Saturday, August 04, 2012

Commemorating Jerry Garcia's 70th Birthday

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It's hard to believe that it's been nearly 17 years since Jerry Garcia passed. I still recall that day very clearly in my mind, what I was doing and where I was when I heard the news. I recall it feeling like a punch in the gut. His 70th birthday would have been on the 1st of this month.

The Grateful Dead hold a special place in my heart. I saw over a hundred shows if you combine the Jerry Garcia Band into the mix and met my wife at the July 7th, 1989 show that ended up being the last event at JFK Stadium in Philly.

In the preceding years, I had seen Garcia on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater (after which I weirdly met James Earl Jones but that's another story), Toured with the Dead throughout the South and East Coast and made the treks to Foxboro, Saratoga and Buffalo. Being young with no real responsibilities it was a great time.

After meeting my future wife, we saw unique tours like the JGB on tour with Bob Weir and Rob Wasserman acoustic, sold tape covers in Landover and planned our summers around shows.

But it was the JGB who really got us rocking. The best show either of us had ever seen was at the San Diego Sports Arena. My friend "G" and another old Navy buddy Leighton made and entire day out of it. My wife brought two work friends; one completely straight-laced and one a partier who had never seen the Dead or Garcia All-in-all, a weird but enjoyable mix of people. An epic show that, unfortunately my buddy Leighton didn't get to see as too much beer and other intoxicants in the parking lot left him a bit, shall we say, incoherent. The rest of us had a blast.

Anyway, in the ensuing years since Jerry passed, there's been a void. There were tours by the remaining members as The Dead (with the excellent Warren Haynes), Bob Weir's Ratdog, Phil Lesh and Friends and the current incarnation of Furthur but it just never seem to fill the void. I've been to Ratdog shows that came pretty close but still something was lacking.

Anyway, here's a few songs that show Jerry in his element:

First we have an entire JGB show from the Centrum in Worcester, MA in 1991, video quality isn't special but the audio is great:

Next we have Garcia at the Capitol Theater in Passaic, NJ with the soulful classic Catfish John: Next we have the Dead billed as "Formerly the Warlocks" at the always fun Hampton Coliseum. These shows hold a special place in the hearts of Deadheads not only for the set lists but the energy. This was the last really special tour where Jerry was on his game. This is not to belittle later shows and tours, which had great moments (among them the epic So Many Roads from the last show Jerry played) but the post coma time period of 1987-1989 were a great era for the band. Here's the crowd favorite Jack-a-Roe: And finally, from the show where I met my beautiful wife, JFK in 1989 and Ramble on Rose: I highly recommend you type Jerry Garcia into You Tube and start clicking. The footage out there is unbelievable; from this ultra stripped-down version of High Time to a 1967 interview in which Garcia discusses the Monkees. Happy birthday Jerry.

1 comment:

Stan said...

Great review Scott. Thanks