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The Grateful Dead In Boulder: How Chief Niwot’s Curse Foretold A New Dead & Company Tradition

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Dead & Company, the Grateful Dead spinoff act featuring original members Bob WeirMickey Hart, and Bill Kreutzmann as well as John MayerOteil Burbridge, and Jeff Chimenti, is currently in the midst of their 2019 summer tour. After circling the country throughout the month of June, the band will wrap their summer trek with a pair of shows at Boulder, CO’s Folsom Field on July 5th and 6th.

Even beyond Boulder, Colorado’s undeniable physical beauty and hippie vibes, the Front Range college town possesses some mystical attributes. Many people who come to visit Boulder wind up staying there after first setting eyes on the beautiful Flatiron rock formations and breathtaking mountain views—so many, in fact, that some say the town is “cursed.”

The Curse of Boulder Valley, also known as Niwot’s Curse, was coined by Native American Chief Niwot. He is said to have first theorized the “curse” upon meeting white gold seekers in the valley. According to the chief, the breathtaking landscape of the valley was its curse: Anyone who laid eyes on it would want to stay there forever. Anyone who left would always be plagued with the desire to return.

The same phenomenon has seemed to affect the Grateful Dead. The band first set eyes on Boulder’s majestic beauty in the spring of 1969, a pivotal moment in Grateful Dead history. They would go on to deliver five shows at various venues across the gorgeous University of Colorado Boulder campus over the next decade and change. While the Grateful Dead never returned to Boulder after 1981, Niwot’s curse continued to linger for the surviving members of the band. In 2016, the first summer Dead & Company hit the road, they scheduled one of the tour’s few two-night runs at Boulder’s Folsom Field—a run that renewed the hold of the Curse of Boulder Valley on the Dead.

Dead & Company has returned to Boulder for a two-night run every year since. They even moved Folsom’s spot on their summer schedule in 2018 and 2019 to turn the annual run into their tour closer. These days, it seems clear that the men of the Dead are more drawn to Boulder than ever—a fact that would surely make Chief Niwot say “I told you so.” As far as curses go, Deadheads and the band alike seem more than happy to be afflicted with this particular one.

As we look ahead to yet another tour-closing Boulder Dead & Company run, we thought it would be fun to look back at the Boulder Grateful Dead shows that planted the seeds for this new tradition. You can listen to each of them below:

Grateful Dead – 4/13/1969 – Glenn Miller Ballroom

In the spring of 1969, the Grateful Dead—then comprised of Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann, Mickey Hart, and Tom Constanten—were gearing up to release their third studio album, Aoxomoxoa, one of the first rock albums to be recorded using 16-track technology. With this short-lived two-drummer, two-keyboardist lineup, the band’s 1969 Boulder concert marked the Dead’s second trip to Colorado and fourth-ever show in the great Centennial State. Highlights of the show included a near-25-minute “Turn On Your Love Light” show-opener, a soulful “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl”, and an exploratory 24-minute “Dark Star”.

[Audio: Charlie Miller]

Grateful Dead – 9/3/1972 – Folsom Field

Almost three-and-a-half years after their debut in Boulder, the band descended upon the university’s Folsom Field with much more momentum and popularity than their first time around. Despite the rising popularity, the Dead had gone through some noteworthy lineup changes. For the better part of 1971, Mickey Hart took a break from the band after his father, Len Hart, had been discovered stealing money from the band while serving as their financial manager. Hart would not return full-time until 1974. In the spring of 1972, Pigpen was advised by doctors to retreat from the road following the discovery of a life-threatening liver condition, which killed him not long after in March of 1973.

The Grateful Dead’s 1972 lineup in Boulder featured Garcia, Weir, Lesh, and Kreutzmann, along with keyboardist Keith Godchaux and his wife and vocalist Donna (Godchaux). 1972 is regarded as a top-five year in Grateful Dead history and the band’s debut Folsom Field performance was nothing short of amazing. The massive “He’s Gone” > “The Other One” > “Wharf Rat” from the show would eventually end up landing on Dick’s Picks Volume 36, the 36th and final installment of the Dick’s Picks series of Grateful Dead concert recordings. Weir would later go on to announce that the band would return for a third set, treating the receptive crowd to a must-hear performance.

[Audio: Soundboard and Audience composite]

Grateful Dead- 6/7/1980 & 6/8/1980 – Folsom Field

In February 1979, Keith and Donna Godchaux made their last appearance as members of the Grateful Dead. The band brought keyboardist Brent Mydland into the mix, cementing their six-piece lineup through the summer of 1990. Following an eight-year absence from Boulder, the Grateful Dead returned on September 7th and 8th, 1980 to treat fans to a special two-night run in celebration of the band’s 15th anniversary. The early-afternoon shows were uptempo and saw the band in fine form, both instrumentally and vocally. Although the Dead repeated five songs during the second show of the weekend, the band’s only multi-night run in Boulder should not be overlooked.

Night 1

[Audio: SIRMick]

Night 2

[Audio: Rob Eaton]

Grateful Dead – 12/9/1981 – Coors Events Center

Unlike the band’s previous performances in Boulder, the Grateful Dead’s show on December 9th, 1981 at the Coors Event Center served as a one-off Colorado show and was planned not long before it happened. The band had been steadily gaining a loyal following along the Front Range since their hiatus in 1975 and Deadheads showed up in full force at the university’s basketball arena. Despite an extremely rocky first set “Jack Straw”, the band found their groove and delivered noteworthy takes on “Friend Of The Devil” and “Candyman”, along with a particularly clean “China Cat Sunflower” > “I Know You Rider” segue. Prior to the band’s double encore (first “U.S. Blues”, then “Satisfaction”), Weir exclaimed that the Grateful Dead would return to Boulder because they really enjoyed it, which ultimately never wound up happening. That is, until Dead & Company was born…

[Audio: Scott Clugston]


Tickets for Dead & Company’s performances at Boulder’s Folsom Field on July 5th and 6th are still available here.

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Source: L4LM.com