An Irvine Meadows official said this week that the Grateful Dead won't appear at the amphitheater this year because of problems that arose during the group's shows there last spring. But a band spokesman says the reason the group will play Cal State Dominguez Hills instead is more a matter of simple arithmetic.
The Dominguez Hills "soccer field's capacity is well over 20,000. The capacity of Irvine Meadows is about 15,000. It's quite simple--the place we're going to play this year is far more suitable," band publicist Dennis McNally said Monday in a phone interview from a tour stop in Atlanta. "We recognize that we have outgrown Irvine Meadows sizewise."
The veteran hippie band will be at Dominguez Hills, in Carson, May 5 and 6. It has played Irvine Meadows every spring since 1983.
Amphitheater officials said they chose not to invite the San Francisco-based group back because of 91 arrests and massive traffic tie-ups that stemmed, at least in part, from the band's three-day stand last April.
McNally acknowledged that the band is sensitive to problems that occurred in Irvine last year, including damage to crops caused by fans camping out in the open fields next to the amphitheater and some destruction of property in the Irvine Meadows parking lot where booths were set up by dozens of private vendors who follow the colorful band from show to show.
"We do not ever want to be the guests that stayed too long," McNally said.
At the same time, though, he expressed frustration that so much finger-pointing by Irvine city officials about overcrowded streets and freeways had been directed at the group when an air show held the same weekend at the nearby El Toro Marine Corps Air Station drew tens of thousands of onlookers on its own.
Some city officials have conceded that most of the problems would have been eliminated had the events been held on separate weekends.
"Let's be real," McNally said. "There were a stunning number of people at that air show. I will say it was real lapse on the part of the (amphitheater) management not to think of that. . . . Of course, there were going to be problems in the neighborhood."
Nevertheless, the group has been drawing increasingly larger crowds since it bolted into the pop mainstream in 1987 by charting a hit single, "Touch of Grey," and its first Top 10 album since the group was formed in 1965, "In the Dark."
"The last three years has been a process of accepting our dimensions and working with them," McNally said. "The Grateful Dead can do an enormous stadium show on its own now. We may not be the Rolling Stones, but we're doing pretty well.
"This is an exotic and funny and colorful band, which is unusual in American culture in 1990--something that is kindly and welcome almost everywhere it goes. And, I might add, it's something that pours one hell of a lot of money into every community where it stops, to be practical for a moment."
"The Grateful Dead has existed somewhat longer than city of Irvine (which is only 19 years old), and it will continue to exist," McNally said. "We're only interested in going where we're welcome."