I guess looking back I was smack in the middle of the younger group of kids out on tour. In ’95 I was 19, I had dropped out of college and after working for a while to save some cash I hit the road in the spring starting in Atlanta and stayed on tour until the Albany shows that summer June 22nd being my last one.
That year was what it was, in retrospect not a good one for the Dead, largely the shows where as has been mentioned very lackluster, but not without a few fireworks. First of all, Bob, Phil, Mick, Bill and to a lesser extent Vince where hooked up almost every night in a usually failing effort to give Jerry some room to move. A good example of what I mean is the solo section of Unbroken Chain. The band usually hit all the changes strongly in what is a pretty changeling tune. This is not a new point of view it’s reported widely in several books including Phil’s autobiography.
The teleprompters helped a little too, a long wordy tune like “Visions of Johanna” would probably not have happened without their help even in a good year. I remember the week Jerry died David Gans included a seller version (I think the one from the Phil Zone album) in a beautiful musical collage he played on the GD hour.
In Seattle they sounchecked “Tough Mamma” which was awesome! Because of the open design of the venue it was very audible from just outside the main gate. And then at Shoreline the Brokedown Palace encore on the last night was riveting, Jerry sounding like he might just die right there in Mountain View. After they finished the lights stayed off for an unusually long time and the crowd got more and more loud, everyone of course thinking “Bid You Goodnight.” But it never was to be.
Jerry, as has been said by everybody was clearly sick that year, sometimes heartbreakingly so. A lot of nights it had the feel of the band just going through the motions, which was really sad especially for me, this was, after all my big time! I was hoping for a winner every night. The end wasn’t all bad the Saturday night show of the Boston run on fall tour in ’94 was just amazing probably the only truly great one I caught.
Maybe the events of that summer have been kind of been colored by passing time but to me it where some of the greatest times of my life. Talking to others who where there out on the road, the conversations to me sound like those of Civil War veterans. Instead of marching to Shiloh or Antietam we stood in line in Tampa or Buckeye Lake, Noblesville, and Vegas. To be young and out on the American road in my car with the windows down the band blasting from my tape deck, a part of in the huge caravan of freaks invading towns and gas stations across the land was a true adventure.