Perhaps the most bootlegged Garcia-on-the-side gig is acoustic Garcia and Kahn acoustic, attributed as the Oregon State Penitentiary, 2575 Center St. NE, Salem, OR 97301, May 5, 1982 [JGC | JGBP | map | etree showid-48429] Lots of these have been liberated into freely-circulating lossless formats (shnid-4423, shnid-11463, shnid-17900), which are all pretty much the same source tape, as far as I can tell. It's a clean if overloaded soundboard recording, probably straight from a cassette master.
I will try as much as possible to leave aside all of the other interesting questions around this show, most important of which is how, for whom, by what artifice is it that Garcia came to be playing Oregon's maximum security prison in 1982? Now that is a story I'd like to hear told.
But I don't know that story. Instead, I will assert that the correct dating is June 5, 1982, based on a scrap I found in the amazing Grateful Dead Archive in the Special Collections and Archives at the McHenry Library at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
As far as I know, the only data in support of the current listing derive from the bootleg. There are no known pictures or audience recordings. Naturally enough there are no tickets, handbills, bright posters or happy memories of hippies and hard-timers twirling together under strobified fluorescents. The Oregon State Penitentiary is the kind of place into but not out of which one checks, like the Hotel California or a Glade Roach Motel. Its colorful history as a maximum security lockup reaches back to territorial days, includes a long rogues' gallery of freaky frontier criminals, and gave birth to Warden J.C. Gardner's 1866 patented Gardner Shackle, a.k.a. the "Oregon Boot", consisting "of a heavy iron band that locked around one ankle [which] kept the inmate off balance and deprived him of agility," thwarting escapes into the Oregon wilderness. There have been and probably are some hardcore, toothless, violent motherfuckers in there.
Yet somehow, bootleggers would like us to believe, Garcia played a gig there on May 5, 1982. It has some verisimilitude, of course: Garcia is the kind of guy who might know the kind of guy doing time in the Oregon State Pen, maybe owe or just like to do him a favor. The Oregon social network is old, deep and strong, dripping in the ancient acid of La Honda and the Kesey crew, the Dead's Oregon roadies (lots of folks from rough and ready Pendleton), Mountain Girl (who lived there after she and Jerry broke up big in 1976-1977) and so forth. Maybe it's overdetermined that Garcia would play there! Anyway, it's too crazy to make up, but, what can I say, I am a skeptic and it never felt quite right.
Turns out that, as they are wont to be, the bootleggers were half-right. Garcia and Kahn did play this gig, but not on May 5th. It happened on June 5th.
June 5th makes logistical sense, insofar as sense has anything to do with it -- Jerry and John were undertaking an odd little road trip which someone in the Garcia office had the cheek to call, with daring high modern hubris, the "Northwest Acoustic Tour". The trip is known to have included a pair of Friday night shows in Portland (at the evocatively-named Neighbors of Woodcraft [wiki]) and Saturday and Sunday gigs in the South Eugene High School Auditorium, as far as I know Garcia’s final high school gigs. (JGC commenter Eric Blond says there were two Eugene shows on 6/5, which would make this a very rare three-show day for Our Hero.) All of this already feels rather improbable, but strange things happen when Keseys are involved, as I seem to recall they were with the Eugene shows, something about one of the family youngsters if I recall correctly. (A preview notes that tickets will be available not only at local record stores and at the U of O student union, but also at Springfield Creamery.)
For example, one “Reverend Chumleigh” opened the Friday night shows in Portland and recalls the following (from a source that I can’t seem to put my finger on):
My opening performance for the Garcia solo tour … was at the Woodsmans hall in Portland, on the third floor. There was a Mormon wedding one floor below us. Kesey was NOT there. There were two shows both two hours late, but luckily for the crowd waiting outside there was a liquor store on the corner. Roberto Morganti, an incredible unibrow juggler, was to do five minutes, Moz Wright, sword swallower/fire breather was to do five minutes, and I was to do 45 minutes. It all went horribly wrong because no one producing the show cared about anything but Garcia, who remained in hiding ... We didn't actually see him except on stage for the whole tour. Opening night, a very scary guy jumped up on stage and acted in a threatening manner despite Garcia's large Gorilla Biker bodyguard who just let him do it. My first words to him (the guy who jumped on stage) was "Full moon tonight, isn't it?" (and it was). He grew angry, and I said "You're lucky I'm not Jerry Garcia because you'd be dead by now, and not grateful". He advanced on me and I kept beseeching the bodyguard who was standing at the foot of the stage to do something, and he didn't, so I picked up my brass goose head walking stick and began to do my Kindo exercises with it and the guy backed off and left the stage. I was to put it mildly, fucking furious.
Anyway, there in the Archives, in a folder in a box in the Grateful Dead Archives, is a little set of documents around the “Northwest Acoustic Tour”, and there it shows the Oregon State Pen gig, 12-2 on Saturday the 5th, then an hour drive south to Eugene for the evening show or shows. If there were still a Jerry Site, I’d update it, but, alas – instead, I have made the change in my spreadsheet, and suggest you do the same.
! ref: "Grateful Dead leader to play this weekend," Eugene Register-Guard, June 3, 1982, p. 5D.
! ref: Grateful Dead Archive, MS332, Business Papers, Second Accrual (preliminary), Box 1008.
! ref: images of the 6/5/82 concert program can be found via URL http://home.earthlink.net/~deadtraders/South_Eugene.htm.