Hollywood Bowl: Bomb Scare At Dead & Company Show

By most accounts, last night’s Dead & Company show at the Hollywood Bowl opened on time and without a hitch. The seven-song first set began with “Shakedown Street” before segueing into “Cold Rain and Snow” followed by the John Perry Barlow/Bob Weir composition, “Black-Throated Wind.” “Ramble On Rose,” “Cumberland Blues,” “Althea,” and a rousing cover of Chuck Berry’s “The Promised Land” completed the set before a bomb scare at the Hollywood Bowl.

The initial indication that something was actually amiss happened when Bob Weir’s guitar tech, A.J. Santella, walked onstage during the second song of the second set. After A.J. whispered a few words to Weir, Dead & Company immediately stopped playing the Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia composition “He’s Gone.” Grateful Dead core members Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, and Bob Weir quickly exited stage left along with John Mayer, Oteil Burbridge, and Jeff Chimenti at around 10:30 p.m, said Jambase.

Stage lights were turned off as private security and LAPD bomb-sniffing canines searched the venue. Less than 10 minutes later, Dead & Company founder Bob Weir returned to the stage and assured the sold-out crowd that the situation at the Hollywood Bowl was “all clear, kind of.” John Mayer promptly picked up the vocals of “He’s Gone” where they left off prior to the bomb scare.

After completing the interrupted song, Dead & Company canoodled and tuned for several moments before launching into a crowd-soothing aural triptych comprising “Help on the Way, ” “Slipknot!” and “Franklin’s Tower.”

Early reports noted that the no-bomb brouhaha was triggered by an apparently abandoned backpack at “the rail” or front of the stage. On June 1, Variety magazine confirmed that a bogus bomb threat called into the venue provoked the brief albeit startling intermission.

Not the first (or second) bomb scare at a Grateful Dead show

In the wake of Wednesday’s Hollywood Bowl bomb scare, a number of Facebook posters inaccurately noted that it was the first such frightening event at a Grateful Dead concert. In fact, opening act the New Riders of the Purple Sage hurriedly left the stage and thousands of attendees evacuated a concert venue on February 18, 1971 during a six-show run of Grateful Dead shows at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, New York.

That Dead-oriented bomb scare occurred after an anonymous caller allegedly phoned the local police and advised them that there was an explosive device planted somewhere in the theater. NRPS was well into their fifth song when the Port Chester fire chief stopped the show. Grateful Dead manager, Sam Cutler, took the stage and told the crowd they had to leave. The audience roared back a hearty “Fuuuu*k you!” to Cutler but 2,000 concertgoers did eventually follow directions to evacuate the theater. After a perfunctory search failed to find a bomb at the Grateful Dead show, the audience reassembled, this time joined by several hundred gatecrashers who squatted in the aisles of the sold-out concert. The Capitol Theater Grateful Dead bomb hoax was likely perpetrated by an “irate” fan who was unable to obtain tickets, reported DeadSources.

At the time of the 1971 bomb almost-incident, now-late Grateful Dead founding members Jerry Garcia and Ron “Pigpen” McKernan were alive and playing in the band. Garcia noted in a 1970 interview that the Capitol was one of his favorite concert venues.

“There’s only two theaters, man, that are set up pretty groovy all around for music and for smooth stage changes, good lighting and all that. The Fillmore and The Capitol Theater. Those are the only two in the whole country. The rest of the places we play are sort of anonymous halls and auditoriums and gymnasiums.”

The other one

Wednesday’s Hollywood Bowl incident was not the first bomb scare at a Dead concert nor was it the second. On November 15, 1970, the Grateful Dead was slated to perform in Albany, New York. Instead, the band vamoosed after a bomb threat at a venue called the Armory. Stories vary as to why the band did not return to the stage. A “friend of the promoter” indicated that Jerry Garcia and company were simply too intoxicated to play. Grateful Dead authorized biographer Dennis McNally explained that the Dead were not paid that night and that’s why they used the bomb scare as a reason to load out and leave without playing, according to Jerry Garcia’s Middle Finger.

Wednesday’s Hollywood Bowl bomb scare show was the third concert of the Dead & Company 2017 tour. The tour debuted at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on May 27. Complete audio of the Dead & Company May 31, 2017 show at the Hollywood Bowl is available for no charge at JamBuzz.

[Feature Image used with permission of Rich Saputo/Rich Saputo Photography]