Grateful Dead played two shows in the University Gymnasium on the SUNY Stony Brook campus on Halloween 1970. This version of “Brokedown Palace” is from the early show.
A little over two years earlier, in May of 1968, Grateful Dead made their first appearance at “Stoner Brook,” known at the time to be the stonedest campus in the East. The 1968 show was the Grateful Dead’s second ever in the East, and served to be their first paying East Coast gig.
This is Series #2 of the Brother’s Tapes. These tapes were procured from my brother’s cassette tape collection, which was curated on the taper circuit and beyond during the nineties.
There’s something about the sound on these tapes that’s special all their own – warts and all – the crackle, the hiss, the occasional skip (watch out for 2:45 on this tape!). These tapes give you something a digital version never can.
They almost ended up in the trash – And for years they had no purpose – Until now…
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.
“There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.” In our jam band bubble, we are lucky enough to take in stupendous music year after year, yet some periods are more special than others, and 2015 is one for the record books. Enchantment is abundant in our world, and for the surviving members of the Grateful Dead not much has been run of the mill in respect to the various celebrations for their 50th anniversary. Since we aren’t talking about any band here, there’s no such thing as status quo when it comes to a Dead type tour, but for the first time in the post-Jerry years, the community that surrounds the surviving members of the group seems to be more vibrant than in any of the days since August 9, 1995.
While we’ve all been lucky enough to experience countless amazing musical and community moments since the passing of the unofficial patriarch of the Deadhead Diaspora, I can’t think of many instances that top what has already occurred during our current trip around the sun. Yes, there have been some top-notch tours with the Core Four, together and apart, but I’d be hard pressed to find a collection of post-Jerry shows that reached the collective heights of Fare Thee Well. And while the melodic merits of Santa Clara and Chicago will continue to be argued by every card-carrying deadhead, not one of us can deny the communal clarity that those final Dead shows brought to fruition. While I only imbibed via the movie screen, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that those concerts were the closest representations of bona fide Grateful Dead experiences to have taken place since the untimely passing of Jerry. Whether via the interweb or in person, everyone that has survived the highs and lows of the past two decades were there, basking in all the glory embodied in the phrase, “There’s nothing like a Grateful Dead concert.”
Now three of the core four have tapped into the notion that something special is transpiring in our promised land and formed Dead & Company. While I can’t blame Phil for not joining in, as I don’t have many details, other than speculation and hearsay from a handful of folks supposedly in the know, I do wish he were taking part. However there will still be plenty of chances to get our Phil fix through shows at the Capitol Theater in Portchester, NY, his rambles at Terrapin Crossroads, and the expected Core Four appearance, amongst other combos at Lockn’ Festival. Phil is celebrating GD50 in his own way, and I wish him all the best in everything he does. But while Phil does his personal thing, I am truly stoked for Dead & Company and all its possibilities. As I have subjectively high expectations for the shows about to go down, intellectually I know that this incarnation has every ability to fall flat on its face. Weir, Hart, and Kreutzmann are taking an incredible risk introducing a complete outsider into our scene, and the backlash from some fans has been palpable. But Mayer is a commensurate guitarist and performer, and all evidence suggests that he is holed up somewhere right now studying his ass off for tour. While the potential to bomb is prevalent, this ensemble also presents us with the possibility of musical majesty and reinvention that has not been heard on such a large-scale in decades. And for those that think Mayer doesn’t have the chops to pull this off, rumor has it that he will have some help on the way from a smattering of different guitarists at various tour stops. With great possibility comes great risk, and I’m certain the boys are keenly aware of this and will do everything in their power to ensure success in autumn.
And thus far ascendancy has been the name of the game in respect to marketing this shindig. Not since the mid-nineties has a Dead oriented tour found so much response in respect to ticket sales. While famous venues such as MSG generally tend to sell out without much effort on any given tour, demand has varied even in the recent past. Tickets could be found lining chain link fences, or left on the lot as trash at show time for the Dead reunion at Penn State University in October of 2008. Dead Tour 2009, which is the most recent comparable arena sized tour, largely did not sell out. While this tour will more than likely have some dates added still, word on the wire is that every show pass will be claimed nationwide. For three dudes considered passed their prime, and a man that was until recently largely loathed by the majority of Deadheads, this feat is immensely impressive.
And while the expected sell out has been nursed along by a few annoying, but germane marketing practices, sales ploys can not be all that’s behind this triumph. Although the mere idea of the fiftieth anniversary being the last hurrah has drummed up a certain sense of nostalgia for older deadheads who got off the bus a while ago, and mustered the possibility of seeing the magic happen live and in person for younger deadheads that never got to go out on real Dead tour, the overwhelming energy currently felt within our community can not solely be driven by these factors alone. There is certainly something happening here, yet what it is truly cannot be defined. Luckily for us it can be wholeheartedly embraced! The various spinoffs of our favorite band are more popular than they have been in a long time, and the surviving members have been successfully tapping into this energy.
So whatever reservations you may have about this tour: the cast of characters, the exorbitant prices, the runaround getting tickets, the redundant notion that this all is a money grab, and John Mayer being at the forefront of it all, I implore you to catch a show or two, or ten. This could be the last circus of its size, or not. But it will most certainly be the last group of shindigs for 2015, and if I could tell you one thing about this year, it has been full of symphonious sorcery with more to likely come. There’s been another band at the helm of our scene having its best year in a generation; you guys may have heard of them. For those piscatorial fellas and what’s left of the Dead, something mystical is in the air. Take it all in before it passes you by.
Here we are again at the precipice of something big. I was inspired to write this post after reading this piece written by a lovely lady with a name that rhymes with Jerry. You should check it out! Her sentiment is filled with truthiness. Yet I can’t help but add my take on the events that have unfolded and the potential proceedings yet to occur. We have a new Dead incarnation to be thankful for today!
Out there in the vast vista that is the interweb, all the bitching and moaning has begun. Folks are dismayed that they forked over their first-born and took out a second mortgage on their house (among other things) to catch what was billed as the last Dead shows ever to take place. Guess what? They still were the last Dead shows that will ever take place! As someone who could not attend in person (only via the internet simulcast, and IMAX), I would love to go back in time and space with a wad full of cash to catch those shows live and in the flesh.
While I am ever so grateful for the opportunity to have shared those shows with you in real time from hundreds of miles away, and whilst I feel that I had a well-rounded experience in saying goodbye to The Dead, what I did, and what you did, are two different things, and I’m certain what you did was exponentially better. Be grateful for the experience. A happening that you will be recounting for decades to come. An exploit that when retold won’t involve the tidbit about the exorbitant amount of dough you slewed over to Stub Hub in your quest to Santa Clara or Chicago. In the short-term, the money game can be challenging and stressful, but in the long-term it really won’t mean much at all. In the end it’s all about the show.And we have another big show to go to real soon. A show that will blow the socks off many East Coasters and deadheads from around the nation that couldn’t otherwise make it to Fare Thee Well. This will be a show for the ages, and a potential tour to boot at that, but it won’t be the Dead. In the Deadhead Book of World Records, your shows are safe, and already apart of the annals of history. Your experience and everything you forked over for it was worthwhile, and you don’t have to feel “raped,” as one head put it, because some of the boys decided to throw the East Coast a bone as well (all the boys really with Phil at the Cap and Lockn’!).
So now as we embark on getting tickets, making plans, booking hotels, renting cars, taking off work, and amassing the money we need to pull off each of our personal expeditions to MSG, let’s be mindful of what it’s all really about. It’s about the show…the music…the passion…the communion…the spirituality…the gathering…the transcendence. Keep in mind the end result, and while you may eat some bowls of shit along the way, in respect to making all these things happen, let the notion of the end result stay at the forefront.
Be positive. Commiserate, fine. But try to keep it in a positive context, because I can say one thing about this show and potential tour for sure…those heads that maintain the positivity and intend on being in MSG on Halloween, will be in MSG on Halloween. I can’t say with any certainty how easy or hard of a ticket this will be. I can’t say whether some will have to take out a home loan to purchase a show pass on the secondary market. But when you wake up to buy tickets on Friday, August 14th, know that there’s a good shot you won’t get tickets…know there’s a good shot you will get tickets! And know that you not getting tickets from ticketbastard doesn’t mean its end game. Keep mindful. Keep that positivity front and center. Play the waiting game on the secondary market, and when the possible tour gets announced, we may find a plethora of cheap tickets available.
In saying all this, I’m reminding myself of such things, as much as I am directing it towards you. I already feel the potential stress of the journey to Dead & Company in my bones. And some of you probably feel it too. Don’t let it get the best of you. Be better than that, because we are better than that. When you feel the need to bitch and vent online…bitch and vent online. But keep it short and sweet, and end it on a note of positivity. For if you do, I guarantee I will see you in MSG on All Hallows’ Eve.
Grateful Globotz (Glowatz+Robot=Globotz)
PS- If you need something to de-stress I suggest you take this Dead Test. It takes some time, concentration, and dedication, but it may be one small thing to take your mind off the lack of tickets in your hand as we play the inevitable waiting game and hustle. Best of luck to all you seekers out there, and stay kind 🙂
This is a message for all those post-Jerry deadheads out there that came of age after 1995, and on occasion feel like they’re perpetually longing for something that occurred before their time. I was inspired to write this after seeing a young deadhead post a “woe is me for not seeing Jerry” YouTube comment under the video of Grateful Dead performing “So Many Roads” at their last concert on July 9th, 1995. That soulful performance represented an increasingly rare, yet strong showing by Garcia in those later years, and I can not deny sometimes feeling a sense of yearning when scrolling through those now old videos. Yet even as post-Jerry heads, we have A LOT to be grateful for.
As post-Jerry Deadheads we’ve had plenty to be thankful for in the recent past, and plenty to be appreciative for in the future. We’re alive. Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart are still kicking and avidly making music for the masses. We are still basking in a stellar five show run featuring arguably the closest replications of bona fide Grateful Dead shows that we will get to see in our lifetimes. Whether in Chi-town, across the greater USA, or just about anywhere on Earth (sans North Korea), we’ve had the opportunity to take in these shows, LIVE! Pay-per-view, IMAX simulcasts, SiriusXM, cable TV, bootleg video streams, taper audio streams, #taperrob, with up to the minute live social networking. None of us have had much an excuse not to celebrate one way or another this past week regardless of our geographic locale. Technology, man. It’s a trip.
“And the band keeps playing’ on!” Weir, Hart, and Kreutzmann are heavily rumored to be going out on tour together this very fall. Phil Lesh has a residency planned starting in October at Peter Shapiro’s Capitol Theater in Port Chester, NY. Phil is playing Lockn’ this summer, Bobby and Billy are playing The Peach. Mickey, Bill, Phil, and Bobby have various on and off again side projects of their own. They all play Dead music! They all reinvent this music time and time again. Have you heard Mickey Hart Band? Talk about reinvention! And while Phil plays residencies in New York, he also plays them out west at his very own Terrapin Crossroads. Bobby founded TRI Studios, a state of the art live streaming concert facility. He’s part owner of the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley. Ratdog. Ratdog. Ratdog. We will be seeing lots of Bobby. But yeah, these guys are old, and it’s not the same, and they won’t exactly be around forever, but they’re around now, and its pretty effing good! Take it in.So yeah, one day they’ll all be gone. But guess who will be here? Us post-Jerry deadheads. And Dark Star Orchestra. Joe Russo’s Almost Dead. Umpteen Grateful Dead cover bands. Some of the national variety, some of the local home-brewed camp. Some will entirely reinvent the music, while some will aim for total replication, and those that do will create scenarios where if you close your eyes you’ll feel like you’re at a genuine authentic Dead show. There’ll be lots of gatherings, albeit smaller than the old days, but they’ll be unforgettable and nostalgic.
There will be bigger shakedowns for younger bands like Phish, Widespread Panic, and The String Cheese Incident, and a plethora of face melting jam bands. And if a handful of older jaded deadheads give you crap about liking Phish, go tell ’em to eff themselves (Let Trey Sing). And then think to yourself that when “the band’s all packed and gone,” we’ll still be here dancing and shaking our bones to so much amazing music. And there will be younger deadheads; a new generation. This is gonna happen, because truly the music never does stop.
And those who, from time to time, make you feel that you missed out by not seeing Jerry…those folks?!? They’ll be dead. And the new generation of deadheads will look to us and ask us “what was it like to see the core four play live and together?” “How good were all their solo projects?” “Where were you for Fare Thee Well?” “Did they really manufacture a rainbow?!?” Some of our generation may make them feel bad because really, assholes exist in every subculture, mainstream and otherwise. So the assholes will be assholes, but you my friend don’t have to be one. Remember how you feel now, and down the road remind the youngins of all the great music that is around for them. Regale them with your stories, but don’t belittle them. For you once were them.
In this never-ending story that is the Grateful Dead, we are the lucky ones. Yes, it would’ve been nice to have been born a few decades earlier (could have dodged this climate change business to boot), but we are pretty damn fortunate. We will be the last to hear the Grateful Dead canon first hand. We will be the last to hear the songwriters and musicians play these songs in the flesh. We will be torch carriers, as was the band and the generation before us, to us. We will take the gospel of the Grateful Dead into the first fully post-Dead generation. It will be passed down. “So it shall be written. So it shall be done.” The Deadhead Community will survive. “We will survive.”
“Some rise, some fall, some climb,” and there will always be deadheads.