Hosted by Fathom Events and Rhino Entertainment at theaters across the country, the fifth annual Grateful Dead Meet-Up at the Movies presented the band's performance at Alpine Valley, Wisconsin on July 19, 1989, the third concert of a three-night stand. The line-up featured guitarist Jerry Garcia, drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, bassist Phil Lesh, keyboardist Brent Mydland, and guitarist Bob Weir. They sounded in very fine form as one can tell from the bootleg available below.
With the band celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2015, I would have thought interest in the band would be at a high point, but alas, I walked in a little after 6:30pm and was the first one to grab a seat. At 6:45, the broadcast began with Dead songs, "Cream Puff War," "U.S. Blues," and "Truckin','' played at a loud volume that was appreciated.
By the time the concert portion began, which started with the band tuning up, there were roughly 20 people in the theater, and they were a well-behaved group. Not only were there no signs of people smoking or drinking throughout, they barely reacted after songs, offering little more than polite applause.
By the second song, "Sugaree," the house lights finally came down, to everyone's delight. It was also during this performance as I watched Garcia that I realized the video was comprised of long takes of the band members playing. It's a much better way to watch a concert and is in sharp contrast to the quick cutting of short clips that takes place nowadays in concert videos. It allowed the viewer to actually see the way Garcia and Weir play guitar as they traded licks during the song's bridge.
The first set was strong in terms of band performance and song choice. They played a mix of classic and modern Dead songs along with covers of Merle Haggard's "Mama Tried" and Bob Dylan's "Desolation Row" sung by Weir. Two of Garcia's highlights were during "West L.A. Fadeaway," in which his guitar had a great tone, and "Deal" with his long guitar runs.
The only weak part of the set was Weir's "Victim or the Crime," which at the time was still six months from being released on their final studio album, Built to Last. Its arrangement sounded like the late '80s and didn't fit well alonside the other songs.
Skipping the intermission, the video went straight into the second set, which brought the rest of the band into the spotlight. It began with Lesh singing lead on "Box of Rain." Mydland's electronic keyboards often suffered from sounding too much its the era, making them even more grating nearly 30 years later.
From "Terrapin Station" to the end of the set, the songs blended into one another like it was one long suite. During "Drums," the Rhythm Devils had trouble keeping a rhythm and meandered quite a bit. Hart played a drum he could not only beat like a bongo but also squeeze. The rest of the band returned for "The Other One" and unfortunately continued the pattern. The jams got longer but also less focused, making it difficult to stayed connected and had me longing for the end, which came when the credits rolled during "Turn on Your Love Light."
Even with the indulgent jam sessions of the second set not paying off, it was great to see the band back in action. The video quality looked good and the sound quality was great. If this gets an eventual release, as I expect it will, Deadheads should add it to their collection.
Hell in a Bucket
Victim or the Crime
West L.A. Fadeaway
Box of Rain
Looks Like Rain
The Other One
Turn on Your Love Light