On Not Going to Rich Stadium

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The first Bob Dylan concert for which I bought tickets was not the first Bob Dylan show that I ever saw. Instead of seeing Dylan, Tom Petty and the Grateful Dead I had my ticket confiscated by the police, and, eventually, got beaten up over it. Ahh, high school.

On July 4, 1986 Bob Dylan played a big show at Rich Stadium in Buffalo, NY. This was one of the four large stadium shows that he did that month backed by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and with The Grateful Dead opening the show. Additionally, this particular show coincided with the second Farm Aid, and so would be partially simulcast to that venue in Texas. Growing up outside of Toronto, I made plans to attend the show with my good friend Jake, who was a Grateful Dead fan.

Back in the pre-Ticketmaster days, you could buy tickets for such shows at your local record store. Since all the tickets at the show were going to be rush seating, we planned to do just that – not bothering to line up, since it was impossible that the show would sell out. At lunch one day in high school we were discussing driving out to get the tickets, when we were overheard by someone with a locker close to us. He offered to get us the tickets because he “knew a guy”. We said sure, whatever, if he got them by the end of the day we’d gladly pay him instead.

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Now, our benefactor was not one of our friends. He was one of the school’s drug dealers, selling pot and hash behind the gym in an Iron Maiden t-shirt. You know the guy, I’m sure you had several in your school as well. In Etobicoke they all grew up to be city councillors.

Anyway, by the end of the day we had our tickets ($25) and he had his money and all was well with the world. We began making plans to go to Buffalo.

A few days later another friend of mine asked where I had gotten my tickets. He was friendly with the owner of the store where we had planned to buy them, and apparently, someone had stolen all the tickets from the store. We didn’t tell him where we got them, but we knew that this wasn’t going to be good.

Not six hours later, a police officer was at my door. It just so happened that Jake was there as well. He interviewed us about the tickets, confirmed from the serial numbers that we were in possession of stolen property, he took the tickets and told us we might be called to testify in court. That was no good.

Probably our worst decision in all of this was the one where we decided to try to get our money back from the person from whom we’d bought the tickets. Not only were Jake and I not an intimidating pair of toughs, but it directed attention our way. Not only did we not get the money, but the gang of guys who controlled the small-scale crime at our school decided that we were responsible for their friend getting caught. They eventually caught up with Jake at a party and beat him up until the police arrived to save him, and, almost a year, later the same happened to me.

So, no Dylan tickets, out $25, caught a beating for it all, and we weren’t even the people who told the cops! Sometimes there is no justice in high school.

After all this went down, by the way, and the police took our tickets from us, my parents said “What made you think you were going to be allowed to go to Buffalo anyway?” I told them our plan to drive down in my car and they told me their plan to never allow my car to go to a place like Rich Stadium. Poor Buffalo, they get no love. So it is likely that I wouldn’t have seen the show even if we did get tickets legally.

Fortunately, today the internet exists. I have a partial bootleg of the show, and can listen to the Dead set on ListenToTheDead.com. I have no idea why the Dylan bootleg (Rich for Poor) omits the final third of the show other than the fact that many bootleggers are bad at their jobs. It seems like it wasn’t such a bad show – there are some lively songs, and Dylan and The Heartbreakers were definitely working better together than they were in Sydney for Hard to Handle.

Three of the songs from the show are on YouTube because they were simulcast to FarmAid. You can imagine that I would have been there in the crowd shots at the end of each of the songs. But I wasn’t. My first Dylan-related tragedy.

The version of “Seeing the Real You at Last” here is vastly superior to the one on Empire Burlesque.

One thought on “On Not Going to Rich Stadium

  1. So this is the first time I ever heard this story from bart, and for anyone who grew up in suburban southern Ontario, it is as epic and true a tale as Brownsville Girl.

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