2/23/12: Grateful Dead 6/24/84 – Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs NY

W/ a name like SPAC, it has to be good!

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend this fabulous concert, one of the best of the Grateful Dead’s 1984 Summer Tour. The weathermen were predicting torrential rains and, sadly, they were right on this day. The usual suspects when spouses were not in attendance went to the show: me, my brother Mike, Carl, Bob, gone but not forgotten Dave, Nipples, and Cousin Frank. We arrived at the always when the Dead were in town completely over-attended SPAC early for this very economical for the time $10 Lawn Seats show. The weather was very nice until the storm started to loom large late in the afternoon, so it made plenty of sense to party in the parking lot – which for Grateful Dead shows in SPAC was the woods. And good luck finding your car after the show! You’re gonna need it.

Around 7:00, in we went w/ a perfectly unacceptable buzz buzzin’ the peaceful woods of upstate New York. The first person we encountered as we were looking for a good stomping grounds was John Hayes. We always ran into John Hayes. But this time, he and his posse had a canoe w/ them as a sort of makeshift group umbrella. The canoe was obviously a harbinger of the weirdness to come.

The band opened right on time w/ a rousing Dancin’ in the Street to get things going, including the rains which started as a slight drizzle w/ the intro to the song. Cousin Frank & Nipples bid us adieu. They were off to worm their way successfully to seats under the pavilion. We never saw them again until after the show, when they met us before we ventured to the car hunt. Next up was Dire Wolf, a rare but groovy Jerry folk piece. After a Weir Minglewood Blues, the highlight of the first set came in w/ a big, fat Candyman. The rains continued to get  slightly stronger but we didn’t notice during Candyman. Mark Paradis, a local Connecticut jam band musician, credits that version of that song as the impetus for his lifelong obsession w/ Jerry’s music. A few more songs rounded out the middle of the set before it closed at about an hour w/ a thunderous Hell in a Bucket (a staple late first set song in its infancy at the time) > Deal, and we were fucking soaked!

The rains continued to get stronger throughout the set break and it got harder and harder to see. Set I was a good, solid set, but the fireworks were just about to start at about 9:30 when the band came out for Set II. We talked for a bit w/ our neighbors, who were kind enough to offer the 4 of us a post at their massive tarp in case the rain got any worse. As the second set started, it did. So we were a group of 8 holding a tarp over our heads to keep dry as the second set got underway.

The opening sequence of Miracle (completely unheard of as a set opener) > Bertha was fabulous; particularly the Bertha, played to perfection at breakneck speed. When the coda was completed, they embarked on a journey though space & time w/ a great version of the classic Playin’ in the Band. After that interstellar excursion, they settled into a brilliant, poignant, and for most of the audience, needed mellowing out by Jerry in his inimitable style w/ China Doll. THANK YOU, Jerry!! The pre-Drums segment then finished up w/ a rockin’ Samson & Delilah.

The Drums/Space section was particularly out there and the rains just went nuts at that point. It was a most uncomfortable, seriously psychedelic scene. Some 20 minutes later and ready for more mellow me out Jerry, Bobby & Phil lead the band and audience into a vicious version of the incredibly intense march, The Other One. It was a difficult parade to be in. By the time the song started, it was the deluge: It was raining so terrifically hard that the overflow was running down the tarp to my right hand, down my right arm into the sleeve of my t-shirt & soaking my underarm, through my t-shirt then down into my shorts, down my leg and into my completely drenched shoes. To make matters worse, as I looked down the hundred yards to the stage, it looked like a Chagall painting in a tremendous amount of motion. When I looked away, the neighbor at the next post of The Tarp was wearing a camouflage raincoat. It was glistening in the venue lighting and for a second, I thought he had amphibious skin. That second was just a second before I figured out what was going on and it blew my mind, but the idea lasted through the rest of that incredible version of The Other One.

As the band settled into a slower needed groove w/ Wharf Rat, of course, magically, the rains subsided a bit. They gradually calmed through the rest of the show until it was just drizzling during the Encore and stopped as the last song, It’s All Over Now Baby Blue, ended. After Rat came a KILLER Sugar Magnolia which closed this amazing, 90 minute set. The Encore was fabulous: Satisfaction, which blew the roof off this outdoor “shed”, > Baby Blue and the debate on where this thing stood historically was on. One more point worth mentioning: Between the two Encore songs was a quick The Last Time Tease. The song was not performed that night and didn’t premiere until 2/25/90 – Oakland Stadium.

W/i a few minutes of the end of the show, Frank & Nipples showed up and it was off for 30 or so minutes meandering through the woods to find the car. We did find it and stayed there for a good 90 minutes drinking a well deserved beer or 5 waiting for the lines to subside until we were off to the hotel a mile down the road. On our way out, some very disheveled, muddy hippie whom we had never seen before in any of our lives hailed us. We stopped the car when he banged on the front passenger side window which Frank rolled down, and he hit us w/ a completely panicked, “Have you seen my car?”. [And we Tarpers thought we had problems!] Frank in his kindest annoyed voice reprimanded the poor slob w/, “No we haven’t seen your FUCKING car! We don’t even know who you are!!”. Between guffaws, we wished him luck. As a matter of fact, now that I think about it, the entire concert happened between guffaws. W/ a name like SPAC, it had to be Weir’d!


7 thoughts on “2/23/12: Grateful Dead 6/24/84 – Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs NY

  1. Remember the old commercials (for men’s hairspray, I think) with the tag line “The Wet-Head is Dead”? Well, that night at SPAC, the Dead Head was Wet. We all were! Thanks for the reminders. What a great time. BTW, I did eventually find my car. 😉

  2. The Playin’ jam at SPAC ’84 sent me right into a tizzy, I had to retreat from the bridges to the back to recollect my marbles and I don’t remember much after that. Made it home somehow lol

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