Web Extra: Grateful Dead, Eggs & Ham (and Other Long Concerts)

Grateful Dead, Eggs, and Ham (and Other Long Concerts)
Joey Spehar (Morning Mix)

I’ve been to concerts that only lasted 30 minutes and were so bad it felt like an eternity. I’ve also been to 3 hour concerts that felt like they were just beginning as the last notes of the encore rang out. All day Thursday for Loooong Soooong Day, WYEP goes wall-to-wall with your favorite long songs in honor of the 50th anniversary of iconic long son "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida." In honor of Long Songs Day on WYEP, let’s revisit some of those extra-long shows. This list is not definitive, but a sampling of some legendarily long nights of music.

Grateful Dead, Winterland Arena, San Francisco, December 31, 1978-January 1, 1979

“Breakfast served at dawn” read the bill for this epic New Year’s Eve concert put on by local favorites the Grateful Dead. The Winterland Arena was closing and the venue had concerts booked every night during the final month of its existence. Clocking in at over 8 hours in total, the final show at the Winterland included opening sets from The Blues Brothers and New Riders of the Purple Sage. Just before midnight, promoter Bill Graham, dressed as Father Time, flew above the crowd to the stage on a giant marijuana cigarette. The band launched into “Sugar Magnolia,” starting a show that would span close to 6 hours, 3 sets, and 2 encores. As promised, Graham served champagne, ham, and eggs to the entire crowd just after dawn.

 The Cure, Foro Sol, Mexico City, April 23, 2013

Could there be a better way to celebrate your birthday than with all eyes (and ears) on you? That’s how Robert Smith spent his 54th birthday. The Cure tore through 50 songs in just over 4 hours. The show, beginning with “Open,” saw the band sampling songs from throughout their career. From deep fan-favorites like “Bananafishbones” to hits like “Just Like Heaven,” this concert could have ended after the first 25 songs with audience members feeling fully satisfied. However, The Cure continued with a pair of 3 song encores followed by a 7 song encore, followed by a staggering 12 song final trip to the stage. Mr. Smith and company truly deserved a slice of birthday cake after that.

Pore over the setlist here

 John Cage, St. Burchardi Church, Halberstadt, Germany, 2001-present

Experimental composer and music theorist John Cage wrote a piece called “Organ²/ASLSP (As Slow as Possible)” in 1987. There have been a few performances of this piece through the years including 8, 12, and even 15 hour versions of the tune. However, there is also a performance of “Organ²/ASLSP (As Slow as Possible)” happening right now. Like, right now. I’m confident this statement will hold true no matter when you’re reading this. On September 5, 2001, the performance commenced at St. Burchardi church in Halberstadt, Germany. 2 years and 5 months later, the song’s 2nd chord was played. The next new note is scheduled to be heard beginning in 2020. If all goes to plan (and the world as we know it exists), the performance will end on September 5, 2640 – 639 years after it began.

 My Morning Jacket, Bonnaroo, Manchester, Tennessee, June 13, 2008

The longest concert I’ve ever been to was at Bonnaroo. To clarify, I don’t mean the festival itself (which takes place over 4 days in June each year), but a show that took place during the festival. My Morning Jacket hit the Which Stage around midnight on a very rainy night in 2008. Opening with “Evil Urges,” they played material from their catalog both old and new. They covered artists ranging from The Velvet Underground (“Oh! Sweet Nuthin’”) to Erykah Badu (“Tyrone”). They welcomed Kirk Hammett from Metallica on stage to co-shred on their signature song (and future name of their own festival) – “One Big Holiday.” The epic set ended almost 4 hours later with comedian Zach Galifianakis joining the band for a rousing version of Mötley Crüe’s “Home Sweet Home.”

Full Disclosure: I got fed up with the rain a couple hours in and left for the mysterious Super Jam which was led by Les Claypool and his backing band Gogol Bordello. Kirk Hammett headed over there as well and joined the crack supergroup for a few. It was nice to be out of the rain.

The National, MoMA, PS1 Gallery, Long Island City, New York, May 5, 2013

The Cincinnati based indie rock band The National played a show at  the Museum of Modern Art in New York that made a statement and tested the audience’s patience. The band, in collaboration with artist Ragnar Kjartansson, called the program A Lot of Sorrow. Over 6 hours, The National performed their High Violet track “Sorrow” a total of 105 times IN A ROW. Most of the band held up just fine, but poor drummer Bryan Devendorf needed a break, sitting out for 1 performance of the song.



Joey Spehar Web Extra Grateful Dead