This show seemed destined to be one of the big events
in concert history. The Last Waltz had been filmed in
Winterland just a year earlier, and if that brought
together a who's who of rock 'n roll, then the closing
of this famous music hall had to be even bigger. I had
transferred up to UC Berkeley by this time, so I was
local - at least compared to my UCLA friends - and figured
that I'd get tickets one way or another. I did get a
ticket... but I don't remember how. I do remember sleeping
out on a sidewalk in downtown Oakland after a rumor
circulated that tickets would be on sale the following
morning at select music stores. One other person apparently
acted on that rumor - there we were - two young deadheads
in sleeping bags half-hiding behind newspaper boxes
as downtown Oaktown went about its troubled way. The
next morning: no tix. The rumor was false.
Well... somehow I got a cherished ticket, and Matt and a few others from the LA gang scored as well. But the night before Winterland was to be Pauley Pavilion, on the UCLA campus, so we'd warn up for New Year's Eve in LA, then fly up to SF for the Grand Finale.
Pauley was a fun show, but the flight north was the memory that lingers decades later. I think that there were two flights from LA to SF that departed late enough in the evening so that deadheads could catch the flight after a full concert at the UCLA campus. Ours was on PSA, I think.
Imagine, if you will, a 2am flight packed with tie-dyed deadheads commuting from one show to the next. I expect that it's the only flight that ever had announcements requesting that passengers NOT BONG in the No-Smoking Section. The announcements were ignored. (If any readers were on either of these flights, send me an email with your memories - I'd love to publish more stories about those flights!)
Of course my roommate and I brought our books. Not just one or two, but all of them; I think that I had about twelve. I remember sitting on the sidewalk outside of Winterland waiting with hundreds of Dead Heads from all over for the doors to open. I don't remember touching a single book.
We got to Winterland, and plopped our sleeping bags on the sidewalk somewhere before dawn. I don't remember much about that morning except lots of folks looking for tickets. I think we were let in around 3 in the afternoon. Matt and the others raced to what could be described as the 50-yard line in the balcony; I raced to the floor, and ended-up a few rows away from the stage. The waiting began. Bill Graham showed a movie -- Animal House -- which seemed like a poor choice to a lot of us... even if the Blues Brothers were scheduled to play...
Well - you know the rest. First set was New Riders of the Purple Sage. Then the Blues Brothers. Then the Grateful Dead, with 3 sets. And the first Dark Star in ages! (So - who were those folks with the Dark Star banner that appeared at so many shows?)
I received the following email a month after posting
this site: "So
- who were those folks with the Dark Star banner that
appeared at so many shows? Well, that would be me and
my husband and brother-in-law. Nice photo on your site
-- look carefully at your outside Winterland shot, you
will see those standing below the 'only ones that do
what they do ...' billboard are wearing their coneheads
-- that was us, too. Happy trails! Karen"