On June 19th, 1995 I woke up in a bit of a daze after having spent the night basically sleeping in a ditch. The night before my friend Jason and I had been pulled over by the police for a broken taillight and a broken headlight and given the all-around authoritarian hassle. The officers were obviously hankering to inconvenience as many fans as possible following the Grateful Dead’s first night (of two) at Giants Stadium and with us they well succeeded.
With our foreign plates (and shifty eyes, I guess) the cops had no confidence that we were going to actually pay the fines they handed us so down to the station we went where we emptied our pockets and our bank accounts – a process that took much longer than seemed necessary – until we were finally freed just before the day was ready to break over the New Jersey skyline.
Left with just seven US dollars between us we couldn’t even afford to wait out the twilight in a Dunkin’ Donuts so we found a side road off a country road somewhere and slept for an hour or two in the car. At least one of us inexplicably woke up wrapped in a sleeping bag beside the car and let’s just say we got an early start to the day. Luckily we had enough gas in the car to get back to Giants Stadium for night two of the Dead, and luckily we still had a couple of cases of beer and half a bottle of Jaegermeister in the trunk that we could sell in the lot for gas money to get us back to Canada, but unfortunately we didn’t have the $20 it would cost us to get into the lot in the first place.
Which put us perilously close to missing what would prove to be the last time either of us would ever see Jerry Garcia. Or would have, had we not been unremorseful hoodwinkers.
I won’t pain myself with re-explaining, but for this little mini-tour my friend and I pulled a fast one on the Grateful Dead ticketing people. Long story short: we got our tickets in the mail but said we didn’t, so we ended up with extra tickets to the shows. And setting karmic responsibilities aside, in this case this proved to be very, very fortunate for us*.
In a feat of miraculous efficiency we managed to sell our extra tickets while we were literally in our car on the freeway and nearing the exit to Giants Stadium. That gave us enough money to get onsite and about $50 besides, and as soon as we got parked I grabbed our cooler and shilled our beer like a parking lot champion. Before you knew it we had $200 in our pockets. That would get us home in the morning**, now we could relax and enjoy the concert.
Or so we thought. Turns out we had one more karmic twist to work around when our will-call ticket-replacement escort walked us to the entrance and we happened to notice the guys that we had sold our actual tickets to were just a few dudes in front of us in the same entry row. With six or eight entrance gates, each with a dozen rows, and a two-hour window to enter the concert the odds against this were staggering. Jason and I avoided making any eye contact with them and hoped they wouldn’t notice us. They didn’t. And then wouldn’t you know it, the will-call dude insisted on walking us all the way to our actual seats. I was full of freezing fear as we emerged into the section, only to find our seats still empty. Luckily people hardly ever sit in their actual seats at a Grateful Dead concert.
That said, there wasn’t that many people inside the huge venue to see the opening act (some guy named Bob Dylan), so there were plenty of seat options available.
(With just a smattering of overlapped songs from the previous night Dylan’s set was well worth seeing – ie I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight, Tombstone Blues, Rainy Day Women #12 & 35, and an acoustic Masters of War – and I can’t believe that the vast majority of ticket holders opted to pass it up. Ah well, their loss.)
As I alluded to earlier, this would prove to be my last Grateful Dead concert, and Jerry Garcia’s thirteenth-last Grateful Dead concert. I’m sure there is any number of Deader-Than-Thou’s out there who would give this show a listen and poo-poo it as another ’95 lump of coal, but as it was my last time dancing with The Big Man I’ll always remember it very fondly. This is how it went:
Cold Rain and Snow
Good Morning, Little Schoolgirl
Ramble On Rose
All Over Now
Lazy River Road
Me & My Uncle>
Don’t Ease Me In
Samba in the Rain
The Other One>
Turn On Your Love Light
Gosh, I had such a great time.
(As an added bonus, back then Throwing Stones was my favourite song and I remember this version being epically awesome.)
Unfortunately the money we lost to the Saddle River Police Department truncated our plans to go to the next show in Albany – which we didn’t have tickets for – and so it was that I was held at just six Grateful Dead concerts (with Jerry) for this lifetime (and two Jerry Garcia Band shows – also with Jerry). Sigh.
Thanks for everything Jerry!
*Come to think of it, our overnight fiasco was probably our karmic comeuppance. And to think I’ve always blamed it on Jason for not lifting his feet when we drove over a set of railroad tracks early in the adventure.
**It occurs to me just now that the only other time I went on a run of Grateful Dead concerts I arrived onsite in Chicago for the final show without enough money to get back home. Worked out that time as well (obviously).