Friday, March 03, 2006

Adventures In Tinley Park

Setting: Tinley Park, IL. Summer 1990. World Music Theater.

I'm not sure how it happened, but I ended up riding with Marc and Lisa(the blonde sister on "That '70's Show") in a old beat up van to the show. This would be Marc's first(and maybe his last) Grateful Dead experience. Perhaps the desire to "show him the ropes" was my catalyst for joining them, I don't recall. I'm pretty sure this wasn't Lisa's first show, though. We would run in to each other, over the next few years, at shows far and wide. However, this would be the first(and last) run of Grateful Dead shows, closing out the 1990 Summer Tour, for the newly opened World Music Theater in the outskirts of Chicago.
The drive began uneventful enough but soon turned in to a nightmare as thousands of Deadheads converged on the venue, which was woefully unprepared for such an infestation. The highway was in total gridlock for as far as the eye could see. Finally, we decided to pull off the road and park in the back lot of a gas station a few miles away from the venue. In desperation, thousands of others had done the same, turning the roads in to a parking lot the size of which I'd never seen or would ever see again. Subdued chaos was the name of the game. Everyone was calm, but in a hurry. To make things worse, it started to sprinkle and would continue on and off for the remainder of the evening.
Arriving in the venue's lot, I quickly scored a healthy dose of LSD for Lisa and I(Marc stayed stone cold sober). We could hear strains of music coming from inside the venue, so we rushed along in hopes of missing as little as possible. I believe we got in somewhere during "Friend Of The Devil", meaning we had only missed about four songs. I had smuggled in a hand held tape recorder to document the show and in a moment of temporary insanity would record over it a few years later. Dumb! Soaking wet, we danced to the groove provided by the band(it also helped to keep our bones warm in the incessant drizzling rain).
The tape revealed that I was singing aloud to the second set opener, Scarlet>Fire, and came in too early for the chorus. This produced a number of laughs and sideways glares from our mates on the hill. I shrunk a little out of embarrassment. And the rain kept falling. Always with the rain!
As the show progressed, so did the psychedelic jumble that was my brain. Things were getting weird and would continue in this vein for some time. And oh, how the rain did fall.
In an attempt to get the best vantage point, we moved to a number of different spots, finally planting ourselves underneath the stage left speakers. As the set progressed, a ever growing mud pit under the speakers formed as a result of the falling rain and dancing feet. In an attempt to avoid being consumed by said mud pit, the crowd had increasingly retreated to its outer edges forming a human wall that enclosed it. Here's where things got stupid weird. While in the throws of deep "Space"(a freeform feedback segment mid set), we could hear an ever increasing groan emanating from the crowd behind us. Suddenly the crowd parted to reveal a large hairy man, dressed only in ill fitting Speedo undies, coming toward the pit at great velocity. He belly flopped into the pit and proceeded to throw his body in every conceivable direction, bouncing off the human wall that was surrounding the perimeter. On the tape, with Lisa looking at me with ever growing concern, I could be heard pleading with Marc to help guide us out of this insanity, as Lisa and I were unable to muster the ability to move our feet on our own. She & I were losing our shit, quickly. But having been forced, at our whim, to move to any number of spots on the hill during the course of the evening, Marc was deaf to our pleas. In our state, with Space exploding all around us, the "mud beast" was all she and I needed to push us over the psychedelic precipice. Aaaaaarrrggghhh! Not long after Space peaked and the Speedo undies came off, the faint strains of "I Need A Miracle" could be heard on the tape. To our fragile psyche's delight, out of the blue came what seemed like a bus load of orange security jackets and escorted Mr. Beast to Comfort Inn. A large approving uproar from the surrounding crowd could be heard on the recording.
Oh, but it doesn't end there. The show over, we started on our trek back to the car. In the ever present rain, Marc graciously loaned his jean jacket to Lisa as we started off across several large muddy fields, in and out of rain soaked ditches, and over barbed wire fences toward the car that seemed like a million miles away. By this time, it was close to midnight and we were growing more and more weary from our travels. Along the way, Lisa would take the jacket off, put it back on, then take it off again...well, you get the picture. In the moonlit mist we could finally see the gas station where we had abandoned the car so many hours before. Our final obstacle was a small clover leaf entrance to the highway. As we approached the road, Marc asked that Lisa retrieve the keys to the van from inside one of the coat pockets. Uuuuuuggghhhh. You guessed it. Somewhere along the way the keys had fallen out of Marc's coat. Lisa and I were sunk. We had made it this far and the Gods of Psychedelic were now getting in one final laugh at our expense. Lisa and I fell to the ground and began to whimper. We had been beaten. Game over, man. Game over.
With a sigh and the words, "I'll be back", Marc set off to retrace our steps across the muddy fields we had walked between the venue and freeway entrance. The poor fool, we thought. Here we were in the middle of nowhere, with only the moon as a light source, rain falling all around us, and this guy thought he was gonna find a fucking needle in a haystack. Lisa and I held each other for warmth as we sat on the side of the freeway cursing our luck and praying for a miracle.
And that's just what we got. Not fifteen minutes later, Marc stepped out of the cold rain and darkness with keys, and our salvation, in hand. I don't know how, why, where, or when he found them. I knew better than to ask. The Grateful Dead had performed their final bit of magic for the evening and we were there front row center as witnesses.
Climbing in to the warmth and comfort of the van, Marc started up the van which cued up the tape deck. And so began the music that was to become our theme for the evening. It was Blind Faith and the song was "Can't Find My Way Home". You can't make this shit up, folks. It was Grateful Dead whodoo-voodoo at it weirdest and finest. LONG LIVE GARCIA! I reclined in the back of the van and just watched the shadows on the walls as we headed for town.
Arriving home in the early hours of the morning, I sat in my room trying to piece together the events of the evening. It was fruitless. I was still too high and in a sort of numbed state of shock.
Not too much later the phone rang and it was the crew from Lincoln Ave. requesting my presence at their din of debauchery. Without shoes(I was feeling invincible), I walked fifteen blocks in the pouring, freezing rain to their apartment only to discover that each group had a tale as outrageous and miraculous as mine. "Gridlock" was the word of choice. Anytime the word was spoken, we would all burst in to hysterical laughter bringing tears to our eyes. This continued on for several more hours. And as if having an out of body experience, I could see myself sitting in the hallway, alone, with a shit-eating grin the size of Illinois, giddy with the knowledge that we still had another two nights of shows ahead of us.

But that's a story for another day.


Post a Comment

<< Home