(Originally published 8/14/2015 on Grateful Music)
Russell’s Round Room
Dear John Mayer Fans: When The Circus Comes To Town, You’re Invited
Hello there John Mayer Heads! Is that what you call yourselves, because I really don’t know? You’ve probably been a Mayer fan for a while, and may be a bit surprised or confused by the fact that he will be touring, as Dead & Company, with these old geezers you likely don’t know. Well, if that’s the case, don’t fret, those elderly dudes can carry a tune, and they’ve been throwing parties like the ones about to take place for fifty years. Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, and Bob Weir are three of the surviving members of the Grateful Dead. If you’ve never heard of the Grateful Dead before, welcome. If you have heard of the Grateful Dead before, but don’t really know what they are about, happy to have you with us.
To give you a little background, the Dead and their various incarnations have been traveling the greater United States, and beyond for five decades now, opening minds and hearts to transcendent music, and the vibrant community that surrounds the band. From the outside, we must look a little odd to the masses, but I guarantee that once on the inside, you will see the merits of what we have to offer.
The Dead was officially formed in 1965. They have drawn upon countless different musical genres creating a synthesis of sound that you cannot find anywhere else. Their unofficial and often reluctant leader was Jerry Garcia, a true guitar virtuoso and exemplary songwriter that wrote the music for many of the tunes you will hear on the upcoming Dead & Company tour. Sadly in 1995 he passed away and left a huge void within the deadhead community and the world at large. Since then the surviving members have toured under various names, together and apart, with different lead guitarists, constantly reinventing their music for the masses.
Their tunes often lead into improvisation, and extended jams, and the songs they’ve composed are absolutely inspiring. I understand that for a newcomer, extended jamming can be an acquired taste. That’s the way it was for me and before I could appreciate the live marathon improv sessions, and studio albums were the perfect avenue for my journey into deadhead land. The seed was planted for me when my brother gave me the gift of Shakedown Street for Hanukkah when I was twelve. But I ultimately became a budding Deadhead when I discovered my father’s vinyl copy of American Beauty, arguably the greatest album of all time. There are plenty of other studio albums you can take the leap on as well, but American Beauty is my personal recommendation as a place to start in the lead up to MSG. If you jive with what you listen to perhaps you should jump into the Dead’s live catalog. Live is where they truly shined, and a starting point for many has been the Europe ’72 album. If you’re not feeling it after one listen, don’t give up. I guarantee you will discover something potentially life changing.
We are absolutely a welcoming clan. While you may catch a few negative comments online about deadheads feeling queasy over the fact that thousands of John Mayer fans may be infiltrating our scene, those comments are not representative of our group as whole. Please don’t listen to the small but vocal group of Negative Nancy’s, as most of us are pretty decent people. At the very least you will have a real good time, and take in some tremendous tunes. If you find yourself a deadhead in training after these shows, you may desire to delve deeper into what we are about, and there is plenty of literature and archived show recordings to get you where you want to go.
Simply put, we aren’t about much that’s definitive. Many of our creeds are interpretive and not set in stone. If a song lyric inspires you, your understanding of that lyric is as valid as it was for the thousands of other heads that found differing meanings. There are no rules in our community, yet a few generally understood ideas do exist. We strive to be kind to the best of our abilities, we aim to be tolerant of all, and firmly believe in the golden rule. If I had to pick a single principle that defines us, it’s karma. So be good and do good, and good things will come back your way.
And just to remind some of my fellow heads about our implicit principles, specifically in respect to newcomers: be karmic, be kind, aim to enlighten, and do your best not to belittle. Everyone was new once, even you, so remember that, and lend a hand to the beginners over the next few months. For many of the commonly young Mayer fans, these shows may very well plant the seeds of the next Deadhead generation, so please be hospitable. Lets set a good example for these folks.
So to all the Mayer fans out there that are intent upon seeing Dead & Company this fall, I am absolutely looking forward to having fresh faces at our perpetual party. Welcome! Be safe and “be kind.” But most importantly, come with an open mind. Let loose and have fun. Take in the music, the collective, and atmosphere, because in essence we are all apart of the show. The band feeds off our energy and vice versa. To sum up what we are all about in one word, it’s synchronicity. Synchronicity in music, mind, body, spirit, and community.
I know even after reading this, you may still have many queries. Feel free to ask me or anyone else. While some folks may give you shit about a so-called silly question, pay them no mind, and go to the next guy or gal for the answer. If you truly have the desire to find out what we are all about, no question is a stupid question, and there’s always Google. Stay kind John Mayer fans, and see you out there at MSG and beyond.
Words: Russell S. Glowatz