Meet Meatstick Girl – An Exclusive Q&A with the Latest Webcast Legend


On the last night of the Dick’s Run and the end of the epic 2017 summer tour, Phish graciously offered us a free webcast so everyone that desired could share in the groove. During Meatstick, I was taking a couple of screenshots, as I sometimes do to create silly content down the line (weird but true). While I was intently focused on catching Trey in the midst of the glory that is the Meatstick Dance, another bright soul popped upon the screen like sunshine after stormy weather. I caught the above photo of this Phan, and quickly worked up a meme in her honor. Since then, she has been collectively dubbed #MeatstickGirl by Phans across Phish nation, as she added a bit of extra glitter to an otherwise energetic rendition of the tune. She has been honored far and wide across the interweb these past days, and deserves every bit of recognition.

Meatstick Girl was the highlight of couch tour for many that evening – Dazzling us with her spot-on execution of the dance, and her euphoric arm pump and freestyle moves, as Trey ripped into a stupendous solo after the choreographed caper was over. She reminded us that at a show we’re all players in the band, as the music plays us. Yet this is far from the first time an enraptured entity from the crowd has gained notoriety through a Phish webcast. As the term “webcast famous” is entering the lexicon of more and more Phans, Meatstick Girl will no doubt go down in the upper echelon of the webcast hall of fame. From the tuned in Nicholas Peter Orr, dubbed #Hoodboy, to the ethereal Nathan Tobey, knighted #StashGuy, and lest not forget the happiest man at The Baker’s Dozen (don’t have a name for this delighted dude), christened #CaspianGuy. All these folks are falling prey to the whims of the webcast gods, and their lives as Phans have been irrevocably altered, certainly in some ways, after their dance with simulcast serendipity.

Is this a good thing, bad thing, or does it fall somewhere in between? Luckily for us, Meatstick Girl has arisen out of the woodwork, and affably accepted a Stand For Jam invitation to participate in a good old-fashioned Question & Answer session. Initially I provided her with ten questions, certainly covering her newfound notoriety, but also encouraging her to dive deep on other issues concerning all things Phish. Then I came up with one last question, turning this epic Q&A all the way up to eleven.

 The full complete Meatstick Girl - Fast forward to 2:26 for the part that made her webcast famous! Thanks to Joel Mazur & Mike Gregory for helping to curate this video!

Introducing (drum roll)………….Heather Craig! Heather wanted to take her time with these questions, felt empowered by the platform, and simply did not want to phone it in. Upon receiving her answers, she commented that “these questions struck many chords with [her] and [her] internal relationship with this magnificent music” – The spirit with which she attacked these queries and her articulately animated answers m̶e̶a̶t̶ mete that out…

Stand For Jam (SFJ): How does if feel to be webcast famous? Did you have any sense the camera was trained on you at that moment?

Heather Craig (HC): I had no idea the camera was on me, but when you’re down there, you always know there’s a possibility of being seen. I think that’s one of the great things Phish gives us all – the ability to be truly ourselves even when presented with the possibility of being observed by hundreds of thousands, whether it’s on the webcast or in the thick of the crowd. What we’re talking about is one of the most terrifying feelings – putting your freest self out into the world without any sort of reassurance of being accepted, but I feel that as long as you’re accepting of yourself, you’re open for whatever the moment asks of you. There’s this internal rhetorical question constantly being asked when I’m at shows: Can you let go of everything that’s holding you back and simply be with us right here for this small moment in time?

SFJ: With Hoodboy, Stash Guy, Caspian Guy, and now you, Meatstick Girl, how do you feel about Phans picking up on these webcast moments, making memes and making folks Phish famous? Is this an invasion of privacy? Where do you think the line should be drawn or if there should be a line at all?

HC: “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together”

I feel if happiness comes from making these memes, I’m all about it! Once the moment was over, it became etched in time and unchangeable. It’s no longer who I am – it’s who I was, a past moment. I personally don’t feel that it is an invasion of privacy. If I were a more reserved person who still wanted to be close to the source within the first 5 rows of the stage, I feel actions could be taken to ensure you don’t end up on the screen. One way could be to walk up before the show starts and introduce yourself to the staff and ask them nicely to not record you, or you could always wear a hat or get silly and rock a handmade mask to cover your face. If you don’t mind being further from the stage, then usually you can have a more private experience.

SFJ: How many Meatsticks have you experienced live? When was your first Meatstick? What does it take to master the Meatstick, as you have done? What’s your secret?

HC: I’ve experienced Meatstick live 9 times (9 times? 9 times.) *Bueller, Bueller* 😛 My first one was at Dick’s 8/31/12, when they spelled Fuck Your Face, an unbelievable show to recall! Whew! Anyway, I was shown the dance by a friend but never practiced it before going to the show. I remember standing in the crowd, around Page Side soundboard area, and I was singing along and a guy next to me says, “Nice! You know the Japanese lyrics, but do you know the dance?!” I think he then tried to teach me, but suffice to say, we both needed practice. Fast forward through a few years of taking out the Meatstick to Grand Prairie 10/25/16 where I followed Mike’s choreography, and from that moment the Meatstick dance became a movement my body would know how to recreate. I’m a student who has a great teacher. The secret to many things is silliness, and surrender truly is the trick. Phish has given me that insight, and I try to hold on (but never too tight) to that intention every time I walk away from one of their shows. So lighten up, and bury the Meatstick! 🙂

SFJ: In that moment, what were you thinking, if anything at all? Phish obviously brings you immense joy – What is it about this band and community that takes you to that point of euphoria?

HC: What I’m concentrating on at Phish shows is connectivity – less of a single thought and more of an emptying of mind, expectation, restraint, and turning my attention to everything I can soak up out of every little moment. Becoming a sponge or empty vessel – I let the music course through me, allowing it to undo any tensions I have mentally, physically, or emotionally. They’re my connection to source, a connection to my Self. Each passing year we all undergo trauma to the mind, body, and soul – kinks that need to be worked out through our own preferred method, and Phish is my way of release. The community of Phans is, of course, a beautiful support system as well that feeds my flame. I’ve gone to many shows alone and have felt completely at home, safe, and loved in a crowd of strangers. To then dance with them for 3 hours forms a bond that is hard to match elsewhere. Then to have all these people you’ve met and befriended across the nation, it’s like starting a fire from tinder pieces.

Alpine 2015, Night Two, Lot. The Harry Ladies (They really wanted a Harry Hood that night, and in their excited state kept saying "Haaaaarryyyy, Haaaarrrryyy!" in Heather's ear)

SFJ: When, where, and how did your love affair with Phish start?

HC: A friend gave me a copy of Island Tour ’98 and said with a smile, “To get you hooked.” Not thinking much of it, I gave it a listen on my way to work. 4/2/98 Stash 13:22 made my eyes water and ears fall in love. The contrast of the chaos to the bliss was too easy for me to relate to. I didn’t want to leave my car. I didn’t want to go in to work, and I like my job! I wanted to sit there and listen to them for another moment…and another…and another… I was enchanted. After that, I listened to everything I could get my hands on – live and recorded – and started attending shows as often as possible. “Was it for this my life I sought?” 💓

SFJ: As a community, I’d say we’re nine parts love & light, and one-part stuff that’s troubling. Whether from the nitrous scene, to tarpers, GA etiquette, or the rising awareness of female Phan harassment, as a Phan yourself, is there any particular trend that concerns you in the Phishaverse today? Any ideas on how to rectify the issue(s), if there’s any issue(s) at all?

HC: This is an unfolding view of what happens when people are set free. It’s difficult to find the balance when people have different moral codes within that freedom. Without paying close attention, greed, overindulgence, and disrespect of all kinds seeps its way in through unseen cracks and decides to stick around for a while beleaguering equilibrium. What each of us can do to rectify these happenings is to observe the choices we each make and ask our freest selves within us if this is the environment we are truly wanting to foster. In regards to sexual harassment at shows, when it involves another person’s safety and comfort, being courageous and speaking up when we see disrespectful behavior around us is a huge step we can take and a responsibility we all have. We can’t force a change, all we can do is lead by example towards a more healthy, loving, and wholesome community.

SFJ: What’s your favorite thing about Phish?

HC: My favorite thing about Phish is how they bring hundreds of thousands of people together for a live experience and how they concentrate our attention for extended periods of time. For many of us, they are a form of meditation to guide us to our individual interpretation of freedom and happiness, so we can take that freedom and happiness and spread it around when we leave the shows. We take them and their lessons with us, that is an absolutely incredible accomplishment! It’s how minds are opened, it’s how change becomes workable.

SFJ: If you could ask one band member one question, who and what would it be?

HC: Trey, may I live in your pocket?

Seriously though, the band has been answering many of my unspoken questions since I began to pay attention – most of the questions came in forms I wouldn’t know how to pose succinctly or verbally, but I feel there’s already a healthy conversation that happens between artist and audience/audience member.

Heather at Dick's '16 - Swingin' Dick's - rocking super appropriate head gear! - Photo Credit: Michael Howard

SFJ: Request time: Name a song you’ve been chasing, but have never gotten?

HC: Bye Bye Foot or Shafty. There are so many I haven’t caught yet that I would love to hear live, but I know each one comes in its own time and place and if you go around expecting and wishing, you may miss many magical moments being gifted to you right then.

SFJ: If you could sum up this whole Meatstick Girl experience in three words and/or a phrase, what would they be?

HC:

Three words: “Shocks my brain!”

Phrase: After Meatstick, you chop wood and carry water.

SFJ: Any causes or charities close to your heart that you’d like to give a shout out?

HC:

🐠

So other than the happenstance of being caught on camera, what makes Meatstick Girl and her webcast cohorts so unique? I believe we see ourselves in these isolated moments, and in turn make these folks Phish famous to celebrate US! For those that get it, we have all been enraptured in the frenzied excitement of a Meatstick Girl moment, or worn the face of stupefied awe while a song was peaking, just like Hood Boy. Heather framed it best when she quoted The Beatles verse above – “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.” Trey told us “The Walrus was Jimmy,” yet perhaps he was really saying the Walrus is us all!

Before she was Meatstick Girl - Heather in all her glory soaking in the beauty that is TAB at Red Rocks - 5/31/17 - Photo Credit: Miles Chrisinger

Thank you to Heather Craig, aka Meatstick Girl, for wholeheartedly throwing yourself into this Q&A! You’ve not only awed us with your dancing, but now your prose.

Answers by Heather Craig, 
Questions & Paragraphs by Russell S. Glowatz

 

Copyright © 2017 Stand For Jam™️

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It Ain’t Love & Light All The Time: Making GA Better At Phish

by Russell S. Glowatz

Some people don’t think there is a problem. Other people believe it’s a small problem. Then there’s the folks that are sure the whole thing is blown out of proportion. Then there are the cats that just don’t care. GA issues, Phamily. This writer believes they are real, and has heard enough firsthand accounts from people on Facebook, in personal discussion, and has seen enough to know something’s awry. Maybe things have been the way they are for a long time, or throughout the entire history of Phish shows with general admission sections. Yet lately, as the chatter increases to such immense levels, it might get to the point where those in charge have no choice but to change it up.

Recently I wrote an article, Wilson, We Have A Problem: Ruminations on the Rumble at Dicks – It’s Only a Symptom, about entitlement and privilege in GA. I feel like I made a lot of good points, some people say bad points, yet needless to say through publishing that piece I’ve come to learn how provocative the subject remains with passion abound on all sides. One thing I failed to do in that previous piece was to provide any solutions. Now I got one. Before I dive in, I don’t pertain to be any expert on the workings of crowd control at concerts. I’m just a Phan like you that has an idea that could alleviate some (some being the opportune word) of the issues surrounding privilege and congestion in GA.

Firstly, rail riders will be pissed at my idea, and maybe me too, merely for presenting my opinion. Secondly, I cannot please everyone with what I say and I know that going in (still gonna say it though). Lastly, many have mentioned that the only true solution to the woes in GA is to go fully back to assigned seating on the floor. I believe there’s another solution that could mitigate many issues while saving our precious GA space to boot. Whether or not this is a viable solution, my hope is to stir constructive discussion on the topic. Maybe one of you has a major answer sitting on the tip of your tongue. Maybe by voicing it in a positive and nuanced way, someone that can do something about it will hear you.

So my idea is simple: Create a separate “pit” section at the front of GA (say roughly 10 rows-ish back). When all GA ticket holders enter the show, some will be randomly awarded special bracelets for the pit. One bracelet type will be for the first set, and another for the second. The pit will be cleared at set break to allow set two bracelet holders a chance to get up front. Adding to that, the tarp and blanket ban should stay in effect.

I wholeheartedly see this as a way to diffuse much of the craziness happening towards the front of GA, and also completely disband this kind of privileged group at the front of the stage. To the rail riders, I understand you put in the time and wait long hours, and under the current regime, you deserve your spaces. You work for them! Yet it just seems so stale when the people upfront contend to more or less know everyone that’s usually up there. It seems, even self admittedly, that the crowd more or less stays similar through entire tours (or entire legs of tours). Then there’s the other crowd of people who think it’s okay to push all the way up to the front when that area is already occupied. This Pit concept would alleviate the issues and pressure coming from both sides of the coin.

I think it’s high time to try something new! Too many negative reports coming from the front of GA. With the aforementioned idea (or one similar to it) we also will not lose GA to assigned seating, yet might just ameliorate the issue. #My2Cents

UPDATE: I’ve been alerted to a similar idea that’s already in play at Bruce Springsteen shows…and it’s been working!

You can find a link to the Boss’ Pit/GA policy here.

Thanks to Jason Goldstein & Paul Copoulos for pointing this out!

© Stand For Jam, 2017.

 

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Wilson, We Have A Problem: Ruminations on the Rumble at Dick’s – It’s Only a Symptom

by Russell S. Glowatz

Last night Phish made their long-awaited return to Dick’s Sporting Goods park for their 7th annual showcase in the storied Rocky Mountain venue, and while the scene was generally vibrant, some bad juju was simmering just below the surface. During set break, and in clear view of all those watching the LivePhish webcast, a fairly ferocious fight broke out at the front of the floor. While the details are hairy, one thing is abundantly clear; this type of behavior has no place at a Phish show and simply serves to threaten the good-natured, good-vibed,  general goodness that our scene regularly manifests.

Speculation is rampant on the interweb, yet no one but those directly involved, and in the immediate periphery, truly knows what went down. Did a dude hit too hard on someone else’s girl? Was an accidental spill of a beer on someone’s heady threads the impetus for this knock down? The consensus says no, and that this tussle had everything to do with someone getting in another’s claimed space. 

Straight up, at a general admission show, no one has claimed space. That’s simply the nature of general admission. Sure, you can lock down a spot, perhaps hold it down with a small towel or blanket, for a friend or two, while waiting for the festivities to begin. Happily, Phish management has quashed the tarping fiasco prevalent at the outset of summer tour by banning tarps altogether (Tarps are banned at Dick’s, right?!). Yet still, up front at these shows, a general essence of anxiety and entitlement remains when it comes to space.

The words “entitlement” and “Phish” should never be used in the same sentence. Ever. But here we are. There is a growing sense of privilege in placement in general admission environments, and the smell of douchebaggery is wafting widely over the whole scene. If you enter early into a show to lock down one of those coveted upfront spots, all the power to ya! Yet if you walk away for a piss break, a beer run, or whatever else, there’s no guarantee that spot will be waiting upon return. Usually in such circumstances, folks in the area (maybe your friends!) will remember you, and make way to welcome you back into the fold. Yet if that’s not possible, use your words, not your fists to rectify the problem. And the option always exists to find another spot too; sometimes a change in view, mid-show, is just what the doctor ordered.

If you were on hippie time prior to your arrival on the floor, and the front is already packed to the rafters, you are not entitled to smash your way through the crowd. Getting up in phans faces in order to find a better vantage point is the epitome of disrespect, a disrespect for the time those folks kept their asses planted for sometimes upwards of an hour before show time. There’s so many freewheeling, dance friendly, sound solid, spots towards the back and the wings; find one of those and be grateful you’re on the floor for the greatest show on earth. Since no one is entitled in general admission, you might even find an opportunity to better position yourself for set two.

A message to the rail riders: I watched you closely during The Bakers Dozen, and you kids throw down like Chinatown on Mao Tse Tung’s birthday. I’m super impressed with your exuberance and vigor, yet I’m a little unsure of how that whole process works. Is there some type of bracelet system where you wait online all night to get dibs on first entry? You folks obviously commit a massive amount of time and energy to lock down those golden spots. I respect the dedication. Do you wear diapers to get through that epic wait? Not since Moses hurriedly led the Exodus out of Egypt have folks committed to such a tumultuous trial for a face melting payoff! Is the rail truly the land of milk and honey?! I’ve never had the pleasure myself, and odds are it’ll never happen as the number line keeps ticking forward, but it’d be phantastic to have that opportunity, just once.

However, I digress…Lately, there’s a sourness spreading around about your sub-scene as well. Stories are abound that folks pay squatters to wait in the rail line all day, while the ultimate rail rider goes about other pre-show business. That sounds a bit Machiavellian to me, and the preferred philosopher of mobsters (truth!) really has no place at a Phish show. If your aim is early entry, you damn well sit in the trenches with your fellow Phans, and that way the juice will be that much tastier as you personally took the time to squeeze. The ends should never justify the means at a Phish show. How you go about achieving your goals is as karmically as important as whether Trey is in spitting distance once the show begins.

As a fan base, it seems high time we have a scene wide discussion about general admission etiquette going forward. While the tarper memes and joke cracking is hilarious, I’m beginning to think it’s exacerbating the situation at hand. By and large, Phans do it right. We use our words, tact, common sense, and apply a mutual respect towards each other that usually leaves the scene as harmonious as ever. Yet with Phish playing less shows than they used to, and the fan base simultaneously expanding, a recipe for disaster is formulating, and it might just manifest a gumbo of catastrophe on the horizon. Stoking a respectful and mindful conversation about these issues might very well lead to some steam being released from the pressure valve. And I know the band is peripherally aware of Phan discussions on the net as well, so perhaps they’ll come up with some mindful solutions too.

Generally, it comes down to common sense, a mutual respect with our fellow Phans, communication with words, not just body language, and the golden rule. Do unto others, as you wish them to do unto you…or something like that. You get the gist. That Jesus cat dropped some timeless bombs of wisdom.

So, this frenetic fight caught on LivePhish last night was merely a symptom of a larger problem. A dilemma we can easily deal with as a conscientious community of committed Phans. The question we should all be asking ourselves is, do we want to be like Bassnectar fans? Do we want the reputation of resorting to sheer disrespect and violence to lock down our spot next to the band? Do we want the Phish scene to devolve into the chaos of the latter days of the Grateful Dead? Me thinks not. The Phan community is of equal importance in this guy’s eyes to the band itself. You are who makes this scene so serene, magnificent, and marvelous, while Phish provides the celestial soundtrack. It’s “so stupendous, living in this tube!”

 

© Stand For Jam, 2017.
 
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🤔 fighting at Phish!? I don’t like this.. #phish #phishdicks

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Qualifications For A Deadhead: An Open Letter To The Tribe 

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by Russell S. Glowatz

Our traveling circus has been traversing the world, converting novice initiates into dedicated disciples, going on 52 years now. The Grateful Dead and its psychedelic rodeo have been at the forefront of this phenomenon, organically amassing the most ardent assembly of apostles in modern history. Father to son, mother to daughter, sibling to sibling, colleague to colleague, and friend to friend, one turned on to this wonderful world via an apprenticeship of sorts. A passing of a tape, vinyl record, or CD, and nowadays, a FLAC, or a YouTube link, aroused the senses early on, planting seeds of devotion that for many would blossom into full on immersion. Heading to a show, whether Grateful Dead in the glory days, or an offshoot band in the present, was a rite of passage, a graduation day of sorts, where one experienced the full measure of what this eccentric scene has to offer. If you’re reading this, you likely never looked back, and have self-identified as a bona fide Deadhead ever since. Whether you had that first life altering Grateful Dead adventure in ’65, 2017, or in between, the only qualification for a Deadhead is an appreciation for the music of the Grateful Dead, period. You alone define your level of devotion, and never let anyone convince you otherwise.

Lately it occurs to me that the age-old conflict, of what makes one a Deadhead, has reemerged on the information super shakedown in epic proportions. In Grateful Dead community groups across Facebook, the battle usually centers around whether or not one saw Jerry play in the flesh, and if bearing witness is an essential prerequisite for a Deadhead. A version of this argument has existed in one form or another since 1973, when Pigpen checked out. It more or less centers around whether one saw the band in its true form, and has the war stories to prove it. The Keith/Donna generation took shit from the Pig generation, and some Godchaux-era initiates wouldn’t hesitate to brand the Brent-era Deadheads as inauthentic. Then the “Touchheads,” arriving after the critical success of “In The Dark,” experienced the brunt of this thinking from the late eighties until Jerry’s demise. In present time, its post-Jerry Deadheads feeling the heat, and in a decade or two, post-Core Four Deadheads will confront this same travesty of thinking.

There is a noticeable ebb and flow, yet presently this perpetual conflict is galloping full steam ahead. In most of the GD Facebook enclaves, diatribes questioning the legitimacy of post-Jerry Deadheads have once again become par for the course. As our community continues to expand its younger ranks, many youngins pop on these Facebook groups to find community, support, and advice as they explore the slippery slopes of the Deadosphere. Often they meet negativity and vitriol at the door. Why, you might ask, after coming off the highs of  the best Dead & Company tour to date, would such a negative vibe be permeating the virtual realm of our scene? Perhaps, in part, this trend continues because the internet often appeals to our base instincts. But the reason is less important than the reality that Deadhead trolling is a nuisance.

So to the Deadhead that finds the need to promote contempt for youngins on the web, maybe take a moment to remember why we’re all here. Our obsession with the music of the Grateful Dead is at the forefront, and our mutually tacit belief in karma and kindness guides us through this trip. An abundance of post-Jerry heads abide by these same ideals. Empathy is key here. Remember when you were green? Do you recollect that first time on lot looking for a ticket, when that tour vet taught you the magic of waving a pointer finger high? Recall that time when the kind older head gifted you a miracle, that night you got your first “Morning Dew!?”  We were all young once, and without schooling from those that came before us, we’d be left ignorant, acting a fool, sucking balloons in the lot, not realizing the main event lies only feet away. Perhaps the next time you feel the urge to vent about the cluelessness of the younger generation at large, put yourself in their shoes for a minute, and if what you got serves nothing but to stroke your own ego, please keep that garbage to yourself. Yet if you find your able to take a constructive spin on things, please educate, for without it, we’d all be lost.

IMG_0272To younger Deadheads that feel less than for coming of age after the death of Jerry Garcia, do not let a disgruntled minority of jaded old timers discourage you from delving deeper down the grateful rabbit hole. You may have missed the Captain, but this ship of fools still sails smoothly, and there’s plenty of room onboard. You were not born at the wrong time. The scene today is as vibrant as ever, and we are supremely fortunate to participate. The Core Four is alive and well, still spreading the gospel, recruiting new talent, to bring us the most authentic and energized live music experiences they can. The jam band scene at large is in a golden age. Countless innovatively improvisational acts are popping up daily, and in the spirit of the Grateful Dead, they constantly push boundaries and take this thing of ours to the limit. We are supremely fortunate, and never let anyone else convince you otherwise.

Maybe we all could take a step back and embrace the clarity that such distance brings. Whether on the internet, or in person, lets aim to love each other, and let our words reflect that love. Let us be critical too, for we are Deadheads after all, but let that criticism come from a place of constructiveness. Let’s be grateful that the music will not stop with us, but live on in the souls of the coming dawn. Let’s open our hearts and minds to the next generations, and school them as humbly as we can. Respect is a two-way street. If we aim to help the newbies assimilate, as opposed to delegitimizing their existence, we’d serve ourselves by nurturing a mindful, respectful, and humble new class of Deadheads. The Grateful Dead world remains in its infancy. Our big bang happened only 52 years ago, and our universe is ever-expanding. Let’s be the best possible ambassadors to tomorrow, and if we strive towards this goal, we will engender a mutual respect with our Deadhead descendants.

Our past is storied, and our present is bright. With the faith and fortitude of thousands, our community blossomed organically, yet was built to last. Collectively we’ve persevered through the perils of a half century, and confidence is high that Deadheads, in large gatherings and small, will one day celebrate our centennial with the same serene spirit that embodied Fare Thee Well. Budding Deadheads are listening to the music play for the first time, right in this moment. Not even a twinkle in their mama’s eye, prospective Deadheads have yet to see the light of day. We must welcome these folks, with open arms, for they are our future. We must show them the ropes, and school them with a spirit of equality. We must remind them that there’s no requirement for membership, except an appreciation for Grateful Dead tunes; you are what you say you are. If anyone ever tells you otherwise, feel free to point them towards this article (or THIS). Going forward, as karma guides you, let kindness be your watchword, and may the four winds blow you safely home.

© Watts Glow Grateful Productions, 2017.

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You Ain’t Gonna Learn What You Don’t Want To Know (The Dark Side of the Dead’s Illuminated 50th Year)

(Originally published on Grateful Music)

 
Russell’s Round Room 

Deadheads have always been a critical bunch. For decades we’ve waded and waffled over albums, tapes, set lists, soundboards, and so on, with monotonous detail. We’ve attended shows with aim to transcend the boundaries and limits of day-to-day life, yet when something wasn’t quite up to snuff, we’d be the first to appraise, and offer up notions on how it could’ve been better. Since Jerry checked out we’ve been hypercritical about every show, often unfairly holding them up to concerts from the best days of the Dead. And while sometimes we can frankly be oversensitive imbeciles, it’s this very way that we showcase our dedicated nature that makes us the very best fan base in the world. We don’t mince words. We will tell you if you suck. Likely you don’t blow or we wouldn’t attend your shows, but when you have one of those days, tours, or even one of those sets or songs where you couldn’t tap into the collective synchronicity, you’re going to get an earful. As a musician I can’t imagine a more terrifyingly wonderful prospect, because you will get the credit when it’s due. Genuine is a word that wholeheartedly defines deadheads.

And this year, tons of gratitude has poured from our ranks towards the Core Four, their counterparts and the various 50th anniversary incarnations, yet there has been an incredible level of hogwash as well. And I’m not talking about constructive criticism regarding a show that already went down; rather referring to deadheads a plenty taking their preconceived notions about a certain artist or ensemble and prejudging events that have yet to take place. While it’s far from the bunch, and may be a minority (there’s no way to really know), a group of heads has made an indelible mark in various corners of the interweb with premature expressions of doubt. First with Trey, the hysteria was palpable, and people that practically based part of their very being on hating Phish, were met with a musical identity crisis of massive proportions. Folks flipped their shit, and that vibe wafted throughout our scene, and touched everyone, including Big Red himself. But now that Fare Thee Well has come and gone, the Anastasio bashing has nearly ceased, as most realize they don’t have two legs to stand upon when attacking his abilities. So at this juncture as Trey stands on his merits, some have certainly learned their lesson about prejudgment. Still I can’t help but feel a sense of déjà vu with the yet to be road tested Dead & Company and their lead guitarist. John Mayer’s inclusion in Dead and Company has left him as the new public enemy number one. After the unjustified Trey hate barrage, I thought many more would take the high road at this juncture, but my optimism outshined reality, as the trolls and drama queens are at it again. And a message to them: your intransigent non-constructive criticism serves no purpose whatsoever, other than to justify your years held prejudices. Disliking Mayer’s mainstream music should not be basis for condemning the Dead and Company venture. Even Mayer himself believes his pop tunes are garbage, merely a means to pay the bills while pursuing his true passions on the side. Moreover a heaping handful of evidence suggests that Mayer can in fact play guitar, and play it quite well. So instead of condemning the man out of the gate, how about giving him a chance to demonstrate his proficiency without any prepossessed notions. Simply, it’s called open-mindedness, and I thought we were a pretty receptive bunch.

As Mayer has received his fair share of hate from the general public over the years, and has likely grown a thick skin, it’s not his feelings I’m concerned about. It’s our community, and what we tacitly stand for that should be upheld. Many are stoked for these shows. We hear your hate on a daily basis. While you may be ultimately right, and Dead & Company bombs due to the incorporation of Mayer into the collective, you’ll be vindicated based on your prediction, but you won’t be upon your behavior. The name-calling and ad hominem attacks are unbecoming, unnecessary, and your prematurely negative vibes are harshing our widespread mood. So for the betterment of our community, mellow out, open your brain, ears, and heart to the possibility that something good might be brewing. And if you can’t do that, and your irrational hate is so deep-seated, then stuff it for the duration and let us have our good time without the ongoing pessimistic commentary from the peanut gallery.  Ultimately your vibe won’t ruin our experience in the least, but it does take its toll, and perhaps in recognition of that, you’ll take it down a notch.

Whether this tour will be the greatest thing since Fare Thee Well, present itself as a mediocre happening, or crash as an abysmal failure, we don’t know. Those touting the merits of Mayer, or attacking him on insignificant levels, simply have no inkling. So in the vista of uncertainty, why not wax positive. Positivity and transcendent music are the main features of our community that brought us here in the first place. And without the former, the latter often doesn’t come to fruition. Life is a whole lot easier looking upwards and onwards, rather than downwards with a constant eye towards past dwellings. If these shows are second-rate, then take all the time you need to constructively criticize after the fact. I may very well join you. But if the hate parade continues towards Dead & Company’s opening dates, I have to ask: what kind of people are we? We can be the people that live by the creeds commonly suggested in Grateful Dead lyrics, or we can throw everything we’ve learned on this trip to the wind, and devolve into our lesser selves. The choice is yours. “Ain’t no time to hate,” even if it’s John Mayer.

Words: Russell S. Glowatz

Logo: Jeffrey Peltzman

Crime of Convenience: Ticketmaster Strikes Again

(Originally published on Grateful Music)

Russell’s Round Room

 

On Friday morning, August 14th, at 10:00AM a virtual hand slowly slithered out of my computer screen, ripped my heart out, and slapped me in the face. I imagine many had a similar experience, and were left ticketless and despondent in their quest for permission to attend Dead & Company at Madison Square Garden. Don’t worry deadheads; you’ll get your chocolate bar with the coveted gold foil. There are plenty still out there in ticket purgatory and on the secondary market. Regardless, we should not be having these experiences. There is something seriously wrong with this system. 

While what I am referring to is the most perplexing first world problem I could think of, a quandary we are all very fortunate to have, it still sucks, and is a hardship we have to go through for every major show that we attempt to attend. Ticketmaster has a problem. Strike that, Ticketmaster has no problem whatsoever. It is an extremely successful company with limited to no competition, and makes out like a bandit with every major concert or event it puts on sale. If countless businesses in this country were to follow the model of Ticketmaster, they would not stay competitive very long, because they exist in a marketplace with competition. As did Ticketmaster once, but that hasn’t been the case since the world was proven circular. When it comes to most major events, they are the only game in town. While Ticketbastard (as many of us endearingly call it) is not fully responsible for our woes, they are the easiest target by far. And while they are not to blame for the bots that suck up tickets for the secondary market in milliseconds, they are complicit in not figuring out a way to stop them from stealing tickets from living and breathing beings. They put up those bot preventing coded barricades, but that does not thwart them. In fact, those stupid security boxes often prevent fans from checking out in the allotted time because of their ridiculous complexities. Ticketmaster, you might as well get rid of those enigmas because they don’t serve their purpose, and only piss off your sentient customers more.

What really bothers me about all of this is that it’s 2015. All these years of selling tickets, all this technology at our fingertips, and this is the best system we’ve got?! No, that’s ludicrous! It’s the most profitable system Ticketmaster can muster, and that is deplorable. I would love to ask Ticketmaster some questions: Who are you really serving? The bots and your bottom dollar, or your valued customers? Obviously you must not value the consumer very much because they HAVE to do business with you if they requisite seeing their favorite acts at face value. You have concertgoers stuck squarely between a scalper and a hard place, and you don’t even have the common courtesy of giving your clients a reach around. 

  
It’s a lack of options for us, and a crime of convenience for you. Only in America your business practices are perfectly legal.  In the world where moral fiber matters and karma is a bitch, you are committing misdeeds on a daily basis. While I appreciate that your proceeds matter, because after all you are a corporation, with a proper system for Friday’s general public sale of MSG tickets, you would have gotten every red cent you received from bots, but from real humans. After costs on an overhaul and reconfiguration of your network, your profit margins wouldn’t be affected in the least, and you’d do a great service to the show going community by virtually putting the online scalpers, such as Stub Hub, out of business.

In respect to solving this dilemma. I may have some notions, but I don’t have any answers. Yet you should have the solutions because this racket is your area of expertise! Wouldn’t it feel nice to provide a quality service as opposed to giving folks coronaries every time they decide to spend their hard earned money to attend a show? While from your perspective everything looks hunky-dory, your shit is all fucked up! I’m sure you’re comfortable letting business continue in this manner, but one day your company will face its reckoning. A few of the popular bands in the country have tried to go up against you, but they’ve failed miserably, because a monopoly is expensive to diminish, especially when you have already toppled most alternatives. Yet if you allow this business model to continue, one day in the not so distant future an institution will come up with a plan to put you out of business. All the while an army is forming to assure they succeed.

So wouldn’t it be better to innovate from within, do something constructive, please your customer base, and set your company up for perpetual prosperity by way of helping to get tickets into the hands of those that really desire them? It seems like a win-win to me. And while it’s not directly your system that is creating this virtual bottleneck every time we try to get tickets, you sit idly by and let other people, computers, and vampires disguised as companies suck the joy out of all you do. If it’s just about the balance sheet for you, what’s the bloody point? 

It shouldn’t be all about the Benjamin’s, it should be about pleasing the consumer as well and if it’s not then why bother, because all the money in the world won’t dig your company out of its karmic pit. You may not be solely responsible, but you are the only institution currently in the position to make a difference. So please attempt to address this glaring phenomenon already! Throw a bone to the people that put the food on your tables. No one has a problem with you making profit. But don’t only be a cost-effective business, be a good business too. And if you change your act, the next time we have to fork over our hard earned cash for something we love, we won’t even bitch about your inexplicable fees. I promise. 

Words: Russell S. Glowatz

Editor: Kevin Long

Phish ain’t lyrically Dead: So Stop Comparing Them

Russell’s Round Room 

Source: http://Treyfuldeadmemes.com
Source: Treyfuldeadmemes.com
by Russell S. Glowatz

Phish ain’t lyrically Dead, so stop fucking comparing them on that level! Pretty pretty please?! I imagine you won’t, but I’m asking anyway because your comparisons are nonsense. So stop. Or don’t. But either way, don’t like Phish lyrics? Fine. They’re not for everybody. There’s nothing wrong with that. Your ticker tape parade will be thrown on the Avenue of Heroes in NYC at the end of Phish tour. But to compare the two bands lyrically is not only foolish…it’s obtuse. End rant. As Ringo would say, I say all this with peace and love, a sincere desire to evoke empathy within the jam band community at large, and the notion, likely some of you realize, that while these bands share many things, lyrics are not one of them, nor were they ever intended to be.

Even putting aside the various collaborations that have occurred between members of Phish and the Grateful Dead in the post-Jerry years, these two bands are linked at the hip, and will inexorably remain that way until their songs and respective followings are snuffed out of existence (if that ever happens). This linkage largely exists due to the two bands’ proclivity towards improvisation in their performances, synchronicity on stage between band and audience members, varied and unique set lists, similar business practices, and an overlapping devoted fan base. However musically and lyrically, these two bands could not be any different. While both were heavily influenced by the American musical landscape, and the musicians that came before them, they also both came of age at completely different times, and this generational gap is reflected in the different style of music they put out.

While one bands verse may seem more profound than the other, I truly contend we should not be comparing these two bands on the lyrical level anymore, because it inevitably leads to hating. When it comes to lyrics and making comparisons, it’s like trying to compare the taste and texture of an apple to a pineapple. They are both fruits and have the word ‘apple’ in their respective names, but besides those similarities, their flavor and feel could not be further from each other. Yet both apples and pineapples are wonderful and delicious in their own right, but in spite of that I don’t see folks equating them very often. So as we don’t compare pineapples and apples, lets aim to do the same with Phish and the Dead on a lyrical level.

Putting the musicianship aside, which most would agree is stellar coming from both bands, even if you don’t personally jive with both bands, lets focus on the words. For many years I have been trying to explain the lyrics of Phish to friends and strangers alike that just don’t get it. They’ll complement the musicianship of the band, but then explain away their inability to get into them as due to Phish’s “idiotic” locution. Invariably the topic will always digress into a conversation about how compared to the prophetic nature of Grateful Dead lyrics, Phish lyrics are generally gibberish and of a juvenile nature. One friend even used to slap a bunch of random rubbish together, and sing in a Phish like way, gyrating as if to imitate one of the band members, ultimately showing me that this is what Phish sounds like to him. While I never got through to that friend, and we are no longer friends at that (for completely unrelated reasons), and it’s okay that he doesn’t get Phish because it’s not for everyone, but wherever he is, I hope he stopped contrasting the damn lyrics to those of the Grateful Dead, and ceased upon hating on folks for their musical predilections. The lyrics are not meant to evoke the same things, and are written in completely different context as the different bands and lyricists relate to society as a whole on a different level.For those who have trouble relating, it is imperative to look at Phish lyrics differently than you do to those of the Dead. Hunter/Barlow lyrics are exceptionally prescient, in a non-dogmatic way. They are meant to be that way, and have remained true to form throughout the years. Phish lyrics, often written by the likes of Tom Marshall and Steve Pollak (The Dude of Life), are for the most part not supposed to be viewed as prophetic, however a few insightful gems exist amongst their massive catalog. While commensurate storytellers, the Phish lyricists seem to base their compositions in a fantasy world…a world where nursery rhymes are written for adults. Perhaps influenced by the song Prince Caspian, I often compare Phish lyrics to a Narnia Chronicles for grownups.

And on top of the whimsical fairytale like atmosphere many Phish lyrics convey, some of them are just plain silly, but that’s not a reason for scorn. They are supposed to be silly, silly. Whether it’s an inside joke between the band members, or the phan community as a whole, these comedic lyrics create an atmosphere unlike anything ever achieved at a Dead show. They convey comedy and commentary much like several of Frank Zappa’s lyrical odysseys. While Phish lyrics may not be as politically influenced as Zappa’s, the resulting madness is similar. A community of phans not only meeting their spiritual needs through transcendent jams, but achieving their therapeutic needs through sheer comedy as well.

While I write this piece in jest in part, specifically some of my words in the introduction, my sentiment remains true to heart. I have a deep connection to both of these bands. Their music and verse has seen me through some of the hardest times of my life, as well as the most marvelous moments of my existence. I do my best to see each of them for what they are, and while I can be as critical as the next person, as much of the respective fan bases tend to be, I try to keep the criticism in the constructive sense. Recently I saw a deadhead in a Facebook group say that those that appreciate Phish are a seriously troubled group of people. I responded with the tidbit that oddly enough, the vast majority of society feels the same way about Deadheads…they look at YOU as troubled. So in essence, it’s easy to cast aspersions when ignorant towards something that seems weird to you. It’s a lot harder to take the time to understand and empathize, even if it ultimately isn’t your cup of tea.

Over the past seven months plus, I’ve seen a lot of vitriol thrown towards Phish’s way due to the news of Trey Anastasio’s inclusion in Fare Thee Well: Celebrating 50 Years of Grateful Dead. While this hate has more or less always existed, much like the recent upswing in racial tensions in our nation, the inclusion of Anastasio in the final Dead performances has brought all this animosity to a boil. While the inauguration of our first African American president may have in part stoked the racial tension in the nation at large, and this analogy only serves to highlight my point in the most superficial of ways, we as a community, a community a jam band devotees, are supposed to be better than the rest of society.

And if we are not better, we should aim to be better, because betterment is the core of human existence, and I can not think of a much better place than a Phish or a Dead-oriented show, where humanity is better represented in all its possibilities. And taking those show vibes to the next level, as a community, and as individuals in this community, instead of hating, we should aim towards love, and empathy. Empathy is key here. If one can’t grasp someone’s love for Phish and their lyrics, at face value, instead of publicly hating on them, perhaps one should try to put themselves in that phan’s shoes. And while this may be common sense for some, on the surface it seems that it’s a long lost notion for others. Without empathy we are a farce. “It’s completely insane, it’s a revolving cast, but it’s the same old game,” “without love, day to day, insanity is king.”

Source: Billboard.com
Source: Billboard.com
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© Watts Glow Grateful Productions, 2015