Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia 2/29/1980
Calderone Concert Hall, Hempstead Long Island
What do you say about the Calderone Concert Hall?? Depends on who is there. Whether it be punk, prose, folk, progressive, New Wave or Dead, live music is my treat, and this was the place to watch and learn.
Talking Heads? Ian Dury? (stories for another time) Robert Hunter?
Those were the days, every show was an adventure, and then was a time and place for many excursions into the vast, vicious, victimless world of Rock and Roll.
Somewhere there is a pile of ticket stubs with names/dates/times and places somewhere outlining my travels through the Music Scene of the 70’s and 80’s, this was one of the shows.
The Calderone was a good place to see a show. The strip bar next door and parking that made you feel you traveled to the City while never leaving Nassau County. Hempstead (as the name implies) was a huge farm of Hemp back in Colonial and Post-Revolution days before petroleum and their by-products became a sad replacement for readily available Hemp. Rope, canvas sails, silk parachutes, hats and boots were all bought at the fair, and at the fair you bought Hemp. Yet again, another story for another time.
Robert opened the show. Kind of an uneventful start, most of those who showed up on time were milling about wondering about Jerry and other things. This made it easy to parade up front, grab a seat and sing along. I enjoyed the opening acts, sometimes they worked and sometimes they did not. I kind of appreciated having BB King open for any group and being one of the few who had an insider’s view where being alone made the world a better place. As with Robert’s shows, most came for Jerry with an interest in other possibilities.
As an introduction into the mindsets of the professionals, I would love to ask performers for their side. Where it worked, where it did not (probably a better story) and where the failure of continuity ended in a match-up to always be remembered as Jimi’s foray into the world of the Monkey’s. Sometimes there was some local act with their followings, a folk singer opening for the Outlaws or a comedian opening for Hot Tuna. Mostly it was a mix of WTF and where did you find that act. Caring can feel like a journey into the unexplained, knowing you will either be thrilled or left unshaken. I was Thrilled this night. I was there to learn of the story teller more than the song. While some of the songs were familiar, some were new and some sounded like Sea Shanties. Robert always made his point. (Gotta love a good Sea Shanty).
In the time and place category, this was a Kind gathering with a mildness of expansion then perpetuated with beer. There was a time when alcohol was a much more accepted pastime. For the throngs who could buy beer while being drunk, underage and at a venue that served all with a smile hoping for a tip, this was their time. As I have aged I have found that less is more with alcohol. In terms of quantity, quality and the friends you keep. Beer has gone from a concert ritual, while today it takes less, local breweries carry more weight than cheaper mass produced rice beer and in terms of enjoyment everyone seems to have their niche, with or without.
Hunter came around LI a few times, caught him at Hofstra U with a bass player (for timing) and his usual smiling self singing of the roads traveled, the seas parted and the friends made/lost and found. His take on the songs the Dead (and others now) have performed give an artist perspective of his own work. Forever to be compared/contrasted/bombasted and ignored, every picture tells a story. And a story teller for sure, Robert’s way of expressing a World’s view could only be surpassed by the anecdote that inspired his telling wisdom’s perspective. On a good night we heard more about Life than what could be conscripted to his ringing words describing nonsense within the circle of Stanza, Stanza, Chorus Stanza and Chorus. His muse was never far, and Robert shared, not often, but well.
I always enjoyed going to the Calderone, you could still see why Vaudeville was a hit in its day. These cheesy, glittered rundown theaters were to become hallowed halls for those willing to drop a dime for a song with a mystical entrance into a world that just mere seconds ago did not exist. And a story to boot.
Keep on making memories Hunter, your graceful introductions to the songs we sang with our children made it that much easier. Till we meet again!