On Tuesday, June 11, Wisconsin’s Walworth County Highway Committee denied Clear Channel Entertainment’s* license request for “Terrapin Station – A Grateful Dead Family Reunion.” You see, Walworth County contains Alpine Valley Music Theatre, a hilly outdoor venue that’s one of the major sheds in the region. It seats approximately 35,000. But Walworth County balked when confronted with bigger, scarier numbers. 200,000 long-haired, hippy freaks descending on bucolic East Troy, WI? That just wouldn’t do. The county’s tiny sheriff’s department would be weeding out the outside agitators for weeks afterwards.
Uproar ensued. Grateful Dead fans who’d been eager to catch the first reunion of Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh and Bob Weir since Jerry Garcia’s 1995 death were boiling over at the county’s attempt to bogart their summer fun. So this week, under pressure from fans and the band, the board gave in. A followup hearing has been scheduled for June 27 to reconsider the Terrapin license. Upon hearing the news, 200,000 dead fans exhaled blue smoke.
WHAT WE GOT HERE IS FAILURE TO COMMUN’CATE
“You can imagine the amount of humanity that’s going to converge on little old East Troy in Walworth County,” highway committee chairman Odell R. Gigante told the AP. “We only have 80-some sheriff deputies. Short of bringing in the National Guard, we just couldn’t handle it.” What the hey? All this hubbub over a band that in whole or part has been known as Old And In The Way? Nevertheless, Gigante and his fellow board members are undoubtedly picturing the Terrapin Station show as a gathering of filthy carpetbagging hippies, with no cash and too many drugs. This reinforces the underlying tone of their decision: time stopped In Walworth County 1967. Paranoia strikes really deep, and long-nosed suspicion of lousy longhairs never went out of style.
Evidently, no one has ever shipped pricey Jerry Garcia silk neckties to Walworth County.
See, I’m not a Grateful Expert, but I don’t think the county has much to worry about from the fans of Terrapin Station. As the collective members of the Grateful Dead themselves have aged, so has the core fanbase. And with age comes haircuts. For example, blathering basketball analyst Bill Walton is still trading on his tie-dyed, Workingman’s Dead past, even as he sits on the sideline in silk suits snipping at Steve “Snapper” Jones. Is Walton or some similarly successful baby boomer really going to get his microbus out of storage, don a daishiki and dance to the Dead like HR Puffenstuff? Will Alpine Valley be overrun by raging braless jezebels and the smelly burnouts that love them? Not bloody likely. If anything, the straights up in Walworth should be more worried about other summer concerts that they have given the green light to. Ozzfest rolls into town August 11th. I wonder if Rob Zombie’s constituency will tread lightly on the green?
I AM AN ASTROCREEP
The living members of the dead will likely get to have their concert. And there won’t be any problems beyond the occasional dope who’s got something to prove. But he’s at every show, not just Terrapin Station or Ozzfest. What’s odd about this entire situation is that the cowards of the county took their stand now. Alpine Valley has been a major music venue for over thirty years. In all of those summers, hasn’t there been anything scarier than the thought of thousands of aging ex-hippies in SUVs and Orvis gear descending on East Troy, Wisconsin for a weekend of good-natured white boy freejamming?
Oh well, a touch of grey.
*Like thousands of other venues across the country, Alpine Valley Music Theatre is the property of Clear Channel Entertainment. This is very irritating.