Friday, November 9, 2012

Go Ahead with Brent Mydland and Bill Kreutzmann Tour History 1986 (Brent Mydland II)

The poster for the Go Ahead show at The Omni in Oakland, on December 19, 1986 (from GD Archives)
Brent Mydland was always in the shadow of the other members of the Grateful Dead, because he was always "the new guy." One of the many interesting aspects of the Grateful Dead was that fans could see the musical interests and abilities of the individual musicians in their various side projects, and then see how those sounds were integrated or excluded from the Dead's sounds. Most Deadheads, however--and I am certainly including myself--paid little attention to Brent's individual activities outside the band because they were too busy following Garcia or Weir.

Certainly, if you were a Bay Area resident, and you had a chance to see Jerry Garcia or Brent Mydland in a club, you would generally pick Jerry. Also, like most Dead fans I liked many kinds of music, and being fortunate enough to see the Grateful Dead regularly, I made a point of seeing other groups rather than the spinoff bands. As a result, Brent Mydland projects tended to be somewhat off the radar. In the Summer of 1985, Brent had ventured East in the band Kokomo (along with guitarist Kevin Russell, ex-Santana bassist David Margen and Bill Kreutzmann). By all accounts, they were just a bar band, but a very good one.

The enterprise must have been promising, however, since another version of the band reconstituted itself the next year. Go Ahead toured a surprising amount in the Fall of 1986, mainly because Jerry Garcia's illness canceled a lot of Grateful Dead dates. Fortunately, Go Ahead was a pretty good band as cover groups go, and they filled a lot of people's need for a Dead substitute, while presumably making a little money for the players as well. This post will attempt to identify all the Go Ahead performances for 1986.

The Kreutzmann-Margen Band
Go Ahead was presaged with a few dates in the Summer of 1986 by the Kreutzmann-Margen Band. It is generally forgotten now that for much of the early 80s, Kreutzmann regularly played shows around the Bay Area and sometimes toured elsewhere as well. Besides filling in with the Jerry Garcia Band, he played with the Healy-Treece Band, and the even more obscure Bill Kreutzmann's All-Stars. In 1984 and '85 he played with a reconstituted version of Kingfish. Bob Weir was a regular guest with Kingfish, and Brent Mydland even sat in a few times (Jan 21-24, 1985). However, after a dispute between Kreutzmann and Matt Kelly, Kreutzmann left Kingfish around March of 1985.

Kreutzmann and Mydland turned up in the Summer of 1985 with Kokomo, but the band did not survive the year. Kreutzmann must have enjoyed playing bars, however, and probably needed the money, since he played a few East Coast dates in the Summer of 1986 with yet another band.  No one but me seems to recall the Kreutzmann-Margen Band, despite a few obscure tapes, but they generally sounded a lot like Go Ahead. The group's lineup was:
  • Jerry Cortez-lead guitar
  • Alex Ligterwood-guitar, vocals
  • Nate Ginsberg-keyboards
  • David Margen-bass
  • Bill Kreutzmann-drums
Bassist David Margen, who had played with Kreutzmann in Kingfish and Kokomo, had been in a 70s lineup of Santana. A fellow member of that group was singer/rhythm guitarist Alex Ligterwood. Ligterwood, a Scotsman, had come to San Francisco around 1976 with Brian Auger and The Oblivion Express (a truly great band), and he had ended up joining Santana. Ligterwood had been the lead vocalist on such Santana hits as "Well All Right" and "Winning" in the late 70s and early 80s.

Jerry Cortez had been playing lead guitar with Jesse Colin Young and also with the revived version of the Youngbloods. Keyboardist Nate Ginsberg was a veteran of many Bay Area bands, including Larry Graham and Graham Central Station, Herbie Hancock, Cold Blood, Steve Miller Band and many others. I only know of a few East Coast dates for the Kreutzmann-Margen Band. A few tapes have surfaced, from July 27 at the Lone Star and July 29 in Chicago. Anyone who attended the shows or has additional information is encouraged to Comment.

July 25-27, 1986: Lone Star Cafe, New York, NY: Kreutzmann-Margen Band
July 28, 1986; The Tide, Beachhaven, NJ: Kreutzmann-Margen Band
July 29-30, 1986: Carol's, Chicago, IL: Kreutzmann-Margen Band

Go Ahead
In July of 1986, Jerry Garcia slipped into a diabetic coma, and the Grateful Dead world was turned upside down. A lot of concerts were canceled, and the Dead at the time had no other meaningful source of income. During the Summer, no one knew how long it would take Jerry to recover, nor when touring could possibly recommence. It is not surprising that Kreutzmann and Mydland, the two band members with the least income from recording royalties, apparently made plans to start touring. Fans in the Bay Area were somewhat inured to appearances by Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir, so shows featuring other band members were hardly events. In the rest of the country, however, any appearance by a Grateful Dead member, much less two, was at least a mini-event. Mydland replaced Ginsberg, and Go Ahead looked like this
  • Jerry Cortez-lead guitar
  • Alex Ligterwood-guitar, vocals
  • Brent Mydland-keyboards, vocals
  • David Margen-bass
  • Bill Kreutzmann-drums
From the point of view of nightclub owners, a band whose fans came early and stayed a long time were always desirable, so there seems to have been a fair amount of interest and the clubs that Go Ahead played were fairly large. In any case, there had to have been a lot of fans who were looking forward to seeing the Grateful Dead who must have been happy just to see a part of them.

With two current members of the Grateful Dead and two former members of Santana, Go Ahead roughly fell into the territory shared by the two groups. Go Ahead played extended versions of various rock cover songs, some of them made famous by one or the other band (like "Women Are Smarter" or "Well All Right"). The band played jammed out version of some of the more straightforward Weir second set numbers, some more rock Santana material and some classic rock covers (like Traffic's "Medicated Goo"). There was a lot of nice jamming, but none of it got too outside. Brent sang a few of his own ballads, and some of the material associated with the Dead, but most of the lead vocals were handled by Alex Ligterwood (including "Iko Iko"). 

Go Ahead was not an earthshaking band, just some excellent nightclub fun, but when taken in that light they were well worth the price of admission. Kreutzmann in particular is a great rock drummer in a conventional context, which can be easy to forget. It's also informative to listen to them--certainly I would have enjoyed it if members of The E Street Band or The Heartbreakers had played rock covers in nightclubs, but only Dead members seem to have had the energy (or poor judgment) to do so. Fortunately, there are a fair number of nicely recorded audience tapes floating around on Sugarmegs and elsewhere, and you can decide for yourself.

Because of Garcia's illness, instead of just playing a few quick dates, Go Ahead made a more substantial tour of the East than most Dead spinoff groups. Since they played a lot, by the end of the tour they sounded pretty tight, and some of the jamming sounds quite good. I think I have most of the dates, but I could be missing some. I am certainly missing some opening acts. Anyone with corrections, insights or observations is encouraged to mention them in the Comments. I am particularly interested in what acts might have opened for Go Ahead.

Go Ahead Performance List, Fall 1986
September 25, 1986: Lupo's, Providence, RI: Go Ahead

September 26, 1986: The Ritz, New York, NY: Go Ahead/Robert Hunter
Robert Hunter had a solo tour on the East Coast around this time, and he opened for Go Ahead in a few of the larger venues.

September 27, 1986: The Boathouse, Norfolk, VA; Go Ahead

September 28, 1986: The Bayou, Washington, DC: Go Ahead
Kokomo had played The Bayou the previous Summer, so I take that as a sign that the club owner had been happy with the turnout.

September 30, 1986: Toad's, New Haven, CT: Go Ahead

Ticket stub from the Go Ahead show at The Channel in Boston on October 1 1986
October 1, 1986: The Channel, Boston, MA: Go Ahead/Robert Hunter
There are some interesting comments in passing about this show, from a page where someone has collected all his ticket stubs. It gives a good perspective on how Go Ahead was a welcome diversion in the absence of a Dead tour.

October 2, 1986: Hunt's, Burlington, VT: Go Ahead

October 4, 1986: The Stone Pony, Asbury Park, NJ: Go Ahead/Robert Hunter

October 5, 1986: West 165th, Hartford, CT: Go Ahead/Robert Hunter/Max Creek
The venue was formerly known as The Agora.

updateCommenter Tony has some additional information
Max Creek played a four song set before Hunter at the 10/5 West Hartford Show. Creek were regulars at the Agora, and as it happens, had played as the sole act for the three nights prior to this gig. I have a tape of the Max Creek set, and I'm quite sure there exists tape of the full Hunter and Go Ahead sets. I recall Hunter played the UConn fight song. (http://www.maxcreek.com/lists/mc861005.html)
Hunter had lived in Connecticut for a few years in High School.

October 6, 1986: Stone Balloon, Newark, DE: Go Ahead

October 7, 1986: Trocadero, Philadelphia, PA: Go Ahead/Robert Hunter

October 8, 1986: USA Sam's, North Syracuse, NY: Go Ahead

October 10, 1986: Trafalmadore Cafe, Buffalo, NY: Go Ahead

October 11, 1986: The Warehouse, Rochester, NY: Go Ahead
[update] Thanks to correspondent Mike, we know that Max Creek played here regularly during this time. The venue, at 204 N. Water Street, is currently called The Water Street Music Hall.

October 12, 1986: My Father's Place, Roslyn, NY: Go Ahead
The band appears to have taken a two week break after this show, although it's possible I'm just missing some dates.

October 23, 1986: The Cabooze, Minneapolis, MN: Go Ahead
Starting on Oct 23, Go Ahead had a Midwestern swing.
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October 24, 1986: [venue], University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI: Go Ahead

October 26, 1986: Cabaret Metro, Chicago, IL: Go Ahead

October 29, 1986: Graffiti, Pittsburgh, PA: Go Ahead
There is a nice tape circulating from this show, and the band gets into some good jamming to end the second show.

October 31, 1986; Capitol Theater, Passaic, NJ: Hot Tuna/Go Ahead
This show at the Capitol was the only opening performance by Go Ahead that I know of. The band returned home to the West Coast after this show.

November 30, 1986: Concord Palace, Concord, CA: Go Ahead
The fact that Go Ahead played a few California dates after their Eastern tour was a clear sign that the band had enjoyed itself. By this time, Garcia's recovery was assured, so Go Ahead was just playing because they liked it. I don't know anything about the Concord Palace. I believe that Brent Mydland was raised in Concord, but I don't know if there was a personal connection to the show.

December 2, 1986: Wood Lake Hotel, Sacramento, CA: Go Ahead

December 6, 1986: The Country Club, Reseda, CA: Go Ahead
Go Ahead also played two shows in Southern California.

December 8, 1986: Coach House, San Juan Capistrano, CA: Go Ahead

December 19, 1986: The Omni, Oakland, CA: Go Ahead/Dreamspeak
Go Ahead's final show of the year was at The Omni in Oakland. As a long-time Oakland resident, it was depressing to me that Oakland's newest rock club at the time turned out to be such a dump that I wouldn't go to a show there (and remember, I liked the Keystone Berkeley). The Omni was at 4799 Shattuck (at 48th Street), formerly known as Ligure Hall. It had been built in 1938 as an Italian American Social Club. It was owned by John Nady, who had made a fortune inventing wireless guitar pickups, and spent it on a rock nightclub that mostly presented heavy metal.

Go Ahead's one piece of local press coverage came when it was reported (I think in the Chronicle) that Jerry was in attendance at the show, even though he did not perform. Of course, the Dead had just finished three nights at the Oakland Coliseum Arena (Dec 15-17), so Garcia's recovery wasn't at issue, but this was the start of renewed attention to Jerry's importance and mortality.

Go Ahead 1987 and 1988
Although Go Ahead's touring schedule was considerably reduced in 1987, for the pleasant reason that Jerry Garcia was back in the saddle, Go Ahead continued onwards through 1988. At the end of 1987, the band also became a vehicle for Bob Weir as well as Brent and Bill, but all that will be addressed in the next post in this series.