Deadhead Insists Locals Caused Trouble at Show

Times Staff Writers

In reaction to scores of arrests at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre during the weekend’s Grateful Dead concerts, Irvine officials and others are cautioning against blaming the “Deadheads,” as the traveling supporters of the famed hippie-era band call themselves.

Most of the arrests came Saturday night when a crowd of 100 to 500 people gathered outside the gates of the amphitheater. Irvine police office radioed for aid from other jurisdictions, including the California Highway Patrol and the county Sheriff’s Department.

At least one Deadhead blamed “little Southern California yuppie kids” for the trouble.

Police would not say Monday how many of those arrested this weekend were local residents and how many were the band’s longtime followers. Such information would not be released unless requested by the City Council, Sgt. Mike Ogden said.


But Irvine Councilman Cameron Cosgrove, who accompanied police at Saturday’s concert, agreed that “the older Deadheads were not the problem. They were not violent, not rude. It’s the young ones that were the instigators of the problem, from what I could see.”

Cosgrove said that from his observation, most of the troublemakers appeared to be ages 17 to 24. “I don’t know who those people are,” he said. “It’s not an issue of the old Deadheads, the band or the music.”

In any case, “I think we need to get away from rhetoric about the ‘60s and outside agitators,” said Mayor Larry Agran, who opposed the Dead’s appearance.

Agran said it had been “a tough weekend” and praised the police for “responding with admirable skill and restraint” in making 77 arrests on suspicion of assault and drug-related offenses.

Still, Agran said, the conflict is “a straightforward public safety issue” and “not a comment in any way on the nature of the act or the followers of the act.”

He emphasized that he voiced opposition to the concert only after his opinion was solicited by amphitheater officials.


Tom Evans, 38, of Mendocino County identified himself as a Deadhead who has followed the band since its beginnings in 1965. He said the Saturday night melee did not involve veteran followers.

“The band never has any trouble until it gets to Southern California, and then the yuppie kids in places like Orange County start acting up, and everybody blames it on the Deadheads,” Evans said.

“This is a real point of concern with us real Deadheads. These little Southern California yuppie kids get dressed up in their bright clothes from Laguna Beach, and they come to these concerts and get drunk and act like punks, and then we real Deadheads get hassled for how these yuppie kids act up.

“I noticed that over the weekend all these people in Orange County are taking their kids to the air show (at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station) and glorifying that and teaching their kids how great it is to be a Rambo. That’s really a great thing, right?

“Well, by contrast, the Grateful Dead are all about love and care for Mother Earth. The last concert on Sunday night was nothing but love; it was great, man.”

Regarding Saturday night, Evans said: “I think the police overreacted. I saw some cops pushing kids’ faces into cars just because they caught them smoking pot.”


Paul Hegness, an Irvine Meadows partner, said Sunday that amphitheater and city officials would meet to determine what caused the disturbances and what can be done to prevent a recurrence.

He said Sunday that the meeting had still not been scheduled.

“We have to take a real hard look at how we handle” such situations, he said.

The facility has had similar problems with gate-crashers, he said, usually when popular acts such as Michael Jackson and Fleetwood Mac sell out the facility.

“Whenever you bring out a big-name group, there are always people who try to do that,” Hegness said about gate-crashers.

The number of arrests this weekend exceeded the 65 held after the Dead played a two-concert date at the venue in April, 1986. There were 42 arrests at an Irvine Dead concert in 1985. Police reported 56 arrests at a joint Dead-Bob Dylan concert at Anaheim Stadium in 1987.

While more people have been arrested at Dead concerts in Irvine than at any other group’s shows, more violent incidents have occurred at other concerts, including stabbing incidents at Ozzy Osbourne and Echo & the Bunnymen shows, a rape at the performance of the New Wave band X and a car-burning and bottle-throwing incident at a Judas Priest show.