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Grateful Dead Tour to Bypass Orange County : Controversy: The veteran San Francisco rock band will play in Carson instead. Irvine officials, mindful of the troubles associated with the group’s shows, are pleased.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The swallows may have returned to Capistrano as scheduled this year, but the Grateful Dead, whose yearly concerts at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre had become Orange County’s other major rite of spring, has been buffeted out of the county by the winds of public controversy.

The group will make its Southland tour stop this year on May 5 and 6 at Cal State Dominguez Hills in Carson instead of in Orange County, primarily because of the 91 arrests and massive traffic tie-ups that were attributed, at least in part, to the group’s three-day stand at Irvine Meadows last year.

Most of the arrests were in connection with narcotics. The problems created by overflow crowds last year were compounded because the concerts were on the same weekend as an air show at the nearby El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, which attracted tens of thousands of visitors of its own.

Still, “I don’t think it’s any secret that the appearance of that band at Irvine Meadows has caused a certain amount of consternation in and among the city folks,” Bob Geddes, managing partner of the 15,000-capacity outdoor amphitheater, said Monday.

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“To the extent that we want to be good neighbors, we decided it would be in our best interest that the group play elsewhere this year. It is not any indictment of the Grateful Dead or of their kind of music.”

Geddes added that it is not a permanent decision and that the band’s bookings will be considered “year to year.”

But for now, “whether we want to attribute a lot of the problems to the air show,” Geddes said, “I think there were enough problems (from the concerts), at least from a perception standpoint, that it didn’t make any sense to bring them back this year.”

“We are pleased that they are not coming back this year, quite frankly,” Irvine City Manager Paul Brady Jr. said Monday, asserting that the city had not coerced amphitheater officials into barring the veteran San Francisco band. “It was was their decision--we didn’t try to pressure them,” Brady said, a summation that Geddes said is accurate. Representatives of the band could not be reached for comment Monday.

The Dead’s shows at Irvine Meadows have been an annual event since 1983.

“There’s a whole lot of understanding that has to go into understanding the Grateful Dead and their followers,” Geddes said. “If you are not from that time frame or haven’t been exposed to that culture, it can be somewhat disarming. To the extent that it’s generally totally harmless doesn’t matter; it’s the perception that matters.”


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