Friday, July 11, 2014

Go Ahead and Bob Weir 1987-88 (Brent Mydland III)

Tipitina's, in New Orleans, where Go Ahead played in March 1987
Go Ahead 1987-88
The band Go Ahead, featuring Grateful Dead members Brent Mydland and Bill Kreutzmann, had begun as somewhat of a necessity in the Fall of 1986. Mydland and Kreutzmann had formed a little band called Kokomo that had played a bit in the Summer of 1985. However, when Jerry Garcia slipped into a diabetic coma in July of 1986, every employee of the Grateful Dead's various enterprises had to look around to find a source of income without the Dead. Kreutzmann had played a few gigs in the Summer with a cover band called The Kreutzmann-Margen Band. By bringing in Brent Mydland, club promoters had a chance to sell two members of the Dead rather than just the drummer.

Go Ahead had played 25 shows, mostly on the East Coast, from September through December of 1986. By the end, of course, Jerry Garcia was back in action and the Grateful Dead had played live. However, the Go Ahead shows had apparently been profitable, and the band members had apparently had fun. There were a lot of cities and college towns that were jonesing for the Grateful Dead experience, and a fun jam band with two Dead members seemed to fill a need. It's worth noting that at the time, there were few, if any, "Dead Tribute" bands like Dark Star Orchestra, so Go Ahead seems to have been welcome indeed. Thus Go Ahead reconstituted itself for a few shows in the beginning of 1987. The lineup was

A current photo of The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano
Go Ahead
Alex Ligterwood-vocals, guitar (former member of Santana and Oblivion Express)
Jerry Cortez-lead guitar, vocals (former member of the 80s Youngbloods)
Brent Mydland-organ, keyboards, vocals
David Margen-bass (former member of Santana)
Bill Kreutzmann-drums
January 16, 1987 New George's, San Rafael, CA: Go Ahead
New George's was San Rafael's local rock club. It's ironic that Grateful Dead members almost never played there. This show was probably as much like a rehearsal as anything else. Go Ahead played a few Brent songs, but for the most part they played songs that had been covered by Santana or the Grateful Dead, such as "Well All Right" or "Not Fade Away." They also covered a few songs that either band could have covered, like Traffic's "Medicated Goo."

Janury 24, 1987 The Coach House, San Juan Capistrano, CA: Go Ahead
San Jaun Capistrano is on the California coast, midway between Los Angeles and San Diego, although in fact it is on the far Southern edge of Orange County. The Coach House (33157 Camino Capistrano, SJC)  has remained a popular club for many years. It seats about 500, and it has generally booked a fairly wide variety of acts, like many suburban clubs.

The characteristic of Go Ahead's 1987 bookings was that they tended to play towns that did not see Grateful Dead or Jerry Garcia shows. Of course, plenty of people from places like San Juan Capistrano were more than willing to drive some ways North or South to see the Dead, but seeing a Dead spin-off show in your local haunt was a different experience. People in Berkeley, San Francisco or Los Angeles had plenty of opportunities to check out Jerry Garcia in a large nightclub or small local theater, but that option wasn't available farther out in the suburbs. Thus Go Ahead provided some Grateful Dead style music without all the driving and hassle, once again implicitly anticipating the rise of local and regional bands playing Grateful Dead-style music.

January 25, 1987 Country Club, Reseda, CA: Go Ahead
Reseda is near Northridge, Northwest of Los Angeles (off Hwy 101, between Van Nuys and Canoga Park, for those of you who know SoCal). It's probably a nice enough place, but it has a whiff of one of those faceless LA places without an identity--Tom Petty symbolically dismisses it in the lyrics to his 1989 hit "Free Fallin'":
It's a long day, living in Reseda/
There's a freeway running' through the yard
The Country Club was a popular rock club in Reseda, which was open from about 1979 until the late 1990s (on Sherman Way near Reseda Boulevard). Lots of fine groups played there, but it was not a hip Hollywood club, since by LA standards Reseda was out in the 'burbs' (the empty club was actually used to film much of the 1997 movie Boogie Nights). Initially the 1000-capacity venue was conceived as a country showcase (hence the name) but it became better known for punk and new wave. Neither Garcia nor the Dead ever got out as far as Van Nuys, however, so Go Ahead would once again have been a treat for the local Deadheads, even if it was a bit hippieish by local standards [update: a Commenter points out that the Jerry Garcia Band did play The Country Club in 1983 and '84]. Go Ahead had played both the Coach House and the Country Club in December of 1986, so the fact that they were brought back in less than two months was a sign that the shows were big hits.

January 26, 1987 The Bacchanal, San Diego, CA: Go Ahead
The Bacchanal,  open from 1976-1991 (at 8022 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., Kearny Mesa), was San Diego's premier rock club at the time. Like The Coach House or The Country Club, The Bacchanal was not downtown. It was in San Diego proper, but in a community in the Eastern part of San Diego called Kearny Mesa. In the 1960s, rock had been confined to downtown bohemian enclaves and college towns, but by the mid-70s most rock fans were in the suburbs and getting older. Thus numerous rock clubs opened that made their money at the bar for audiences who loved rock but weren't always able to drive far to a show, due to work or other constraints. These places were open most nights of the week, so there were plenty of bookings for the likes of Go Ahead.

February 5, 1987 Concord Palace, Concord, CA: Go Ahead
Concord is in Contra Costa County, hardly an hour from San Francisco, but in some ways quite a distance. A little mountain range separates Berkeley and the East Bay from Contra Costa, and Concord itself is on the far side of the county. While many residents of Contra Costa commute to the East Bay or San Francisco, towns like Concord are very much the suburbs. The Concord Pavilion is a popular concert venue, but it was actually fairly far from the town of Concord itself, nestled in the hills above. There was one interesting and now entirely forgotten (except, of course, by me) Concord rock venture in 1967, but otherwise, the town is a place people are from.

One person from Concord was Keith Godchaux. Brent Mydland came from Antioch, which is just a little further East of Concord, but Concord was definitely Brent's old territory. So it fits that Go Ahead would play in Concord, a suburb that didn't get its share of Grateful Dead action, despite being so near. I have to confess that I haven't the slightest idea about the Concord Palace, and I don't recall any other bands playing there. I wrote down this date off the Hotline, but I don't recall seeing an ad for this show, nor have I ever heard even a third hand mention of the show or the venue. However, Go Ahead had played the Concord Palace before (in Deember of '86) and were booked to return shortly after.

February 6, 1987 Wood Lake Hotel, Sacramento, CA: Go Ahead
I assume that the Wood Lake Hotel was in the Woodlake district of Sacramento. Woodlake is across the river from downtown, once again a bit suburban. The Grateful Dead had started to play shows in Sacramento in 1984 at the newly opened Cal Expo Amphitheatre. However, although Garcia and Bob Weir occasionally played nearby Davis (a college town), they had not played Sacramento in some time. Thus Go Ahead had a clear field in appealing to suburban Deadheads looking for some nearby jamming fun that they weren't going to get anywhere else. Once again, Go Ahead had played the Wood Lake in December, and had been asked to return very quickly, so obviously they were a success with club owners.

March 11, 1987 The Back Room, Austin, TX: Go Ahead
The economic success of Go Ahead can be inferred from a number of factors. For one thing, they kept playing the same Southern California clubs over and over, so clearly they were a good booking. This brief three-date "tour" in March of 1987 was another indicator. The Grateful Dead had played their traditional pre-tour dates at the Kaiser in Oakland (March 1-2-3), and their Eastern tour would begin at Hampton Coliseum (VA) on March 22. Yet Go Ahead found the time to fly out for three shows at large clubs in the Southwest.

Alex Ligterwood had rejoined Santana in 1987, so he was otherwise engaged. However, it appears that Go Ahead simply did without him. Presumably Brent picked up more of the lead vocals, and Jerry Cortez probably sang some lead vocals as well. I have never heard a tape or seen a setlist, so I don't know if the sets were any different.

The Back Room, at (2015 E. Riverside, Austin, TX) was a legendary Austin nightclub. It had opened in 1973 as a bar that booked local music. As time went on, however, the club became more popular, and booked many touring acts to go along with the local heroes. It was the kind of club that made its money at the bar, so any act that played a long time and made people thirsty was very attractive. Thus, a Grateful Dead spinoff that liked to jam had to look attractive. Texans love to go out to drink and dance, and there are a lot of college students in Austin, so pretty much every good band is popular in Austin.

In the late '80s, the Back Room was more known as a haven for Hair Metal, so Go Ahead may have been a bit of a different booking, but Austin is the kind of place where that doesn't matter. The Back Room went on to become a key stop for Grunge bands like Pearl Jam, and it remained an Austin legend. Although the Back Room lasted over 30 years, it eventually closed around 2008 or so. However, the venue has since re-opened as Emo's.

March 12, 1987 Rockefeller's, Houston, TX: Go Ahead
Rockefeller's, at 3620 Washington Avenue, was Houston's premier music club from 1979 through 1997. Compared to some Southwestern clubs, it wasn't huge--the capacity seems to have been around 500 patrons. Nonetheless, like most Texas and New Orleans clubs, the money would have been made at the bar. I presume that Go Ahead had lucrative gigs in Austin (on Wednesday March 11) and New Orleans (on Saturday March 14), and Rockefeller's was a routing gig. Since the band would have had to spend two nights in a hotel anyway, they may as well have played a show one night to cover their expenses.

Rockefeller's was housed in a building that was constructed in 1925. For many years it housed a bank that was reputed to have been robbed by Bonnie & Clyde back in 1931. Although the venue has closed, it has been re-opened as Rockefeller's Hall, a private venue available for events and weddings.

March 14, 1987 Tipitina's, New Orleans, LA: Go Ahead
Tipitina's is another legendary club (at 501 Napoleon Street). It opened in 1977, originally as a place for the legendary pianist Professor Longhair to perform. The Professor passed on in 1980, but Tipitina's had established itself as a major venue. The club holds 1000 people, and of course it's New Orleans, so it does a massive business at the bar. March 14, 1987 was a Saturday, so Go Ahead must have made very good money, enough for Brent and Bill to find it worthwhile to fly out of town between Grateful Dead dates.

The site of The Country Club, on Sherman Way in Reseda
July 29, 1987 [FM Station], North Hollywood, CA: Go Ahead
My notes say "FM Station." I don't know whether that was a club, or whether the band were playing at a radio station. My suspicion is that band members appeared on an FM station to promote the upconing shows in Southern California. As far as I know, Alex Ligterwood was back with the band, as Santana was not on the road at this time.

July 29, 1987 The Bacchanal, San Diego, CA: Go Ahead
Once again, Go Ahead returned to a club they had played before. This show was on a Wednesday night, so the booking had to be lucrative enough for the entire band to fly down, rent equipment and play two shows. 

July 30, 1987 The Coach House, San Juan Capistrano, CA: Go Ahead
Go Ahead was playing The Coach House for the third time, so clearly they were eagerly welcomed back.

August 1, 1987 Comptche Family Fun Day & Firemen's Ball, Conche, CA: Go Ahead
This was a peculiar gig, somewhat out of character with Go Ahead's typical bookings at popular suburban nightclubs. Comptche is in Mendocino County,  and it is a "Census Designated Place" without being a town--in other words, there are some residents and a place name, but it isn't a formal community. The Comptche post office opened back in 1879. Comptche is several miles inland, inbetween Highway 101 and the coast, and roughly equidistant between Ukiah and Fort Bragg. I assume that the Firemen's Ball is an annual outdoor party. There is some evidence that it still may go on. A 2009 page tells us
The Comptche Volunteer Fire Department (CVFD) protects a rural, heavily forested district of approximately 100 square miles in size which is located between Mendocino and Ukiah. Formed by local citizens in 1963, CVFD is an all-volunteer fire department comprised of 22 members and 7 reserves.
The Comptche Firehouse park is located one-half mile south of the junction of Comptche-Ukiah Road and Flynn Creek Road.
Various members of the Grateful Dead family lived up in that part of California, including Bill Kreutzmann, so it's very likely that there was a social connection that generated the booking. Nonetheless, a professional band like Go Ahead can take a reduced fee but it still costs a certain amount of money to have them perform. Whatever the Firemen's Ball was, it seems to have been a unique event in the relatively brief history of Go Ahead. It was the only outdoor, daytime concert, and perhaps the first time they played a show without a working bar. This is not to say that plenty of beer wasn't consumed at the event, and indeed may have been sold there, but it still would have been distinctly different than a bar.

Go Ahead with Bob Weir
In the Fall of 1987, Bob Weir began to play shows with Go Ahead. Weir's band Bobby And The Midnites had broken up by September of 1984, but he had taken to playing with the latest iteration of Matthew Kelly's band Kingfish. Weir only played intermittently with Kingfish, but it seemed to fit his desire to continue to perform regularly. It seems that by the 1980s, Weir had come to the conclusion that Garcia had, namely that the opportunity to go out and perform was always available to members of the Grateful Dead, and Weir has not gone without a live performing option ever since.

However, Weir's dates with Kingfish ended by mid-1987. When Weir played with Go Ahead, the band played a set without him, and then Weir played a solo acoustic set of his own songs. Weir would join Go Ahead for a third set of his own material, mostly from Heaven Help The Fool or the Midnites albums. Finally, for the encore, the ensemble would rock out with some classic covers like "La Bamba" and "Good Lovin." Based on setlists I have seen, Weir the only songs associated with the Grateful Dead were acoustic versions of "Victim Or The Crime" and "Throwing Stones" and the encore versions of "Good Lovin."

Weir's presence helped Go Ahead in two ways. The first was the obvious one, in that clubs could now advertise three members of the Dead instead of just two. Furthermore, however, was the fact that Go Ahead was typically playing places they had played before, and Weir's presence was an attraction to fans who had seen Go Ahead once or twice before, since he made it a different show. The band's lineup was now
Jerry Cortez-lead guitar, vocals
Bob Weir-guitar, acoustic guitar, vocals
Alex Ligterwood-guitar, vocals
Brent Mydland-organ, keyboards, vocals
David Margen-bass
Bill Kreutzmann-drums
Outside Fender's Ballroom in Long Beach (not Bob Weir)
November 28, 1987 Fender's, Long Beach, CA: Go Ahead with Bob Weir/Electra Flo
Fender's Ballroom was originally the Grand Ballroom of the Lafayette Hotel in Long Beach (on East Broadway at Linden) opened in 1929. In 1956, they added the Internataional Ballroom, which held 2000 dancers.  Somewhere along the way, it became a venue for live rock bands, and owner John Fender named the Ballroom after himself. In any case, by the 1980s it was a legendary punk and New Wave dive. All of the important 80s LA punk bands played there (Black Flag, Bad Religion, etc). Apparently by that time Fender's was a notorious dump, and fairly scary for the uninitiated.

I have no idea if the punk crowd just showed up every night, or only when their favorite bands were playing. Now, Weir had played at Fender's with Kingfish earlier in the year (May 28), so it wasn't totally unprecedented. However, I note that Go Ahead did not return to Fender's. The club was closed due to complaints from neighbors in 1989, and it has since burned down.

Electra Flo seems to have been an early West Coast 'jam band," but I haven't been able to find out much about them (their lead guitar player seems to have been named Josh Young). 

November 29, 1987 Country Club, Reseda, CA: Go Ahead with Bob Weir (early and late shows)
As always, Go Ahead returned to the Country Club, but with Weir on board they could play early and late shows, a clear sign of a popular booking. Weir had played the Country Club, The Bacchanal and The Coach House with Kingfish earlier in 1987, so he too had obviously drawn fairly well.

November 30, 1987 The Bacchanal, San Diego, CA: Go Ahead with Bob Weir
Go Ahead returned to The Bacchanal for the third time in a year. 

December 2, 1987 Placer County Fairgrounds, Roseville, CA: Go Ahead with Bob Weir
Roseville was about a half hour Northeast of Sacramento on Highway 80. Once again, Go Ahead was bringing the Grateful Dead to a suburban market. The Grateful Dead had actually played nearby Rocklin, back on May 3, 1969. but since then they hadn't come near suburban Sacramento. I don't know exactly where Go Ahead played, but there seem to be a number of indoor venues at the Placer County Fairgrounds (at  800 All America City Blvd).

February 5, 1988 Celebrity Theater, Phoenix, AZ: Go Ahead with Bob Weir
The Celebrity Theater in Phoenix (at 440 N 32nd St) was a peculiar place. Designed in 1963 as a sort of conference center, it had ended up being mostly used as a performance venue. It was a theater in the round, with the stage at the center of the auditorium. The Grateful Dead had actually played there on March 8, 1970. The significance of the 1970 show was that future Dead keyboard player Vince Welnick was in the audience that night.

February 7, 1988 Universal Amphitheater, Universal City, CA: Go Ahead with Bob Weir
The Universal Amphitheatre, at 100 Universal City Plaza, is a 6000 seat venue that first opened in 1972. Somewhat uniquely, it was designed as an outdoor venue, but it was ultimately remodeled as an indoor one in 1982. I doubt that Go Ahead could have filled a 6000 seat venue in Los Angeles, and I suspect that they were double-billed or opening for some other act, but I've never been able to pin that down. The venue is now called the Gibson Amphitheatre.

March 4, 1988 Placer County Fairgrounds, Roseville, CA: Go Ahead with Bob Weir
Go Ahead returned to the Placer County Fairgrounds, yet another sign that they were a good draw out in the suburbs.

The Lawlor Events Center at the University of Nevada at Reno
March 7, 1988 Lawlor Events Center, Reno, NV: Go Ahead with Bob Weir
The Lawlor Events Center, at North Virginia Street and 15th Street on the University of Nevada at Reno campus, is an 11,500 seat basketball arena. Since March 7 was a Monday night, I highly doubt that Go Ahead, even with Bob Weir, could come anywhere near filling the place. I have to assume that the show was either tied to another event, like a convention, or there was a headline act, or that the arena was configured for a much smaller capacity. The latter is quite likely--in many smaller cities, the biggest venue in town is often configurable for different size events, so Go Ahead may not have been expected to fill the whole arena. Since the circulating tape is a full three hours of music, it seems likely that Go Ahead was the primary attraction.

March 11, 1988 Fairgrounds Coliseum, Salt Lake City, UT: Go Ahead with Bob Weir
Go Ahead's final performance was at the old Fairgrounds Coliseum in Salt Lake City, known locally as "The Dirt Palace." I have been unable to confirm the size of the venue, but I do know it was superseded by The Salt Palace, which in turn was succeeded by the current Delta Center. The Fairgrounds Coliseum dates back to at least the 1950s, and lots of rock bands had played there back in the day. Once again, its hard to determine if Go Ahead were the sole headliner, and whether the full capacity of the Coliseum was in use. As near as I can tell, the Fairgrounds Coliseum has since been torn down.

Aftermath
Go Ahead was a band formed out of economic necessity. Yet once that necessity had passed, it seemed that they were having fun and were profitable, and they kept getting invited back to clubs they had already played. Thus, regardless of the circumstances of Go Ahead's formation, they played good music and had their own fan base, albeit in little suburban pockets. Still, they played 46 dates, and most or all of them seem to have been successful and well-attended, and that's more than most rock groups in the outside world can say.

The Grateful Dead had their big hit in 1987 with "Touch Of Grey," and coming on the heels of Jerry Garcia's recovery from his coma the year before, the band became a bigger act than ever. As far as I know, members of the Grateful Dead were on an annual salary, and they received an annual bonus at the beginning of the calendar year. The bonus was based on the previous year's profits. Early 1988 was the first year that the members of the Dead would have really seen the fruits of the newly-lucrative "Touch Of Grey" era.

The early 1988 Go Ahead dates had probably been planned in late 1987, but once the receipts came through for the previous year, Mydland and Kreutzmann probably realized they didn't need to have a second band for extra cash. Still, Brent went on to do a few solo performances:

April 16, 1988 Pasadena City College, Pasadena, CA: Jackson Browne/Crosby & Nash/Bonnie Raitt/Bob Weir/Brent Mydland SEVA Benefit

April 26, 1988 Marin Veteran's Memorial Auditorium, San Rafael, CA: Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band/Hot Tuna/Bob Weir/Brent Mydland

July 10. 1988 Greek Theatre, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Jerry Garcia Band/Bob Weir/Brent Mydland
I saw Brent's performance at the Greek Theatre (and discussed the entire show at length). He had the talent and songs to be a solo performer, but he didn't have the personality. The same self-effacing, cooperative style that made him such a fine member of The Grateful Dead worked against him being alone, front and center.

After this brief trio of solo shows, Weir went on to form his duo with Rob Wasserman (their first show together was October 9, 1987), which would ultimately lead to Ratdog. Yet Mydland retreated from any extra-curricular performances, as did Bill Kreutzmann, and Go Ahead was not seen again.





2 comments:

  1. Those last two Brent solo dates should be 1988, not 1987.

    Also, I think you imply that Garcia did not play the Country Club? But he did, a few times.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the notes. I updated the Brent solo dates, and mentioned the fact that JGB did play the Country Club. My general point remains true, that Garcia did not play much in the mid-size Southern California suburban clubs, but he did indeed gig there twice.

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