12-05-92: Compton Terrace, Chandler, AZ (SAT)
Set 1: Let the Good Times Roll, Hell in a Bucket > Sugaree, Minglewood, Tennessee Jed, Tom Thumb’s Blues, Candyman, Music Never Stopped
Set 2: Scarlet > Fire > Estimated> Drums> Space> Wheel> Watchtower > Black Peter > One More Saturday Night
E: The Weight
“Come on and Let the Good Times Roll”
A lot has changed since my first show in Saratoga, New York on June, 24th, 1984. Gone are the days of me not being able to find the car after the show or confusing intermission for the 2nd set and thinking “Dupree’s Diamond Blues” was “Doin’ that Rag.” One thing however that does remain the same going into the year 1992 is the fact that the Grateful Dead have not played Casey Jones since they last broke it out at Merriweather on June 26th 1984 and then again in Berkley on November 2nd. I’d just missed it, but to be honest it wouldn’t have had as much of an impact to see it at my 2nd show, compared to my 132nd.
Alan and Butch and I are still over the moon and acting like we were just shot out of a cannon when we arrive back home to Bergen County, New Jersey following the Casey Jones whirlwind that went down at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC on June 20th 1992. Everything seems to be going well for the band and I have a good paying job heading up a re-work and bottle inspection crew in Washington, NJ. I basically put together a team through a temp agency who inspects and re-packages empty wine cooler bottles onto skids or pallets. It’s all about the skids and how many we can do in a day to keep ahead of deadlines.
I have two rooms reserved for me and my long- time friend Greg and Cousin Henry who’s up from Dallas to save some money. The bottle company who is paying me and the crew puts the three of us up at the local Howard Johnson’s in nearby Phillipsburg or Pburg Monday through Thursday and they pay for meals and miles too, so although the three of us have been stuck out in countryside of western Jersey for a year, we’re all saving since there’s not much to do at night, but go to Evr’s All Nude B.Y.O.B in Allentown, PA. It’s only ten bucks to get in and they let you bring a cooler inside filled with whatever beverage you’d like. Greg has a big collection of Polaroid’s with him and the Penthouse Centerfold feature of the week. This rocker named Mark who works with us told me about it and usually puts together a weekly trip.
Mark is a pretty cool dude. He’s a guitar player from Easton, PA who played in a touring band that opened for Van Halen with Sammy Hagar. We get along well because we both love rock music. He prefers metal and doesn’t get the Dead or how they are still relevant. One day in late April he comes up to me with the new Rolling Stone in hand. Def Leppard is on the cover. Mark opens to the Leppard article by David Fricke titled “To Hell and Back”. It starts with a quote from singer Joe Elliot: “Are we any more of a sob story than the Grateful Dead? Those guys have really had it bad! Talk about Spinal Tap! Twenty-six years together and three keyboard players die on ‘em.” It continues… An exasperated Joe Elliot is discussing, and wearily denying for the umpteenth time, the existence of what he calls in a mock-horror-flick-voice “the Curse of the Leppards,” the apparent pox of bad luck ‘n’ trouble that has dogged his band for nearly 10 years. The evidence is grimly convincing – drummer Rick Allen left with only one arm after an auto accident on New Year’s Eve,1984; guitarist Steve Clark found dead in his London home on January 8th, 1991, from a fatal mixture of alcohol and drugs.
“Huh”, I said. “That sucks for Def Leppard, but I don’t think the Dead are a sob story. They are the most fun band in the land. You have to go see them. They’re a band beyond description.” He isn’t convinced, but remains open minded. That is until mid- August rolls around and I run into him on the way to work getting coffee at a gas station convenience store. He goes George; I just read that your boy Jerry is out of commission and they’ve cancelled the fall tour. My first thought is, it’s the RFK Curse, because it seems every time I see them there something bad happens to Jerry. But the truth is, he is sick with heart issues and needs a break from the road, although none of the fans really know what to make of it.
Let’s fast forward to early autumn. Word comes out that the Grateful Dead will be playing in Colorado, Arizona and California in December. All my friends and I are relieved and excited to go. Many don’t have the time or money, but Alan from Teaneck, Tommy, Timmy and Butch from Ridgefield Park do. Now we just need to decide where we should go. We weigh our options and decide that outdoor weekend shows in Phoenix are the best way to go. We all mail order and get GA tickets for about $28.00 each, all in. I even went ahead and ordered Oakland tickets as well, just in case I wanted to fly there afterwards.
It felt like a long wait, but December finally does roll around. We’re all set too, with a mini-van reserved and rooms booked at the Embassy Suites in Tempe. The other guys are leaving early on Thursday out of Newark and I’m taking off later in the evening by myself. Before I leave, I call 1-900-USA-DEAD, for only ninety-five cents a minute, to find out what they played on Wednesday night in Denver. It seemed like a standard show until the recording gets to the encore, which was “Rain” by the Beatles. Very cool! I also call Mark who recently moved to Phoenix to join a new band. I tell him that I’ll be out there this weekend and that I’d give him a call, and who knows, maybe even take him to see the show. Mark laughs my comment off like never in a million years would I be at a Dead show, but I was being serious.
I get dropped off at the Continental Airlines Terminal entry doors by Kevin Beaman and after a quick pass through security; I’m off once again to the friendly skies and onto another fun adventure with the Grateful Dead. All systems go! As we make our descent I feel some pain in my ears and I was congested before left, not good. My ears do not pop and I can’t hear well at all. I manage to get a cab to the hotel and find not much of a party gone on, so I crash soon after at around 1AM. I awake with major hearing problems. We all go out to Denny’s for lunch in the pouring rain. Things are looking mighty grim and I’m beginning to panic. The severe partial deafness goes into the night and I contemplate a trip to the ER. Instead I take some Nyquil and hit the hay.
Alright, alright, it’s finally the day of the show. The waiting is over. I wake up refreshed and I got my miracle… I can hear! It’s back 100%. We all head down to the Embassy Suites courtyard for their supreme full breakfast. They have the best pancakes that I’ve ever had. The sun is shining and we’re in the mid-seventies and my panic has subsided completely. Now full, we all go back to our suites to get ready, because we don’t have much time… Showtime is 2PM. We’re piled into the mini-van by noon and on our way to US-10. It’s a quick ride over to Compton Terrance and there’s plenty of room to park when we arrive. Once situated, I take a walk on the orange clay surface. There are big mountains off in the distance and the circus is in town. There’s not much of a Shakedown Street yet, but it’s all very bright and colorful and most seem to be very happy to be here. When I get back I’m told that they have some ecstasy for me. I say thank you, then roll the powder up into a pod using rolling paper and drop it.
There’s a rumor going around that today’s show will broadcast by the local rock station, or at least that’s what Al’s telling everyone. So, on the way in, with fanny-packs firmly secured, I look over at Al and see that he’s carrying his big boom-box inside to tape the show off the radio. Sounds weird, but why not. Once in, we find a space in the back where’s there’s an incline so we can see above everyone in front of us. The layout is pretty bare. There’s no structure to speak of, just open space with volleyball nets over on Phil’s side. The stage is without any type of artwork and there are no video screens. It’s all pure, like the old days, when your imagination created the artwork. The band takes the stage, but it’s hard to tell because the band members look like ants from here. It’s the pre-tune noodling that lets us know, it’s time. Meanwhile Al is scrambling to find the concert on the radio. He gives up upon on the first notes of “Let the Good Times Roll”. It’s a great view of 20,000 deadheads grooving away, but the sound from our vantage point is weak. I’m just happy to be here though.
After “LTGTR,” they launch into “Hell in a Bucket” > “Sugaree” and I begin to feel the ‘X’. That’s when Al and Butch come up to me and say that there are undercover FBI agents standing right in front of us. They are giggling their asses off, so I assume they’re joking. They persist and tell more people that are dancing around us. Next up is “Minglewood” then “Tennessee Jed” and “Tom Thumb’s Blues.” When they began to play “Candyman,” I’m looking to light up, but my buddies are still paranoid. I say, “Let’s move then” and Alan goes, “Shush, they’re onto us.” “Huh”??? I say under my breath. I ride out the “Candyman,” “Music” and intermission, then make my escape to the front when I hear that they are about to play “Scarlet Begonias.” Before I take off, I ask Al if I can take his boom-box to tape the second set from the box’s built-in recorder. He agrees and I’m on my way with the box on record.
I work my way towards those volley ball nets over on Phil’s side with the music getting louder with each step. When I get to the nets, I pivot and make a laser focused walk to my favorite spot near the rail, just to the right past the huge speaker stacks. Needless to say, the sound is strong here. It’s not distorted or hurtful to the ears either believe it or not. I place the boom-box on the ground against the ply wood barrier between front and back-stage. I don’t roam far from the box to dance. They sound great and Garcia looks trimmer, with his head held high. I’m hoping his spirit is back for good, re-born like a phoenix. After a hot “Fire on the Mountain,” the boys go into “Estimated Prophet” and right into Drums.
I spot Kevin Cunningham sitting near the boom-box, so I grab the box and take a seat. Kevin is one of the original 6 tripping kids and he’s been through a lot since. He went in head first, making San Francisco his home-base where he
makes tie-dye shirts that he sells at the shows and he rarely missed a show.
He said he was clearing at least five hundred per show, but it has not all been all roses for Kevin. He’s been in the Wharf Rats for years and does not party. I’m sort of a bad guy to him because I do, but he knows that I’m not on the dark side, and plus I knew him when he was leaving his body nightly. He’s found his higher power in music and more power to him. Kevin points out a guy sitting near us wearing a lamented back-stage pass around his neck and goes, that’s Tony Bennett’s daughter’s boyfriend. He brought Tony to show once and now they give him passes. Then Kevin says, and I swear… “They are going to open with ‘Here Comes Sunshine’ tomorrow.” “No way, you gotta be kidding me!” I reply. No, he says, it’s true and I believe him. We chat some more and I snap a shot of him before they come out of Space with “The Wheel.”
Feeling bold and wanting to move back a little to see the drums better, I place the boom-box on the stage where the speaker stack is and work my way through the crowd about 30 feet away and take in the rest of the show and it’s fantastic, especially the Weight encore.
We don’t party much in the lot after the show because it’s 6PM and the gang is hungry. We leave in darkness to find a good place to eat. When I get back to the room I give Mark a call to see what he’s up to. He pitches a close by upscale Gentleman’s Club and after a little thought I agree to go. Nobody else is up for the erotic side-trip, so Mark and a friend of his pick me around 9PM. The pleasure palace on ‘X’ is something beautiful to see I must say, but I won’t bore you with the details. What I will say is that during a lap dance I tell Mark that he’s going to a Grateful Dead concert tomorrow. He quickly says nope.
I ask why, and he explained that he’s bartending at 4PM on Sunday. I think for a second and say that’s okay, you can check out the first set. He just rolls his eyes. He knows I wasn’t going to take no for an answer…