Palace Theatre welcomes back music fans for a historic evening.
Last Saturday’s Grateful Dead tribute show at the Hilo Palace Theatre marked the venue’s first indoor concert for a live audience in 13 months. Credit goes to former Hawai’i State Senator Russell Ruderman, a current Palace Theatre board member, whose show plan was permitted by the Hawai’i County Civil Defense. “We thought this would be a great opportunity to have some live music safely and legally as early as possible,” said Ruderman.
Last month, the Palace Theatre was approved for limited-capacity movie screenings as long as it followed CDC guidelines. The island’s three other large auditoriums are currently closed to the public and some offer livestream events. Under Ruderman’s plan, ticket sales were kept to 100 and were only available through the band Terrapin Station’s Facebook page. Ruderman, also lead guitarist for the group, eventually announced it as a free concert for those who signed up early.
About an hour before the 7 p.m. show, a group of hardcore Deadheads started gathering outside the Theatre. They’re a loyal bunch of fans who proudly share stories of guitarist Jerry Garcia, or how many Dead shows they’ve attended over the years.
As Terrapin Station entered the stage, the rowdy crowd roared with cheers and applause – an unfamiliar but welcomed sound these days.
“We missed you guys so much!” responded drummer Michael Surprenant to the appreciative audience, now standing.
Barely 30 seconds into their first song “Bertha,” a group of five women in the front row began dancing and didn’t stop until the first set ended 90 minutes later. Others quickly followed. A couple ballroom danced near a side exit door, while others boogied (masks on) in their designated sections. Some were just content to sing along and faithfully knew all the words.
Terrapin Station formed on the Big Island 10 years ago and is the brainchild of Ruderman who has seen at least 200 Grateful Dead shows. “Although I consider myself a Deadhead, for a while their music to me seemed like a relic and just a memory of my generation,” recalled Ruderman in a backstage interview. “After seeing a Dead cover band perform at a large convention in Los Angeles, I realized the original music is still relevant and brought the idea of forming a band back to the Big Island. When we play it’s a lot of fun, and an opportunity for people to come together.”
Terrapin Station features original members Ruderman and Diana Webb (bass and vocals), along with Steve Bradshaw (guitar/vocals), Michael Surprenant (drums), and his wife Sarah Bethany (keyboards and vocals).
After 20 songs and two encores, the concert came to a close.
For those who could not attend the concert, Suprenant hired a crew of videographers to document the event for future release. “I want to make a concert film that would also feature rehearsals, interviews and band member backstories,” noted Surprenant.
The Dead’s 1987 Top 10 single “Touch of Grey” is known for its refrain “I will get by /I will survive.” When Terrapin Station played it Saturday night, they repeated the line often, and it resonated well with the audience. As we edge back to some form of normalcy, these prophetic words have taken on a new meaning, and perhaps the Palace show was a hopeful glimpse of a post-pandemic future.
Bertha | Big Railroad Blues | Jack Straw | Jack a Roe | Brown Eyed Women | Sugar Magnolia | Scarlet begonias | Sugaree | Touch of Grey | Mississippi Half Step | Alabama Getaway | Promised Land | Deal |
Shakedown Street | China Cat/I Know You Rider | Ramble On Rose | Cassidy | Dark Star | Truckin’ | Eyes of the World | The Other One | Wharf Rat | Lovelight |
Ripple | Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad |
Listen to a podcast interview with Terrapin Station members Russell Ruderman, Sarah Bethany, and Michael Surprenant here.
About the author: Steve Roby is a music journalist, bestselling author, and editor of Big Island Music Magazine.
Photo credit: Steve Roby