Site Sponsor

Not Sure Where To Begin?

The intro posts are always a good start, followed logically by
my thoughts on Music & Being, which guide my writing.
You could also try my current favorite show on the blog,
plus there's good reading under the trading community label.
Or, take a walk on a
Listening Trail.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

1971 July 02 - Fillmore West

Jerry Garcia 1971
Friday, July 2, 1971
Fillmore West – San Francisco, CA
Soundboard (FM) Recording

There’s something wonderfully enjoyable about great 1971 Dead shows. The band was so comfortable by now that its entire concert experience could be equally appealing for its lovely folk-rock good times song delivery, as well as for the band’s ability to reach the psychedelic seas. Coming out of 1970 after releasing both Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty, two albums that completely reshaped the way everyone had to think about this band, the Dead’s persona had evolved a long way from being the poster child from 710 Ashbury and the Summer of Love.

Grateful Dead - March 1971The Dead rolled into their featured night during the closing run of Bill Graham’s Fillmore West as a well polished (as much as being the Grateful Dead would allow them to be polished) cosmic country rocking titan. Steeped deeply into the nearly two year period where they toured with the New Riders of the Purple Sage as their opening act (really more of an extension of the Grateful Dead family than another band, with Jerry Garcia playing pedal steel in the Riders), the Dead’s concerts from 1971 exude happiness more than anything else during this period. It’s an odd overarching accolade to bestow, especially while the band was probably more multidimensional in 1971 than most people think – pure folk-tinged timelessness, raw bluesy Pigpen-driven swagger, and the ever present psychedelic power. But through all of this, the band simply sounds content and comfortable. It was a good time to be the Grateful Dead.

07/02/71 offers a perfect slice of the Grateful Dead pie, or perhaps an entire pie, since we have the complete evening’s performance to enjoy from a collection of recordings made off of the FM-Broadcasts of the show. Having things complete, there is an uncompromising need to begin one’s enjoyment of 07/02/71 with the New Riders’ opening set. As much as the Dead were masters of their game by 1971, the Riders were completely hitting their stride here, and this date offers a fantastic example of how wonderful the New Riders of the Purple Sage were.

This was one of the first New Riders tapes I ever got in a trade, and it came as a gift, just something included with a number of other shows from a trading partner. I wore the tape out. The reference Bill Graham makes in his introduction to the Riders being one of the things that makes Marin County as sunny as it is seems to suffuse their set completely. Having personally collected pretty much every available note in circulation from this band, I can attest that the Rider’s set on 07/02/71 is spun from pure gold. Not only is Garcia completely on fire with his steel playing, but the band is just completely in synch from start to finish. John “Marmaduke” Dawson’s vocal drip like honey, and the band epitomizes their own special brand of psychedelic country rock. As you go from song to song, and hear the crowd going more and more bananas in appreciation, you quickly come to find how this band’s music was a critical feature of the Dead’s entire output over 1970 and 1971. The evening with the Grateful Dead starts here.

Jerry Garcia with New Riders Of The Purple Sage - March 1971The Riders cap their set off with an encore of The Band’s song, The Weight, and if you could take only one NRPS performance to a desert island, it may as well be this rendition (which, by the way, can be heard featured in the bonus material on the re-mastered release of their debut album). Garcia’s solo will teach you never to miss another opportunity to listen to the Riders again. As Dawson continues to deliver the verses after the solo, you find that you are cradled in a little meadow of golden streaming sunlight. Dust specs sparkle like tiny glass prisms. There’s no place else to be. And the Dead have not even taken the stage.

When the Dead do take the stage, sunshine explodes as they open up with Bertha, a song more at home here in its debut year than any other. Jerry has clearly drawn all the energy from the Rider’s set directly into his vocal delivery. And his solo absolutely sings over the equally charged energetic delivery from Bill Kreutzmann on drums. Perhaps it’s from being the opening track on the Dead’s live album, Skull & Roses from 1971, and that being one of the first GD records I bought as a youth, but to me Bertha embodies 1971 Grateful Dead beautifully. It’s like the bands calling card for this year. The joyfulness is unmistakable, and by the end of the song, when the instrument mix is completely dialed in, we can tell we are in for a wonderful sounding ride through a night with the Grateful Dead.

Me & Bobby McGee follows and the pervasive comfort and pleasure continues. We are less than ten minutes into this show, and we’re already wrapped into the Dead’s vibe completely. Also a song featured on the Dead’s ’71 live record, Garcia’s backing vocals have always struck me as so well thought out on this song. He’s not simply harmonizing. He’s threading his own melody line just under Weir’s.

Jerry Garcia - August 1971Following Bobby McGee, Pigpen steps up for Next Time You See Me (a song, by the way, that was mislabeled as “Lied & Cheated” on many an old Dead tape), and the Dead demonstrate that they still pack that throaty, bluesy strut and swagger that was such a primary force in their music early on. Pigpen blows fantastic harmonica, and the crowd can be heard exploding in appreciation of his talent. This is followed by a China > Rider which hammers everything home. Garcia’s guitar tone blazes into the air during the China Cat solos, and the segue and ensuing I Know You Rider find the band firmly settled into a dance with what is clearly, for them, one of their most cherished golden rings in 1971. All the sunshine energy and Americana-Folk-like groove that pervaded Bertha and Bobby McGee comes pouring out in the Dead’s improvisational expression. Here then, we lock in and find our hearts entwined with the music. This isn’t the deep soul rending psychedelic madness type of intoxication. Rather, it’s the equally intoxicating flip side of the same coin. Somehow, the Dead’s established ability to psychedelically pierce the heart allows them to guide the audience along into their own evolving heartfelt pleasure during I Know You Rider. We’re early in the show, and already the music has fully transformed the borders between everything around us. The joyfulness of it all has clearly soaked into everyone and everything.

The first set continues to deliver on this energy, including a wonderful Hard To Handle. This period of the year was a high watermark for Hard To Handles, containing freight train-like energy and power through the pounding solo section. This version is also worth noting for showcasing the amazing ability of the band to save itself after a mistimed vocal re-entry on the final verse. They right the ship so effortlessly it’s almost as if nothing went wrong. The set wraps up with a steamy and strutting Good Lovin’. Cascading out of the formal song into the rolling and swirling gutsy blues-tinged jam, it’s a wonderful ride into a sweet spot of early Dead jamming style that we would see completely disappear with the eventual loss of Pigpen. The music sweeps everything into a near tribal frenzy, and closes the set on a wonderful high.

Bob Weir 1971Set two opens with a rocking Sugar Magnolia, another song that was in prime form this year, and eventually we reach Cryptical Envelopment and Other One. It comes at us as if out of nowhere, a bit like 07/26/72’s Dark Star. There’s little hint that the band might veer down the psychedelic path at this point, and the somewhat unexpected turn adds to the enjoyment. While the mass of this show features that highly infectious “good old Grateful Dead” vibe – something altogether relaxing and smile producing – this Other One reveals the more sinister and snaky Grateful Dead that apparently has been waiting just out of view the whole time. This is a hold on to your seat ride that, even as it gets going, belies the true dangers lurking just around dark corners. We go in not sure that the bottom will ever really drop out on us, and what takes shape is more of a slow dissolve. The song just keeps pushing the envelope as it transitions liquidly from Other One theme to dripping feathery interplay, back to the theme again, and soon gets completely lost in a burning sea of stars, all before making it seamlessly into the first verse. Afterward, the music begins to bow and flex at odd angles as the intensity continues to build. Eventually it all swarms into madness, erupting in great plumes of molten color. Somehow the ground is found within the Other One theme breathing fire like a dragon. Fiercely, the song slams into the final verse, and eventually comes to rest beautifully in a mournful breeze without re-entering a Cryptical reprise at all.

The set closing segment begins with a Not Fade Away which storms in and shows off Garcia’s guitar work at its lyrical best. His solo arches high in the air, singing lovely lines while the rhythm section churns along. This provides a certain “pretty” layer not often found in Not Fade Away, and becomes a lovely bridge to an equally luscious Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad. 1971 was far and away the pinnacle year for Going Down The Road. The band had clearly found something of a sweet spot in this song, much like in that of I Know You Rider. The warm glow of tube amplification, Bill Kreutzmann’s impeccable ability to skim the beat along tiny wave crests, Jerry’s emotional story telling delivery of the lyrics – all of these things and more found a wonderful convergence in 1971. Without bringing the roof down, GDTRFB could nonetheless deliver a peak highlight to any show. Bookending it smoothly, Not Fade Away elevated this even more into a classic Grateful Dead pairing. 07/02/71’s version is fresh from the mold, delivering everything we could ever want. It’s that lovely marriage of Folk-Americana and country rocking rainbows that the Dead embodied so well in 1971.

Also not to be missed is the Johnny B Goode encore. Introduced by Jerry with, “Alright folks, here’s the one it’s all about,” this version does indeed bring the house down. The Dead surge with such power here that even this straight up rock-n-roll classic demonstrates that this band was cruising at the top of their game. Fantastic Summer ’71 Grateful Dead all around.

New Riders Of The Purple Sage:
Grateful Dead:

Friday, April 24, 2009

Under Eternity Blue

Early on, while introducing this blog, I referenced a period of a few years just before being inspired to start this project where I had stepped completely away from Grateful Dead music. That was no small feat, let me tell you, because I had been listening to a nearly steady diet of the Grateful Dead and its associated close circle projects for a long, long time. Oh, I had plenty of other music, but the Dead occupied something on the order of 80% of my listening time.

The trigger for the transition came when I entered the world of MP3 players. Suddenly the chance to queue up several hundred of my CDs (non-Dead) into a pocket sized jukebox was exhilarating. And while I listened to friends talk about how they were filling up iPods with Dead bootlegs, I was having nothing of it. I was rediscovering my record collection. I was crafting playlists to underscore everything from a Friday night dinner, Sunday morning coffee, doing dishes, to late night relaxing on the screen porch. Beyond some of the Dead’s commercial albums (gasp!), the boys were not making an appearance anywhere.

I think keeping your ears open to lots of different music is one of the healthiest things you can do. Yes, finding something you like and playing it until the proverbial vinyl wears thin is a pleasure any music fan should enjoy. We all have our guilty pleasures too. But, what this time away from the Dead taught me was that the soul enriching musical pleasure I was finding in their music, was lurking everywhere. It was in the past, and it was in the recently past present of music too.

Now the Grateful Dead fill only about 10% of the musical backdrop I weave into my life. Sometimes it’s a bit more, sometimes far less. And what’s interesting to me is that if, in starting this blog, the Dead’s music didn’t once again light a flame deep in my heart, I would have wrapped things up after about 20 reviews and set it adrift on the Internet seas, satisfied that it might do its job here and there. But, the Dead did indeed re-light that flame. It’s just that now their music is in competition with so much more that equally satisfies me. And I like it that way.

About a month or two ago, I noticed that episode 001 of the GDLG podcast turned up on a live radio program devoted in part to the realm of psychedelics called Spirit Plants Radio. I thought it was totally cool to hear my podcast streaming live late one Saturday night, and thanked the guy who organizes the show for thinking to include my stuff on his program. We got to talking, and it dawned on me that this might be a unique platform to exercise my passion for non-Dead music (I have toyed for a long time with the idea of devoting some space here on the blog for NDC – Non Dead Content). And thus was born “Under Eternity Blue” (couldn’t resist the subtle Dead reference), a radio show where I aim to indulge the rest of my musical universe, and set it out into that Internet ocean. If you trust my judgment on Grateful Dead tapes, who knows, maybe I can turn you on to some other stuff too.

I mention all of this now in part to give props to the entire radio project itself (there’s a wide range of other interesting content streaming on this guys radio marathon each weekend), and to invite over anyone interested in some potential side tripping with me to tune into this other area of my musical garden. My debut show airs this weekend (links coming below).

The format of Under Eternity Blue is a work in progress. I had started off building the first 2 hour set with a wide reaching variety of music from a whole host of different genres (everything from early Reggae and 70’s Afro-Highlife to Acid Folk and Soul Jazz from the late 60’s), but then landed on the decision to feature just one corner of music this time which seemed well matched with the shows overall devotion to psychedelia. So, on its maiden voyage, Under Eternity Blue is exploring the world of Ambient Electronica. Next time, it will go in some other direction entirely, I’m sure.

In the pure spirit of “one man gathers what another man spills” I invite you to poke you head into this episode, or some future one, to see if there’s anything you might enjoy. If not, no worries. I know for me personally, finding inroads to new music is a sometime treacherous adventure. Nothing can be everything for everyone, but a willingness to dabble can often open a door to great riches.

I’ll plan to find some platform here on the GLDG (perhaps over on the side bar) to link to the Under Eternity Blue shows as they get produced. After each broadcast, the shows become linked for streaming anytime. Perhaps I’ll even set up another podcast or blog page for them. We’ll see. For now, you are invited to check out the first installment as part of this weekends lineup. The show is being featured a few times across Saturday and Sunday:

Spirit Plants Radio
Under Eternity Blue with DJ Arkstar
Saturday, April 25th: 8pm – 10pm PST
Sunday, April 26th: 4am – 6am PST & 8am – 10am PST

The full weekend line up (11am PST Saturday - 11pm PST Sunday) is listed on the Spirit Plants Radio page above. Again, if you can’t tune in live, all shows become listenable via archive streaming after the show ends Sunday night.

Monday, April 20, 2009

GDLG-004 - Call Of The Wall

Listening Session 004: A tribute to the Grateful Dead's historic 1974 sound system, the Wall Of Sound, featuring fantastic audience recordings which preserved the experience, along with the occasional story and insight adding color along the way.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Listening Trail - Call Of The Wall

You aren’t going to get very far into Grateful Dead tape collecting without hearing about the Wall Of Sound. Considering 1974, the year of the Wall’s existence, the Dead’s sound system marked a triumph in audio engineering. Beautifully loud and remarkably clear according to those who recount the experience of being in its presence, the Wall Of Sound was as much a part of the mid-70’s Grateful Dead sound as the band that was making the music.

As one traverses the musical history of the Grateful Dead, conversations about what it was like to see the band in 1974 are common. The Wall Of Sound was a lot like a work of theater in that it came and went - all the technical and creative elements were assembled for a brief stretch of time, like a play’s run on Broadway, and then were gone. Fans of 1974 Dead who weren’t there due to the pesky laws of time, can’t help but pine over what the Wall experience was like.

Understandably, wanting to get a taste of what the Wall sounded like is something that can truly only be approached through tapes recorded by fans in the audience. Soundboards from this year are not the Wall, at all. Luckily, there are a number of very nice aural documents to enjoy, and the year itself consistently delivers some of the most thrilling improvisational music the band ever produced. So, we end up with a true win-win every time.

This Listening Trail could serve double duty. While there aren’t nearly enough reviews on the guide to foster the production of trails based on each and every year, by focusing on the Wall Of Sound, this trail will certainly highlight the particular magic that was 1974 Grateful Dead all the same.

07/21/74 – This tape is like the Wall Of Sound expertly preserved under glass. Rob Bertrando had everything gelling on this day as he recorded the show from an ideal spot in the crowd. Not surprisingly, this is an outdoor recording – hearing the Wall in an open space where it could fully flex its muscle, makes for an ideal setting. The entire show is a gem, but head to the lovely China>Rider or the sensational Playin’ In The Band jam to get right down to business.

07/31/74 – Never one to get a lot of attention, mostly because the long circulating soundboard was only so-so, and no audience tapes circulated, when Bill Degen’s tape first crossed my ears in the late 90's it was an unforgettable moment. While this outdoor crowd could tend to be somewhat noisy, and the wind here and there can be intrusive, all of this fades away more often than not when you really need it to. Eyes Of The World is an unforgettable experience on this tape, and the Truckin’ jam is… well... just listen. This is the Dead, loud.

06/23/74 – Jerry Moore’s recording goes down as one of the most famous of them all. Capturing a crowd more mellow than you might ever hear anywhere else in 1974, this recording comes off as a church service, full of a quiet grace. The opening of set two, the Let It Grow, the Dark Star, a beautiful To Lay Me Down, and one of my favorite versions of Cumberland Blues, all combine to set this tape in its rightful place on the top shelf of ’74.

05/12/74 – The Wall’s first outdoor appearance and another remarkable tape demonstrating the towering power of the sound system. Hearing the Truckin’ explode after a minute or two of great crowd cheering and song requesting sets the stage for one of the most enjoyable and acrobatic improvisational jams of the year. Even as a mono recording, this tape draws the listener in with it’s full sound spectrum, and deep in the jam you may find yourself very thankful that someone (we don’t know who) was sitting there in the audience taping it for you.

08/06/74 - A welcome addition to any trail (also found on the Best Dead Shows trail), the electricity beams off of this tape as the Wall Of Sound casts the crowd into rapt silence and attention. The highlights of set one will make you forever glad that this was being caught on tape.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

1982 September 5 - US Festival

Grateful Dead 09-05-82 US Festival
September 5, 1982
US Festival, Glen Helen Regional Park – Devore, CA
Audience Recording

It’s hard to explain the pleasure I get from this show. Something draws me in despite the fact that much of this show gives off the tell tale signs of a tape I wouldn’t gravitate to, nor listen to more than one time. However, when I step back a bit, I see this show as a wonderful example of many things the Dead were all about, and it makes perfect sense as an inclusion in the Listening Guide.

This was a tape I never traded for back when I was a rabid collector. It just never made it anywhere near the top of the list of shows I wanted to seek out. The Grateful Dead, if you weren’t already aware, were famous for complete failure when it came to rising to an occasion. The list of downright disappointments across great musical events is like a calling card for this band. “Got a big event coming up? Invite us, and we’re sure to miss stepping up to the plate.” While the enormity of underwhelmment (will this word ever get in the dictionary?) can vary from person to person, calling to mind such rock events as the Monterey Pop Festival, Woodstock, and the Dead’s trip to Egypt, all ring true with a common theme of let down. And that’s undoubtedly why I always took a pass on the tape from 1982’s US Festival. It was a landmark musical event. How well could the Dead possibly have played?

Bob Weir 09-05-82 US FestivalI’ll be the first to say it: the Dead didn’t play anything earth shattering at their breakfast show on September 9th 1982 (they went on at 9:30AM). So why is it showing up on the Grateful Dead Listening Guide? Well, in part, I think it comes down to the fact that this show demonstrates a certain quality of the Dead that might not often be glorified on these pages. At this show, the Dead thoroughly nail a vibe that I’m not normally drawn to. It’s an undercurrent you can hear running through songs like Minglewood, Samson, Man Smart (Women Smarter), and Not Fade Away on this date. It must be a Bobby vibe of some sort. Regardless, those tunes don’t generally call to my heart like many others. Yet, on this date, there is no mistaking that the Dead we playing this particular vibe in perfected form. I find myself completely swept up by what’s going on, and therefore feel this is an ideal show to feature here. This particular facet of the Grateful Dead is another hallmark characteristic of what their music was all about, and it deserves some attention.

Musically, this is actually one of the most approachable Dead shows I can think of. The band doesn’t take a tremendous amount of risk here, perhaps due to the scale of the stage they were playing on. And yet, perhaps because of the technical difficulties early on, they seemed to become possessed with a spark of energy and passion, as if to compensate for the floundering mechanical toe stubbings. We end up with a set list that juxtaposes the standard format of a Dead show, normally starting with a straightforward first set leading to more explorative improvisation in the second, and come away with a show that both plays like a Grateful Dead greatest hits record, yet is also infused with many tremendous highlights woven into the fabric of the music. While it is divided into two sets (mostly due to the technical issues needing to be resolved), the show plays like one long extended single set, overall. This all somehow makes sense when we consider that we were smack dab in the middle of the era where first sets could out shine second sets. And thus, of all the “big moment” shows in the Dead’s history, this one actually does the best job of bucking the trend (or curse) of always falling short. Oh, and this audience recording is so good, it will knock you flat out of your head. Crystal clear outdoor Dead goodness, and I struggle to bring to mind any audience tape that delivers Phil’s bass any better.

So, let’s take a look at the set list and dig into some of the music:

Set 1: Playin' In The Band > Shakedown Street > New Minglewood Blues, Samson & Delilah, China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider
Set 2: Sugaree, Man Smart (Woman Smarter), Truckin' > Drums > Space > Not Fade Away > Black Peter > Sugar Magnolia
E1: U.S. Blues E2: Satisfaction

1982 US Festival Logo HillIt’s impossible for me not to be drawn in to a show that opens with a Playin’ In The Band. Being one of my favorite Grateful Dead musical vehicles, and so rarely seen in the show opening slot, it’s a convergence that always grabs my attention. After a long opening passage on this tape where the band is getting set to play, the song sparkles into existence, loud and clear. It doesn’t possess a long jam, but before it slips into Shakedown Street, we sense a shredding of the fibers which tether the music to the ground. Just as things begin slipping beautifully over an edge, they coil back in and reach Shakedown.

Shakedown Street delivers its wonderfully sultry disco-ish groove, and we are quickly finding ourselves fully immersed into the infectious world of the Dead’s music. Everything shimmers in the hot morning sunshine. Minglewood follows, and it’s as if the band has finally slipped into fourth gear. Garcia explodes with one powerful guitar solo after another, and everything boils. Then the technical gremlins appear, as Bobby informs us that the amps are dropping like flies in the heat. Eventually, things are resolved, and the band manages to step right back into the vein with a bone shaking Samson & Delilah.

The set closing China>Rider is pure 1982 perfection. The song duo charges forward like a stiff breeze drawing everything into its wake. Glorious pinwheels and sparklers are cast into a blurring canopy of sound which twists endlessly inward and outward. This is the Dead at the height of 1982 power. Everything ties together, leaving us in a harmonious state of musical joy with the band. And then they take a set break to deal with more technical issues.

Jerry Garcia 09-05-82 US FestivalSet two on this tape starts off with the soundboard recording covering the first few moments of Sugaree. It is expertly spliced into the AUD where the taper got things started again. This little passage speaks volumes about the way an audience recording can completely outshine a soundboard tape – especially in the early 80’s. When you hear Garcia’s tone flip in as the AUD tape returns, it places you back in a completely perfect sonic landscape. Joyfully, we settle back into this aural masterpiece, and are treated to a wonderful Sugaree, as much about Jerry’s intricate solos as it is about Phil’s fantastic underpinning throughout. Phil is not to be missed here.

Man Smart (Woman Smarter) latches right back into that Samson & Delilah energy. Somehow, the drummer’s beat is cycling in on itself, and the other instruments bounce on the beats defying the body to find the downbeat. An infectious dance is in the air, and you can feel the twirling girls, and the guys dancing, knees bobbing high in the air. Bobby, apparently as lost to the downbeat as we are, sings the second first about a quarter measure too early, and the rest of the band slowly catches up with him perfectly covering the misstep, and increasing the music’s ability to blur beat over beat.

Truckin’ comes on like a flag waving emblem of the Grateful Dead’s legacy. Rolling out into a very nice post song jam section, the signature thunder clapping chord that comes off of the rev up section is pricelessly perfect. It explodes with such power, even the most seasoned listener can’t help but have a huge smile spread from ear to ear. The entire audience is rocketed into the stratosphere. Jerry flips on a compression/distortion effect, and the band cruises forward into an ever-spiraling jam that eventually finds Garcia floating out on a glorious Other One tangent. Bittersweetly, they head into Drums, rather than the Other One that seemed so close.

1982 US FestivalThe Space that follows is really fine. Phil leads the entire passage, playing a gooey and dripping melody which makes this entire portion of the show far more than random noise and cacophony. Shimmering, whispering, tinkling breezes wrap everything in an otherworldly blanket. And, slowly Not Fade Away appears out of the mist. We are back in that same groove again where the downbeat is turning concentric circles upon itself, while the music drapes liquidly over everything.

It’s a classic Grateful Dead run to the finish line, which includes the crowd helping Bob out when he forgets the lines to Sugar Magnolia (poor Bobby). The US Blues encore is a treat, outdone by the Satisfaction which follows it.

Brimming with bright sunshine, this fantastic audience recording delivers a wonderful morning ride with the Grateful Dead. While there may not be any extended jamming to speak of, the unmistakable fingerprint of the Grateful Dead is all over this show. So, rub on some sunscreen and step under the cooling spray of the water truck hoses. The Dead are taking the stage.

09/05/82 AUD etree source info
09-05-82 AUD Download

known photo credits: Franklin Berger, Karl King

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Dead Are Live Again

The Dead 2009 tour is upon us, and deadheads all over the country are gearing up for the upcoming musical adventure. Having had the pleasure of being interviewed by Bill Kramer, journalist for The News Leader, a newspaper serving the Shenandoah Valley, it got me thinking about the events that are about to unfold. Portions of the interview were used in the article, The Dead to conjure their magic in Charlottesville. And this left me with a number of thoughts still bouncing around my head, many of which did not find their way into print.

I think folk’s anticipation of the upcoming tour of The Dead is mixed with excitement and melancholy dismissal. And I’ve found no way to personally come out on one side of the fence or the other. Those too young to have seen Jerry and the true Grateful Dead are blessed with the real chance to hop on the bus (2009’s version of it, at least), and experience not just the potential for great music, but the entire “scene” from the parking lot and beyond. There’s no denying the power of tapping into a sea of people who all seem to “get” what you get. The Dead culture lives on, and that’s very good. Yes, it has changed dramatically over the years. But we were talking about the way it was changing dramatically way back in 1989 too. And they were saying similar stuff in 1979, and probably 1969. Personally, I lean hard on the melancholy side of things. I miss Jerry Garcia. A lot.

For those old enough to have been to shows while we had Jerry, the Dead 2009 tour holds the promise of our “scene” coming together again. However, most deadheads will go through some resetting of expectations due to the absence of Garcia, and that itself can be a softly sad experience. It’s a mixed bag for sure. As I was quoted in the article, in the end, if you focus on the here and now, the tour holds the power to connect musician, music, and audience in that wonderful dance the Grateful Dead did for so many years. I’d rather have them out there playing, than not playing at all.

Bill asked me if all the musical incarnations that the surviving members have been exploring post-GD would impact The Dead on the 2009 tour. Without a doubt, they will. They can only enhance things. The members of the Dead follow their musical passion much like Jazz artists. Every night has to find some inroad into discovery and growth. You can’t do that without drawing on what you did last night, last week, or last decade. Sure they may be cynically thought of as the best Grateful Dead cover band of all time, but they are still more truly artistic than a lot of what’s on the road these days.

On the subject of the Dead and their commercialization, the reaction to ticket prices for this tour sees opinions vary widely. Are they sellouts? Are they capitalizing on the past? Can we blame them for that? It goes on and on. Despite all the ups and downs around this, it is clear that the power of catching the closest thing to a live Grateful Dead show is mighty. There’s no denying the call down by the river side to hear Uncle John’s Band one more time. And perhaps The Dead will bring Summer on just a little sooner for us all. It’s early April here around Chicago, and I think I can speak for most of us when I say we’re all feeling pretty overdue for the change of seasons right about now.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin