Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To


You want to be as close to the equator as possible if you’re going to launch a rocket into orbit, which is why Cape Canaveral is in South Florida. You can, however, be anywhere on Earth to communicate with said rocket ship, so if the Speaker of the House is from Texas when NASA is being set up, then Mission Control will be in Texas. Houston, specifically, and in the 60’s, Houston was Space City and they weren’t about to let you forget it. Their brand-new baseball team was called the Astros; they played in the Astrodome, the world’s first indoor stadium, and since it was indoors and real grass could not be kept alive, the team played on a newly-invented synthetic surface called Astroturf.

So when Six Flags built an amusement park across the parking lot, they didn’t really have any choice in what to name the sucker.

There were rolly coasters and logs that would flume you about: it was your standard American theme park, and so it also had an outdoor theater called the Southern State. During the week, they would do shows for the kiddies or dance troupes or whatnot; on weekends, they would have bands for the local teens. You could ride the SkyScreamer in the afternoon and then get down to some groovy tunes in the evening, all for the price of one ticket. It’s a good deal.

For the teens, that is; the acts must have closed their eyes and gotten through the evening like professionals. Look at this bullshit:

Do they drop people from that tower? I think they drop people from that tower. You’re onstage singing your little song, and WHHHHAAAAAAAGH behind you every 150 fucking seconds. It’s goddamned demoralizing.

The Dead played the Southern State Theater on 8/30/85, and it seems almost criminal to take ’85 Garcia to Houston in August. The air is so thick with humidity as to behave more like a solid than a gas; also, it being Texas, the air is armed. He (and Bobby) looked like this:

(Holy shit, this show is one week after Boreal Ridge, where they dragged poor Garcia up a mountain. Serious question: were they trying to kill him?)

Now, obviously, this post is in honor of the great scholarship and snappy storytelling in the latest missive from Lost Live Dead detailing the Dead’s relationship with Texas; his site is a must for any Enthusiast, as is the sister site Hooterollin. , which OMIGOD I FORGOT TO TALK ABOUT THE LAST POST OVER THERE which is so very good. (It’s about Skeletons in the Closet. Remember Skeletons? Don’t play all cool like you didn’t listen to Skeletons a million times.) However, Corry Arnold (author of both sites and a valued commentator here) only allots a scanty three paragraphs to the most important show the Dead ever played in Texas, instead choosing to fill space with “evidence” and “facts” and “contextual analysis.”

But you know I don’t roll that way. I made a few calls and was able to get detailed notes of the Dead’s day at the Astroworld:

3:00 pm 

Band arrives at venue. Phil refuses to leave van. Garcia is unable to leave van. Rest of band wanders off.


Soundcheck. No one is there except Phil; he is asleep behind the amps like a drunken angel with perfect pitch. Road manager Jon McIntire attempts to have the band paged, but Billy has commandeered the PA booth and is broadcasting his skank session. (Billy found skank.) Mickey has been thrown out of the park for punching a hot dog vendor.


Through a mixture of bribes, threats, and cocaine, the band has been lured to soundcheck. No one has seen Brent. Billy announces that if Brent isn’t there in five minutes, then he would rub his testicles on Brent’s synthesizer.


Billy rubs his testicles on Brent’s synthesizer.


4:20, yo.


A representative from the park asks Jon McIntire a question; while his attention is diverted, the entire band wanders off.


Mickey, now wearing a fake mustache over his real mustache, is thrown out of the park again, this time for punching the guy who runs the bumper cars.


Billy, returning to the source of his previous fun, has once again taken over the PA system and is using it to tell jokes of a questionable provenance. Garcia was in the bathroom, which made Jon McIntire both sad and happy: sad because of what Garcia was doing in there, but happy because he wasn’t going anywhere. Bobby has eaten astronaut ice cream, and a giant turkey leg, and had a caricature done of himself, and bought a license pate with his name on it, and he was thinking about taking his shirt off.


Bobby takes his shirt off.


4:20 plus 1, yo.


Billy, lying in wait behind a blind turn, pounces on a family of five from Corpus Christi. When later asked why he did such a thing, Billy would respond–and I quote–“I felt like a puma.”


Phil wakes up and wanders into the park, where he makes a kid in a Dead shirt buy him a giant churro. Jon McIntire spots him, asks if he’s seen Brent. Phil hits Jon McIntire with the giant churro, then makes the kid buy him another one.


Mickey, now in blackface, is thrown out of the park once more for punching a balloon salesman. No one has seen Brent.


Billy has ridden the Texas Cyclone 17 times in a row; he punched the ride operator in the dick and turned the switch to FULL so the train’s been circling without stopping. Security is on its way.


Security arrives and throws Billy out, along with Mickey, now in blackface with a fake mustache, who had snuck back in and punched the same balloon salesman again.


Bobby arrives backstage. He is wearing a tee-shirt with his own face on it and carrying one of those leashes for imaginary dogs.


Phil shows up and yells at Jon McIntire because the wine selection at the theme park is not up to snuff.


Billy and Mickey wander in and begin making fun of Weir’s shirt while secretly wanting one.


Someone in an armadillo costume comes backstage. Everyone says,

“Hi, Brent,” and he removes the costume’s head and says,

“Hey, guys,” and no one asks him any questions at all.


Garcia emerges from the bathroom and tells Bobby and Brent to change. Bobby protests; Brent does not.




  1. Re: Playing at a theme park.

    The only time I saw the Dead was 6/30/87, at Canada’s Wonderland, an amusement park just outside Toronto. Phil mentions the gig in his book because apparently Brent and Mrs. Mydland had an interaction that you would qualify as domestic violence, but I don’t recall the details. Good show, i listen to it every now and then. Really good “Desolation Row,” and a cool Scarlet->Fire.

  2. There was some kind of fun fair just outside of Riverbend. I remember hearing the 06/24/85 soundcheck (incl. Keep On Growing) from the top of a waterslide.

  3. I was at this show and it was a blast for the Dead Heads. With our tickets we got free entry and could ride everything for free. The roller coaster filled with heads was amazing. I remember the normal family types at the park freaking on the whole scene. What were all the hippy freak people doing at the amusement park? Our children should not be exposed to this.

    If you listen to the Birdsong, you can hear Brent making a bunch of bird noises. This went on far too long and Jerry gave him a look that said “stop that shit or I’m gonna have Parish throw your ass off the stage”. I was in 8th row and clearly saw it was a mean-ass look. Brent stopped immediately. Great memories. Don’t remember it being that hot though.

  4. They played Hershey Park (a chocolate-themed amusement park) earlier that summer.

    Jerry’s voice may have been wavering that tour but at least he was enjoying the rides.

  5. I saw a concert in an Amusement Park in 1995, it was REO Speedwagon/Fleetwood Mac/Pat Benatar/Orleans. All well over the hill. How over the hill? Fleetwood Mac featured Dave Mason and Bonnie Bramlett’s daughter (Bekka). They would do their faux version of “Landslide” and the roller coaster would go whooshing by.

    It now seems that the Dead were starting to play Amusement Parks in the mid-80s, which precipitates a long decline. Then “Touch Of Grey” saved them from that fate.

    Do you think Dave Mason would have made a good Weir?

  6. I keep trying to remember which Dead album I actually got first. It’s either “Skeletons” or “Europe ’72” or “Mars Hotel” . . . all within a couple of months of each other, as newspaper delivery route money made itself available and was not otherwise consumed on weed and sundries.

    I sure know which one of those I listened to the most, though, and for the longest: “Skeletons,” hands down.

    “Golden Road” still feels like the the groovy intro to “Truckin'” whenever I hear it because of that . . .

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