Grateful Dead Weekly #18: Shoreline Amphitheater – Mountain View, CA 6/21/89

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On Wednesday, June 21, 1989, the Grateful Dead played at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California.

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The bay-area venue opened in 1986. Designed by Bill Graham to resemble the Dead’s  “steal your face” logo, Shoreline featured a lawn area and a seating area, with rows placed three feet apart to provide, according to Wikipedia, “ample legroom and space for dancing.” #mrfmtd

Phish-heads joke nowadays about “couch tour,” buying hi-def video streams and chilling at home in front of giant high-def flat-screen tvs, instead of braving the crowds and the hassles and the heat (or cold). Tbh, it’s really cool. This Dead show was proto-couch tour. And it was on Summer Solstice.

The night started badly.  Phil greeted the crowd, remarking briefly that it had been “192 out here today, it’s just getting now down to boiling.” While a bemused Jerry watched, Bobby struggled with some technical difficulties and, after a short tuning jam, kicked his amp. Peak Bobby in full late-80s regalia – ponytail, loose tank top, short shorts, some sleek-ass guitar that doesn’t work. Pretty comical.

Anyway, another short bluesy tuning jam based on Freddie King’s Hide Away and more technical difficulties later, the band launched into bouncy, if lyrically-challenged, Touch of Grey. Minglewood was hot and typically slide-y. (Bobby fancied himself a bluesman during some first sets back then. Minglewoods: Usually good. Little Red Roosters: Usually bad.) Ramble on Rose was good, Row Jimmy was…good-ish? I’m a bad judge; slow Garcia ballads from that era didn’t do much for me. Dylan’s When I Paint My Masterpiece was great, as was the not-uncommon Cassidy > Deal closer.

ECM’s personal notes:

“I was on a business trip in PA for a week of continuing education with the public accounting firm I was working for. I knew that the Summer Solstice show would be broadcast on PPV and national radio, so I brought a boom box (and a few Maxell XL-IIS tapes) with me on the trip to record the show. My peers thought I was nuts. 1989 was a great year for Deal and this one is on fire like the version a few weeks later in Buffalo (7/4/89 “Truckin Up To Buffalo” official release). It ranks 6th on headyversion.com. Row Jimmy is in the Top 20 there.”

I taped it, too – on Maxell URs because XLIISs were way too expensive for me. Like Ed said, the show was on PPV, but it was also on radio (WXRT in Chicago). I convinced my high school friend Mike, who had just gotten home for a short break from West Point, to have his parents buy the show. I schlepped my boom box to their house, set it up in a corner, and spent most of the night loitering nearby, ready to flip the tapes between songs. I’m sure they were pretty annoyed with me. Days or weeks later, I borrowed another boom box with dual tape decks from somebody and edited down what I had recorded. I wish that I still had those tapes – not because the show was so great, but because my GD tape script back then was p tight.  It sorta looked like the top of this backstage pass.

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The second set was better, starting with Scarlet without the usual Fire. Hell in Bucket followed, and whatever.  Then came Clarence Clemons of E-Street Band fame, who sat in for the rest of the show. I like the Boss; I like the Big Man; I like the Dead. I like Clarence better with the former than the latter.  That’s my memory of watching that show: Being just generally bummed that there was a sax in the background.  CC was alright on Estimated > Eyes and maybe Truckin’, but he was mostly surplus to requirements after that. He definitely didn’t help The Other One or Morning Dew, two of my all-time faves.  Lovelight and Brokedown? Well, ok. Advisory: The Drums > Space sequence is long and not very interesting, imo.

Garcia biographer Blair Jackson tends to agree in this installment of the Golden Road blog:

“To be candid, I was considerably less enthused by Clarence’s next appearance with the Dead, during their nationally televised Summer Solstice concert at Shoreline Amphitheatre (Mountain View, Calif.) 6/21/89. I see that in the Summer ’89 issue of The Golden Road, Cranky Pants Jackson wrote: ‘Clarence Clemons dropped by to add his sax to the Dead sound, and in a few spots—most notably on “Estimated,” “Eyes” (which received a big, stomping dancefloor treatment) and “Lovelight”—it gave the songs a fresh R&B feeling. That said, I didn’t like his sax cluttering up “Ship of Fools,” “Morning Dew” and a couple of others, and I’m afraid on a very basic level, he doesn’t understand how to jam with the Dead; it’s just alien to him. He sounds much more at home with the Garcia Band.’ Whoa, harsh, BJ!”

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Other reviews of this show are more favorable. On the LMA, Mind Wondrin asserts:

“It’s often said the band blew the gigs of historical import, yet here’s a show of mini-history (a pay-per-view event, FM-network simulcast, & religious day for some) where they played well. In fact, this almost 3-1/2 hour show (4 hours, in person) is one of the best shows of ’89. After a poor 1st show of the run, a much better show, then a day off, they came back strong.”

chinacat111 says the Deal is the best ever, and Thad agrees, “It’s absolutely SEARING hot. Wow. Yes – the best I have heard, without question. Rest of show is solid in spite of the horrible sax playing.” stratocaster concludes, “Not a show of real smooth transitional jamming…rather the band rocks out certain numbers as ‘set pieces’ more or less…” Fair enough.

There’s a partial video on YouTube – it’s missing the middle half of the first set, which…ok, I would’ve liked to see Bobby emoting on My Masterpiece again, but I doubt many of you will miss that.

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Transport to the transfer of the PPV audio feed HERE.

Transport to the Charlie Miller transfer of the soundboard recording HERE.

Happy Belated Summer Solstice, guys. For all of you seeing the Phish this weekend at Wrigley Field in Chicago or the former Deer Creek in Noblesville, Indiana, have great shows.

More soon.

JF

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