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Dead of the Day: March 13, 1981

Utica Memorial Auditorium
Utica, New York

Our Dead of the Day comes down to us from March 13, 1981 in Utica, New York. The show gets off to a hot start with a rocking Shakedown that sends the crowd into a frenzy. From there the first set just does not let up with nearly every song a show stopper. To our ears, the Rooster, Cassidy, and, especially, Music Never Stopped are the sweetest of the cream, though. In fact, the Music Never Stopped gets intense over the second half as Bobby, who is really on all night, sets a fast pace, almost forcing Jerry to blister through an endless series of achingly sharp jams. The second set opens with a fitting Cold Rain & Snow and includes a stellar Eyes amidst a really solid set. But the highlight of the entire night might just be the Wharf Rat with Jerry tearing it up.

Reports from people who attended this show indicate that it was unseasonably warm during the day. The lot was awash in people playing Frisbee and otherwise taking in the scene. But just as the start time approached, a cold wind blew in turning what had been a spring day into a frosty, snowy evening. One Deadhead without a ticket decided that he really needed to see the boys and get warm, so he smashed a glass window, setting off a frenzy as the ticketless lot denizens rushed into the auditorium. The extra bodies and hot music made the place steamy. Leaving the venue, fans were greeted not just by the frigid weather but also a show of force by Utica’s finest, amped up by reports of the gate-crashers and wearing full riot gear

The Dead always seemed to play some strong shows in upstate New York. Obviously 5-8-77 at Cornell and the Harpur College date in 1970 come immediately to mind, but there were numerous other hot shows from around the region. This would be the fourth time the band played Utica, stretching back to 1973, but it was also their last trip to the city that god forgot. All of those Utica shows were at the Memorial Auditorium, affectionately known as “the AUD.” Originally built in 1959, it is an architectural monument, being the first to use a pre-stressed dual cable roof system, which is supposed to be pretty cool if you are a civil engineer. Probably more exciting to most is the fact that scenes from Slap Shot were filmed there.

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