by Corry Arnold,
FEBRUARY 9, 2012
August 30, 1987: Greek Theater, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: Jerry Garcia Band/Bonnie Raitt
The Keystone Berkeley had closed in 1984, and the Keystone Palo Alto in 1986. The Stone in San Francisco would remain open for a few more years under Herrera ownership, but Garcia had simply outgrown the venue, and his last show there was May 31, 1987. The migration by Garcia to the BGP empire can now be seen as significant, but at the time it just seemed practical. On Halloween 1986, the Jerry Garcia Band and Kingfish with Bob Weir had played the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, the first JGB concert in Keystone territory (San Francisco, Alameda County or Palo Alto) in a while. Now, of course, we can see it as the shape of things to come.
The Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band had played a benefit at the Fillmore on March 18, 1987. According to legend, this led to the conversation between Graham and Garcia where Jerry told Bill “take us to Broadway”, and The Jerry Garcia Band ended up playing two weeks at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater in October 1987. The Garcia Band debuted at The Warfield in November of that year, and from then on all Bay Area Garcia shows were BGP events. In August of 1987, the Jerry Garcia Band headlined the Greek Theater at UC Berkeley. Now, we can see it as part of a pattern of Bill Graham taking over the promotion of Garcia Band California shows. At the time, however, it just seemed like a welcome and cool event, and it certainly was that.
The Grateful Dead had been playing a three day weekend run at the Greek Theater since 1981, and the shows were one of the highlights of the Grateful Dead year. The Greek Theater and Frost Amphitheater are the two best venues in the Bay Area of any appreciable size, and by the late 1980s people would come from all over the country and the world for the Greek shows. Tickets were impossible, and the crowds outside the Greek were so large, that they would broadcast the shows on the local radio (KPFA-fm) in order to discourage people from coming to the venue. The Dead had played June 19-21, 1987 to the usual rapturous reception, but by that time I had given up on the whole ruckus and passed on going. Like many people, when I found out that there would be a single Garcia Band show, without all the out-of-towners, it seemed like an early Christmas gift.
Intriguingly, the 1987 Greek Theater show was going to be opened by Bonnie Raitt. I had many of her albums and had always wanted to see her, and here she was opening a show I was going to see anyway. It’s interesting to consider the implications of Bonnie Raitt sharing the bill with Jerry Garcia. In Summer 1987, the 7500-capacity Greek Theater was a big step up for Garcia in the Bay Area. In the Bay Area, the Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia had played so regularly, that there was no excitement associated with a JGB concert. I don’t think that Bonnie Raitt’s presence was necessarily selling more tickets to a Garcia show, per se, but her presence made a lot of people think “I should go to this Garcia show, even if I just saw the Dead or Jerry earlier this year.” It worked, as the show was sold out as far as I know, and we were blessed with beautiful Sunday afternoon weather as well.But wait, there's more!