061895 Grateful Dead/Bob Dylan, East Rutherford, NJ

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Following a two-day layoff between shows that was mostly taken up by an epic random gathering of Deadheads in a state park sharing food and drinks and singing around the campfire around the clock (literally) courtesy of yours truly and a solo marathon eight-hour string-bending bender, my friend Jason and I woke up somewhere on June 18th, 1995 and headed towards Giants Stadium for the first of a two-night run with The Grateful Dead.

Of course we made the most of the obligatory parking lot scene before the show, lackadaisically selling our ice-cold Molson XXX (bought at duty-free for less than $20CDN a case and sold at $3US a bottle or the ever-popular two-for-five) and similarly chilled shots of Jaegermeister, though we were mostly concentrated on having a good time and enjoying the company of new-found friends.

Which we succeeded greatly at.

Now, before I get to the show, I feel I should explain the “ticket” I have for this concert (Jason has the one from the following night).  Ahem.  Let me start by saying I am a much more ethical person than I was when I was a young pup and I am filled (or at least tinged) with shame about what I am about to admit, but back in the day there was a well-known and oft-used Canadian-only Grateful Dead ticket scam and for this pair of shows I took part.

The scam was quite simple: you ordered tickets through the Dead’s mail-order service and when the day of the show neared you called them up and told them you didn’t get the tickets, though of course you had.  The ticket people then put you on a list, and after selling your legitimate tickets in the lot (the ones that did indeed arrive in your mailbox, despite your karmic-crushing lie) you would simply go to the will-call window and show your ID and somebody would give you a chit and escort you to the entrance gate, and away you went, just like the ticket-cheating no good scallywag that you were.  Scamming the Grateful Dead no less!  History will not be kind to me.  

To be fair, it’s not like anyone actually sat in their actual seats at a Dead show or anything, so the fact that the assigned seats on my chit were the same as those legitimate (but let’s face it: stolen) tickets that I sold in the parking lot (for face value…I’m not a monster) was of little consequence (until the following night, but that’s another story).

I feel so unclean.  But you gotta know, I would have crossed the border for an eight-night stint with about $60 in my pocket, and Jason would have had about the same.  Selling beer and our extra tickets was the only way two poor students would have been able to make the mini-tour work in the first place, so there’s that.  Like that’s an excuse…harumph!

Anyway, we went in with plenty of time to catch Bob Dylan’s opening set (can you believe it?!?), and just like the last show there was hardly anyone in there to see it (can you believe it!?!), with maybe just three or four thousand people in the giant stadium to see the legend.

Which was unconscionable, and utterly mystifying.  Like, the lot was a pretty fun scene and all, but to think that the majority of people (music fans, all of them) would choose to skip out on a set of Bob Dylan to warm up the night boggled my little thieving mind.  I didn’t, that’s for sure.

And for my efforts I was treated to a wonderful set that included Just Like a Woman, All Along the Watchtower, and a trio of acoustic numbers that started with Mr. Tambourine Man (can you believe people were just lounging around on the pavement outside while this was happening?) and a couple of songs I didn’t recognize.  

It’s not like I was the biggest Dylan fan or anything, but I was fast becoming one.

And then of course there was The Grateful Dead.  At this point Jerry Garcia only had fourteen shows left in him, and I’m sure any real Deadhead would tell you he that he played like it, but I was such a newb to the scene I was utterly oblivious to Jerry’s mid-90’s shortcomings and had the time of my life (well, tied with the other five times I saw Jerry Garcia play with The Grateful Dead).

Of course they played a mile of great Dead tunes – readily look-uppable online –  and it was all fantastic, but special mention (in my memory at least) has to go to the Drums/Space which particularly rang my bell at this show and the Not Fade Away jam that closed the set, and one the audience just kept at, stomping out that Bo Diddley beat long after the band had left the stage.  It finally occurred to me that the ubiquitous audience participation that follows Not Fade Away is a massive pun; the crowd won’t let Not Fade Away fade away.  

Good one, crowd.

The icing on the cake (also known as “the encore”) was an apt and unexpected Beatles cover, and an odd one at that, Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.  Wow.

What a pleasure it was to see The Grateful Dead once again.  Not that a caitiff miscreant like me deserved it or anything, but I enjoyed it all the same.

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