I followed up my first Grateful Dead concert (6/11/93 at Buckeye Lake) by skipping one (6/13/93 at Rich Stadium). Obviously I and my two tour partners were way too newb to know how much of a faux pas/tragedy/blasphemy skipping a show was, but fortunately we were so darn newb that we had a fantastic time enjoying a few days off roaming rather randomly through America and we didn’t give the missed show a second thought.
I remember we hit Cincinnati during their mini-Grand Prix – which I think involved go-karts – where Jojo and I cleaned up making balloon animals for the busy sidewalk crowd, earning us more than enough money to pay for a few night’s camping fees in state parks and enough gas to get us to the next Dead show in Louisville, Kentucky on June 15th, 1993.
The concerts in Kentucky were happening at a place called Freedom Hall. It sure didn’t look like a “hall” to me; I remember a huge (and I mean huge) parking lot surrounding a massive outdoor football stadium. Coinciding with the Dead shows was a Goldwing convention and the parking lot was absolutely teeming with oversized anti-Harley Honda bikes resplendent in gilded tackle boxes, domed windscreens, and helmet pairs wired with walkie-talkies. If you don’t know what a Goldwing is, picture a retired couple comfortably sharing a large, quiet motorcycle on a Howard Johnson’s-jumping cross-country vacation. That bike they are riding on in your mind is a Honda Goldwing.
Anyways, I spent the day socializing with strangers in said parking lot and admiring a bike or two (which was hard – Goldwings are cookie-cutter bikes and taken together the lot looked like a suburban subdivision with wheels) before heading in to the show nice and early for an opening set courtesy of Sting, who was opening all of the shows we were seeing on this run.
Being the The Police fan that I am I was of course very excited to hear another Sting set. Though he had the energy level dialled down a bit he delivered another good pile of music peppered with several songs from his former band and I loved it.
Then the Grateful Dead came on and thrilled us all. Friend Of The Devil and Don’t Ease Me In were in the first set, as was a cover of Bob Dylan’s Desolation Row, which was neither the first nor the last of the cover songs on this evening. I was jumping up and down when they launched into The Last Time by the Rolling Stones in the second set, and they even encored with Gloria. Not to skip over the amazeballs of the rest of the show – which included an awful lot of Grateful Dead songs too – which was altogether meltingly astounding and staggeringly majestic. Being only the second Dead show for a guy who never independently listened to the band before this was all new to me, but being a young, wide-eyed musical sponge in love with great fun and big spectacle it was not only new, it was also mind-numbingly ecstatic and indescribably wonderful.
We stuck around for night two the next day despite not having tickets to the show. Unfortunately we were so new to the scene that we ended up getting shut out of the concert but the three of us still had a great time in the lot and I remember lots from that. I recall a pair of old, white-haired hippies who were bumming change by conversing in an accent that accurately depicted the internal sound of NO2. I remember these two other guys sitting on top of their van on lawnchairs and being surprised that they were completely unconcerned with getting into the show. “Who cares man, we’re here now and everything is beautiful!” I remember handing out free toys and stuffed animals that we had purchased en masse from a garage sale in the backroads of Indiana.
Overall I remember having the time of my life. Again.