Made it to the parking lot in back of the Casino Ballroom without much difficulty, paid $10, and threaded our way through the hippies playing Frisbee, eating, drinking, smoking, buying and selling, and walking around with their fingers in the air. The show was sold out and there were an incredible number of people there looking for extra tickets … some of whom had apparently paid the parking fee just to hang out and maybe get in eventually. I had to admire some of the tie-dyed outfits and imaginative t-shirts and tatoos. The environs of the Casino Ballroom had become the latest apparition of Grateful Dead nation.
Around to the front of the Ballroom the scene was thicker and thicker with people, but we made it inside and past the guys with the metal wands, only to find that my tickets had to be exchanged at the box office, where a line of people were already trying to talk their way in. Got the tickets exchanged, past the metal wands again, and upstairs into the hall.
The Casino Ballroom is one huge rectangular room and the stage is set up in the middle of one of the long sides. There were still some spaces up at the stage, though they were filling in quickly. But Sarah and I had been there before and we knew that if we succumbed to the temptation to get close to the stage, we would be physically punished for it later. So we grabbed the same spot we had last time we were there, in the crook of the elbow of the metal barriers surrounding the soundboard, right in front of the taper’s section. It seemed kinda weird to snuggle into this not-best position to see the show when we were there early enough to have options, but we were glad we did!
We took turns taking breaks, out to the back to see the swelling crowd and the sunshine, up to the beer lines that allowed a limit of one, and to the merch table with some really nice DSO Spring tour shirts (I opted to save my t-shirt money for Santa Clara!). This was the last show of the Spring tour and we hoped it would be a good one.
The band was set up with two drums but no thunderdrums, with a simpler keyboard setup over on the left side, and with a different guitar for Jeff, that looked like a rocker. We thought (and hoped) that this might indicate a 60s set ... but there was also a mike for Lisa. Oh well, maybe that was just so she could come out for the harmonica parts.
The room was getting pretty packed as 8:00 approached, and it was designed so that the middle of the hall (where we were) got squeezed from both sides. Luckily we had the metal barrier on one side, but still our personal space was suddenly gone, and worse. The band came on and launched into one of the greatest songs ever, Jack Straw, and the whole room roared and swelled toward the stage.
Oh well, not a 60s show! Next choice was late 70s and the set sounded more and more like that. Here’s the list:
- Jack Straw
- Dire Wolf
- Beat It On Down The Line
- Mama Tried>
- Mexicali Blues
- Row Jimmy
- New Minglewood Blues
- Lazy Lightnin'>
Rob Barraco was playing excellently. What we at first thought was a 60s organ setup actually had a piano, stacked with the organs, and he concentrated on that. As mentioned in my last post, we had a hard time hearing him in Boston and so were very glad he was so up front this time. Lisa was out there for the late 70s Donna parts and was singing excellently. As was the story on Thursday, Dino was killing it on the traps and was worth the price of admission himself.
Rob Eaton was in fine voice (great Mama Tried (fantastic country groove) into Mexicali), and again, Jeff Mattson’s voice soon warmed up … Row Jimmy was excellent in all dimensions. Minglewood was the “All New Minglewood Blues” variant, where Bobby/Rob skipped the “Couple shots of whiskey” and “T for Texas” verses. Lazy Lightnin’/Supplication was a little flat, but I think fatigue crept into the night on several situations. This *was* their last night of a long tour, they had played Hampton Beach the night before so there was a bit of tiredness there, and the crowd scene itself would wear you out … it was going on all cylinders.
As soon as the last notes of Supplication sounded I was off to the beer stand, but still had to wait in a long line when I finally made it over there. Moving through that room took a lot of fancy footwork to say the least. Had a nice talk in line with a couple of guys who had 7 tickets to the first night in Chicago. They planned to get there and try their best to swap, hoping to somehow manage to see all three nights. But as with people I talked to on Thursday, they were looking forward to the Fare Thee Well experience and were not overly anxious about the tickets; it was going to be great fun whatever! People were looking to the 50th Anniversary concerts as a grand celebration rather than the do or die proposition people were talking about in January.
Barely made it back to our shelter by the soundboard with my beer intact. We traded notes on the first set. We chuckled about the woman who at one point had dashed up and grabbed the rail between me and Dave, knocking us both aside. Normally we would have resisted, but she had “the room is spinning” and “I am about to puke” written all over her face. After she squeezed the steel rail of the barrier for a couple of minutes with a white-knuckled grip, gasping for air, she took a few last gulps and then set off again, lurching her way back towards the front of the stage.
Dave had found the concert on line … we were listening to Cameron Indoor Center (Duke University), April 12th 1978. There was a guy hopping around next to us who was very glad to get this verified; though Dave thought late ‘77 we both thought early ’78.
Finished my beer quickly and decided to try the bathroom before the second set. The floor of the men’s room had been pre-stickified for us … their attention to detail at the Casino Ballroom is tops! Geez, I’d barely made it back with my beer but now getting back from the bathroom was an endless gauntlet of pushing, stepping on feet, and insinuating myself around people, smiling and saying “excuse me” as fast as I could. Didn’t think I’d make it, but I finally got back to our secure spot and was not budging from there. We were already packed in and were absolutely squished up against the barrier around the soundboard by the end of the set. At one point the guy in back of me knocked me pretty good in the head when he thrust his fists in the air … he was very embarrassed and tried to apologize profusely, but I just smiled and shrugged … what could you do?
Here’s the second set:
- Good Lovin'
- It Must Have Been The Roses
- Estimated Prophet>
- Eyes Of The World>
- Wharf Rat>
- Around And Around
Good Lovin’ of course had the whole ballroom thundering, especially with the crowd having just warmed up with Bertha. It was a long, long Roses with some excellent playing, and then the evening really got going with the song sequence we were all anticipating: a 12-minute Estimated into a 15-minute Eyes. By the end of that, that ballroom was standing on end, but you couldn't tell which end!
Drums and Truckin’ continued the psychedelic tenor, but geez, everyone was getting a bit tired and the physical struggle to just dance in your own space was harder and harder. We all cooled down with an absolutely stellar Wharf Rat, and then Bobby/Rob took us out with a textbook, late 70s Around and Around. We wanted to keep on rocking, but were slipping!
After a quick break the band came back out for an encore: a textbook late 80s U.S. Blues. The shine had rubbed off the evening by then, but we were all still enjoying the heck out of the occasion, though dog-tired. Eaton spoke about how glad they were going to be to get home and get a little rest. And then they launched into their filler, a wonderful little lullaby called Ripple. This was a great cap to the night and everyone on the crowd stood and sang along politely. Our cups were all empty by then and it was time to hit that (not so) simple highway!
Let the crowd dissipate a bit before we tried to move, but it wasn’t that far to the car, and after crawling through the lot while being mobbed by people, we snuck slowly out the back entrance and made it onto 1A South. Got home and to bed a bit later than we had Thursday, but again, this was more than worth it!