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Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve Nostalgia

I'm gonna wait 'till the midnight hour
That's when my love comes tumbling down...

I spent many a New Year's Eve in my youth in the Bay area at Grateful Dead concerts. Once I had children, my parents babysat. That didn't stop me. Moving away and finally Garcia's death changed the routine. The annual string of shows around Chrismas, ending in the New Years Eve show was always a great party. It was usually not a particularly good musical event, but it was rarely a bad one. Occasionally it was phenomenal.

The quality of the pre-NYE shows musically was usually excellent, which made up for the NYE show being less than perfect. Most of the shows were general admission, and by the mid-1980's, tickets were available via mail order, which made the whole process fairly painless. The ritual began with arriving at the venue mid-day, sitting in line with friends, meeting new people in the crowd around us, perusing the offerings of T-shirts, food, and handmade crafts for sale, all of which made the hours before the doors open pass comfortably. We rarely sat on the floor, , so we had no real rush on entering. I preferred the Phil-side balcony location for both sound quality and view. Friends could find us there, we could people watch before the show began, and while concerts lasted 4 hours from start to finish, the experience was an all-day event, and one that I thoroughly enjoyed 9 times out of 10.
The New Years Eve show was another kettle of fish. There were tables of hats and party favors on tables as you entered the venue. Everyone was clad in tie-dye and a Happy New Year tiara, blowing a noise maker occasionally for good measure. We all looked very silly, which made it festive. Someone usually smuggled in some champagne. Clothing was loose, Indian skirts prevalent, and security a little lax, so swinging a bottle of champagne on a chord between your legs was not the impossibility it would be today. The show would open with other bands, and the Dead would come out and play two sets before midnight. Then things usually were not as planned--there was a midnight float that would usually have some kind of major malfunction--either mechanically or because of fan-intervention, and the band would come out for the third set amidst the chaos, never quite getting their rhythm back. Amidst the chacophanyk, lots of confetti would fall, there would be lots of jumping and dancing and kissing and screaming, and I miss it.

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