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Dead of the Day: February 8, 1986

Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center
Oakland, California

There are only two Dead shows on this date in history, and our pick for the Dead of the Day is the first of a five-night run at the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center in Oakland, California in 1986. The show is fairly good on its own merit, but stands out among the best of a very difficult year for the Dead, which helped us justify this pick over the 1970 show and its killer Smokestack Lightning. The ’86 show features a solid first set with nice vocals and a good mix, highlighted by a rousing Iko, a well-executed Stagger Lee, and an unusual One More Saturday Night set-closer. And, for those counting, there are nine “anymores” on the Bertha. The second set includes a fine stand alone Franklin’s, and then a Playin’>China Doll>Playin’ Jam that, while perhaps falling short of pure bliss, is the real nug of the night. A Black Peter also lurks post-Space in the shadow of a rather awful Give Me Some Lovin’.

The Kaiser Convention Center run marked the first shows for the Dead in 1986, a year that was not kind to the band and their faithful. Throughout the first half of ‘86, Jerry struggled mightily with his heroin addiction and more general, related health issues, eventually ending up in a diabetic coma in July. Jerry’s health problems cut short the summer tour, which had been uneven at best. Rarely did the boys manage to put together a strong effort on a single song, let alone an entire show, before or after that sad calamity.

The Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center was originally built in 1914, in the Beaux-Arts style popularized by the Columbian Exposition and associated with Progressive Era planning. The Dead played there an astonishing fifty seven times, putting the venue right up there with the Oakland Coliseum (66) and Winterland (60) for most played. However, twenty-three of those dates were when the building was called the Oakland Auditorium while the other 34 came after it was renamed following a 1984 renovation.

Unsurprisingly for a mid-eighties show, quite a few folks around the internet mentioned being at the show. One guy, none other than Trannyman, came out from the East Coast and was blown away by the scene. Without any place to stay, he started dancing right off the plane and found a couch in “Bezerkely” for the week. Others noted the beautiful weather for the Bay Area in February, which assured the lot scene was one to remember.

Other February 8th Shows and Recordings:

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