Steel Cut Oats #9: California Earthquake ’89

Over the past few years, we’ve shared compilations of classic Grateful Dead shows put together by longtime HT reader Joe Kolbenschlag called Steel Cut Oats. Today, Joe shares the latest installment in the series which looks at a week’s worth of Dead shows from Fall ’89…

Grateful Dead, October 18th – October 26th, 1989
Philadelphia, PA, Charlotte, NC and Miami, FL

1989 was a sensational year to be a fan of the Grateful Dead. Having slowly recovered after Garcia’s coma scare in ’86, the group worked towards a better-than-average run in ’87 and ’88 leading up to the closing of the decade. The final year of the ‘80s resulted in some of the most consistent and creative playing from the band since the ‘pre-hiatus’ days of 1972 through 1974. One significant contributing factor to this renaissance period, was the addition of MIDI technology to Jerry’s rig. Replacing the ‘Tiger’ guitar that he had played steadily for about a decade, the cherished ‘Wolf’ guitar was temporarily brought out of retirement after the summer tour, and was fitted with the proper technology to become the model for this new palette of sound. The tones were virtually endless, and a number of them had been cultivated, fine-tuned and loaded up during the summer run, and would be given the final test-drive during the next stretch of shows. Steel Cut Oats #9 focuses on the final seven shows of the 1989 Fall Tour – October 18th through October 26th – from Philadelphia, PA, Charlotte, NC, and Miami, FL – the Grateful Dead’s final East Coast run of the 1980s.

1989 was also a fine time to be a baseball fan in California’s Bay Area – in a curious twist, the two adoptive cities of the Grateful Dead – San Francisco and Oakland – were about to face off against each other in the World Series. The “Battle Of The Bay” featured the class of the American League, the Oakland Athletics, and the National League’s San Francisco Giants. The A’s earned a 2nd consecutive trip to the Series hoping to make up for the previous year’s loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Giants punched their ticket to the Fall Classic by defeating the favored, yet hopelessly doomed Chicago Cubs, giving them their first Series invitation since 1962. San Francisco was poised to take the championship that had eluded the city since the Giants franchise had moved from the historic Polo Grounds in New York to San Francisco in 1958. As the Oakland A’s took the first two games at home, the Series shifted to the Golden Gate City, however, things took an unexpected and unprecedented turn…

On October 17th, 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake struck the San Francisco area. The quake occurred minutes into ABC’s live TV broadcast just before the start of Game 3 of the World Series from Candlestick Park. The Bay Area earthquake became one of the first natural disasters televised live in front of an audience of millions – most were probably baseball fans, but still interesting nonetheless when compared to today’s age of instant news coverage for any reason from just about anywhere on the planet. The start and location of the now-postponed Game 3 became an unknown as the Series would be delayed for several logistical, safety, and structural concerns.

Three thousand miles away, the Grateful Dead were in full swing on the East Coast having successfully completed two historic nights at the famed Hampton Coliseum (“Formerly The Warlocks”) and five shows at the Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford, NJ capped by a legendary final night (“Nightfall Of Diamonds”). The three shows from October 8th, 9th, and 16th, 1989 stand as favorites from the modern era among DeadHeads. With a nostalgic tip of the cap, the band revived a few classics for the October series of shows – the Help > Slipknot > Franklin’s trifecta, Attics Of My Life (not played since 9.27.72), Death Don’t Have No Mercy (dusted off in September ’89 after almost 20 years), and of course, the pinnacle of their jamming vehicles missing for a number of years – Dark Star – all returned with glowing results. Coupled with these chestnuts, several ‘standards’ were given exceptional treatment during this time frame – check out Deal, Bertha, and Bird Song as just a few examples – these ‘in the rotation’ tracks bubble with a freshness throughout all of 1989, and is yet another reason why this year sets itself apart from those that closely precede it.

With so many excellent 24-track official releases from the Fall ’89 / Spring ’90 tours already in hand, I’d predict that GDP will probably not deliver any further complete October ’89 shows with the possible exception of Miami’s final night (presumed to have been the band’s 2000th performance). Over these seven shows (mined from Healy’s 2-track master cassettes), we are left with many musical peaks, but they typically do not maintain over complete sets. I noticed pockets of greatness – three or four consecutive songs during a 1st set, or a creative pre-Drums portion – but conversely, a number of sloppy portions that gummed up the flow, too. In an effort to form continuity as a compilation and to retain only the goods, four sets have been created – two “1st sets” that touch on all nights, and a “2nd set” that covers an admittedly excessive amount of ground. The final portion is reserved for 10.26’s complete 2nd set – a standout 100 minutes of modern-day Grateful Dead. Although the Dark Stars from Hampton and Brendan Byrne are probably considered more historically relevant, Miami’s version is simply astounding. Musically and aurally obliterating both, the Miami Dark Star is a massively scary and intrusive performance that harkens back to the lysergic days of the Fillmore era – treading lightly was not in the playbook on that particular evening.

As the Grateful Dead and their crew finished off a highly successful tour, Game 3 of the World Series would finally get underway, and the night after the Fall Tour closer, Oakland and San Francisco would return to the field to settle the Series. Candlestick Park had suffered minor structural damage during the earthquake, but was given the green light to host what would become the last two games. The Oakland A’s eventually swept the San Francisco Giants four games to none – in fact, at no point during the Series did the Giants even have a lead at any point during any of the four games. A few days later, on Halloween, the Dead would release their final studio effort, ‘Built To Last’ – Foolish Heart, Blow Away, and Victim Or The Crime are a few of the newer tunes played exceptionally well here. As with most post-Winterland years, the band would close out with a New Year’s run in Oakland as they rolled into the 1990s. The California Earthquake of 1989 may have temporarily put both sport and art in perspective, but at the same time it served as a release for those willing to continue to embrace their favorite pastimes during the toughest of times. Play this loud. Enjoy.

  • Download Steel Cut Oats #9: 320kbps MP3
  • Previous Steel Cut Oats Installments: #8, #7, #6, #5

The Tracks…

Shakedown Street (P1)
Little Red Rooster (M2)
West LA Fadeaway (P2)
Just A Little Light (M1)
Minglewood Blues (C1)
Bertha (C2) >
When I Paint My Masterpiece (C2)
Tennessee Jed (C2)
Cassidy (P2)
Deal (M1)

China Cat Sunflower (P1) >
I Know You Rider (P1)
Hey Pocky Way (P3)
Samson and Delilah (C1) >
Help On The Way (C1) >
Slipknot!! (C1) >
Franklin’s Tower (C1) >
Charlotte Jam (C1)
Looks Like Rain (C2)
Crazy Fingers (C2) >
Terrapin Station (P1) >
Philly Jam (P1) >
The Other One (P3) >
Drums (P3) >
Space (P3) >
The Other One (P3) >
Dear Mr. Fantasy (P2) >
Hey Jude Reprise (P2) >
Death Don’t Have No Mercy (P2) >
Turn On Your Lovelight (P2)
Standing On The Moon (C2)

California Earthquake (C2)
Hell In A Bucket (M1)
Sugaree (M1)
Greatest Story Ever Told (P3)
Cumberland Blues (P2)
Stuck Inside of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again (P3)
Foolish Heart (M2)
Victim Or The Crime (M2)
Bird Song (P1)
Let It Grow (C2)

Estimated Prophet (M2) >
Blow Away (M2) >
Tuning Jam (M2) >
Dark Star (M2) >
Drums (M2) >
Space (M2) >
The Wheel (M2) >
All Along The Watchtower (M2) >
Stella Blue (M2) >
Not Fade Away (M2)
And We Bid You Good Night (M2)

P1 – 10/18/89, The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA, shn ID 83776
P2 – 10/19/89, The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA, shn ID 83305
P3 – 10/20/89, The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA, shn ID 111527
C1 – 10/22/89, Charlotte Coliseum, Charlotte, NC, shn ID 83319
C2 – 10/23/89, Charlotte Coliseum, Charlotte, NC, shn ID 83327
M1 – 10/25/89, Miami Arena, Miami, FL, shn ID 83398
M2 – 10/26/89, Miami Arena, Miami, FL, shn ID 83428

Jerry Garcia, lead guitar, vocals
Mickey Hart, drums
Bill Kreutzmann, drums
Phil Lesh, bass, vocals
Brent Mydland, keyboards, vocals
Bob Weir, rhythm guitar, vocals

Joe Kolbenschlag
October 22nd, 2011

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