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Dead of the Day: February 23, 1993

Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum
Oakland, California
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With a mellow, exploratory sound, our Dead of the Day comes from well into the nineties: February 23, 1993. The first set is all quite good involving some staid, yet solid playing. But the Johnny B. Goode rages forward beginning to mark this night as something special; though Jerry’s voice cannot quite keep up with the rollicking pace on that Chuck Berry tune, his guitar just dominates it. The second set gets off to a playful start with a drums jam backing a Mardi Gras parade; the drums are a great background and a lot fun, but the way the music suddenly rises out of a pedantic beat into a chill Iko is truly magical, embodying the period of waiting, sacrifice, and rebirth of the Lenten season that Mardi Gras anticipates. After the promise of the opening, the Corrina and Lazy River Road are both a bit of a buzz kill, especially because each were repeats from the night before. But the Playin’ turns things around again by entering into a sweet, reflective jam, reaching and searching for something that cannot be known or found; the inaccessibility of it all is its magic. A similar hunt emerges out of Space as the band engages in an orgy of experimentation and grasping, coaxed onwards by Ornette Coleman, who sits in on sax. The band finally arrives at a welcome Other One and then rolls into an intricately layered Stella Blue.

A couple people on Archive relate that there was a float during the Mardi Gras parade of Bill Clinton with a sax in one hand and a joint in the other with smoke billowing out from his head. This was less than a year after Clinton’s I “didn’t inhale” interview and just a month after he had jammed on the sax during his inaugural festivities.

This was the last Dead show at which Jerry played Wolf, the Doug Irwin designed ax that Garcia had debuted at a 1973 private party for the Hell’s Angels. Garcia regularly played Wolf in the seventies until Irwin delivered Tiger to him in 1979. Wolf made a brief reappearance when Jerry first started experimenting with MIDI synthesizers during concerts in 1989. The guitar only came out at this show because, reportedly, Garcia had a problem with Rosebud, his regular guitar at that time. Garcia indicated in his will that all his Irwin guitars should be returned to Doug Irwin, suggesting that he felt he was just borrowing these great works of art despite having commissioned and paid for them. Of course, a legal battle ensued.

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