Happy Birthday Jerry Garcia: Grateful Dead Play Auburn Hills On This Date In 1994

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Jerome John Garcia was born in San Francisco on this date in 1942. Jerry co-founded the Grateful Dead in 1965 and was so important to the band, they wouldn’t go on without him after his tragic death in 1995. The iconic guitarist was an incredible songwriter and instrumentalist who influenced multiple generations of musicians who followed. Garcia had a way of telling stories through his voice and Robert Hunter’s lyrics that is unparalleled. In addition, he was a stellar improviser whose playing was the heart and soul of most Grateful Dead jams.

While the Grateful Dead performed over 2,300 concerts, only three took place on his birthday. The band was supposed to play a hometown show at The Family Dog At The Great Highway on August 1, 1969, but a labor dispute was underway and Jerry didn’t cross the picket line. So, the Grateful Dead’s first August 1 performance came at Roosevelt Stadium in 1973. It would be nine more years until the group played another concert on Jerry’s birthday as they performed at the Zoo Amphitheatre in Oklahoma City on August 1, 1982. Twelve years later, the Grateful Dead penultimate stop of their 1994 Summer Tour concluded with a memorable night at The Palace in Auburn Hills, Michigan on August 1, 1994. Let’s dig into Jerry Garcia’s final birthday show.

The Grateful Dead’s 1994 Summer Tour consisted of 29 performances, including 14 on the West Coast and 15 on the East Coast and in the Midwest. All but the two concerts at The Palace took place outdoors, so fans were excited for the rare summer arena shows. The excitement and anticipation was ratcheted up a notch after a storm turned the terrain at the previous venue, Buckeye Lake into mud.

It didn’t take long for hijinx to begin as Jerry led his mates through a vamp on “Mickey Mouse March,” the theme song from The Mickey Mouse Club. Then, the band offered a quick tease of “The Addams Family Theme” before Bob Weir led the group through “Picasso Moon.” Garcia had his first turn in the spotlight for the tender “Peggy-O” ahead of a romp through the blues number “The Same Thing.” An early highlight came in the form of a “Stagger Lee” in which Jerry put lots of emotion into both his vocals and guitar work. Bassist Phil Lesh then fronted the recently debuted “Childhood’s End” and the Dead closed out the frame with “The Music Never Stopped.”

A nicely extended “Victim Or The Crime” featuring MIDI guitar stylings from Garcia kicked off the second set. Next up was the beloved “Scarlet Begonias” > “Fire On The Mountain” pairing. The transition jam contained nimble fretwork from Jerry and the “Fire” included more MIDI madness. The set continued with keyboardist Vince Welnick’s “Samba In The Rain” and a wild “Estimated Prophet” that spanned over 17 minutes and saw the band completely break through the song’s typical form.

The Rhythm Devils of Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart next presented the evening’s “Drums” segment. After starting out on their kits, the drummers toured their massive rig over the course of the lengthy workout. Hart’s Beam laid the groundwork for an exploration of “Space.” The instrumentalists focused on dark and eerie motifs. Once the entire band was back on stage, the adventurous “Space” was brought to a peak before Weir lit into “All Along The Watchtower.” A typical stellar 1994 version of “Stella Blue” followed and then the set ended with the biggest surprise of the evening, the Grateful Dead’s first cover of The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” since June 18, 1992 – a span of 148 shows. For the encore, the sextet went with the 17-month-old at the time “Liberty.”

Stream the “Mickey Mouse March” and “Addams Family Theme” that started the concert:

Listen to a soundboard of the second set via Nick Georges below:

Here’s an audience recording of the entire concert transfered by Pete Ebel:

Setlist

Set One: Picasso Moon, Peggy-O, The Same Thing, Stagger Lee, Childhood’s End, The Music Never Stopped

Set Two: Victim Or The Crime > Scarlet Begonias -> Fire On The Mountain, Samba In The Rain, Estimated Prophet -> Drums > Space -> All Along The Watchtower, Stella Blue > Satisfaction

Encore: Liberty