From the Archives: New 12 months’s Useless (1991)

I had uncared for to inform my good friend Ed slightly darkish secret of mine. I figured it wouldn’t matter. I used to be completely satisfied that, miracle of miracles, we’d discover a strategy to get in to the New 12 months’s Eve Grateful Useless present on the Oakland Coliseum—regardless of arriving with out ducats.

However we failed, and so there we had been sitting in our rental automotive within the parking zone, listening to the present on the radio. There was just one phrase for our collective state: bummed. I made a decision to admit.

“I in all probability ought to have instructed you that I usually don’t have superb luck on New 12 months’s. In reality, I’ve a historical past of dangerous New 12 months’s Eves—ever because the events we had. These had been the perfect New 12 months’s Eves.” (Ed and I grew up collectively in New York. We threw a sequence of deranged New 12 months’s events once we had been in faculty.)

“You’ve had dangerous New 12 months’s Eves since?” Ed requested.

“Ever since,” I stated. Ed couldn’t maintain again a giant snigger. “Can’t bear in mind a very good one.” And he laughed once more.

“Because you had been 17?”

“Proper. Forgot to let you know that.”

“Now you inform me.”

We didn’t know whether or not to snigger or cry. I got here up with the plan to hop the airbus and be a part of our Deadhead household in Mecca for the New 12 months’s reveals. Ed instantly fired out a cash order for tickets. I known as one other good friend who lives within the Bay Space and requested him to make ticket inquiries on our behalf. Then I went to HIGH TIMES editor Steve Hager and urged the journal ship me out to California to cowl the reveals. “Received tickets?” Hager puzzled. “Not but,” I stated. “We’re caring for that. Don’t fear.”

Ed’s ticket request got here again empty, however my good friend was in a position to rating a pair for the Friday evening present. (New 12 months’s Eve was Monday.) We had been in. We had been booked.

Friday morning, December 28, Ed and I took off for Cali. It had snowed fairly closely the evening earlier than, however the runway was clear. We landed in Oaktown three hours earlier than showtime. It didn’t take lengthy for us to run into the hemp people on the merchandising lot—Jack Herer in a single nook, Hashish Motion Community within the different, each doing their very own factor.

The spotlight of a relatively laid-back present was “China Cat Sunflower,” which opened the second set (amazingly, Maria and Rick of CAN each predicted this may occur). We frolicked within the hallways with the house dancers and spinners, with youngsters and their people at a makeshift Rainbow-style Child Village. The mellowness—fairly a change from East Coast harshness—was contagious.

The information that Branford Marsalis—the good jazz saxophonist who guested with the Useless in April ’90-would be opening the New 12 months’s present topped off our heady day. I’ll preserve this story quick. A couple of years again, I interviewed Branford for an article about his more-famous brother, Wynton.

Since then we’ve grow to be pals, chatting at Knicks video games, even throwing a soccer round one Saturday afternoon in Brooklyn. After I heard Branford was on the town, I figured I used to be in. Miracles do occur.

The following day, I tracked Branford down at a close-by jazz membership the place his quartet was jamming nightly. After gazing me quizzically (like, “What the hell are you doing right here?”), he requested, “What’s incorrect with the Knicks, man?” In between units, Branford defined that “Darkish Star” is his favourite Useless track and the principle factor he likes concerning the Useless is “their vibe.”

In regards to the upcoming New 12 months’s gig, Branford instructed me, “We go on someday round eight. Apart from that, I don’t know jack. I believe I’m enjoying with [the Dead]; It’s as much as the cats.” Would Branford be my miracle passage into the Coliseum?

“It’s gonna be tight,” he cautioned. “I’ll aid you if I can. If I can’t….”

On New 12 months’s Eve day, Ed and I visited HIGH TIMES’ Guru of Ganja, Ed Rosenthal, who lives in Oakland.

He gave us a tour of his magical cactus backyard and a few phrases of recommendation about attending New 12 months’s reveals with out tickets. “I gained’t do it,” he stated. “It’s too miserable in the event you don’t get in.” What bothered me as we looked for the freeway was if the Guru of Ganja couldn’t cop a New 12 months’s ticket, what made us assume we may?

We had two plans: The Branford plan, and one other that concerned hooking up with Brett, a good friend’s brother who had promised me his spare ticket. Each fell by way of. Apparently, I didn’t make Branford’s ticket minimize. Including insult to harm, Denis McNally, the Useless’s publicist, scolded me for counting on a musician for tickets. “There isn’t a spare ticket in the home,” he stated, strolling away. So far as the opposite plan was involved, we by no means did discover Brett.

Despair shortly overcame us. Slowly, we walked again to the lot, the place 1000’s of ’heads had been celebrating the start of the present. All of the sudden, it dawned on me that we weren’t precisely going to overlook the live performance. Each colourful automotive, van and bus within the lot was tuned to KPFA, the native station broadcasting dwell New 12 months’s Useless to the complete nation and possibly a number of others. The squeak of Branford’s soprano sax tweaked my mind. We walked on.

There was just one strategy to salvage the state of affairs: acid and burritos. We surveyed the lot, checking for the acquainted sight of Lee’s double-decker, veggie-chow wagon. It didn’t take lengthy to identify it. Lee, Keith and others inside had been partying arduous. They invited us in (we stayed for a lot of the evening). Because the seven-hour present progressed, we drew solace from the ’heads round us. They too had been shut out, however “bummed” and “despair” didn’t appear a part of their vocabulary—at the very least, not on this particular evening. We banded collectively—as these inside undoubtedly had been doing—elevating our spirits to uncommon heights.

The music actually helped. After a shocking electrical set that featured guitarist Robin Eubanks, Branford joined Jerry, Bobby, Phil, Bruce, Vince, Mickey, Invoice and visitor drummer Olatunji for 2 spectacular units. “Eyes of the World,” “Darkish Star,”

“Drums,” “Area,” “The Different One,” “Not Fade Away” (nice tribal dance/chant, closed the present), “The Weight,” “Johnny B. Goode” (encores). Jerry, Phil, Branford and Bruce acquired misplaced within the stars, improvising a lot of the evening. An unwieldy, difficult fusion of kinds, New 12 months’s Useless reveled up to now, current and future. It left me hopeful that this form of musical summit can occur greater than annually.

However I nonetheless wished we’d gotten in. The CAN crew didn’t even trouble making an attempt; they went to the Pink Scorching Chili Peppers present in San Francisco as an alternative. Now I do know that buying New 12 months’s Useless tickets takes nearly fanatical advance planning. There’s one thing painfully democratic about having to compete for tickets like everybody else. If solely I’d listened to ticket maven David, who suggested me to start out scouting for tix the second we touched down in Oakland….

Effectively, that’s all bongwater beneath the wharf now. Want me higher luck subsequent 12 months. Even whether it is New 12 months’s Eve. 

Excessive Occasions Journal, Could 1991

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