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The Loop

Published: 2018/07/16
by George Ochel

Revisiting The Grateful Dead at The Greek, 30 Years Later

07-16-88: Greek Theatre, University of California, Berkeley Campus.….... (SAT)

Set 1: The Music Never Stopped > Sugaree, Little Red Rooster, Loser, Memphis Blues, Far from Me, Bird Song

Set 2: China Cat Sunflower> I Know You Rider, Looks Like Rain> Terrapin Station> Drums> Space> I Will Take You Home> the Other One> Stella Blue> Around & Around> One More Saturday Night

Enc: Knocking on Heaven’s Door

“Psychedelic Saturday”

On the way-out of the Friday night Greek show I run into Mark Steve, who’s numb over an American-Soviet Walks “No Nukes” benefit in Golden Gate Park that’s going tomorrow morning and staring Jerry Garcia along with some dudes from Zero and the Jefferson Airplane. I’m down, I tell him. Then Mark tells me the Dead made a point to end the show with “Morning Dew” tonight because it’s a song about being the last people on earth after a nuclear war, something I never knew. When we get back to the hotel I split to go to my room and crash. It’s an early night for me. I need to recharge after that four-day drive from New Jersey.

Iget up Saturday morning feeling mean over the stage set up last night. In years past, audiences were met with astonishing psychedelic backdrops when they walked into the Greek Theatre, more so than any other place all year. This go-round has nothing but a Rex Foundation logo affixed to the wall behind the drums. Despite that I want to make the most of this special day, even labeling it my “Psychedelic Saturday”. Last night’s show didn’t work out all the kinks from that long ride and the lame crystalized acid that was supposed to be so potent didn’t help the cause. Today’s got to be better. I’m going to take control and kick this day right through the uprights.

The people from the American-Soviet Walk are due in Golden Gate Park at 11:00 AM, so we need to get ourselves over there quick if we want a good spot for the free concert. At the band shell by 11:05 AM with the place barely happening, Jose, Kevin Cunningham, Mark Steve and I open our big blanket and spread it out over a spot near center right up front. It’s a lovely part of the park with the California morning sky above. Things get underway a half an hour later when to the surprise of most, television’s Robert Blake (AKA Beretta) walks out to MC the event. Today’s looking much better already.

In between acts Blake would come out and offer signed artist t-shirts at an inflated rate for charity. A Paul Kantner fetches fifty. The park is sunny and brimming with people when it’s finally time for the all-star finale jam staring the biggest musical icon this city has ever raised. Everyone put your hands together for Gerald John and his back up band Zero with John Cippolina, Merl Saunders and Steve Kimock. The stage is packed with friends, horn players and on lookers, with plenty of “Hell’s Angels” there too on their bikes chilling out. Good vibrations pulsate from the stage with the crowd cheering madly in response. He’s up there with his community unencumbered by his fame. I’ve never seen him in such control, a true leader of the band and our hero. The set features “Think”, Knocking on Heaven’s Door”, “Good Night Irene” and kicks butt.

The tent folds rapidly when the Grand Poobah leaves, en route to his next gig in Berkley. Mark and Kevin have just left for the car leaving me with Jose. Robert Blake comes out one last time and says into the microphone, “I have a Jerry Garcia signed International Peace Walk T-shirt”. “Who wants it, a hundred bucks?” Without thinking I raise my hand. Beretta sees me. I turn beet red. “Yeah I want it”, I yell back. “Come on up then” he says. Walking up and turning to see thousands of blurry people is one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. Blake hands Wavy Gravy my brand new freshly autographed shirt, then he hands it to me. I shake his Wavy’s hand, give a quick fist pump to the audience then run off to look for Jose.

Tingly feelings of joy overcome me as I walk aimlessly for the road. Jose spots me, but Kevin and Mark can’t be found in the mass exodus. Jose goes, “I guess we’re going to have to hitch since Mark drove”. “If everyone is going to the same place is it still considered hitch hiking?” I reply. Shortly thereafter we run into a couple of girls Jose knows that are going with, are you ready for this? The guy who just handed Jerry his briefcase as he jumped into his car. No BS this long-time hippie is ten feet higher off the ground than I am from doing it. “What is up with that briefcase?” I’ve seen it before and he guards it well. Could it be he’s really a double agent?

At the Greek by 4:00 PM, we have just about an hour to secure tickets and get inside. I see Cunningham drive by as I hopelessly walk the sidewalk holding up my one finger for a ticket. He’s just shaking his head at me in disbelief from his window, like I’m nuts or something for a buying a hundred-dollar Jerry shirt.

What’s the big deal? I essentially gained the money through him in the first place. I’m just giving back through a worthy cause, not getting blown up. Jose is on my side although he’s just told me he’s out of cash so he may be trying to stay on my good side. What happens after that is a true God sent, Matty O’Keefe walking up the hill. At first glance I don’t believe my eyes figuring it must be just another blonde-haired Gregg Allman look-a-like. Upon closer review it’s confirmed. I’m wowed because he had no plans to come. “Over here Matt”, I yell. He’s a man with money in his pocket, exactly what I need. Plus, it’s really good to see he’s made the leap out west for this one.

The three of us do our best to snag tickets, although hope soon fades and it’s looking like we may have to listen to the show from speakers set up on the tennis courts next door. Jose’s clearly fine with it and so is Matt. Not me though. My first shut out is not going to be in California. I refuse to accept it. If I can’t get my ass passed the doors tonight, I’ve failed. With that kind of intensity, I hop into the mix of people in front of the venue gently saying, “I have fifty for a ticket, who’s got one?” I have to repeat myself a few dozen times before a hooded kid pulls me aside discreetly and makes the deal. To me it’s worth it and merely twenty bucks over face since these are Rex Benefit shows at thirty. Last but not least I must get “Psychedelic Saturday” operational. A trusty single blotter hit will do the trick.

Now dosed in the GA pit I can really see how the people do it out here. Many have set up full on picnics and they’re very territorial. Nice though as they let me slip into a great spot near the rail in the “The Phil Zone”. The set begins with a crisp and clean “Music Never Stopped”, fitting because of the fact that we just came from a Jerry concert to another one. He brings the wagon round with “Sugaree” and it sounds so good. I’m feeling psychedelic for “Loser” and totally melt into it. “Memphis Blues” has become repetitious and it’s turning into one of those Bobby songs I hate although he is in good voice. “Far from Me”, okay I’ll take it. The “Bird Song” closer is not the best thing, but again it sounds amazing.

To get the full effect I move over to Jerry’s side during intermission and plant myself right in front of his microphone stand. “China Cat Sunflower”, “I Know You Rider” with Garcia belting the lines out right in front of me sends me flying. I love the music. That’s what’s it’s all about. Not making money or seeing how popular you can be. A refreshing “Looks Like Rain” sends me adrift floating off to never-ever-land. “Terrapin Station” takes me back to the woods, then Drums and Space takes me to the moon. I’m dancing feverishly like my life depended on it for “The Other One” then “Stella Blue” soothes me into the perfect night. Long lost “Around and Around” follows into the big Saturday night finale of this long psychedelic day. And what a day it was. Our night time version of “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” gets my last kinks out and also ends the music, for now. Time to party!

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