The Dead sold out in Jersey. This is 9/2/78 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. First show at the new(ish) venue: the Giants used to play at Yankee Stadium, but by the mid-70’s everyone had a car and could drive to a swamp in the middle of nowhere–there was no form of public transportation to Giants Stadium that did not count among its steps “sprinting across Route 22” and people died all the time–so the New York Giants moved to New Jersey in 1976 and still haven’t gotten around to updating the team name or logo. Then the Jets moved in eight years later; they, too, neglected to change their name to the New Jersey Jets. Which is just rubbing our noses in it: I can understand the Giants not wanting to be associated with Jersey, as they are a classy organization, but the Jets–the organization and their fans–are greasy diner trash full of cheap beer and Sopranos reruns.
Giants Stadium (not Giant’s, thank you) was part of a destination-entertainment complex that also included an arena and a horse track. State law mandated that only trotters run; these are the races in which the jockey sits in a wheeled sling directly behind the animal. (When the law was passed, the politicians behind it were quoted as saying, “We weren’t paid off by a lawyer representing an association of trotter-horse breeders. If that’s what you were thinking.”) My parents would take BoTotD there once in a while. Something to do on a sunny day. The horses had wonderful names. I think they let me place bets once I turned 15 or so. No one gave a fuck back then.
Betting any more than two bucks on a horse race makes you a degenerate. Do not question this.
The arena was first called Meadowlands Arena, and then the Brendan Byrne Arena, and then the Izod Center, and then it was lost to the Space Beavers, and then it was the Izod Center again, but the version from the evil Mirror Universe and an entire Ice Capade was eaten, and now it’s abandoned (but secretly still occupied by the Space Beavers). The Nets of basketball played there, and so did the Devils of hockey; they wore startlingly different shoes to do so. Bruce Springsteen played there in the winter, across the parking lot from his summer grounds.
And another highway. These three venues sit in an enormous marsh where there are no buildings at all–the ground is swampy and damp and tough to work on–and they still managed to run a highway in between them. New Jersey invented trolling through civic engineering. The arena did not have enough parking to handle a full house, so the overflow went across the highway to the stadium’s lots. To get to the game, you walked a skybridge over the eight-lane state road. The walls and roof of the bridge were aluminum siding and did not stop the weather or the sound of the cars beneath you. Graffiti was rare.
Anyway, it wasn’t a matter of whether to Dead could draw–almost exactly a year before, they had played to 250,000 paying customers 40 miles up the road–but whether they’d be allowed to at all. The first rock concert at Giants Stadium had only been three months prior: Beach Boys, with Steve Miller opening. The support acts were Pablo Cruise and Stanky Brown, and if you’re wondering whether a character named Stanky Brown will soon be introduced to one timeline or the other: yes, he will. Luckily, the kids were all right and the Dead was permitted to choogle in the marshes.
The show’s the ’78 equivalent of the ’72 Academy of Music run: cash for the upcoming journey, but the Dead gave the kiddies their money’s worth. The New Riders played, and so did Willie Nelson. The band was in the shape it was in for the Egypt trip, but their bowels were most likely far more predictable than when they were actually on the Egypt trip. Everyone was a junkie except for Bobby and Phil (who was a drunk) and Billy’s wrist was broken. Still: the Scarlet>Fire is a hoot.
Just one question.
That rope on the right side of backstage, the one with the brightly-colored pennants?
That was my question.
“It’s actually load-bearing as shit. Kinda the linchpin to the whole stage.”