM

Portland, OR
Portland Memorial Coliseum
Doors 6:30 PM / Showtime 7:30 PM

I will be attending Furthur at Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City on Dec. 8, so be sure to look for a full review in the days following the show.

For more information concerning on-sale dates and ticket information, go to

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Today in Grateful Dead History

Grateful Dead Live at The Matrix (San Francisco, CA) on 11-29-1966 

Me & My Uncle, The Same Thing, Stealin, Big Boy Pete, One Kind Favor, Early Morning Rain, Cold Rain & Snow, Viola Lee Blues, Down So Long, There's Something On Your Mind, Lindy, Good Morning Little School Girl, I Just Want To Make Love To You


The Festival Trail: A Freak Too Far (Gathering of the Vibes '07)

Writer’s Note: As promised in my announcement of the return of Gathering of the Vibes to Seaside Park this summer, here is a four day account of a previous experience of mine at GOTV '07. I must warn you though, as I view music as the number one priority of any music festival experience, there are also many other factors that culminate in making a festival a beautiful, chaotic and fun loving time for all that attend. So there is no hiding the existence of drugs and violence in the face of the typically peaceful community. In this piece, I have chosen to bring you, the reader, to the forefront of these issues in an attempt to bear witness to the deep intricacies that often accompany festival life. So without further ado, I invite all of you freaks and Heads out there to step out of the norm and journey down “The Festival Trail.” 

Day 1

It’s 4 o’clock in the morning on the eve of the 12th annual Gathering of the Vibes Music Festival, and the band of misfits that rolled into Bridgeport, Connecticut some twelve hours ago are already head over heals in the midst of an acid frenzy. I had been awoken by shrieking screams just a short time earlier in the backseat of my friend Delilah’s car. Now I find myself standing in a dimly lit honeymoon suite at the Fairfield Inn, while screaming freaks dance around me in bugged out fashion.

We had come into town early to get some sleep and to join the rest of the Heads in the lot in order to avoid a long wait and poor camping, which can often be accompanied by a late arrival. Now it is looking like we will accomplish none of these goals.

There are more of us now, too. The group is blossoming from five Heads to eight. I had arrived with Delilah, Rosalie, Jack and Charlie, and now our friends Dupree, Lucy and Rosemary have joined us sometime in the night. They had come in from the same small Upstate New York town as we. The three of them have showed up early expecting sleep but arrive to shear chaos. I am the only one in the room that has slept, and thinking ahead, it seems to be the best decision considering we have four days to explore the depths of every drug imaginable.

It is no easy task but some how we are able to pull ourselves together, gather our things and head down the road toward Seaside Park at 5 a.m. I’ve been given the unfortunate task of riding with Delilah and Rosalie. They are bugged out and laughing uncontrollably making the ride almost unbearable.

Delilah is driving, which normally would not make me nervous, but this was her first time on LSD, and it seems she is on the verge of losing all control. “The road is so narrow,” Rosalie cries holding her hands close together to show how narrow it is to her. “I know it, I know it, I know it,” says Delilah bouncing up and down in laughter adding, “I think I figured it out, you just got to drive right through the middle of it.” I buckle my seat belt and clench the handle on the door.

Delilah careens through traffic lights, by road cones and flashing cop cars with ease. At first I am nervous about her driving, but by now my heart rate is settled and she has sold me on her skills. Hell, maybe she is even better at driving high than sober. I don’t know this for sure, but what I do know is she is gracefully maneuvering the car in a way that would have made Neil Cassidy proud.

“I’m sorry, Jimmy,” Rosalie says turning around to me. “Me too, Jimmy, I’m sooooo sorry,” adds Delilah. They apologize over and over until laughter starts to consume their speech and their faces turn so red, they look like they could explode at any moment. “Pull it together, girls! Look at yourselves, you’re falling apart. I warned you about taking your acid that late, but that’s neither here nor there. I will forgive you for all of your terrible actions, just as long as you get me to Seaside Park,” I shout.

While Delilah is capable of driving, they have no clue what is going on, and that’s where I come in, for I am in charge of making sure they keep their heads straight and lead us to the park safely. I am less worried about them now and more worried about keeping my own head straight in the midst of their insanity.

We pull up to an enormous Roman arch where a lone police officer stands, or maybe a security guard, I can’t tell. I hope we didn’t lose the rest of the gang, I think and turn around and look out the back window to reveal that our friends are still right behind us. “Where do we go?” Rosalie whines. “Which way to Seaside Park?” I holler sticking my head out the window. “You’re here!” he says adding, “But you’re early.” “Well what the hell do we do then?” I ask. “Well you could either come back at 8 a.m. when the gates open, or you can follow this road until you reach a parking lot where you can then wait until the gates open at 8 a.m.” “Hell, why didn’t you just say that in the first place,” I scowl, “Take a left Delilah.” “Which way…?” she says laughing. “Left, damn it! That way,” I yell with my finger pointed in the right direction.

At this point Rosalie and Delilah have lost all control over their trip. Luckily we are less than a mile away from parking our car and relaxing our minds before they open the gates. We pull into an enormous parking lot to reveal members of our Dead Family that have already began to assemble. We are searched upon arrival and then shuffled into a long line of cars that stretches eight rows deep. Now there is nothing left to do but ride out the waves of our high until the gates open and we are set free. We sit in the lot patiently, mingling among the weird and listening to Grateful Dead music as it pours out of nearby car windows. Hipsters from all over the Northeast and beyond have convened in the parking lot now leaving their lives and principles at the door and investing their souls in a weekend of chaos, beauty and music. They finally open the gates at 8 a.m., as promised. The girls and I jump back in the car, start the engine and head on our way down the paved road, while our friends follow closely behind.

A flicker of light bounces off the ocean top and attracts my eye to reveal the distant horizon, as we drive around the winding ocean side road and toward our future weekend home. We park without problem and quickly set up shop and secure our site, to my surprise. There is nothing easy about leading a pack of tripped out hippies into a highly tactical camp set up. Luckily we are not your normal tripped out hippies, for we are mountain people from the Adirondacks and festival veterans, to boot. We know what we need to do in order to secure our land and guarantee our comfort for the next four days, and we do it.

For our early arrival, we are treated to an ocean side campsite and a ten minute walk to the concert grounds. Note to self: stop showing up early, they always stick you in the back. We spend the rest of the day exploring the beach and waiting for the first ripples of Grateful Dead music to be transformed through the bands most famous cover act, the Dark Star Orchestra (DSO).

Seaside Park does not resemble any other festival ground I have ever been to before, and that includes the Indian Lookout Country Club, which hosted the last four Vibes. Seaside Park was designed by P.T. Barnum, the late great American Showman and inventor of the freak show. The festival was originally titled Dead Heaven, and I can see why, as this place is more like a Grateful Dead resort than a festival ground. It’s different, but I think I like it.

The time finally arrives for us to head down to the DSO show. “I don’t trust any of these people, they’re a bunch of sketch balls,” Jack snarls. “You’re crazy, man. Of all the festivals you have been to, and you think these people are sketchy? To be honest, I find the Vibes crowd to be good hearted and honest people, not to mention they are family. If anything, we are the sketch balls.” I snap back. “We’ll see about all that,” Jack states.

We stuff our bags full of beer and head on down the beach front road to the concert grounds for the first time. We arrive to flashing lights and cops on bikes. “What the fuck is up with this?” I say. “That’s some fucked up shit, I’ve never seen cops at a festival before,” says Jack. “Fuck em’, there is no way they can give a shit about anything. I mean, everyone is high, or at least I am. What are they going to do, arrest us all?” Charlie adds. “I don’t like this one bit, I mean aside from the music, the best part about a festival is the freedom from cops, rules and the scorn of society. This just totally contradicts the whole concept of the music festival,” I say. These cops represent everything that festival freaks stand against, and it makes our whole group uneasy. There is no time now to worry about this troubling revelation because DSO is starting soon, and if I have one pet-peeve at a festival, it is being late for a show.

We arrive just in time to hear the first waves of music come ringing from the main stage. The show is one of the most anticipated concerts of the festival for us, as DSO offers young Heads a chance to witness the closest thing to a Grateful Dead show that they may ever see. DSO usually recreates old Dead sets in their entirety, but tonight is different, because this set is for Jerry. A collage of Dead classics is what made up the music on the night, as we dance around the soft grass while day turns into night.

We spend the show bouncing around from vantage point to vantage point while grooving and smoking grass along the way. Everything is going great, that is until DSO decides to break into a face dripping rendition of “Drums/Space”. The “Drums” are a crowd favorite and always a great break to the night, but that retched “Space” can turn one’s mind inside out and make them feel as though they are in the vast depths of a bad acid trip.

I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be Jack, Charlie, Rosalie or Delilah, as I sit here fighting through the ambiance of sound. The acid they had eaten earlier in the morning is still running through their veins, and I can tell it is starting to wear on them. Rosalie and Delilah are squatting on the ground with their heads in their hands. “They’re doing this just to fuck with us, this whole thing is just meant to fuck with us,” Jack proclaims.

I want to answer him, but for some reason I can barley talk. The sounds are piercing through my brain and working their way down my spine now. Is it just the song or am I really tripping? I think, Maybe somebody dosed me…No, that’s just crazy talk. All this insanity is starting to rot my brain and send me into deep fits of paranoia. Yeah, that’s it.

The song keeps going on and on and on and on, as my mind starts to grow weary with every twisted dripping note. And just when I think I’m going to lose my mind, the band finally finds its way out of the spaced out jam and back into a more uplifting mix of Dead classics. A sigh of relief comes over all of us. We thought we were all plagued to stay lost in the tripped out jam forever, but now we are back on our feet with smiles stretched across our faces and our ears happily tuned back into the music.

By the end of the show the two days of drugs, music, and no sleep has finally caught up to us. We have three more days and two nights of insanity ahead of us, and we will need our rest if we are going to make it out alive.

A light rain begins to fall while we sit around our camp to blaze one last joint before heading off to our tents for a good nights sleep. Turning to me Jack says, “You know what, you were right about what you said earlier. These people truly are beautiful. Hell, maybe we are the sketch balls, after all.” “See I told you, man. You just got to give people a chance,” I respond. The first day has lived up to all of our expectations, and tomorrow promises to be even better, as more and more Heads prepare to roll into town sometime in the night to join the freaked out party. Hopefully, we will be ready.

Day 2

I awake to a hard steady pulse of rain pounding down on my tent. The wind off the ocean starts to pick up and I can hear the tents and tarps rustling around outside. The breeze off the ocean is bitter cold. I step out of my tent and into the early morning air clutching my arms around me to keep warm.

The crew is already up and sluggishly moving around. There’s an aroma of eggs, bacon, and marijuana steadily filling the air around us. We spend the early hours of day nourishing our bodies with food and our minds with grass. Colorful characters from all around invade our campsite, and before I know it there are over twenty people sitting under our small makeshift fortress of pop-ups and tarps.

Some of the freaks are friends that arrived sometime in the night, and others are just strangers for whom found our campsite in an attempt to hide from the weather outside. We share our food and grass with our new and old friends, and they share whatever they have with us. Booze and a multitude of uppers and downers start to consume our souls as morning turns into afternoon.

Our bodies are wired and ready to go to the music, but our minds are weary from the influx of rain. Our freakish friends are coming in and out of the camp and bringing with them new unfamiliar faces with every trip. Our site has become the stomping ground for those who have been stuck at the farthest points of the park. There is a rumor going around that the promoter had expected 15,000 Heads and instead 40,000 have arrived between last night and today. Our friends feel this effect having arrived sometime in the night and need to take a bus to get from their campsite to the concert grounds.

Zero and Dickey Betts are the only two acts I truly have any interest in seeing during the day. However, I allow myself to be swallowed into my friends’ treacherous pit of sitting out show after show in order to get high and stay dry. In the eye of the rain, everyone has to make their own decision to either brave the elements or hide away until it fades away. We are no different, and I am ashamed as I sit under our shelter listening to each show over the radio. It’s just not the same, I think.

Around 6 p.m. the storm disappears out over the sea. We pull ourselves together and prepare to go down to the concert grounds to catch the Mickey Hart Band. The rain is gone now, but it is still extremely cold. We arrive just in time to catch the beginning of Mickey’s set. We groove around with our bodies huddled into ponchos in order to stay warm. When we left New York the temperatures had reached the nineties; needless to say, we had not packed for this kind of weather.

Our spirits are not quite at the same level we experienced them the night before. I can’t tell if it is the aftermath of the LSD, or the influx of bad weather that has thrown the crew into such damper spirits, but they are starting to bring me down with them.

We leave the show early missing the end of Mickey’s set in the face of our dismal mood. This is not the atmosphere I expected after an intense first day. The good news is that George Clinton and the James Brown Tribute, as performed by Deep Banana Blackout, is coming up next. We have all sorts of funky attire the girls have bought for us to change into. Colorful pimp hats, boas, beads, glow sticks, and silly string sit in the bottom of a large bin waiting for us to decorate ourselves.

Dupree and Lucy come back while we are in the middle of changing into our funky garb. “Hey guys! Did you see that Zero set earlier? It was awesome! Robert Hunter even came out,” Lucy says. “No way!” I respond. “Yes way— Where were you guys anyway. You missed a hell of a show.” “Oh, well, we just sat around and listened to it on Vibes radio, it wasn’t the same.”

“We should all go down to P-Funk together,” Dupree says adding, “I bought some LSD off this guy camping next to us. He say’s he made it himself. I haven’t tried any, but I hear it is real mellow, a good clean high, if you know what I mean.” “I’ll try some,” Charlie says jumping out of his chair adding, “I need something to pick me up for the show.” Dupree pulls bag upon bag out of his pocket until he eventually pulls out a small vile. He drips a bit on Charlie’s hand. “Is that going to do anything?” Charlie asks. “I’ll soak your whole hand, if you want,” Dupree says. “Well, you don’t have to do that. Just give me a little more, so I know I’ll trip.” Dupree thrusts the bottle upside down allowing drip after drip to rain down into Charlie’s hand until there is a small puddle lying in his palm. He licks his hand to make sure he absorbs it all into his body.

We finish getting ourselves together and head off down the road in our colorful attire. We reach the festival grounds with time to spare, but for some reason Jack runs off into the crowd. I ensue behind him, almost losing him several times along the way. His fuzzy day glow hat makes it easy for me to recognize him, as I make my way through the dense crowd. He leads us to the far left side of the stage. It’s just us five again. We lost Dupree and Lucy somewhere along the way.

“I just want to tell you guys I love you,” Jack says turning to us. “Awwwww,” the girls moan in harmony. I think it was the acid speaking, but it was a touching moment between friends, none the less. We share a group hug just as a booming voice thunders over the crowd introducing P-Funk.

The night moves on, and our dreary moods disappear in the face of the funk gods. That is until we edge closer to the end of the night’s music, and I notice the acid has not done the trick for my friends like it had the night before. “We should try to find some more drugs,” I hear Jack say. “Yeah definitely,” Rosalie responds. I can tell they want to go, but this time I am staying, for I missed enough music due to rain earlier and I refuse to miss anymore in the name of drugs.

They say their goodbyes, and disappear into the darkness of the crowd leaving only me and Charlie to the music. The show is set to end at 1 a.m., and even worse, it’s the last one scheduled for the night. I have never been to a festival where the music ends so early. Usually there is music that goes until the early hours of the morning, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here at Seaside Park.

Charlie and I are high from the Deep Banana Blackout set. We decide to stick around and help with the massive clean up effort. We pick up cans, bottles, and all sorts of weird disgusting garbage with the help of our fellow Heads. In the end, the large open concert ground once consumed by thousands of Heads less than an hour ago is empty of the freaks and their waste.

Charlie and I make our way back to the campsite fighting past gangs of people standing around watching street performers and other circus freaks entertain. A large gathering occupies our site now. Party favors get passed around to all, but eventually our minds start to wonder and we slowly disperse into the night.
Charlie, Dupree, Lucy, and I find ourselves on the ocean side road. A parade of drunken freaks that come chanting down the street grab our attention, and we quickly find ourselves swept into their madness. There are people drinking and smoking. There are those holding hands, hugging, kissing, screaming, singing, dancing, jumping, laughing and talking all at the same time. You name it, people are doing it.

The parade makes its way around the circular road, which I can see has formed into a parade route. As the road comes to an end, I can see freaks hurtling over a barrier up ahead. It seems all the emotion of the crowd comes together at once, as fellow freaks are drawn towards a festival taxi parked in the road. The crowd erupts, as some of its members engage the cart, jumping up and down and shaking it and the souls inside. I notice a pair of security guards jump behind a jersey barrier for protection, but there is no need for that, they are perfectly safe for if they new any better they would realize it is all in good fun.

People are dancing, singing, and hugging, now. Their reaction seems to signal the end of the parade. We find ourselves dispersed along the road with the rest of the freaks. Luckily the after party continues to rage on in the camping area, as we head out to see what kind of excitement we can find.

We spend the rest of the night exploring Seaside Park. Drum circles are the pinnacle of entertainment, seeing there are no more bands set to play. We meet beautiful new friends and promise that we will never forget one another’s faces. The day that started out as cold, rainy, and miserable for us, has now blossomed into something far greater than any of us could ever imagine. And to think we still have two more days ahead of us…

Day 3

I awake the next morning to sunshine blazing into my tent. I step out into the warm summer air realizing that everyone else must still be a sleep. What a difference a day makes. I wonder off from the campsite and sit on the beach enjoying the beauty of the ocean while drinking organic coffee and catching an early morning buzz.
I head back to the site finding my festival family awake. They are moving around even slower than they had the day before. They quickly pull themselves together, and before I know it, we’re back at the concert grounds mingling around the crowded shops and listening to early morning sets by the Ryan Montbleau Band, Strangefolk and Donna Jean and the Tricksters.

We make our way back to the campsite where our friends have gathered once again. The party starts to rage. There is nothing left to do except crack open a cold one and hope that your early morning hang over has worn off. I start to drink and converse over the upcoming days events with my fellow friends. Tonight is the height of the musical experience for all of whom sit around, for we are all excited about the prospect of seeing Keller Williams, Les Claypool, and Bob Weir and RatDog perform tonight.

I notice a few unfamiliar faces under the tent. I strike up a conversation with a long bearded hipster named Jerry. He’s a comical character, who I find to be a fellow Upstate New Yorker. The girl he is with, for whom I presume to be his girlfriend, attended the same State College Jack and I had. Her name is Alyssa, and I’m not sure if this is her first festival or not, but she seems to be enjoying herself, none the less.

We all head down to the show a little early in order to find a good spot for Keller. As we approach the concert grounds, Jerry and I have nothing on our minds except getting through the gate and finding a spot close to the stage. We dash off bumping and weaving through the crowd. I feel someone grab my shoulder turning me around to reveal Jack. “Jimmy, come on man, its Donna!” He says pointing over to a small tent nestled just past a line of vendor’s. All I can see the silver hair of former Grateful Dead member Donna Jean Godchaux-Mackay shinning threw a small opening of people.

We make our way to the stage finding Delilah, Rosalie, Alyssa, and Charlie twirling around among the small crowd. Under the tent stands Donna Jean and Grateful Dead Hour host David Gans perform in a rendition of “Friend of the Devil”. “Good looks, man.” I say turning to Jack. “I know it…glad I caught you, because you would have flipped if you had missed this.”

The song is the last performance of the group’s collaboration, but it’s one of those intimate festival experiences shared among a small group of Heads. We walk across the street passing by police officers who sit on large intimidating horses, giving them a presence of power in the face of the peaceful crowd. We make our way inside pushing through the intense crowd, keeping track of one another along the way. We find a spot to our liking set just in front of the sound board.

The stage is already surrounded by Heads. Keller and the Keels are the first act, only it’s just Keller that appears on stage. “I’m sorry to announce that the Keels cannot be here tonight,” Keller says. We are not disappointed but more excited at the prospect of a Keller set. Keller is out and in his typical fun loving fashion. He twirls his head with his mushroom-top hair flailing around in the air. He jokes about tripping, and sings his song about the doobie in his pocket. We laugh, dance and sing our way through the show, never once stopping to erase the smiles from our faces.

Keller’s set ends, and we stand around guarding our spot drinking beer and sharing our grass with fellow Heads in the midst of the freaks that push their way in and out of the crowd. The sun begins to set over the horizon, as Claypool steps out on stage dressed in his customary pig outfit. The crowd erupts. I look around noticing Dupree, Lucy and the rest of our crazy friends cutting threw the crowd. “Dupree, over hear!” I yell. My words get lost in the hysteria of the crowd. Luckily they see me in their passing and are making their way toward us. We greet each other with hugs and excitement in our eyes. For the first time this weekend, our whole family is together.

Claypool puts together a great set that spans the music of his career. What makes it even more memorable is the introduction of the members of RatDog one by one, until it ends when Bobby Weir joins the collaboration on stage, thus ending the show on a high note and leaving our bodies exhausted from dancing and our minds hungry for more.

Delilah, Rosalie, Jack and Charlie take off for the bathroom while Jerry, Alyssa, and I follow Dupree and the rest of the gang over to the beer tent. I bob and weave threw the crowd, until I get swept up in the madness forcing Jerry and Alyssa to stop and wait for me, losing our friends in the process. We get our beer and head back to the front of the sound board where we have all agreed to meet if we were to get separated. Just as we are fighting threw the crowd, RatDog takes the stage, and the first notes of “Shakedown Street” come seeping out of the opening jam. You can feel the electricity in the crowd, as we sneak past the grooving bodies and back to our designated spot.

Jerry is jumping up and down and howling with his head tilted toward the open sky. “He’s here, man! I can feel him, Garcia is here,” He snarls in laughter. I share in his excitement. Jerry, Alyssa and I bond to the music, as we dance around and scream like Bobby Soxer Girls, while each and every jam weaves an intricate web of stimulation throughout our mind and body.

“Hey, guys!” I hear a cheerful voice say as I turn around to find Rosalie, Delilah, Jack, and Charlie. “Hey, you made it!” I exclaim in excitement. “Yeah we were just over on the other side of the stage watching. We got pretty close,” Rosalie says. “Well it’s good to have you back,” I respond.

All together now we dance the night away, while RatDog sends shivers down our spines with a “Dark Star > St. Stephen > William Tell Bridge > The Eleven” ending, an all too obvious “One More Saturday Night” encore and a classic sing along in “Ripple” to close the set. The show is the perfect end to a beautiful night spent with friends both new and old.

We walk quickly toward the exit in an attempt to beat the rush of freaks to the gate. Met by a body to body wall of madness, we are herded out through the small entrance like cattle. Losing my friends, I somehow make my way out of the mess to find them waiting patiently outside.

Out here everything is buzzing with excitement and energy. We make our way through the bustling street, when there is a sudden melee among the crowd. A group of cops and event security come charging through chasing after a fellow Head. They tackle him to the ground kicking him in the ribs and crushing his face into the road’s hard pavement of the road. I watch as the crazed hipster refuses to allow the officers to arrest him.
They continue to beat him in the head and ribs, but the hipster will not give up. The stress of the situation is getting to the crowd now, as I look around to see the horror in the eyes and faces of my fellow Heads. They continue to beat on the man, until their efforts get them no where, and one of the officers takes out his taser gun.

He shoots the tasers into the man’s flesh, and he immediately starts to shake as if he is having a seizure. They attempt to arrest him again, but it does not work, as he continues to resist. Another set of tasers are shot into his chest, sending shock waves through his body, but still he will not allow the officers to arrest him. They tase him again and again and again, but he continues to fight the men even as his body appears to subdue into a state of shock. They tase him for a sixth time, as his body starts to shake, and I can see the pain and anger fade from his eyes. The smell of burning flesh consumes the air around us. The officers are finally able to get his hands behind his back and place him under arrest.

They drag the man off, leaving the crowd standing in shock over what they have just seen. All of the good vibes for which we felt upon leaving the show are gone. Left in their place are feelings of sadness and despair for what we have just witnessed. Our mood is somber, as we make our way back to the site trying to forget about the horrific scene along the way. In passing, I overhear a Head talking of how the man had been running around provoking people, and that he had actually mugged some poor soul on the street. Even this revelation doesn’t change our feelings because the incident has left a permanent scar on our minds, as it is hard to erase the image from our eyes, the smell from our noses or the sadness from our hearts.

We arrive back to the campsite, the rest of our friends showing up not far behind. They have witnessed the horrible scene, also. We sit around sharing our feelings and emotions on what had just happened. We have different opinions, but what we can all agree on is nobody deserves a beating like that. “You know, I was always afraid to go to Vibes when it was in Mariaville out of fear of the Hells Angels, but after seeing that, I would almost rather take my chances with them,” Jerry says. Maybe we weren’t so free after all.

The rest of the night is spent at the campsite drinking our cares away and trying to refocus our attention on the good times, instead of the bad. We ride out our highs, until one by one our friends slowly make their way back to their far off campsites. I turn off the lantern and head off to my tent to get a little shut eye before we have to wake up and start packing. I lie in my tent for a while listening to the party rage on somewhere out in the darkness. Another Vibes down, I think.

Day 4

The next morning I step out of my tent to find our campsite in ruins. Dupree, Lucy, and Rosemary are surprisingly already up and packing. We, too, attempt to mobilize ourselves in an effort to clean up our site. We begin the process of tearing down our gear and packing it back into our cars before the heat becomes too unbearable to do so.

Our energy is short lived, and I decide to head down to the concert grounds to catch some music and explore the area one last time. The sun is blistering hot, and the humidity in the air is enough to suffocate someone to death. I hide away in the Merch Tent taking advantage of the couches, fans and the Jerry Garcia Art Show that lies inside. I soon find myself swept away by the nostalgia of the archaic photos and the beauty of the colorful art.

I eventually find my way out of the festival grounds and through the exit in order to hide under the shading of the trees out back. I lie down in the cool grass listening to Martin Sexton before falling asleep. I awake to someone shaking me. “Jimmy! Jimmy!” I hear a voice say. It’s hard to see, but I can just make out the silhouette of Jerry and Alyssa in the glare of the sun.

“Hey guys, I was hoping we would run into each other before I left,” I say. “Yeah, we just happened to stumble upon you, literally,” Jerry says laughing. “So when are you guys getting out of here?” I ask. “We were actually just heading back to pack up the rest of our gear, and then we were thinking about hitting the road,” he answers. “Yeah, we were probably going to stay for Buddy Guy and then do the same,” I respond. “Well, we’re going to get going, man, but if you are ever in our neck of the woods or if you just need a place to crash, make sure you give me a call,” he says. “I will, man,” I promise him adding, “If you make it back here next year, make sure you let me know.” “Well you might be hearing from me because after this weekend, I might just have to come back,” he answers. They walk off disappearing into the crowd, as I wonder if I will ever see their faces again.

My body is cooled now, and I decide to venture back over to the concert grounds to catch Guy’s set. I wait in front of the Merch Tent where Delilah, Rosalie, Jack, and Charlie have promised to meet me. They never arrive. I head over to the front of the stage in order to get a good view of the blues legend. His set is everything one could expect, as it is filled with legendary blues covers and signature guitar riffs. The sun is even more unbearable than before, so I head for the gate catching the end of the set from the roadside. I slowly walk back to my campsite.

I arrive drenched in sweat and ready to hit the road. I find my friends passed out under our pop-up with nothing more packed than when I left. Dupree, Lucy, and Rosemary are gone. Jack opens his eyes looking up at me in a daze. “What’s going on?” I say. “Tired,” he says, stretching his body. “Well, what time do you want to leave?” I ask hoping his answer will be sooner than later. “Well I really don’t care if I see Buddy Guy or not,” He states. “Well that’s good because you just missed him,” I respond. “Oh shit! Well then we should get going.” He says, jumping out of his chair.

We wake up the rest of the gang up and pack the remainder of our gear under the rays of the hot sun.

The Vibes, like many other festivals, is always a special experience to be a part of. It is a time set aside for music, friends, and family. It is a place where for at least one moment in the vast existence of our lives, we can be free from the rules and problems of the outside world. And although you may not escape all of the horrors of society, we are all able to find some kind of magic within the music, people,and culture to make the whole experience worth while.

With our vehicles packed and our minds weary, Delilah, Rosalie, Jack, Charlie, and I head off into the sunset leaving the vast ocean horizon in our rear view mirror, and with it entering back into the reality of our lives… at least until next year.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Today in Grateful Dead History

Grateful Dead Live at Lakeland Civic Center (Lakeland, FL) 11-28-1980

Jack Straw, Peggy-O, Little Red Rooster, Tennessee Jed, Passenger, Deep Elem Blues, Looks Like Rain-> Deal Feel Like A Stranger, To Lay Me Down-> Let It Grow-> Terrapin Station-> Drums-> Not Fade Away-> Black Peter-> Sugar Magnolia, E: U.S. Blues

What to do when you're a Dead Head and all your friends have gone Phishin?

Since Phish has returned to touring, a lot of us Dead Heads are feeling left out when the popular jam band roles into town and we decide to skip the show, and even the scene for that matter,  in order to save up for that next big Dead act to come to town.  If you are like me, most of my friends of the jam band persuasion are as much Phans as they are Dead Heads, so when the band rolls into my area or throughout the Northeast for that matter they are often out on tour living the life on the scene that we all enjoy so much on Dead tour. But what is a Dead Head to do when all of his friends are all gone Phishin' for the weekend? Since there isn't any definitive answer, I have decided to propose a few different fun Grateful Dead filled activities that every Head can enjoy.

Find a local Dead cover band

Since the Grateful Dead had such a cult-following it is not hard to find a local Grateful Dead cover band in or around the area in which you live. Here in New York's Capital Region, where I reside, there are a number of Grateful Dead cover band's including The Deadbeats and High Peaks, not to mention a number of other band's who have been heavily influenced by the band's music. A fun night of drinks, dancing and Dead tunes with friends is always a recipe for fun!

Spend the night better acclimating yourself with the band's live music and history

While every Dead Head likes to believe he knows more than the next, the idea that most of us know all we think we know about The Dead is most-likely a farce. Unless you are a member of the band, it is likely you still have a lot to learn about the band's music and history. There are a number of great books out there on the history of the Grateful Dead including A Long Strange Trip, Searching for the Sound, The Official Book of the Dead Heads and The Grateful Dead Lyric book (I like to read this while listening to each song I am studying). It is also always fun to go back, dust off the old albums and take yourself on a wayward journey through the improvisational-psychedelic-folk styling's of the Grateful Dead. For people like me who have more than 100 Dead albums it is often easy to find one that you might not have listened to in a while - plus every live show, and song for that matter, is different than the last, so it can also be fun to listen to different renditions of songs.

If you have albums you have either purchased or received off a friend digitally now is a good time to transfer them to CD

Yeah this can be a tireless process especially for those of us who have more Dead albums than we know what to do with. But if you are like me, most of the music you own you might have received from friends across the world-wide web, which leaves you with no back-up to the music on your computer. What better time to waste backing-up all those albums up on CD, while your friends are away at Phish.

Listen to the Dead Channel on Sirius radio and make tapes, or CDs if that is your only option, of the shows played to give to friends

While the Dead taper movement continues on today, many of us don't not have the equipment or patience to perform such an action. While the taper movement itself is all but dead (no pun intended), Sirius radio's Grateful Dead channel has a lot of great Dead hours and even entire live shows they play. Aside from listening, another fun activity to take part in while grooving along to the tunes in your room, is make tapes or CDs of the shows and give them to your friends - maybe even those Phish fans in your life.

Have a get together with fellow Heads and watch one of the band's many epic live shows on DVD

Since movie night's and smoke sessions are enjoyed by many people, hippies included, why not combine the two activities into a fun night of entertainment, with not only your favorite band but your favorite friends. Hell, by the end of the night, depending on how fucked up you get, it might even feel like you were at a real Dead show.

Learn a new Dead song on your favorite instrument

If you are a musician you can never have to much material and if you're a Dead Head you can never run out of songs to learn. Take the night to learn that Dead song you always wanted to be able to play, but never had the time to learn.

Work on a scrapbook of all your Dead shows and festival experiences

Hey it's always something I have wanted to do and it's a great way to put all those tickets, pictures and pamphlets you have acquired from concerts and festivals over the years into one concise package, for not only yourself, but your friends to enjoy. Plus, there are plenty of great scrapbooking sites out there that can help make your goal a reality (

And if all else fails just visit YouTube and watch all those great videos that people have posted on The Dead over the years. Above, I have listed one of my favorite videos about the boys and the hippie movement, before the band had busted out of the San Francisco scene and into the mainstream.

Have Grateful Day!

Tear This Old Building Down: Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA, May 5, 2009 Part IV

Writer’s Note: It has been four long years since the remaining members of the Grateful Dead reunited to serve up their diverse, intricate style of improvisational music that fueled a culture and ideology of life during the 1960s. While the world has changed drastically since the cultural revolution of the 60s. The spirit of the scene driven by the music of the counter-cultural rock n roll band can still be seen living on in the hearts of Dead Heads everywhere. This could best be seen in April, when the band, now known as The Dead, reunited for the first time since 2004. I had the good fortune to catch  four shows during the band’s month-long reunion tour, and I hope that through my own experiences, people will be able to see why there is nothing like a Grateful Dead concert. 

Rosalie comes screeching into my driveway around 11 a.m. beeping and yelling for me to get in. She is close to an hour late picking me up, and we have less than eight hours until The Dead hit the stage at the Spectrum in Philadelphia with an ETA of five hours until our destination.

“Don’t forget the cooler,” Rosalie yells, as I stumble out of the

I grab the cooler, where she intends to store 30 mushroom chocolates to deliver to our friends, Peter and Cassidy, who are already in Philadelphia.

We throw the chocolates in the cooler and jump in the car speeding off to pick up Lee, before we head to the city of brotherly love.

“By the way Rosalie, I know nothing about those,” I say in connection to the mushroom chocolates.

“I know you don’t. But you do know it says your last name on the cooler,” she responds with a chuckle.

The ride is as smooth as one could be, considering we are one mistake from being arrested on felony drug charges. We arrive in Philadelphia around 4 p.m. meeting Peter and Cassidy at the hotel room they have rented a few miles south of the Spectrum.

Before we know it, we are bouncing around Shakedown drinking beer, mingling with the weird, and unenthusiastically signaling for extra tickets amongst the hundreds of other Heads looking to score the same miracle. Peter and Cassidy run around with the mission of trying to sell enough of the chocolates to afford tickets into the show. Yes, spirits are high in the Dead community. Heads prepare to see the final show the band will ever perform at the arena that is scheduled to be torn down in the near future.

While we are getting our kicks along Shakedown, time is running out for us to find a ticket. I point this out to Rosalie and suggest we head to the front of the venue to give ourselves a better chance at catching some Head with extras walking in. We stand in front of the box office that reads, “sold-out,” having no luck finding tickets, except for a couple of vultures who mock us over our intent to get one at face value ($100). For the first time the notion that we might not find tickets becomes a reality

“Fuck that!” Rosalie says, “I ain’t buying a ticket off one of them mother fuckers. They aren’t family.
They’re just some fucks trying to make money!”

We eventually find our way into a parking lot, where it is hard to hear over the roar from fans at them Phillies game taking place at the stadium across the lot. Our arms start growing weary and our minds pessimistic over our mission to find three tickets as show time quickly approaches. We have all but given up at this point. Rosalie points out to me that if she does not spend the $100 she has on a ticket then it is going towards drugs, and I was going to have to do them whether I liked it or not.

We all but accept defeat and begin to make our way back over to Shakedown. Just then a man passes by signaling to us that he has tickets. We dash over to him finding he has two for sale. The only problem is another Head got to him first and has already taken one of the tickets. Rosalie informs me to take the ticket, which the man then sells to me for $50.

“Consider this your miracle,” he says with a smile.

While I can’t believe my eyes as I stare at the ticket sitting in my hand, another Head approaches us asking if we are in need of extras. Rosalie and Lee quickly jump at the offer and after a few moments of bold dickering, they are able to get both tickets for $180. We are in!

It is hard to contain our excitement over our luck. We rush back to the car to drop off a few things before we head in. On our way in we run into Peter and Cassidy, who are still looking for tickets. Even worse, the two are in a heated fight over something that Peter had done earlier that according to Cassidy could have lead to their arrest. I wasn’t really paying attention.

While Rosalie insists on making sure the two of them are ok before we go in, the band has already started their first set. I later find out they had kicked off the set by opening with, “One More Saturday Night” and following it with a, “Brown Eyed Women” and, “Good Morning Little School Girl”.

We arrive inside just as Warren sets off on a rendition of, “Althea”, which Rosalie’s ear keenly tunes in to. We grab a drink and quickly groove our way down to the floor in time to catch the final notes of the crowd favorite. After a few moments of trying to blend into the seats along the isle, a guy asks Rosalie if we would like to squeeze into two seats that no one was sitting in next to him. We dance furiously along to the remainder of the set that includes two of the band’s early classics, “Uncle John’s Band” and “Mason’s Children”.

During the second set the band pulls out all the stops as they open with, “Good Lovin” and eventually find their way into a. “Morning Dew”, “St. Stephen”, a cover of the Beatles, “Revolution”, and close with a classic Dead pairing of, “Help on the Way” into, "Slip Knot” into, “Franklin’s Tower”.

The energy in the building is so intense there are moments where it really does feel like the old building was going to fall down. Then the boys give the venue, where they played a record 48 shows throughout their career, an appropriate goodbye via an electric encore of, “Samson and Delilah”.

After the show we find ourselves back on Shakedown. Nitrous tanks hiss all around us. We decide to kill a few brain cells while we look for Peter and Cassidy. The energy that we all felt inside has now poured out into the parking lot, and the police who were passive toward the drug-fueled crowd earlier in the day are now starting to grow aggressive toward many of the vendors and Heads along Shakedown. One cop becomes so annoyed, he throws over one of the vendor tables, causing the mood in the lot to escalate into anger and fear between both forces. We eventually run into Peter and Cassidy, and they are furious over what has just happened. Supposedly the vendor who got violated by the police is a friend of theirs. On top of that, they are bummed over not getting into the show that was the last stop on their month-long tour. On the bright side, whatever it is they were fighting about before the show has passed.

The police, fed up with the scene in the lot, eventually start announcing over loud speakers that the lot is closed, and we are all to evacuate the premise. As we pull out of the venue, stoned and tired, it is sad to think this is the last show we will see on the tour and possibly the last time we would ever see the band perform as one again. While we all know this realization is a good possibility, it is nice to know that while the movement’s spiritual leader, Jerry Garcia, has been gone from this world for more than a decade, and the scene, like the times, may have changed, the music and spirit of the scene continues to live on with the help of both old and new generations of Heads like ourselves that refuse to let it die.

Friday, November 27, 2009

I Need A Miracle Everyday: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY, April 25, 2009 Part III

Writer’s Note: It has been four long years since the remaining members of the Grateful Dead reunited to serve up their diverse, intricate style of improvisational music that fueled a culture and ideology of life during the 1960s. While the world has changed drastically since the cultural revolution of the 60s. The spirit of the scene driven by the music of the counter-cultural rock n roll band can still be seen living on in the hearts of Dead Heads everywhere. This could best be seen in April, when the band, now known as The Dead, reunited for the first time since 2004. I had the good fortune to catch  four shows during the band’s month-long reunion tour, and I hope that through my own experiences, people will be able to see why there is nothing like a Grateful Dead concert. 

It’s a 45-minute train ride into Manhattan the next day. Hawaii left for Ohio earlier that morning, and I was preparing to meet Rosalie and few other friends in the city before the boys took the stage at the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden. There would be no backstage pass tonight and possibly no ticket at all, if I am not able to scalp one to the sold out show.

I arrive around 4:30 p.m. quickly finding my way onto the bustling city streets. My phone dies on the train, so I have no way of contacting Rosalie to find out where she and the others are located. I walk around the front of the venue signaling for a ticket, which entails holding one finger up to let people with extras know that you are looking for a ticket, while I keep my eye out for Rosalie.

After one failed attempt at buying a ticket off some shady characters, I finally run into my friends, Trey and Lee. They inform me that Rosalie is somewhere looking for tickets, and soon she appears out of the crowd with a surprised look on her face to see that I had found them amidst the chaotic crowd.

I find that only Trey has managed to scrounge up an extra, leaving us less than three hours to find three tickets amongst thousands of others Heads, who are also on a mission to obtain the same right of entry. Yes, we were certainly going to need a miracle, if we were going to pull this one off. We walk the perimeter of the building, where hippies litter the Manhattan streets figuring our best chance to achieve our miracle is to catch someone walking in.

A stocky middle aged man with slick, greased back hair, pink pants, and a shiny shirt (I am thinking this was his first Dead show), asks Rosalie if she needs a ticket. She jumps at the offer, purchasing it off him at face value, $100. After, we don’t know whether to laugh at the guy or praise him. We hear his daughter ask him if he is actually wearing the outfit to the show. Either way, it is certainly a sign that Jerry is looking down on us tonight.

With two tickets down and two to go, we walk around the streets, eventually meeting up with some of our friends from back home who are also looking for tickets. I decide that if for some reason I am not able to get in, I could at least rest easy knowing that the experience I had the previous night topped any other experience I would ever have. Or at least that is the impression I am under.

After two hours of roaming around the streets outside MSG, we have failed to get any closer to our goal of finding the coveted tickets. The streets become more and more hectic, as Heads make their way out of the pubs and over to the arena. We decide to try our luck across the street, where the Heads are entering from hoping that one of them will hold our miracle. We cut down a busy side street, fingers waving high. A middle aged man yells out to me, “How much is a ticket worth to you?” I say, “$100.” He agrees to my offer, and just like that I am in!

While I now have my ticket grasped firmly in hand, Lee is still the only one without a ticket. Rosalie and I are getting antsy. Show time approaches, and the prospect that Lee isn’t going to find a ticket starts to become more of a reality.

Showtime is nearly 10 minutes away when we finally decide to head in after deliberate buying two tickets off some shady character and selling the other. Just as we step into the street to cross over to the arena, a man appears beside us asking Lee if he needs a ticket.

“How much,” Lee asks.

“$100,” the man answers.

“Sold!” he says.

And just like that we’re in!

Showtime is quickly approaching so we hustle over to the arena’s entrance, hitting a wall of Heads harder to penetrate than the Gates of Hell. We eventually make it through the crowd, flashing our tickets, dashing up the a few flights of stairs, grabbing fistfulls of beers, and making our way into the arena just before the band launches into its opener, “Cosmic Charlie”.

We find four seats tosgether, which lasts through the opener before their owners appear to claim them. Finding ourselves forced into the stairway, we head down to the rail along the isle where a row of other Heads have congregated. It is interesting to me, because I have always heard how strict MSG shows are, but there doesn’t seem to be any order on this night. The only event staff present are the ones serving beer.

We dance along the isle for the remainder of the first set. The band drives through such Garcia classics as, “China Cat Sunflower”, “Shakedown Street”, and “Ship of Fools” and, “He’s Gone” before capping-off the first set with, “Cassidy” and, “Sugaree.”

As the set comes to a close, we exit back into the arena’s winding corridor searching for our friends from home, who have congregated at the Wharf Rat (a group of Heads that travel to concerts and choose to live their life’s drug free) booth. We watch our friend, Sam, who is recovering from heroin addiction, take part in one of the group’s rituals that involves passing a yellow balloon around to each Head who then announces how many days they have been sober.

Sam announces his more than one year of sobriety to the crowd, and we start hooting and hollering in support of our clean friend. While the scene can more often than not be a beautiful, loving collection of souls, we often forget the repercussions that drugs and alcohol can have on some of our brothers and sisters. We, of course, are far from model citizens, as we stand there high as kites. But it is nice to know that for our friends who have not been so lucky to escape the prison of addiction have a place to turn for support.

Our group has now swelled to more than 10 people, so we decide to head up the mezzanine to see if we can all find seats together. We settle on a spot directly behind the stage. I am skeptical at first, even though I have read that over the years some Heads believe the best spot to hear the music is from behind the stage.

The set is a powerful collection of Dead classics that include, “The Other One”, “Born Cross-Eyed”, “St. Stephen” into, “The Eleven” and, “Uncle John’s Band”.

While the set list is everything we could asked for, what may have made the experience of seeing a Dead show at MSG even more exciting than just being there had to be the energy that coursed through the venue. Jerry always said there was no place like MSG in terms of energy, and boy is he proven right. The lights cascade over the crowd revealing a sea of bodies flailing below, as the band charges out of, “Unbroken Chain” and into the Rolling Stone classic, “Give me Shelter”.

The band closes the show with an electric, “One More Saturday Night” that almost brings the building down and encores with the beautiful, “Broken Down Palace”.

We exit our seats in sheer disbelief over the show.

“Man I wish it didn’t have to end!” Rosalie screeches in excitement.

Outside, the energy from the crowd spills over into the streets of New York. We mingle below the towering sky line above meeting with friends and rapping about the unforgettable show.

We spend sometime huffing nitrous balloons in a parking garage, before we are cut off by a security guard who kicks out the dealer, who had only paid him off until midnight. Back outside MSG, the police have had enough of the colorful crowd and begin to force us off the arena’s concourse. I say farewell to my friends and make my way into Penn Station to catch the train back to Long Island.

The day has worn me down. I fight to stay awake on the 45 minute train ride back to my friend’s house. Heads of all ages are strewn about the rickety cable car. Some are talking, some are sleeping, and some are just plain passed out. While those of us aboard the train patiently await the arrival back to our ordinary, everyday lives, all of us share one common bond that brought us together on this night, the music of the Grateful Dead.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Vibe tribe to call Seaside Park home for another year

After some questions as to whether or not The Gathering of the Vibes Music Festival would return to Bridgeport, Connecticut's Seaside Park in 2010, festival promoters have confirmed that they intend to celebrate the festival's 15th anniversary at its original site, July 29 - Aug. 1.

“Seaside Park really is home for us,” Vibes owner Ken Hays said in a press release. “The park is magnificent, and the city has always welcomed us here. And with the beachfront and plentiful camping areas – this is just a great place to hold a festival.”

For those of you not familiar with GOTV, it was founded in 1996 as a celebration of the life and music of Jerry Garcia, who died the previous summer. Over the years, the festival has hosted bands fronted by the remaining members of the Grateful Dead and other exciting artists who exemplify the improvisational spirit of Jerry Garcia including New Riders of the Purple Sage, Deep Banana Blackout and Crosby, Stills and Nash.

Following last year's event, Hays revealed that he might not bring the festival back to the venue due to the high-cost of operating a festival in the city atmosphere. Controversy also surrounded the festival, after a 29-year-old Long Island man's body was discovered at a campsite near the park's baseball fields. The death, which was the first in the festival's 14 year history, was ruled to have occurred from natural causes with no foul-play suspected, although witnesses had testified the body had been dumped from a green Saturn with Pennsylvania plates. Many other festival-goers contested that the man had been murdered by a gang known as the "Nitrous Mafia," who sell and distribute the drug, nitrous oxide, at festivals and concerts.

A very limited number of Early-bird weekend passes are set for sale on “Tie-Dye Friday” (Black Friday) November 27 for $135. Tickets will be available at or at 203.908.3030.

In the coming days, be sure to look for a festival review from years past to celebrate one of the jam band world's best festies.

See you at the Vibes!

We’re with the Band: Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY, April 24, 2009 Part II

Writer’s Note: It has been four long years since the remaining members of the Grateful Dead reunited to serve up their diverse, intricate style of improvisational music that fueled a culture and ideology of life during the 1960s. While the world has changed drastically since the cultural revolution of the 60s. The spirit of the scene driven by the music of the counter-cultural rock n roll band can still be seen living on in the hearts of Dead Heads everywhere. This could best be seen in April, when the band, now known as The Dead, reunited for the first time since 2004. I had the good fortune to catch  four shows during the band’s month-long reunion tour, and I hope that through my own experiences, people will be able to see why there is nothing like a Grateful Dead concert. 

Preparations for me and a few friends to head down to the Big Apple to catch The Dead at Madison Square Garden are well underway, when I receive a surprise phone call from my old pal Hawaii a few days prior to the big show.

He sadly informs me that his father has passed away, and he is home on Long Island with his family. My excitement over our trip soon turns to concern over how my good friend is dealing with his loss. I tell him I will be down in the city on Saturday and would like to stop by if I have a chance to give my condolences to his family. I also mention to him that we would love to have him join us for the show at MSG. Hawaii informs me that he would like nothing more than to come, but that he has prior obligations that day to coach a lacrosse game for the college he works at in Ohio. He does, however, inform me that his cousin may be able to score tickets to the show for us. I tell him to try and score as many tickets as he can, because a number of Heads from home plan on attending the show, and none of us have tickets yet.

The next day, Hawaii calls back to inform me that the tickets for MSG are a no go. His cousin has already sold them to friends. I am a little disappointed, but then Hawaii says something that blows my mind. He informs me that while his cousin doesn’t have any more tickets to the MSG show, there is a good chance she can get us backstage passes to the show at the Nassau Coliseum in Long Island , TONIGHT!

“Remember the cousin I told you used to be Mickey’s [Hart] cook? Well now she is his assistant on the tour, and my sister says she can probably get us all backstage at tonight’s show,” Hawaii says with glee, “You want to go?”

At this point my mind is trapped in a deep trance. I start to dream up all the possibilities that could come along with being backstage at a Dead show. I eventually pull myself together realizing that Hawaii is still rapping away on the other end.

My excitement soon turns to hesitancy, though. I recognize that it is not going to be as easy as me jumping into my car and speeding down the highway to Long Island. First of all, I am at work. Second, my car has some problems that could hinder me from even making the trip. And third, I would have to leave immediately if I was going arrive in time for the show.

I tell Hawaii I will call him back with a definitive answer and hang up the phone. I continue to pace furiously around my office, trying to contemplate if it is even feasible to make such a journey. In the meantime, Hawaii calls me back to say there is a 90 percent chance it’s going to happen, and that his sister, Rosemary, can’t believe I would even consider passing up such an opportunity.

“So my sister basically said you are a pussy if you don’t come down for the show,” Hawaii says laughing at my uncertainty.

I think about what Hawaii had said, and I realize I am crazy for even considering not going to what would most definitely be something I would regret for the rest of my life, especially if Hawaii ends up meeting the boys. I would never hear the end of it. I tell the owner of my company, who is a former Dead Head, about the situation, and before I can even ask if I can leave, he is basically shoving me out the door while scolding me for even thinking about not going. I make a few quick stops before I hit the open road on my five hour ride to Hawaii’s house on Long Island.

“It’s a go!” Hawaii says, as my five hour trip, which includes an accidental detour through the South Bronx, rapidly winds down.

Upon arrival I quickly change into my hippie garb and give my condolences to Hawaii’s family, who are in Shiva, before we and four of his family members pack into two separate cars and head over to the Coliseum.

Anticipation builds as we make our way onto the lot, park the car, and head over to meet up with his cousin, Lucy, at the VIP gate. Rosemary calls Lucy when we arrive, and she informs us she will be there to meet us shortly.

About 15 minutes later a slender, middle-aged woman, who looks as though she has spent a good number of years on tour, appears out of know where hugging each of us and informing us that we will have to wait a little longer while someone brings our passes.

My excitement hits new levels, as I realize IT is really happening. Even the rest of Hawaii’s four family members, who are not very familiar with the band and their music, can hardly contain themselves. While we wait for our tickets, Lucy’s bubbly spirit keeps us all entertained. She raps about the tour, drugs, and what the scene used to be like when Jerry was alive. It’s great to take in the old stories about how the scene was and is today from someone who has lived it for a good portion of their life.

She eventually pauses, pulls her cell phone out of her pocket, and answers it.

“You want what?” she says to the person on the other end, “Your blue jeans? Why the hell do you want your blue jeans? ...Alright I’ll be there in a minute.”

While Lucy was on the phone, I realize that Mickey is the person on the other end. I uncontrollably start to smack Hawaii on the arm in order to get his attention, as Lucy continues her conversation with the legendary drummer.

“Well I guess he wants his blue jeans,” Lucy says hanging up the phone. “Come on, I will see if I can bring you down to the bus with me, and then I can get your passes, too.”

The seven of us make our way over to a security gate at the base of a long ramp that leads under the arena. We swiftly make our way past the security guards. Lucy flashes her badge and informs them that we are all her cousins. The guards give us a funny look. None of us even remotely resemble the other, but they let us through without question.

We make our way down a steep ramp eventually reaching a cluster of buses parked below. Lucy disappears into one of the buses. We stand patiently waiting outside.

“Can you believe this shit dude?” I whisper to Hawaii, “Your cousin was just talking to fucking Mickey, and now we are standing outside his bus! This is crazy!”

While I know Hawaii is as excited as I am, at this point he is showing hardly any emotion. I figure he is either in shock or the magnitude of what we are about to experience hasn’t yet set in.

“Well, no blue jeans but at least I found these,” Lucy says as she returns from the bus with a fistful of backstage passes, handing one to each of us, “Oh shit, do you guys want to go check out the bus?”

Hawaii and I turn to each other and now there is no hiding the twinkle in his eye. We follow Lucy onto the bus. The front section is a living space with lush couches, a flat screen TV, and an array of other amenities. Then, there is the hallway that hosts a few beds, where his cousin sleeps, and eventually it leads into a master bedroom complete with a queen size bed, shower, and bathroom.

Hawaii and I start to make our way back toward the front of the bus, while the rest of his family talks with Lucy about how nice the furnishings aboard the bus are. When we reach the front, Hawaii points to a pair of Mickey’s drum sticks resting on a small table.

“I should take a picture of you pointing at one of Mickey’s drum sticks,” he says.

I squeeze myself onto a small bench beside the table, and before Hawaii can snap the picture, I find myself holding one of the drum sticks magically in my hand. Hawaii becomes nervous at the sight of me, and just before he is about to take the picture, his cousin walks into the room throwing him into such a panic that he cuts off half the drum stick in the process of taking the picture.

Afterwards, Hawaii can’t believe that I actually touched the drum stick due to Mickey’s reputation for being extremely meticulous about his equipment. He’s also a little paranoid, because he believes that his cousin had given me a foul look over my bold action.

While I am not convinced of her disapproval over me holding the drum stick, I must admit that I felt as if I might have broken some unwritten rule not to touch anything on the bus. But then I realize that it is most likely the only chance I would ever get to have such an experience, and I am glad to have taken full advantage of the situation.

“I told you just to point at it not pick it up,” Hawaii whispers as we exit the bus. “It is like a museum, you can look but you never touch.”

After our tour of the bus we finally make our way backstage. I can hear music echoing through the hallways. We arrive at the entrance to the arena. After a brief hassle from a security guard on a power trip, we are allowed to pass through thanks to a few choice words from Lucy. We finally emerge from the depths of the backstage to find the band beside us onstage ripping through the show’s opener, “Jack Straw”.

We pass through a small security gate that leads to a row of seats just to the right of the stage. We spend the first set dancing furiously along to Dead classics spanning the band’s 30 year career. Hawaii and I also find time to see how far our passes will get us. We go around to different check points, flashing our badges to security guards who can’t deny us access, even if they want to. At one point we find ourselves backstage seeing what kind of trouble we might find. While poking around I see a tall, gangly figure wobbling toward us. As he nears I realize it is a fellow Head, named Charlie, from back home. He is strung out as he approaches us acknowledging my presence and demanding a cigarette. I hand him one and he proceeds to light it, mumbles some farewell, and stumbles on his way down the hall.

We find our seats, and Hawaii inquires to Lucy’s son, Johnny, about walking behind the stage.

“Of course,” he says as if it is common place, “Come on.”

We quickly make our way to the security gate, flashing our passes, and around the back of the stage just as the band launches into a raunchy, “Alabama Getaway”. As I turn to look at Hawaii, I see for the first time that his excitement to be backstage has gotten the better of him. His eyes are gleaming, his swagger has this weak bounce to it, and his smile is as wide as a Cheshire cat’s. We find ourselves on the other end of the stage in a blocked off area peering up in astonishment of how close we really are.

“You think we can actually go up on stage?” I remark to Hawaii.

“I think we can,” he replies, “But I don’t think they want us to.”

“Fair enough,” I think.

Johnny, who had disappeared on a mission to find some rolling papers, appears, and we make our way back to our seats. We rejoin Hawaii’s family, which now includes two of his cousins who have joined us. We dance, laugh, and enjoy each others company during the remainder of the second set that includes such classics as, “Dark Star”, “Knocking on Heavens Door”, “Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad”, and an encore of the band’s only major hit, “Touch of Grey”.

After the show we are denied access backstage by some uptight security guard, who says he has orders not to allow anyone to pass through. We wait patiently until finally Lucy starts to get irritated.

“What the fuck! I am Mickey’s fucking assistant!” She stammers, “All I want to do is show my cousins out the back and get my lap-top off the bus.”

Her plight, however, is of no concern to the guard. He informs us that there is no way we are getting backstage at the moment.
Somewhere along the line, Lucy says the hell with it and tells us to follow her. We rush to keep up as she quickly makes her way to an exit at the back of the arena that leads us into a narrow corridor where I can sense something crazy is about to happen. My intuition is correct as we turn one of the corners to find Warren Haynes slouched up against a wall. Hawaii turns and gives me a look.

“Damn it! I told you this was going to happen,” I say.

Rosemary, sensing our excitement, asks us who the large man is.

“Oh, that’s Warren Haynes,” Hawaii replies, “I guess you could say he is Jerry’s replacement. But it’s funny,
because Jimmy and I were joking earlier about how we would probably get to meet Warren and not any of the other members of the band.”

Rosemary rushes over introducing herself to Warren and telling him what a wonderful show the band had performed. She asks him if he would mind taking a picture with the three of us, which Warren accepts. He thrusts his large body in between me and Hawaii, throwing his meaty arms around the two of us. Hawaii’s brother-in-law snaps the photo. Afterwards, we thank Warren and start to walk away, but before we can, he stops us to ask our names. We exchange pleasantries and start to rap with him about the show, which I am not really paying attention to because I am more concerned about who else may stumble upon us. Just then, I spot Bill Kretzman out of the corner of my eye. He is walking quickly down the corridor surrounded by a group of people. Upon first sight, I begin slapping Hawaii furiously on the arm to get his attention, and he looks up just in time to catch Billy strolling by. In the meantime, something must catch Billy’s attention as well because afterwards when we finally made our way out the back, Hawaii tells me that he gave Billy the thumbs up and mouthed, “You’re awesome.” Billy, either having been confused by his action or wondering who this freak is, responded to Hawaii by shooting a dirty look his way.

“It was so cool,” Hawaii says, “I was just happy to get a reaction.”

We eventually find ourselves back under the arena surrounded by the cluster of buses, where I can assume the boys are resting aboard. I start to think that this is when we finally get to meet Mickey, or somebody, anybody, but instead we are forced to wait outside, while Lucy takes back our passes and returns them to the bus. When she returns, we all walk back up the same steep ramp we had come in on. The whole situation reminds me of the scene in, Almost Famous, when William Miller first meets Penny Lane’s character at the top of the ramp after he is denied entrance backstage.

Mickey’s bus powers past us on our way up and stops at the top of the ramp. The doors swing open, and Lucy gives us all one last hug before she disappears into the bus as it drives out of site.

Hawaii and I say our goodbyes to the rest of his family and head over to Shakedown to see what kind of trouble we can get into. While we have now been reduced to just another face in the crowd, we couldn’t help but think about how even if it was just for a few hours, we could say we were with the band.