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Dead Air Celebrates 10 Years on KLCC

...and 15 Years on the Air!


May 10, 2001

by Jeff Harrison

Fifteen years ago here in Eugene, radio station KRXX proudly inaugurated “Dead Air,” a Grateful Dead music show hosted by Deb Trist, known over the airwaves as “Downtown Deb.” Eugene has a special connection with the Grateful Dead, based largely on the presence of Ken Kesey and Mountain Girl here. So of course the show was a big hit, and quickly became a local institution.

Fortunately our dearly departed Rooster Man had the foresight to help bring Deb and her show into the KLCC family ten years ago. So on May 10 at the Wild Duck Music Hall in Eugene, Deb had a party to celebrate 15 years of radio in Eugene, especially 10 years of “Dead Air” on KLCC.

Dead Air 10th Anniv Party 1

And a party it was! As early as 7:30 the fun was starting as the line formed out front. Local arts patron Wally Slocum, KRVM’s “Short Strange Trip” host Ed Kashin, and KLCC’s own Paula Chan Carpenter joined the growing crowd under the warm evening sun. The doors opened about 15 minutes later, and folks were welcomed in to one table full of fruit trays and sandwich fixin’s, and another table full of Dead Air Cake! Jim Carpenter’s original Dead Air logo—happy skull with headphones and lightning bolt—was faithfully recreated in large sweet color on top of a pretty amazing Sweet Life cake. Other than mingling with friends and thanking Deb for her show, the main activity for a while seemed to be getting one’s picture taken by the cake!

The mingling continued as the crowd grew, and some of the musicians, including Vince Welnick, joined in. Many KLCC folks hovered around the cake: Gayle, Don, Pete, Dan, Jenny, Michael. Lots of happy familiar faces in the crowd—kids galore! At 9:00 Deb took the stage to welcome
Dead Air 10th Anniv Party 2

 everyone. “Without you, there would be no ‘Dead Air,’ and I honor you!” she declared to the audience’s glee. She noted that we all—all of us in this “Dead” world—are fortunate to have ways of connecting through our shared experience of the magical music of the Grateful Dead. The energy goes both ways on the radio, she said—just like the band used to say about the concert experience.

Then came the cutting of the cake, general elebration, happy hoopla, and hugs all around.

At 9:25 the band took the stage, along with Deb and local big guy chef Ray Sewell to introduce them. Vince led the crowd in a rousing “1…2…3…WE’RE GRATEFUL, DEB!!!” Ray turned the stage over to “Gregg’s Eggs—a meal in itself!” Those of us who had heard former Eggs shows knew what a musical treat we were in for.

Gregg’s Eggs is a recent concoction, whipped together in Marin County last year by the former drummer of Zero, Greg Anton. Greg actually raises chickens on his Marin ranch, and shares their eggs with friends; “Gregg’s Eggs” is also the title of a standard Zero instrumental that begins with a fiery drum flurry. Joining him in the band are Lonnie “Showtime” Walter on bongo fury, Futoshi Murioka on smooth soaring Strat, Chris Wilson on dancing bass, Mari Tamburo on one heck of a voice, and Chip Roland on the B-3 and sometimes vocals. Chip couldn’t make this tour, so we were lucky Vince Welnick, former keyboard player for the Grateful Dead, could sit in.

The last time the band played Eugene, back in November at the WOW Hall, Greg walked up to a microphone before the encore (we all gasped, since he NEVER speaks through a mic) and said, “I’ve just gotta tell you guys, Eugene is my favorite place to play on the planet!!” Right on, Greg. That same feeling was clear last night at the Duck.

The band started off with my favorite of their beautiful instrumentals, “Song for Lisa.” Futoshi’s guitar led the way, and Vince took a nice solo—the crowd was definitely swaying and smiling. Then Mari made her grand entrance, with big white feather atop a big top hat, and sang the Hunter song “Friday Hand,” about a couple of guys on the street trying to make ends meet. Then she sang “Wanderin’,” which she herself wrote, and Vince contributed a beautiful piano solo. “Roll Me Over,” a Zero song, came next, and then another hot Eggs instrumental, “Hi 5.” This one had a huge build-up and climax, then a retreat and repeat. Crowd goes nuts.

What a nice surprise to hear the old Bee Gees (and Janis) song “To Love Somebody,” done to a cool reggae shuffle. Vince sang lead, and Futoshi did a wah-wah guitar line reminiscent of ’76 Garcia. Whoever wasn’t dancing then sure started during “Son of Mr. Green Genes,” Frank Zappa’s inadvertent contribution to the world of disco. That energy shifted beautifully into a rendition of “Here Comes the Sun,” which really did have everybody smiling.

During the set break, Deb took the stage to draw for door prizes. First she tossed out some beanie bears for the many dancing children up front (who added a special magic to the evening). Then she gave away three Dicks Picks (official CD releases of Grateful Dead concerts) and a copy of the GD Anthology songbook.

Singer Batina Hershey regaled the crowd with beautiful acoustic guitar songs for the rest of the break.

When the band came back on they first played “Gomorrah,” the Hunter/Garcia song many locals have heard on Dead Air since the November WOW Hall show. “Did I Mention,” another Zero song, brought the place to fever pitch, and “Forever Is Nowhere” came back to that mellow, beautiful soar. This is an old Hunter lyric, but Zero used to perform it as an instrumental. It takes a special voice to do it justice—and in these three songs Mari showed over and over that she has that voice. “Braided Twirlers,” another whipped-up Eggs instrumental, followed, and without a pause the band danced into the Zep classic “D’yer Mak’er.” In the middle, where I expected them to slip in the instrumental “Gregg’s Eggs,” I could swear they built up a bit of “Also Sprach Zarathustra” before smashing back into “D’yer Mak’er.” Then, again without a pause, they took up “Higher and Higher,” and everybody just lifted each other up. What a grand time. The end was obviously the place to stop—Chris told the crowd “Eugene! We love you guys!” as the band left the stage--but the crowd demanded more, and so they came back and played “Elevator Man,” a song by Mari and Chris.

When the lights came on and the happy crowd—still quite large—drifted back to reality, everybody’s first goal was to thank Deb for the good times. She herself seemed pretty darned pleased, and well she should have been. The evening was a fitting tribute to her role in spreading the music in this community, and to the support KLCC has given to the Grateful Dead. We’ll all keep tuning in and looking forward to the next time we get to celebrate together.

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