The Day It Happened (I was there!)

Grateful Dead

Sam Boyd Silver Bowl – Las Vegas

May 30, 1992
First Appeared in The Music Box, June 2001, Volume 8, #6
Written by Mike Indgin

When you have a personal history with the Grateful Dead, there comes a time when you have to take inventory, dust off the memories, and choose your “best show ever.” Out of the 47 shows I was lucky enough to attend, the peak experience that rises over the rest was May 30, 1992.

See here how everything lead up to this day.

All the pieces were in place. All the Heads were in Vegas. All the usual suspects were in the rental car: Your faithful storyteller Mike “Steam Locomotive” Indgin, tour buddy numero uno Tim “Really Big” Cox, parallel parker and friend extraordinaire Bill “Biggie” Adams, and Bill’s girlfriend, Jennifer, who changed our fate when she changed cars during the long, winding commute into the dust bowl parking surrounding the Las Vegas Silverbowl.

The day before had gone up in a windy, smoky haze. (I never saw another show that stoned again). The day after was more stellar musically, but our energy had been zapped. On this particular Saturday, however, everything was just exactly perfect.

We can share what we got of yours…

After the hostage swap brought Jennifer back to our vehicle, she opened her palm and revealed the perforated golden tickets that were to be our admission for a trip of fear, loathing, prizes, and surprises. We found the way to our seats in the back of the stadium and aimed our squirt guns towards the stage. The buzz kicked in hard with that opener of openers Jack Straw, and we set out running across the psychedelic desert with huge grins on our faces.

A friend of the devil is a friend of mine.

At some point, we cast our eyes to the seats on our right and made the acquaintance a devilish young man with a million-watt smile — Mike “Hyena Boy” Steel — and his two mountain gal pals Heather and Naomi. They were as electric as we were, and over the course of the day we shared apples, Rice Krispie treats, hearty laughs, and deep thoughts. And so the first set rushed by like a dreamy dust storm with a delicate High Time, a raunchy pairing of Maggie’s Farm and Cumberland Blues, and a soaring Cassidy.

But who can the weather command?

The second set began simply enough, with Eyes of the World and a trippy Truckin’. All the while, ominous, black-as-night thunderheads marched towards us from the mountains behind the stage. Bobby Weir tempted fate by pulling out a Smokestack Lightning, and as the song played, lightning began to dance across the sky, creating a surreal synchronous backdrop to the stage — a backdrop that was getting closer by the beat. By the time we got to Terrapin, we were completely surrounded by the storm, and lightning had begun to strike all around us. I looked down at our aluminum seats and out at the sea of microphone stands. A surge of dread swept through me, but there were Jerry and the boys strapped to their electric instruments. If they could take it, so could I. But just as my confidence returned, Jerry unstrapped his guitar and ran for cover. It was time for Drums. Drums and a lot of fear and loathing.

Looked up in the heavens, Lord I saw a mighty sign.

I have to admit that I ran for cover myself during Drums. From Mickey’s first crack of the snare, bolt after bolt of lightning came crashing down all around the stadium. For a few minutes, I stood in the tunnel leading to the innards of the stadium until I got up the nerve to return to our group of courageous travelers. Then I cast my eyes towards the sky and saw an amazing sight: in the middle of the dark, highly charged clouds stood an inverted tower of concentric electrified circles heading up into infinity. A portal to the big man Himself. A sign from the aliens. A tie-dye vision of heaven. It was the most awesome thing I’d ever seen. For years to come, I saw flashes of electricity whenever I looked up at heavy clouds.

One more day I find myself alive.

Thankfully, the storm had moved on. By some miracle, no lightning hit the stadium, the aluminum seats, Jerry’s guitar or a single microphone pole. In fact, only a few drops of rain landed inside the protective force field we had collectively created, which to me was as real as the concrete beneath our feet. The post-drums mini suite of Spanish Jam, I Need a Miracle, Standing on the Moon, One More Saturday Night, and Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door was the perfect soundtrack to the celestial mural being painted overhead. The final masterstroke was appearance of a double rainbow — Mother Nature’s respectful tip of the hat to the friends she had made that day.

The friend I had made that day, Secret Agent Steel, handed me his business card — a gesture that changed my life as much as the wild light show. “Do me a favor,” he smiled. “Sometime give me a call just to tell me ‘It happened.’” I understood completely. The things we witnessed that day needed further verification.

But I’d rather be with you.

After the show, I sat alone on a grassy hillside and watched a spectacular Nevada sunset as Fire on the Mountain played from the tiny speakers of a nearby pickup truck — the perfect punctuation mark at the end of the epic poem that was May 30, 1992. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I sent a prayer of gratitude to my departed mom for bringing me into this world filled with mystery, miracles, friends, nature, life and Jerry Garcia. Yes, Mike, it happened. Sure am glad we were there.

Read more: The Day It Happened: Grateful Dead – Las Vegas – 1992 (Concert Review)

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