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The Stub Project: Grateful Dead with Bob Dylan – Anaheim 7.26.1987 and CSN – Red Rocks – 7.27.1987

March 1, 2011

I lived in Boulder during the summer of 1987 in a house full of Dead Heads, so catching the Dead show on Sunday in Anaheim and driving back to Colorado for a Crosby Stills & Nash show the next day at Red Rocks was no big deal. 1000 miles each way? No problem. So on Friday afternoon we packed up my Grand Wagoneer and drove through the night to Anaheim. We arrived in Venice early Saturday afternoon, hung out on the beach, ate tacos and hosed ourselves off  in the public shower. After getting lost a few times, we eventually made it to Anaheim, where we spent the night in a parking lot. Devotees of Kerouac, Hunter Thompson and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, we were living the dream, even if it was twenty years later and we were eating the crumbs of the generation that came before us.

The band broke into Aiko Aiko while we were coming into the stadium, causing a stampede, a situation sadly common at Dead shows during this era and for a few moments I was quite sure that we were about to die … But, thankfully, we were pushed to a perfect spot in the outfield right in front of a speaker (albeit far away from the band). And there we danced for the next five hours, not once moving from a ten foot radius. The Dead played two sets, then backed Dylan. The entire spectacle was pure bliss. It was a hot, sun-soaked California afternoon and I was in complete sync with the music. Each note cascaded through my body, each lyric written just for me. Having emerged from the near death experience, I was in love with the world in a way I had never imagined possible. Later I would be shocked to hear how back-breakingly terrible the Dylan and the Dead album that resulted from that tour was … Yes, it seems, you had to be there.

Here’s The Dead playing Aiko-Aiko, while my friends and I were almost being crushed to death.

After the show, we immediately headed back for Colorado, earnestly hoping to get there for the next night’s CSN show at Red Rocks. It’s an 18 hour drive. Thankfully, I slept through the first 8 or so hours, obliviously curled up in the back of the truck. It was Monday morning when I woke up somewhere in Utah.

We had just been pulled over. Our driver had allegedly been speeding, but the officer had his other suspicions as well. Surely we couldn’t have looked like the most upstanding citizens to the stiff, presumably Mormon, officer. I imagine he could have booked us for any number of offenses, but he was especially concerned with the two girls in our company, who he had pegged as runaways. He took them into the patrol car for an interrogation while the rest of us tried to somehow makes ourselves more presentable. It looked like we might be in Utah for awhile, but our fellow roommates convinced the officer that they had not been kidnapped and that they were, in fact, students at the esteemed Brown University. The girls got back in the truck and with a speeding ticket for our driver, remarkably, the officer sent us on our way. It was a close call and, as an added bonus, I was delighted to discover that my spine – which had been coiled like a snake all night – was not paralyzed … so there much to be grateful for as we headed out of the Beehive State.

We rolled into Red Rocks just before the CSN show started, snagging tickets that had us perched in the very last row. I can’t say I was a huge fan of the band, or really a fan at all. Even then, I knew enough to think “Our House” was about the lamest song ever recorded. As the show progressed, their attempts at harmony – essentially CSN’s only reason to exist – grated.  I quickly came to believe that without Neil Young, these guys were pathetic.

Bored by the music, I began to focus on David Crosby. His voice was shot. And while there may be some debate about that assertion, there is no question that he had completely let himself go. The man was a mess and, as a result, I was quite sure that not only did David Crosby look like the Fruit of the Loom Grape, he was the Fruit of the The Loom Grape. I probably should have kept this observation to myself , but I felt compelled to share my monumental discovery. My friend Chris, who was a huge fan of CSN, had the misfortune of standing next to me and like an infection I passed this most unfortunate image along to him, which if I correctly recall,  grew like a cancer in his mind, effectively ruining the show.

on 2nd thought, maybe I was right about Crosby after all

not David Crosby

At the time, it should be noted, that I was under the impression that the Fruit of the Loom grape is just a single grape, when it fact he was a bunch of grapes. And also, he’s a black dude. That night at Red Rocks on the stage so far away, David Crosby looked more like one single huge grape, so really it wasn’t the best analogy after all. And I certainly didn’t mean it to be a compliment since mistaking Crosby for a black dude is about the nicest thing you could say about him in 1987, at which point he had become a mean, bitter, bloated, soulless sack of his former self. Nonetheless, I should have just kept my big mouth shut. It’s simply not cool to ruin someone else’s musical experience with your borderline hallucinations.

It was an eye-opening trip. Not only did I learn to refrain from imposing my pithy opinions on friends while they’re trying to enjoy a performance, but more importantly, I also learned that the authorities in Utah are willing to overlook the shenanigans of a bunch of stinking white suburban hippies … just as long they’re not trafficking in underage girls.

Yes, I know, that is a very disturbing image of David Crosby. I am sorry for that, even it does somewhat vindicate me. Consider this excellent version of Birdsong from the Anaheim show to be a palate cleanser:

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