The band’s last real adventure - Melkweg Club '81

1980s Grateful Dead Jerry Garcia Melkweg Road Stories

The highlight of my Grateful Dead “concert career” took place on two nights—October 15-16, 1981—in Amsterdam.

At the previous show in Russelsheim, Germany, their manager Rock Scully announced from the stage that the next two scheduled shows in Nancy and Frejus, France, were cancelled. The tour was to resume in Paris on the 17th.

We knew better. That is, the handful of Americans who came over for the tour. Rumor had it that instead of taking a few nights off, the Dead were going to play at Amsterdam’s famed Melkweg (Milkyway) club.

Based on that rumor, I hopped on a train to Amsterdam. The next morning I found the Melkweg Club, and on the door was a handmade poster announcing the Grateful Dead would be playing there that night and the next!

Entrance to Melkweg Club

It was two hours before show time and a crowd was gathering. There were no advance ticket sales and save for the scattered “OOPS” posters in Amsterdam’s Leidplein district, no advance notice either. It was first come, first serve at the door. The ticket price worked out to about seven bucks.

Phil started clowning over the PA saying “Oooooops, Oooooops” and that this was to be an informal evening.

The first thing I noticed was that Jerry and Bob weren’t playing their usual guitars. Since most of the band’s equipment was on the way to the next scheduled show in Paris, they acquired a sunburst Yamaha SC 1000 for Jerry and a white Telecaster for Bob.

I had one last hit of acid that I was saving for something special and this was it!

Rare songs were performed, such as the only “Hully Gully” they ever played, “Turn On Your Lovelight” brought back from the Pigpen days, and Van Morrison’s “Gloria.” They also played a full acoustic set. All in that tiny venue packed with about 450 lucky people!

As their manager Rock Scully stated, “it was the band’s last real adventure.”

— Bob Minkin

Purchase Grateful Dead Europe 1981 photos here.

Jerry Garcia at the Melkweg

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