The Show Must Go On: 10 Concerts Held During Blizzards

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Words By: Jeffrey Greenblatt and Ryan Dembinsky

In the midst of an uncharacteristically warm winter, here in the Northeast we have our first big winter storm rolling in the weekend. This one is expected to be a classic. The notice of a formal blizzard warning officially went into effect on Friday and we already have a first name for it. His name is Jonas.

To gear up for Jonas, the Northeast has already canceled 4,700 flights starting Friday afternoon and prepped sanitation workers for long shifts and emergency conditions. Predictions for snowfall are going off the map with Washington D.C. set to possibly break the record 28 inches that fell in 1922. We know weather reporters like to exaggerate, but combined with anticipated high winds of over 50 miles per hour, this could potentially be disastrous.

With that in mind, we couldn’t help but reminisce on some of the great blizzards that have impacted our little corner of the music world over the years. Jam band fans are notorious for driving long distances to catch shows and they also tend to go the extra mile when it comes to inclement weather. For the most part, the bands reciprocate and return the favor with memorable setlists and inspired playing.

Grateful Dead – The Spectrum, Philadelphia – April 6, 1982

As the old saying goes “April showers, brings May flowers,” but what does an unexpected blizzard in said month bring? Well, the answer was a Grateful Dead East Coast Tour. Thanks to the commenters on Archive.org we get some fantastic tales of Deadheads making their way down I-95 to the Spectrum as a foot of snow fell across the Northeast. Never ones to shy away from weather related tunes, the band opened the night appropriately with “Cold Rain and Snow,” while dropping a “Brown-Eyed Women” mid-first set as well.

Grateful Dead – Richfield Coliseum, Richfield, Ohio – March 14, 1993

When the first show of the two night run in Richfield, Ohio – at the old temporary Cleveland Cavaliers coliseum – was canceled due to a massive blizzard, fans were down in the dumps and expecting greatness on the second night. As a commenter on Archive.org puts it, “The first night was like the scene from Vacation when John Candy tells Chevy Chase ‘Sorry folks, park’s closed.’” Unfortunately, the band fell flat and the show is now more famous for the snow than it is the music. In fact, many Deadheads in attendance consider this a horrible show – some saying it’s the worst they ever saw. In retrospect, the show has some gems and some duds. “Terrapin Station” and “Stella Blue” were solid and the encore alone should have at least given fans a little bit of a boost as the band tapped into The Clash catalog for their rendition of “I Fought the Law” (written by Sonny Curtis and originally made famous by the Bobby Fuller Four).

Phish – New Haven Veterans Memorial Coliseum, New Haven, Connecticut – December 29, 1993

Phish’s 1993 east coast holiday run hit Washington D.C., New Haven, Portland and Worcester in four consecutive nights. The run is best known for the fish tank stage set up, including three “Peaches En Regalia” cover renditions in four nights to pay tribute given Frank Zappa’s recent death and being some of the best high energy shows of the era with numerous all-time great performances. Less memorable is the fact that a blizzard made it highly onerous travel-wise with many people having to miss shows or alter plans due to the snow.

Phish – Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, New York – December 9, 1995

If you need us to tell you the story of the Albany snowstorm, you haven’t known our editor Scott Bernstein long enough. He has been a longtime proponent of the Albany “YEM” as perhaps Phish’s best jam ever, and his account of the blizzard and review of the “YEM” is a must read documentation of the experience.

The String Cheese Incident – Dobson Arena, Vail, Colorado – March 18, 2003

The String Cheese Incident and their Colorado faithful are no strangers to epic amounts of snowfall, but 35 inches of it in early March may have caused a few to rethink their choice of residence. SCI five-night Colorado run was perfectly timed with what turned out to be the costliest storm in the state’s history. In the midst of it all the band channeled their ski-bum roots, laying down an inspired performance in the posh ski-town they liked enough to officially release part of for inclusion on their aptly named Frozen Cheese live compilation.

Phil Lesh & Friends – Beacon Theatre, New York City – February 12, 2006

NYC-area Deadheads have never been daunted by the weather in their ability to make it to a venue when it comes to seeing their favorite band. So when a nor’easter brought most of the East Coast to a halt, dumping a record-setting 29+ inches of the white stuff on New York City, it was no surprise that the inside of the Beacon Theatre was packed for the third show of Phil Lesh & Friends’ eight-night New York City stand. Lesh & Co. rewarded those brave souls with an absolute barnburner that saw UWS resident Trey Anastasio join in on the festivities for the entire night. There are highlights aplenty, including the scorching “Help” > ”Slip” > “Frank” opener, to the entire psychedelic-drenched second set, but don’t overlook Anastasio’s unexpected lead take on Bob Dylan’s “Buckets of Rain” that featured some gorgeous mandolin playing by Larry Campbell.

moe. – Town Ballroom, Buffalo, New York – October 12, 2006

It’s no surprise that the most famous jamband from Buffalo has hit some snags with snow throughout their career, since Buffalo has the fourth highest average snowfall of all major U.S. cities. Back in 2006, the second of a three-night run at Town Palace saw heavy storms and the following night ended up being canceled. Al Schneier struggled with tendonitis in this tour so many sets logged long jams and hosted guests. Both sets on this night contained just five songs, including one of their rousing renditions of Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android.” The highlight though is the 20-minute “Mexico” into a 23-minute “Recreational Chemistry” in the second set, both with keyboards. Also, the show preceding this one featured Page McConnell, while the show immediately following the canceled storm date hosted Brendan Bayliss.

Ekoostik Hookah – Gory at the Quarry, Nelson Ledges Quarry – Garrettsville, Ohio – October 28, 2006

We might need a fact checker here, but this one is good example of why Midwesterners are so much tougher than anyone else when it comes to cold weather. Who else would host an outdoor festival during late October north of the Mason Dixon line? According to the archive, the popular Midwestern jammers Ekoostik Hookah had a little fun with their crowd, opening the show with “Arctic Song,” “Deal with It” and “Stuck in the Snow.”

Umphrey’s McGee – Nokia Theater, New York City – February 25, 2010

It only seems appropriate with this weekend’s Snowpocylpse upon us that Umphrey’s McGee finds themselves once again in the Big Apple for a blizzard show. Back in the 2010 the Chicago prog-jam-rockers found themselves playing the much smaller Nokia Theater in Times Square during what was dubbed the “Snowcane.” That night the band threw down at the subterranean venue with a debut cover of “Lisztomania” by Phoenix (one of only three times ever played), the popular “Nemo’s Fat Bottomed Good Times” mash-up, and a memorable 16-minute “Resolution.”

Phish – The Centrum, Worcester, Massachusetts – December 27, 2010

Much like the Dead’s Richfield Coliseum show, this one will likely be remembered more for the weather leading up to the show, than the actual show itself. The Vermont quartet used this more as a “warm-up” show for their five-night New Year’s run, kicking the tires after a two month break. Those that were expecting some setlist theatrics weren’t wholly disappointed. While the band didn’t spell out nor’easter, they did drop cold weather-nodding tunes – “Cool It Down,” “It’s Ice,” “Mound” and “Seven Below,” as well as Trey changing the lyrics in “Cavern” to “take care of your boots.”