SUMMER OF DEAD 2014: Indianapolis Sports and Music Center, Indianapolis, Indiana, June 30, 1984
Let the games begin! In case you missed it, Summer of Dead 2014 is going to feature all kinds of guest contributors. You are welcome to join in. First up, Kevin Titterton takes us back almost exactly 30 years.
As Orwell predicted, 1984 was a dark year: Reagan came back for an encore, crack showed up to the party, and some of the original tenants of Haight-Ashbury were doing this. It was an equally challenging year for the Dead, with Garcia’s increased substance abuse and ill health leading to numerous Weekend at Bernie’s performances.
But like the Carter Family, one of the Dead’s greatest accomplishments is their longevity, connecting Appalachia and jug bands to early garage, ’60s psych freaks, disco, ’80s acid punks, questionable jazz fusion and ’90s jam crap. (Hey, nobody’s perfect.) People always cite ‘77 NYC and The Ramones as the death knell for the hippies, but things had gotten so screwed up by ‘84 that Black Flag was unironically weeding out and wearing Stealies in concert.
Despite the bummer vibe and general malaise, the Dead of the early ‘80s could cook some soup. With Mickey Hart back in the drum circle, the tribal rhythms that grounded the group throughout the bottom-heavy early ’70s loom large. The band rips through a mess of classics, and, for the most part, Jerry’s voice doesn’t sound like a “scared straight” cigarette commerical. The vocals hardly matter when he’s locked in and playing as well as he does on “Deal.” Brent Mydland had long replaced the tumultuous husband-and-wife duo of Donna Jean and Keith Godchaux, and his Hammond B-3 is a welcome presence. Bob Weir only punishes listeners with the slide guitar a couple times, and “Shakedown” totally smokes.
It’s a terrific and heartening set, on what was reportedly a stifling afternoon to see the group on an Indianapolis tennis court.
Kevin Titterton sometimes listens to the Grateful Dead and scribbles about it in Richmond, Vermont. He spends most of his free time throwing rocks for his dog. His writing can also be found on napkins, bathroom stalls, and at gilded-spinters.tumblr.com.