My Grateful Dead Experience Part 2 – Furthur’s 2011 New Years Run at the Bill Graham Civic

Greetings everyone, and welcome to my personal tour and personal account inside the red carpet and arenas of some of the coolest entertainment events in California. This edition of “The Outsiders Guide To the Inside of Hollywood”, is part two of my personal experience as a Deadhead. Here is the link to part 1:

Back in the Grateful Dead days, I always wanted to attend a complete run of shows. But due to school or money issues, I could only attend a few. For my non Deadheads, you might be wondering why I would want to see a band on multiple nights in the same city. The Dead, Furthur, and other members were always known for playing different songs and different shows each night. Each show was always a different experience. So my plan for 2011, was to attend all three shows at the Bill Graham Civic, hoping to take a trip to “Terrapin Station”.

12/29/11 Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – Night #1

I got to the Bill Graham Civic, early and walked around the Capital Building, which was still covered in it’s Holiday green and red lights. Across the street from the Capital in the park across from the Bill Graham, was the large gathering of Deadheads, of all ages gathered in an area called “Shakedown Street”. This was the one thing that always stood out no mater, if it was a Grateful Dead, Other Ones, Phil and Friends, Ratdog, The Dead, and Furthur shows. It’s what makes a Dead show special and unlike another live concert experience old and new. This is not a review about how and what they play, this is more of the Deadhead Experience than a detailed review. That being said, all of the shows were fantastic but, I felt that this was my favorite night for several reasons.

Originally, I thought this would be the more mellow holding a little back for the next 2 nights, and 5 sets of music to be played at the historic venue. The band opened with a 4:39 second jam into Help On The Way, followed by Deadhead favorites, Slipknot! Estimated Prophet (with the crowd at it’s loudest point at “California”),  Brown Eyed Women, Cassidy, and Tennessee Jed. The bands energy was matched by the crowd, who sang along to every word while dancing.

The second set kicked off with Box of Rain, Big Bad Blues, China Cat Sunflower > Scarlet Begonias, Truckin, and more favorites before the band closed with Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Right Now Baby Blue”. I was about 25 feet from the Bob / Phil area on the floor. I met a lot of interesting Deadheads from all parts of the country. Some of the parents who brought their kids with them to shows when they were young were now bringing their teenage friends with them. One family I met had brought members from three different generations. The dedication of their fans, is one reason I feel makes the Furthur experience so great. I was stoked to be going to the show on the 30th and hoping to find a ticket for NYE.

12/30/11 Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – Night #2

I got to the venue tonight to try and get a closer spot on the floor. My body feeling not only my age, but my mobility problems. I still managed to get a good spot between John and Bob. I couldn’t imagine what the first set was going to be like after last night. Once again the band started off on fire. opening up with a song they teased the night before. “Jack Straw”, was followed by, Bertha, Eyes of the World, Music Never Stopped, the set was closed out with a rocking “deal” that had the crowd of all ages clapping their hands and singing along.

My second set highlight happened right at the beginning. The band opened with the Traffic classic “Dear Mr. Fantasy”, a song I had not heard since Jerry played it with Traffic at their Giant Stadium concert in 94. “Wharf Rat”, another one of my favorite songs was performed like it was the 70’s with the band hitting and holding high notes, that made me feel like I went into a Grateful Dead Time Machine and I was transported to the 70’s. The night closed with the radio friendly “Touch Of Grey” which once again, had the crowd of all ages singing along.

The crowd was once again diverse and fun. I met with, a new kind of Deadhead. A twenty something fan, had brought another friend with him. He was trying to explain the history and post history of the Grateful Dead. Trying to analyze the different people and bands. It was clear that he was the type of person who was raised by the internet, quoting stat’s and shows he probably illegally downloaded using some kind of software. He called Phil a National Treasure and spoke like he was a Steve Jobs Head, as he kept social media posting every song the band was playing. I though to myself what a long way we have come from the days of writing the set songs on  a napkin and comparing notes after a show.

12/31/11 Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – Night #3 -NYE Year of  the Dragon

After unsuccessfully trying for press credentials again and waiting for Ticketmaster to release tickets, I ended up paying a little extra for the NYE show. I thought to myself this blog could not be complete without attending the NYE show my first one since 12/31/09. Besides I still had not heard my all time favorite dead song “Terrapin Station”.  I got to the venue earlier and was happy to find the last Handicap spot (only good thing about having mobility problems) by City Hall. I skipped “Shakedown Street”, to get on the already long line.  Feeling all “Tangled Up and Blue”, I was hoping to get a seat on the reserved level. As I was on line I had a lot of people commenting on my shirt from the 90’s. I really felt old meeting all these kids who were experiencing their first shows acting like the 90’s were the glory years. I told them how good Furthur was and at times when I closed my eyes I felt like I was hearing Jerry Garcia.

When the doors finally opened I got upstairs only to find people saving seats for friends who were outside and not even at the venue yet. I headed back to the floor knowing that the real experience is being surround by many people instead of the same few. I ended up between Bob and Phil about 25 feet from the stage. I knew the sound would be great here, and it was. The show began with the Midnight song I heard in 2009, Golden Road (to Unlimited Devotion), with the crowded singing along to the chorus. It was followed by Cosmic Charlie, Althea, Next Time You See Me, and High Time. It had the feeling of a Sunday night show, until the crowded pleaser Shakedown Street.

The second of three sets that night went back into the mellow groove feeling with Morning Dew followed by a trippy Dark Star. The show picked up and transformed into a Saturday night show with I Know You Rider, St. Stephen and Fire on the Mountain and everyone dancing to close out 2011.

Since I got inside the venue I was staring up at the balloons that were about to fall on me at midnight. I had also seen what looked to be a mechanical dragon hanging from the ceiling at the Bill Graham. As it got closer to midnight the dragon started to make noise.

I ran into another group of teenagers who were from The East Coast and Colorado. The teens kept asking me of what it was like back in the Grateful Dead days.  They then wanted me to dose with them, I politely laughed and told them that once you get to my age you have these things called panic attacks. Later on one of the girls, started to fall down in the middle of dancing, luckily I was able to catch her before she hit the concrete floor.

The dragon started to head for the stage and the speakers started playing the Rolling Stones “Start me Up” as a petty blonde was riding the dragon to the stage. As the countdown started NBA legend and the worlds tallest deadhead Bill Walton played the role of “Father Time”. Walton stayed on the stage to hug many of the Furthur members and danced along to “Sugar Magnolia”. The rest of the set was on fire with other tunes like “Playing in the Band” and” Uncle John’s Band” “The Wheel”, and back into “Playing” to close out the set. When the band came back to my personal delight they started to play  a 26 minute version of “Terrapin Station”. What more could I have asked for. As I left I saw some of the new friends I had met over the past three nights, and thought to myself “What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been”. Guys “Thank You For A Real Good Time”. For complete Furthur NYE Run set list and to purchase high quality recordings from the band go to

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This concluded part two, of my personal Deadhead Experience.  Next week I’ll be finishing up my tribute with a Blog, about meeting Bob Weir  and having my eyes opened up   by his sister-in-law, Leilani Munter, about the Japanese Slaughter of Dolphins at a screening of “The Cove”, to benefit

For you guys who aren’t Deadheads, I’ll be also retuning to the Red Carpet next week working with Fox TV and Warner Brothers and making my first trip to “The Rock” for the Alcatraz series Premiere Party.


About Jonathanshensa

I'm a Celebrity Event Photographer, producer and Screenwriter. I also worked with promoting bands and spent 5 years in music management. In my younger days, I was also an Actor, News reporter, DJ, and have worked at Talent, and Management companies. I love the mass media but also love to talk about everyday topics. I want to have a positive and creative impact on the entertainment business. Check out my entertainment blog, "The Outsiders Guide to the Inside of Hollywood".
This entry was posted in concert, Entertainment, Entertainment Blogs, Furthur 2011 New Years Run, Furthur Band experience, Furthur Blog, Furthur concert review, Grateful Dead, Grateful Dead Blog, Jonathan Scott Shensa Photography, Jonathan Shensa, live concert review, The Outsiders Guide To The Inside of Hollywood, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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