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The Dead Summer Getaway Diaries

Published: 2003/06/22

View From the Crew: Chris Charucki on Saratoga Springs, 6/20

Today's diary is from Chris Charucki. He began working with the Grateful Dead in 1993 through their sound company Ultra Sound. Since then he's served as "Utility infielder, working with Mickey, Phil and Bobby in all their incarnations." As for his current responsibilities, Charucki explains, "On this particular tour I'm in charge of stage right p.a. and then I take care of interfacing the opening acts, things like that." He's also the audio point person when any guests sit in.

Here are his thoughts on SPAC (reminder: the band plays tonight in Mansfield, MA)...

What time do you get started each morning?

The sound crew hits the stage at 7 to mark the points where our motors are going to hang, where our p.a. is going to fly. Then we begin unloading our truck at 8. On a typical day we have to be ready for soundcheck about 12:30.

What time did you get to town?

I really don't know. I was asleep on the bus when we pulled in. I woke up on the bus around 6:30, rolled out, took a look at the stage, took a look at where our trucks were parked, that type of thing. All the logistics- nuts and bolts type of stuff.

So how much sleep do you typically get per night?

Unfortunately it's pretty minimal, especially when we're on a three or four day run, shows back-to-back-to-back-to-back you're only looking at four or four and a half at night. If you're lucky though, after soundcheck and before the opening act you might be able to lie down for an hour.

Are you able to listen to the music and appreciate it at a given show? And if so, what was your musical highlight from last night?

It really depends on what needs to be done at that particular point. Every once in a while you get lucky. When Winwood sat in with the Dead for "Fantasy" I made it a point to be able to go out in front of the p.a. offstage and listen to it because it was a really cool thing. I was lucky enough not to have a lot to do at that particular moment. During a show there are all sorts of little cues that need to be taken care of although occasionally you do get to stop and enjoy it.

What was the oddest moment on stage?

As far as odd, it was rolling in Mike Gordon's bass rig and then having him come out on a segway while they were playing. Odd is a good word to describe that.

You mentioned that you’re in charge of working with guests. How long in advance did you have to prepare for that?

A lot of times things like that are spontaneous. Yesterday afternoon Steve did come in for the Dead soundcheck and they rehearsed "Fantasy." Mike Gordon, we knew he was coming but there were never any plans for him to play with them. But as the evening progressed, around dinner the band members got together and said, "You should do this." They try to spring it on us as soon as they can but it's usually pretty short notice. You just sort of have to be ready for everything. As my friend Ian says, "We're not in the business of saying no."

Who was the sweetest or most peculiar person you met yesterday and what they did to earn that title?

The caterers took care of me, being a vegetarian. There was an older woman who went out of her way to make sure I got a good vegetarian meal. She was pretty sweet. I thought that was nice of her.

What is your impression of Saratoga Springs from last night or past tours?

I've been at SPAC many, many times and as far as I'm concerned one of the highlights is dealing with the upstate New York union. They've got no necks, they're a little loud and I love seeing them [laughs] I know a lot of them by name going back to the Grateful Dead days. A lot of them are still around. and I enjoy having that little bit of a sparring match with every conversation you have [Laughs].

What song that the band hasn’t performed recently do you most look forward to hearing?

There are a couple of things I really do enjoy like "Sugar Magnolia" and when Bobby gets sensitive for "Looks Like Rain." But that's a loaded question because we're working on seven or eight shows in row, so if you asked me for the setlist from last night I couldn't tell you for sure.

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