It was 36 years to the day since the first SPAC Grateful Dead concert on June 18, 1983. The anniversary seems to have gone mostly unnoticed by most attendees at the June 18, 2019, SPAC Dead & Company concert. The tour faithful seem to have the philosophy of living in the moment. Those of us that attended the 1983 show will talk about it reverently. We live in the past and the present. The present is just as much fun, and the music that accompanies the scene is still top-notch.
The band has 13 big-rigs to cart around all of their equipment. I counted them, and I confirmed the number with the Night Watchman. All the trucks are bright red, and it takes an army of people to bring it all together, load-in, set -up, break it down, load-out and transport it to the next venue. Then they do it all over again. To the crew working behind-the-scenes, we thank you for a job well done.
Walking around the vendor area, aka Shakedown Street before the show is always entertaining. The wares have evolved over the years’; you can always find all forms of Tie-dye T-Shirts, food, people selling bottled water and almost anything you could possibly want from hand-thrown, kiln-fired clay kitchen pottery to hand-made custom Steely crochet shawls. There were four full rows of vendors, and you could easily get lost in the kaleidoscope of colors. One day, some Sociology Ph.D. will write and publish an academic paper on the sub-culture that exists around the scene and try to explain the phenomena. Perhaps it’s already been written?
The band came on stage close to the 7 pm published show-time. Opening the first set with ‘Feel Like A Stranger’ into ‘Hell In A Bucket’ gave the sense that this is going to be a Bobby show. Bob Weir and John Mayer traded lead & back-up vocals on each successive verse. The band is well rehearsed, enjoying the music and pushing forward with nearly the entire Grateful Dead song catalog. Oteil had big smiles of joy at various times throughout the show. Bob Dylan’s ‘When I Paint My Masterpiece,’ and The Dead’s ‘Cumberland Blues’ were my personal favorite highlights in the first set. Everyone in the shed seemed to want to jump and dance to the set closer, ‘US Blues.’
The second set opened with ‘Here Comes Sunshine’ and jammed into an always fun to dance to ‘Shakedown Street.’ The song placement is unpredictable with Wharf Rat showing-up as the third song in the set. Almost anything goes with this band, and that helps to keep us all on our toes, literally and figuratively. The air began to cool down as the sunset, and the band played on. There seems to be a lot of fan debate on the tempo of the songs. I often hear people comment that the songs are slower now than whenever they were played before. It all seems fine to my ears. I enjoy the music, dance, have fun, and a lot of other concert attendees seemed to be like-minded. Never miss a Dead concert at SPAC. This is the place. It’s a special venue. The waters running under the theatre are magical. The Dead have played some excellent shows here. I hope to see this band here again next year in Summer 2020.