10 years ago today, I was in Chicago, IL. I’d gone to watch the Grateful Dead. They were playing 3 shows at the Roseland Horizon, an arena in the suburbs of Chicago. It being St. Patrick’s day, we all had high hopes of a themed, or spectacular show. It wasn’t to be. That night, the set list was as follows:
1: Touch, Wang Dang Doodle, Althea, Me & My Uncle@> Mexicali@, Lazy River Road, Eternity
2: Box Of Rain> Iko Iko, Playin> Uncle John> Drumz> Wheel> Watchtower> Morning Dew
(taken from The DeadBase, an online repository of Dead set lists)
While it was a good show, and many of those songs are amongst my favourite Dead tracks, it didn’t live up to the hype. Fortunately, I managed to enjoy myself immensely anyway:
Our seats were upper balcony, back row, so not ideal. Like every other show, we quickly made our way down and onto the floor, disapearing into the swirling mass of neo-hippies dancing the night away. I managed to lose the 2 friends I was with somehow — Sean had gone to talk to the tapers, Brian, well, who knows. So I was all alone. A massive joint was being passed on down the row. It looked comically like the oversize spliffs you see in old R. Crumb comics, loose pot hanging out the end, it was cigar sized and wretched. It was also, most likely, laced. Glorious hallucinations ensued for the 2nd half of the show — my very own Laser Dead as the lights drew me the lyrical content of the songs. I was completely, utterly wasted. We had pre-arranged a meeting place if we got split up, to meet back at after the show. I showed up nearly 2 hours late, having been wandering aimlessly through the parking lot, hugging people and babbling on in french, and I wouldn’t sit down. Even on the ride back in to Chicago, I crouched on the floor, hunched up, rather than sitting. No one could make sense of why I wouldn’t, and I sadly can’t remember my theory about why sitting was bad, but there you go.
The next night was the 3rd and final show in Chicago, and we were back at Rosemont that night too, although it was less eventful. Although writing this now I can suddenly taste the brilliance of the bean burrito from the taqueria across the street from the stadium, it tasted so amazing afterwards.
I’d been to 2 shows before the Chicago set, and went to many, many more afterwards, but it was these three, March 18-18, 1994, that I think of as both the true start of my Deadhead experience, and also, the absolute highlights.
By the time Jerry Garcia died the following august, I’d seen nearly 30 Dead shows, and had become a confirmed life long fan of the band. While I don’t listen to them nearly so much anymore (and I’ve studiously avoided the various successor acts that the remaining members have put forward), I always smile when a dead song starts up in my iTunes playlist, and more often then not, remind of a particular city or concert, or sometimes, all I remember are the lights, or a smell, or van — any number of the ephemera that make up the Grateful Dead concert experience.