The Dead In 1990

The Dead did not come to Florida often but they did in 1985. We couldn’t drive yet so we got this guy’s older sister–who hated them–to take us. She showed up 40 minutes late and bought us wine coolers instead of beer. (Editor’s Note:  Wine Coolers!)

The Hollywood Sportatorium was never known as an impressive venue to see a show (one performer called it an acoustical nightmare) but the Dead at that time were incapable of filling the Orange Bowl. Critics panned the show as uninspired, but we were 14 and didn’t care because we were blown away by the weirdness of it all. Here is the concert in its entirety.

The show lived on in my head as incredible and I didn’t even know I was supposed to be unimpressed by it until such sentiments became available on the Internet.

What does this have to do with 1990? The Dead are releasing material from that spring, touting it as the best of that era. In a Rolling Stone interview, Bob Weir notes that at that time Jerry Garcia was “eating well. He was off the Persian.

My friends who are serious Dead Heads have been reminiscing about that tour. I missed it, and I don’t really care. Except when I do.

At the time I was a freshman in college and armed with about two dozen cassette tapes I’d dubbed off my oldest brother. Existing in relative Head-cultural isolation in South Florida–where it was no strange thing to listen to Yellowman, the Dead, Jimmy Buffett, and Appetite For Destruction on a random Saturday–had not equipped me to deal with what sucked about the scene: The Northeast Boarding School Hippie.

The Northeast Boarding School Hippie had rules. The weight of your opinion on all things Grateful Dead was directly proportional to the number of shows you had seen; that number often casually dropped into conversation within five minutes of introductions. The Northeast Boarding School Hippie had only first generation soundboards recorded on Maxell XLIIS tapes. (You did not, serf.) He talked sagely of the merits of 1977, but he thought they came into their own in ’76, even though he was five at the time. He was there when Jerry wore a purple shirt instead of a black one. He had a friend in the mail order office. He drove a Saab with a dancing bear sticker in the window. He was smug about all this. And suffocating.

When you just want to listen to the music there is nothing more constraining than being imposed upon with rules. At the time Warren Haynes had just joined the Allman Brothers and Widespread Panic was coming into their own, and they didn’t yet have the Northeast Boarding School Hippies. (Phish had already started cultivating a particularly virulent strain.) Southern hippies, by comparison, were about the coolest cats in town.

So I missed one of my favorite bands during one of their creative peaks when I had nothing but free time to see them. I’ve since softened by stance on Northeast Boarding School Hippies because, every scene in every walk of life has its own variation of them. Surfers, skateboarders, the hardcore kids, college football fans–yes fly fishers–Simpson’s fans, Tolkien fans, HP Lovercraft fans, golfers, record store employees, spelunkers…you get the picture.

I went back to them after a few years and saw some sloppy shows at Giant Stadium but I guess I missed their best.

The point, if there is one (is there?), is this: Never let the Northeast Boarding School Hippies in your life suffocate you and keep you from doing what you’re doing. Life’s too short for the bullshit.

16 thoughts on “The Dead In 1990”

  1. Ugggh, the Sportatorium. It was the sweaty armpit of the rock and roll universe. I saw some regrettable bands there.

    Although I’m not a Dead fan, I dig the overall message, Pete.

  2. XLIIS my tape of choice and how I spent most of the time enjoying them.. They never came to the East End .The Coliseum was a 2 day trip .September is only a few weeks away and I’m clearing away all my bullshit.

  3. DUDE….
    We never had such an apt name. We just called them picky deadheads after witnessing a (northeast boarding school hippie) trust fund kid condescend to a waitress in a pretty upscale Irvine, CA hotel. He was on her case because she had served him “some SLOP”. and did this while wearing his tattered tie dye and surgically dissecting the sets that I had just witnessed and was certain were transcendent.

    I think I saw Jerry in red t-shirt one time…but what I am really sure of is that the set you posted is playing in the background right now and it sounds pretty alright. Jerry still had that slightly higher and occasionally squeaky voice and could get all the words right when they were ripping through a Deal opener.

    Nice work.

  4. I made it to a couple of the New Year’s Eve shows (Oakland Coliseum) during that era; not to be missed for the music as much as the sheer tonnage of hallucinogenics floating around. I think A Touch of Grey had just (again) elevated the Dead to a sort of commercial success, so the parking lot housed a lot of BMWs and Mercedes.

  5. Who’re The Dead? I actually thought we were talking about Evil Dead for like half the time until I realized you meant audio cassettes not VHS. I was going to say Bruce Campbell was hilarious in Zena Warrior Princess, but I guess that’s a particularly irrelevant comment… for which I suppose you’re welcome. 😉

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