While countless jam band fans boycotted the Grammy’s last night in an annual protest of an award show that’s viewed as a travesty by many, several Deadheads made haste to turn on CBS at showtime after word spread on social media that Bob Weir was in attendance. With Long Strange Trip nominated for ‘Best Music Film,’ a dapper looking Bob could be found sitting pretty on the floor amongst a star studded audience. What ensued was an impromptu game of “Where’s Bobby?: Grammy’s Edition.”
You can relive all of the hysteria and hullabaloo and play Where’s Bobby? using the screenshots above and at the bottom of page.
• In other news, HQ host, self-styled Phish phan and jam band acolyte, Scott Rogowsky, maintained his twenty year boycott of the Grammy’s, namely due to The String Cheese Incident not receiving an award in all those years. Despite his fevered protestations, he got down to the nitty gritty, getting the daily 9pm HQ show on the road.
Who doesn’t love a good musical? Mixed with the melodies and lyrics of the supernatural songwriting squad of Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter, RED ROSES, GREEN GOLD has all the ingredients for a musical full of magic and merriment. With longtime family keyboardist, Jeff Chimenti, tasked with musical supervision and arrangement, plus additional music contributions by Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, and Bill Kreutzmann, this storied canon and legacy could not possibly be in better hands.
A comedy set in 1920’s Cumberland, RED ROSES, GREEN GOLD tells the outlandish tale of a family of swindlers led by a patriarch named Jackson Jones. The majority of songs are drawn from the duo of seminal albums, American Beauty and Workingman’s Dead. And with a special attention to Deadhead attendees, “STAND UP & BOOGIE DOWN Seating” is available.
Performances began on October 11th, and the official opening is fast approaching on October 29th at the Minetta Lane Theatre in Greenwich Village, New York City. Head to RedRosesGreenGold.com for tickets and further information, but first…
The folks running the show were kind enough to offer Stand For Jam a pair of vouchers for a ticket giveaway contest! If you win, you will be able to request a free pair of tickets for the date you want to attend RED ROSES, GREEN GOLD.
As a Deadhead with an appreciation for the vast musical influences that the members of the Grateful Dead have drawn from over their storied careers, I would like to think I am as musically open minded as it gets. Yet time and time again I find myself reaching for an old show, or my beat-up vinyl copy of American Beauty, over another artist’s album. They say awareness is the first step to combatting a problem, and I am oh so aware of my inclination to stick to what I know – which makes the ever-expanding Grateful Dead family of artists, in the years since Jerry Garcia passed, such a helpful phenomenon. Over the years, I’ve become versed in the exceptional stylings of Jackie Greene as he’s traversed Deadosphere – and through his work with Phil Lesh, and others in the jam band world, Anders Osborne‘s impeccable reputation precedes himself. Yet while walking into The Space At Westbury this past Friday, my knowledge of these two talent’s original work was still limited.
So when heading through the doors of the recently and immaculately restored Tudor style auditorium, minimal expectations were had other than the hope for good tunes and a desire for a Grateful Dead cover or two. Those paltry expectations were immediately met, and immeasurably exceeded as soon as Anders & Jackie strapped in for what would be a euphonious ninety-minute acoustic escapade. Timing is everything, and while I missed the opening stanza by Cris Jacobs, it seemed as if they were waiting for my party’s arrival, as in only a moment after scurrying to our fifth-row seats, the houselights dimmed and the main event began. And in a fateful turn, Cris Jacobs joined Anders and Jackie on a few tunes, showcasing his commensurate skills on the acoustic guitar and conveying the very reason he was chosen as an opening act for this tour.
From the first notes strummed, it was readily apparent that the show’s billing as “sitting around, singing songs – an acoustic evening” did not mean it would be a mellow evening as these two musical troubadours emerged on stage with an air of vigor and vibrancy – and they hardly sat around, aside from a few turns Jackie took behind the keys. While Anders and Jackie shared the stage for a number of unplugged shows earlier this year, the chemistry exhibited between these two poetic players was palpable on an otherworldly level. An attendee remarked at show’s end that he has “heard both artists solo – nothing compares to the chemistry that they put forward together.” Kindred spirits bound through musical mastery, the camaraderie displayed onstage is seldom present even in players that have toured together for years, yet these two embodied that quality with ease.
Through their set, Anders and Jackie took turns taking lead on their own original tunes. From Anders’ laying his soul to bare on the contemplative “Burning Up Slowly,” or the heart tugging ballad “I Need You,” to the boys (including Cris Jacobs) trading licks on the feel-good anthem “Lafayette,” Anders’ tunes ran the gamut and evoked emotional responses from the audience all across the spectrum. And Jackie’s soulful songs did much the same – from the down to earth “I Don’t Live In A Dream,” to the folksy “Tupelo,” Jackie showcased his versatile skills, from impeccable songwriter, to full-throated vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist. His substantive take on the gospel of Blind Willie Johnson with “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” transformed the venue to another time, another place, and left audience members to ponder their own personal plight towards the metaphorical fork in the road between salvation and damnation. In the end, we finally got our Grateful Dead tribute to boot. As Cris Jacobs traversed the stage once more, the trio busted out a raucous version of “New Speedway Boogie,” and mid-verse, in the midst of an audience singalong, Jackie proclaimed, “fuckin’ Deadheads everywhere!” Well ain’t that the truth.
As with the Grateful Dead, these two Princes of Americana channel the very best of the American musical landscape into their own special blend of awesomeness. With a respect towards tradition, and an aim towards innovation and originality, there’s nothing like catching these guys in the flesh. If Jackie is the soul of this ensemble, then Anders is the heartbeat, as each brought their singularly extraordinary talents into play, and manifested an unparalleled symbiotic scene. With jokes and quick witticisms in between songs, they materialized an atmosphere of lightheartedness and levity making for a night of seamless serenity and sonic sorcery. These songsmiths continue onwards with ‘Tourgether 2017’ and have several more dates on the horizon. Enjoy the below videos – yet they are only an amuse-bouche – you’ll have to catch the show for the main course.
“Does this white light make me look fat? Good I’ve been trying to gain a couple pounds!” – Anders Osborne
“Lafayette” – Anders Osborne (video by bklynwmn)
“I Don’t Live In A Dream” – Jackie Greene
“Nobody’s Fault But Mine” – Blind Willie Johnson Cover
Lately it occurs to me that a large, or at least excessively vocal sector of Phans hates the up and coming jam act known as Twiddle. The phenomenon confounds me, yet is born out time and time again on Facebook, Twitter, PT, Phish.net, etcetera. Sometimes the chatter is so loud and inundating that these Phish groups should consider a name change. Twiddle Gripers 2017, or Friendly Twiddle Bitchers are names that ring right when peak Twiddle bellyaching is reached.
“Hate” is a strong word, yet it’s the one most frequently confronted when talking Twiddle with Phans. Since most of these conversations are had on the interweb, a medium that often appeals to our lowest common inclinations, I considered that Phans might have a more nuanced and toned down take on the subject in person. As I set out to discuss all things Twiddle with Phans, live at The Baker’s Dozen this past summer, I had no sense how wrong I’d be proven.
In his or her natural habitat, the Phan’s hatred for Twiddle is immensely exacerbated. The Phish heads I met outside Madison Square Garden were extremely passionate, did not mince words, and were sometimes intimidating. Apparently for the most ardent of the Twiddle hating Phans, even bringing up the jam band’s name at a Phish show will harsh their vibe – I learned this the hard way.
When I first arrived at Penn Station on Powder night, I encountered a Phan named Eggz looking for a ticket with his finger held high by the escalators. When I mentioned that I was interviewing Phans before the show, his eyes lit up with interest and excitement. He introduced himself, mentioned that he had to get to all nights of The Baker’s Dozen so he could complete what he called his “baker’s hundozen” (his 113th show would fall on the last night of the run), and he meticulously made certain that I understood “Eggz” was spelled with a “Z.”
After some small talk I asked if he was into Twiddle. The previously mellow, and somewhat excitable Eggz, quickly morphed into a defensive posture. “Twiddle? Twiddle, brah?! Love my dick relentlessly! Twiddle this and get the fuck outta here!” He abruptly shuffled away, yelling “who’s got my miracle or good deal?!”
A little bit flustered by my first encounter, I left Penn Station and perched myself under the Darin Shock mural in the main entrance to MSG. Shaking the Eggz experience off, I quickly approached my next subject. Davey Donuts was an English major at SUNY Oneonta, spending the summer before his last year in college on Phish tour. His non-Phan friends gave him his nickname after he profusely and only talked about The Baker’s Dozen since its announcement.
I asked him what he thought of Twiddle. His face immediately transformed from an expression of chill to complete and utter disgust. He bellowed “Twiddle blows! Typical, white, college kid, super cheese, middle class, trust fund baby band.” When I suggested that he essentially described half of Phish’s audience, including himself, he fake lunged at me, scoffed, and scurried away.
Completely verklempt at this point, turning and churning the thoughts in my head, I set my sights on the Pennsy where I could take a load off, take the edge off, and regroup. I struck up a conversation with Katy, whose online handle is Starchild Kind Kat.
When I apprehensively touched upon the elephant in the room, she remarked that she “tried listening to Twiddle once. [She] couldn’t even get through the whole song, Jamflowdude or something? They sounded so derivative. They just plain ripped off Phish, and thought we wouldn’t notice?! Losers!” When I suggested that many would consider imitation a great form of flattery, she said “fuck that,” and walked away with her friends. While scattering, I heard her say to her buddies that “I hope they play a Jerry song tonight!”
I wasn’t feeling the nuance, I wasn’t feeling the love. As I walked outside, a cool breeze made me think about the situation – At this point I decided to bag this whole endeavor, go inside, get a spicy chicken sandwich, and enjoy the show. After going through security, and double timing it to section 119 before the half off promotion ended, I found an empty table to eat my sandwich in peace. Soon a Phan asked if they could share the spot with me. When I obliged and went to introduce myself, I almost choked on my chicken upon seeing his t-shirt. The shirt had a Phish emblem on it with Twiddle written in the middle. Blown away, I asked my new friend Matty if we could rap about this Twiddle hating Phan phenomenon.
A fan of both Twiddle and Phish, Matty was down to dish. As a former psychology major at UC Berkeley, he already came up with a few interpersonal theories on the subject. Matty stated “There’s a large sector of Phans that have been teased for years by their Grateful Dead loving counterparts, so now they need a little cousin to pick on – Enter Twiddle.” His second hypothesis centered around the notion that “many Phans see Twiddle as a legitimate threat to Phish’s legacy, and in turn hate them without giving them a real shot. This is purely a mechanism to secure Phish’s survival as The Beatles of the current jam band scene.”
Pleasantly surprised by Matty’s articulate and well thought through responses, he hit me with one last thought. “Maybe Phans aren’t willing to give Twiddle a real shot because they can’t look passed their nonsensical name. Maybe when folks are so enamored by one band, it becomes hard to open their minds to newer music.” When my eyes wandered sideways pondering Matty’s words, I caught Sam Cutler walking by, powdered donut clenched in one hand, ticket in the other, looking for his seat.
Soon after, Sam Cutler would go down in inPHamy for his hilariously close-minded rant about his experience catching four Phish songs live. Often I see shades of his rant in Phan conversations about Twiddle. The donut does not fall far from the bakery, and no one really gives a crap about what bands one doesn’t like – Different strokes for different folks. I cannot count the amount of times I’ve had these same conversations with Deadheads about Phish. A pattern is forming.
This has been (mostly) satire brought to you by Stand For Jam. The sentiment is real – The quotes were inspired by real comments – The interviews did not happen – I did not see Sam Cutler on Powder night, yet ran into him a few days prior at JRAD…and I got my Sec 119 Spicy Chicken Sandwich on Holes night!
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…
There are countless Grateful Dead cover bands across these great United States taking their own spin on the GD canon, yet when it comes to David Bryan & Friends, the phrase “cover band” is a dirty term. Surely, they play Grateful Dead songs, but replication is nary the objective. They are a Re-creation Band, taking these timeless tunes, and transforming them into their otherworldly own.
What JRAD is to a face melting, brain busting, interpretation of the Grateful Dead canon, David Bryan & Friends is the soothing soulful mellow opposing side of that same coin. Not to say you won’t get your groove on at a David Bryan show, for you no doubt will (bring your dancing shoes!). But painstaking attention to arrangement, and vocal virtuosity sets them widely apart from your dime a dozen GD tribute act.
Specifically, shining centerstage is the angelic voice of the troupe’s namesake. David’s vocals are soul shattering and will tug at your heartstrings as you join the band on their melodious migration through the Grateful Dead songbook. He is joined by a hand selected ensemble of impeccable vocalists (male & female) and distinguished musicians that are tried and true in their own right.
Kenny Brooks (Ratdog) on saxophone with David Bryan & Friends
One particular player of note is Kenny Brooks, longtime saxophonist of Bob Weir’s Ratdog. Another is the badass bassist Chris Crosby (Danke Baby), and as brother of The Terrapin Family Band keyman, Jason Crosby, all things Grateful Dead runs through this guy’s veins. It’s truly a GD family affair in this ensemble. Long Island’s own guitar virtuoso, Steve Urban (Fields Of Dreams), is also in company, adding his own special style to the mix. And as a super special fill-in, Bill Bonacci (Stella Blue’s Band) will be shredding the strings on lead guitar. Dave was not fooling around when putting together this crew, and attendance at his upcoming American Beauty NYC shindig is essentially mandatory for any self-respecting Deadhead, or true-blue music lover.
In only a few short days, you too can experience the musical mysticism of a live David Bryan & Friends show. They will lay it all out on the stage at American Beauty on this Thursday, September 7th (Doors @ 8pm). If you find yourself within a 50-mile radius of the New York Metropolitan Area, you’d frankly be a fool not to check these masters of melody out. I can guarantee with wholehearted confidence that this will merely be your first foray into David’s world, as his alluring illuminations of Grateful Dead song will leave your soul screaming for more.
You will find the venue itself to be enticing in its own right, beguiling to jam band minded folks with its acoustics and aesthetics. A plethora of craft beer is on tap to boot, appealing to every personal penchant under the sun. Yet if insanity is abounding, and the music nor brews are doing it for you, all the free pizza your tummy could desire is on hand too. Thursday night’s scene provides something for everyone, and at the reasonable fifteen-dollar price of entry (comparable to a pack of smokes in Manhattan), you’re “bound to cover just a little more ground,” and get your monies worth and then some.
This band is a jewel in the rough, a diamond yet to be mined. For the few in the know, they keep coming back for more, yet now it’s your time to get in on this right stuff. Head to American Beauty on Thursday, and share in the groove with David Bryan & Friends. As I personally vouch for the versatile virtue of this crew of exemplary players, feel free to track me down and rough me up if I’ve mislead you in anyway.
PS- Please listen to one or all of these videos below (lineups vary), and you will see what I’m talking about…when you’re done, click on the Facebook event link below, RSVP, and find all the pertinent details…
There ain’t nothing like a Phil show at Central Park. When the weather is airy and light, the scene is right, and the music is tight. All sources of serene sonic sorcery combine to manifest a sublime state of serendipity. The bucolic surroundings alone are a rare respite in a city of steel and smut. Add a heaping spoonful of Deadheads, a dollop of Phil Lesh, a sprinkling of The Terrapin Family Band, a dash of Melvin Seals, and a pinch of Nicki Bluhm, you have yourself a recipe for psychedelic communion at the Church of Grateful Dead.
Traversing what could be termed as “Shakedown Rock,” a geologic grouping of boulders outside SummerStage central, Deadheads’ can be found cavorting, carousing, communing, and commercing. A handful of vendors are selling heady handmade goods. Others are reuniting with old cohorts, and mingling with new friends alike. Some folks are sipping on craft brews, or eating homemade sandwiches before the main event commences. There is no lot, nor a typical shakedown, but Central Park makes for a pregame of perfection. One with nature, attune with the chime of the leaves in the breeze, there’s not many better places to take in the show before the show than the placid pastures outside Rumsey Playfield.
Such an enchanting encampment, loosens the soul from the grime of the daily grind. So once entering the venue, many Deadheads find themselves appropriately apart from the maddening melancholia of modern day materialism. We find ourselves removed from our ragged runarounds, primed and ready to escape inside the symphony set before us.
As was advertised, we are met with a set of Jerry Garcia Band tunes to open the evening. We are no longer “Tangled Up In Blue” as this euphonious ensemble tears through the Bob Dylan original, and JGB staple. “How Sweet It Is” to dance in the setting summer sun, as Nicki Bluhm soars through this peppy rendition on vocal lead. Soon we find ourselves half passed 7:00pm, but it’s “After Midnight” in the daylight as Ross James & Grahame Lesh trade licks on J.J. Cale’s classic with vigor and grit. Throughout the entirety of the JGB segment, Melvin Seals serves as our rock, channeling the soul of Jerry and his old side project, tenaciously with his trigger finger on his Hammond B-3 organ. Jason Crosby serves as his worthy counterpart on the keys with effortless execution.
As set one moves us brightly, set two lights the fire under our ass. From Phil’s opening bass bomb, love is shakin’ on “Shakedown Street;” a simple poke around proves it to be true. “The Music Never Stopped,” and while singing and romancing, it’s evident we’re all “Playing In The Band.” On drums, Alex Koford is our engine, driving this collective train, as we’re “bound to cover just a little more ground.” We traverse through the “transitive nightfall of diamonds,” before walking out in that sweet sweet “Morning Dew.” Not a single soul around fails to “Turn On [Their] Lovelight” as the music plays the band, and the band plays us. Wrapping up our psychedelic parkscapade, shakin’ like “Sugaree” at a jaunty jubilee, one cannot help but exude profound gratitude and incalculable thankfulness.
At 77 years young, Philip Chapman Lesh continues to defy expectations and boundaries with a musical troupe that’s currently playing some of the best live Grateful Dead music out there. It seems he’s relying more heavily on The Terrapin Family Band as of late, as this group’s congruous chops shine brightly wherever they choose to throw down. There is something to be said about a band, a true band of brothers (and sometimes sister) that regularly plays together. The camaraderie of this company of players is palpable at every single performance, and it reflects in the harmonious, out of the box, mind fuck music they create. This is not a cover band, nor a nostalgia act. These cats are the real deal, and if you have yet had the opportunity to catch them live, get on that shit. Stat!
“Second That Emotion”
“The Music Never Stopped”
Tangled Up in Blue
They Love Each Other
How Sweet It Is
Mission In The Rain
Reuben & Cherise
Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power)
Second That Emotion
Music Never Stopped
Playing in the Band
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.
To 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.
With the New Year upon us, it’s a fitting time to reflect upon the sorcerous year of song currently reaching its conclusion. Musicians across the JamBandaverse have been no doubt firing on all cylinders in 2015, with this energy largely manifesting from the top down, originating from Phish and the surviving members of the Grateful Dead. While I believe trickle-down economics is a big bowl of bullshit, the theory holds water when applied to the jam band scene. And our collective consciousness was given a shot of adrenaline from up top when in January, Fare Thee Well: Celebrating 50 Years of Grateful Dead was announced featuring Trey Anastasio at the helm. It all started there, and through months of preparation, and five transcendent Dead shows, Trey and the boys set the stage for a year in jam unrivaled in recent history.
Grateful Dead University was the most remarkable thing that happened to Trey since drug court. It admittedly tweaked him just right for the second half of 2015. In GDU, Bobby gave Trey a lesson in patience, and Trey allowed himself alone time with his extensive rig. These two facets in the reeducation of Trey, amongst a smattering of other things, set the scene for our favorite redhead to shine all over again. It’s not a stretch to name Big Red as the MVP of Fare Thee Well, let alone 2015 as “The Year of Trey.”
Through GD50, the best summer Phish tour in a generation, a smokin’ hot TAB fall tour, and what already looks like a New Years Run for the record books, Trey’s infectious energy has remained front and center. And as I’ve said in a previous Trey Band review, he’s contagious, as his magic manifests in the players around him wherever he goes. So as this Phish run rounds out, before we find ourselves on the other side of Riviera Maya itching for summer tour 2016, I’m gonna take a moment to thank the immediate Phish family, as they did to us in the final shot of the summer. United We Stand, and not a thing suggests that this string of unimaginable feats won’t continue into the New Year.
Onward to Dead & Company, part II of GD50, brought to us by three of the core four. Their fall tour was alchemical. With the incorporation of John Mayer into the mix, he has largely endeared himself to thousands of deadheads that not too long ago loathed his very existence. While Dead & Company in an all inclusive sense, has not nor ever will reach the heights of the magic embodied in Fare Thee Well (unless John Mayer can piss rainbows, that’d be an impossible feat), this past fall tour has been nothing less than an expectation exceeding modern reinvention of our favorite touring band. With Mayer and Oteil Burbridge seeded in the mix, Dead & Co. reached contemporarily unrivaled peaks, putting forth some of the finest versions of Grateful Dead songs since the days of Jerry.
And while the collective energy level of Santa Clara and Chicago will likely never be reached again, through camaraderie that can only be built in a touring band, the latest GD50 ensemble found themselves getting better all the time. Due to downtime, some ashes, glass, and rust needed to be wiped away during the first few New Years run shows, yet confidence that the band will bring it with them on this eve remains high. Bigger and brighter things lay in wait for Dead & Company if they choose to head out on their rumored 2016 summer tour, but in the present they’ve managed to carry that 50th anniversary magic with further vigor than has been displayed in years. Thanks boys for making 2015 extra special. You’ve inspired many a deadhead and jam band to reach for the skies in their respective endeavors.
So with the preeminent jam bands’ bringing it all back home in the last twelve months, many other acts have followed suit. While there’s no direct connection here, I firmly believe our collective scene energy has played a major part. Case in point, The String Cheese Incident also found themselves at the top of their game this year. The Disco Biscuits have all of a sudden been throwing down like it’s 2009 all over again. Umphrey’s, well they always kill it. Lots of younger acts have tapped in too. From Dopapod and Twiddle reaching new heights, both opening for String Cheese at Red Rocks this past summer, to unparalleled collaborations between Twiddle and the Werks on Twerk Tour, to magic manifested by Turkuaz, Tauk, etcetera, etcetera, all year long. These are only a few bands that quickly come to mind, as many unmentioned have also thrown their hats into this 2015 free-for-all.
In a nutshell, this year was immensely prosperous for fans, musicians, festival goers, and everyone that has a stake in this subculture. If 2016 serves to be half as fruitful, we’re in for a wild ride in the coming year, yet here’s hoping it’s better. To all in the jam band world, all that have supported my writing ventures over the past six months, and all those souls beyond, have a happy, healthy, and hopeful New Year! Next year in Jerusalem!!!
Music guides us, binds us, takes us through our darkest hours, and accompanies us through our greatest triumphs. It’s our therapy through tragedy, and our soundtrack through serenity. And on Friday evening, as music lovers perished, it was brutally besieged. In this age when terror attacks have become a daily possibility, and many of us have numbed ourselves to the specter of these catastrophes hitting home, a concert venue being the target of such hate chills us to the bone. Our sanctuary, our abode on the road, where we often find our truer selves, where we transcend the monotony of daily existence, has been breached by the blood and fury of those with the express mission to spread dread. Yet while music was viciously violated this night, it will be the very thing that heals us in the end.
No doubt upon hearing of this attack, many of us briefly envisioned what it would be like in such a scenario, as it isn’t a stretch to put ourselves in the shoes of the Eagles of Death Metal fans, crew, and band members at their Friday night concert at the Bataclan. Fear is natural, and is the direct goal of a terror event, driven home as this particular strike hit six different public spheres throughout Paris. We may feel unease upon our first entrance into a music venue after this attack, but France will recover from this tragedy, as our distress will pass. In marching through our fear, the music will heal our misgivings on the other side. As we trust in the melody to get us through, our resolve as a collective will help us move on.
Music is my therapy, and in a live setting it’s superbly intensive. Whatever social anxiety, shyness, or melancholia I sometimes experience on the outside is quickly shed afar at a live music gathering. When I get confused and listen to the music play, my ills often melt away. Now today as some of us are likely agonizing over a sense of innocence that’s been lost for our greatest escape, we try to make sense of the nonsensical. As live music has been the soundtrack that has kept our lives in motion all these years, this attack appears as a personal affront to our very way of being. Many of us happen to be the best versions of ourselves when taking in music firsthand with our loved ones. And as we contemplate and process these events, our transcendent selves will reign supreme, as we preserve our therapeutic outlet, and that outlet maintains us.
While everyone processes tragedy differently, we should aim to let the music heal, as it has always done. Let us walk through the despair together at our next live music event. Let us use this tragedy as a reminder of the privilege we sometimes take for granted, the honor to see our favorite musicians year after year in safety. Let’s look out for each other on our musical journeys, and while we’ve always done this, let’s pay extra special attention to those around us, and lend helping hands when we can. We never know when danger is around the corner, so lets be cautious, but as it’s sometimes unavoidable, let’s live it up in the moment, traversing our trepidation, one show at a time, with each other.
Let’s project those good vibes when we can, because in the end positive energy will outweigh the negative, if we let it. And through the music positivity reigns freely. Never will terrorists’ hell bent on disturbing our way of life take away our hymns and harmonies. As long as humans roam the earth, there will be live tunes to absorb. It could be the cockroaches and a couple of us, and we’ll figure a way to make music. Music is inbred in our souls. We take as much a part in creating it as it does in shaping our lives and our surroundings. No one can take that away from us. Ever. Music is our binding force, music is our home. As Mickey Hart poignantly said in response to these attacks, “music is the best healing agent we know.” Music is our lifeblood, one of our quintessential reasons for being, and it can never be silenced.
No venue in Manhattan is quite like Central Park SummerStage at Rumsey Playfield. Centered in the bucolic and historic park, the surroundings themselves are worth the venture alone, yet when a surviving member of the Grateful Dead is playing, the scenery serves merely as a gateway to the main event. With a capacity of roughly 5000 people, SummerStage was packed to the rafters on Wednesday night, yet due to its relatively small size the venue provides an intimate environment, often not seen at many outdoor concert grounds. So strolling through the park prior to the show, I found myself drawn to the nearby rocks where folks regularly congregate before events. Meeting old friends and new, the aura outside was terrific, mellow, and anticipatory for the night to come.
And expectations were wholeheartedly met as Phil Lesh and his current company took the stage and Tony Leone belted out the familiar drumbeat signaling the Samson and Delilah at hand. If folks took this as evidence of a show heading in the direction of late seventies up-tempo Dead, they, as I, were markedly mistaken, as the band forayed into the longtime Jerry staple, Catfish John. The soulful tune allowed ample time for guitarists Eric Krasno, and Neal Casal to open up and cut deep. The interplay between the two lead axemen remained to be a strong point all night long, accentuated by the versatile keysmanship of the latest Black Crowes keyboardist, Adam MacDougall.
As the music moved forward, it was evident that we were in for a blues heavy show with back to back Pig Pen tunes, Hard to Handle, and Easy Wind. As MacDougall, Casal, and Leone are all Chris Robinson collaborators of past and present, a bluesy element emblematic of the Crowes emanated through the players, and created a unique sound relative to past Phil & Friends incarnations. Robinson delved into his roll as lead vocalist with ease and swagger, and at times seemed to be channeling the late great Ron McKernan, not only with voice, but also through a gritty harmonica solo in the midst of Easy Wind. As set one came to a close with Big River, the band presented us with a fresh take, and I found myself reaching a transcendent state for the first time in the evening.
The fact that Phil’s still bringing us full length shows of stellar live music well into his seventies is a blessing and a miracle. For that, I can’t blame him in the least for the extended set breaks that have become commonplace at his shows. I know many folks his age that are long in bed and asleep while he’s raging onward night after night. So while the lengthy intermission allowed Phil and company to reenergize, it gave us heads ample time for bathroom breaks, beer runs, and mingling with our friends and family. As the sun went down on the Park, and the lights brightened on the stage, we all dug in for what was to be a smoking second set.
The He’s Gone opener was met with rip-roaring enthusiasm from the audience, as the song has taken up special meaning since the passing of Jerry Garcia. At this juncture it occurred to me we haven’t heard much from Phil in respect to fronting vocals. While many deadheads have taken umbrage with him appropriating a lead on certain songs, there are a few he has adopted and truly made his own in the post-Jerry years. And as clear as the summer’s sky, his voice shined through in singing Saint Stephen and Franklin’s Tower. With the night winding down, the double encore opened with the recognizable riff of Mr. Charlie, a fitting choice with Robinson’s ability to conjure the essence of Pig Pen. Each band member took a musical bow with respective solos, and in capping it all off, the ensemble left us with a sentimental U.S. Blues that evoked nostalgia of the epic summertime “come and gone.”
All in all this was a well-executed show, with a handful of highs, and some middle of the road moments. For many of the Northeast deadheads in attendance, this was their first opportunity to see Phil live and in the flesh in this fiftieth year of Grateful Dead (or at least since before Fare Thee Well), and that vibe waved wide and high as we danced and sang the night away to our favorite tunes. As a New Yorker, I consider myself to be among the fortunate since Lesh retired from touring, as I’m still able to get my Phil fix fairly frequently. As he rides off into his twilight years, I imagine Phil will venture less commonly from his home at Terrapin Crossroads. So with a run of shows coming up at the Capitol Theater in Portchester, NY at the end of October, I’d encourage all who can make it to catch Phil and his friends as they round out this epic year in Grateful Dead history.
“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.
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.
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 🙂
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.”
With the rousing success of the first Dead Test, our test maker extraordinaire, Rich Saltz, decided to whip up another one! While many that took the first test were able to hands down match every musician with their musicianship, many more could not, and based upon numerous comments throughout the interweb, deadheads found themselves humbled when faced with the anonymous mastery of all these musicians. This was truly the Pepsi Challenge for deadheads, with one majorly different aim. While the Pepsi Challenge was a blind soft drink taste test, with the aim to have folks choose Pepsi every time, the Dead Test was meant to confuse the senses, and ultimately open the eyes of some that otherwise felt that many of these musicians did not have the chops to step into Jerry’s shoes. If Jerry was Pepsi, we wanted you to see the merits of Coca-Cola, RC Cola, and even Tab, during this metaphorical taste test.
Well the results are in, and barring a couple of examples, no more than one-third of the 2,775 participants matched each of the song clips with their respective players. The two exceptions being Jerry Garcia and Trey Anastasio, where participants answered correctly roughly 50% of the time. Since we are all deadheads here, the higher percentage rate on Jerry makes perfect sense, but still nearly fifty percent of devout deadheads (because you had to be pretty devout to take the time for this quiz) were not able to pick Jerry out of the pack. The higher percentage on Trey also serves to highlight his unique approach when attacking the Grateful Dead catalog, or pretty much anything Trey plays. Even myself, who doesn’t exactly have a great ear for such things, can hear a Trey riff coming from a mile away. But the takeaway here is that two-thirds of us fell flat on our faces while taking the Dead Test.
There’s truly nothing wrong with failing miserably at such tests, and it goes to show that one can love this music just as much as the next guy or gal without having the ear to decipher the particular peculiarities between different players. I truly hope that this past quiz and the new one has or will open some minds to the playing styles of many musicians that have joined the extended Grateful Dead family since Jerry’s passing. While Jerry is truly one of a kind, and will always be the barometer when discussing such things, it’s been twenty years since papa bear’s passing, and in that time there has been exemplary moments of musical majesty that we as a community were lucky enough to take part in. And while when in the mood to listen to some GD music, we may, by default, pop on a show with Jerry, there are countless shows from the last twenty years that deserve one, two, or thousands of more plays as well.
With an eye towards the future, we have a lot of GD history yet to be made. With Bob Weir and Mickey Hart just added to the Lockn’ roster in September (joining Phil and Billy), there will be several collaborations with various guitarists filling Jerry’s old role. And while Lockn’ may already be a lock in the yet to be told GD history of 2015, there’s been a consistent rumor going around regarding three of the Core Four touring this fall with John Mayer. Say what you will about John Mayer’s music, but he’s an exemplary guitarist, with such grit, that I am certain that Jerry would have loved to collaborate with him, as Weir and Lesh have already done so. The man has an intricate understanding of the Grateful Dead canon, and has already proven he’s able to bring his own panache to the mix when playing with the boys. While you’d never catch me at a John Mayer concert, I will be lining up for tickets for this tour, as it will serve to be legendary in this, the 50th year of Grateful Dead.
In the spirit of celebration of fifty years of transcendent music, we present this quiz to test your wits in respect to a handful of these guitar players’ modus operandi. Rich Saltz, a fellow deadhead and guitarist extraordinaire in his own right, edited together the below Soundcloud clips, without any labeling, so we deadheads can challenge our preconceived notions about who our favorite deadhead family guitarists have been. With an aim towards open-mindedness, please press play on the below Soundcloud file, and while you’re listening, scroll down and take the quiz. Choose the lead guitarist that you think is playing in each respective version. Rich chose to take seven different clips from They Love Each Other (which is fitting because all these guys would love each other’s form), played by seven different guitarists, and leave it up to our wits, experience, and overall knowledge to guess who’s who. The original intent was to listen to each clip without the added prejudice of knowing who is playing them, and then decide which one is your favorite…in upping the ante, we’re now asking you to identify each respective player.
While many of you will surely hypothesize correctly, we imagine many of you will not as well. And in making errors in identification, perhaps some folks will drop their preconceived notions relating to who is better than whom. If even through doing this, one person develops a new respect for one or more of these impeccable guitarists, then this experiment will be absolutely worthwhile. If there were a Grateful Dead hall of fame, John Kadlecik, Jeff Mattson, Steve Kimock, Stu Allen, John Mayer and Mark Karan would all have their rightful place within, right aside Jerry Garcia himself.
Now press play, sit back, and enjoy Dead Test Too! And most importantly, have fun!
Also, if you’re interested in the shows we used for the first Dead Test, here are the dates and bands:
Jerry Garcia – Grateful Dead- Cow Palace 12/31/76
Stu Allen – Phil & Friends – 6/12/15
Trey Anastasio – Fare Thee Well – 6/27/15
John Kadlecik – Furthur – 7/28/11
Jimmy Herring – The Dead – 8/10/03
Warren Haynes – The Dead – 7/4/09
Take any Grateful Dead song, and one can find countless meanings within. There is no exception with “Days Between,” the last true fusion of the beautiful minds of Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter. A few songs have taken up special meaning since the death of Garcia, and with “He’s Gone,” Days Between has become a notable term in the Grateful Dead lexicon. While the ultimate Days Between, a celebration of the life and times of Jerry Garcia, takes place between August 1st and August 9th, the birth-date and death-date of Garcia respectively, I contend that the run-up to the Days Between, from the anniversary of the last Grateful Dead show on July 9th, to Jerry’s birthday on August 1st are special days as well, and compile our symbolic Lent.
While the Days Between came to fruition, first and foremost as a Jerry holiday, as the years go by it seems that this extended month-long observance is evolving into something greater. It has become a celebration of all we’ve lost, and all we still have in our deadhead community as a whole. This is our reflection time, an opportunity to deal with unresolved grief, a moment to look upon the past year, wrestle with the good and the bad, and even atone for any misdeeds we may have done. Truly a time for karmic contemplation, and joyous communion.
If one were to call the Grateful Dead community a religious phenomenon, or at the very least a spiritual one, Deadhead Lent and the Days Between are our High Holy Days. As certain days of significance, for Christians, scatter the path in the lead up to Easter, starting with Ash Wednesday as the symbolic beginning to conventional Lent, observances such as Palm Sunday and Good Friday cap off the Holy Week leading to a final celebration of the biblical anniversary of Jesus’ Resurrection. While I am near certain that neither Jerry Garcia, nor any other deceased members of the Grateful Dead have been resurrected, the handful of anniversaries observed during this month-long high holy periodserve as symbolic reminders of various crossroads in Grateful Dead history. Deadhead Lent calls to mind a time when many deadheads found themselves wandering through the metaphorical wilderness in the early post-Jerry days. And while some essential moments fall outside the realm of these days, many use this time as a spiritual recognition of those anniversaries as well.
While Deadhead Lent is very different from conventional Lent, it embodies the lead up to our Holy Week that is the Days Between. It is in essence pertinent to our overall celebration for those that passed on, and a commemoration of those lost days in the immediate aftermath of the final Grateful Dead show and Jerry’s death. No one gives up meat, smoking, or anything else for Deadhead Lent, yet in similar ways, many Deadheads can get contemplative during this time. They often mourn community losses, atone for karmic sins, and ultimately strive to be penitent, cleansing themselves for the year that lies ahead. As Deadhead Lent winds down to a close, our Holy Week begins with Jerry’s birthday. This month of solemn anniversaries and jubilating remembrance has become our holiday of holidays. Since more or less every single show or event we attend is in spirit a holy day, this month provides a time for those that may not or can not actively attend shows to participate in mourning and celebration as well. It remains to be the highest of holy days celebrated by deadheads on an international level.
Yet since nothing is really defined within the deadhead community, no edict or announcement regarding these days was ever put forth in an official sense. Rather the observance emerged organically after Jerry passed on. The hazy denotation of the term Days Between encapsulates the non-dogmatic nature of the band and community’s ideals as reflected through various GD song lyrics. And while Deadhead Lent remains an informal notion, people have been marking this occasion for years without truly designating the space in time. Ask any deadhead why and when the Days Between occur, and what they do and how they feel in the leading weeks, while varying, you will get fairly similar answers. It is a tacitly approved holiday, celebrated on informal, personal, and sometimes community wide levels.
As we mark the 50th anniversary of the Grateful Dead saga, 20 years since the last Grateful Dead show and Jerry’s passing, Deadhead Lent and the Days Between take on special meaning this year, and are likely being celebrated, in one way or another, by more deadheads than ever in years past. Whether it’s making a tribute post on Facebook for the anniversary of Brent’s last show or his death (25 years ago on 7/23/90 & 7/26/90 respectively), or putting on a show from ’77 in honor of Keith’s passing (35 years ago on 7/23/80), deadheads are making small gestures in remembrance across this great green Earth. It could be a blog post (as this is), heading to a grassroots type festival such as Grateful Fest in Ohio, or hitting up a bigger Dead oriented fest like Gathering of The Vibes in Connecticut (celebrating 20 years!) for Jerry’s birthday weekend. Large and small, deadheads are making gestures and pilgrimages alike in celebration of our unique community, and the boys who started it all, the members of the Grateful Dead.
So over this month of contemplation, consideration, and karmic realignment, I am sincerely hoping that all the deadheads out there, near and far, have or will take a moment from their day to celebrate in their own special way. There is no definitive procedure to properly take part in Deadhead Lent and the Days Between; you only need to consider yourself somehow a part of this harmonious circus, and do what you feel is special. If our cosmic energy aligns throughout these days, perhaps Jerry, Pigpen, Keith, Brent, Vince, various crew and GD family members of past time, will feel our collective stream of goodwill beaming towards them, wherever they are.
“There were days
and there were days
and there were days between
Summer flies and August dies
the world grows dark and mean…
…there were days between
polished like a golden bowl
the finest ever seen
Hearts of Summer held in trust
still tender, young and green…” —Robert Hunter
Stay green my friends, and through the good times and bad, do your best to keep the spirit alive. Happy Days!
~~~ If the mood strikes you and it’s not too personal, share below (or on Facebook, Twitter or any other medium) how you will be, or have been, celebrating this year. And please like our Facebook page, Grateful Globotz, or follow us on Twitter @GratefulGlobotz, so you won’t miss any future postings out of our camp. #DaysBetween ~~~
If you have gotten something out of anything you’ve read on this site, and are able, we’d be eternally grateful for whatever you can contribute to our emerging blog (could be as little as a buck, or as much as you gather we’re worth). We will use the proceeds to buy a domain name, spruce up the website, and add new features. The goal is to make this a smoother and more inclusive experience for everyone! Thanks 🙂
After Fare Thee Well: Celebrating 50 Years of Grateful Dead, most of us have been overwhelmingly positive regarding the experience, and the choice the Core Four made in choosing Trey Anastasio as lead guitarist for the five show run. Yet some remain critical of Trey, and even after throwing down, they do not believe he was the right selection. And while much criticism has boiled to the surface over Fare Thee Well, this friction seems to stem from the central question in an ongoing debate that has been happening for the last two decades: can anyone truly fulfill the role of Jerry Garcia in all the various Grateful Dead offshoots and incarnations?
The simple answer is no. There’s no one out there that will truly, 100%, replace the magic that Jerry brought to the stage, time and time again, over a thirty year period. No one can truly mirror Jerry, nor should they. Yet despite this debate, several exemplary musicians have dared to cross the threshold through the years, and bring their own style and cadence into play for our listening pleasure. They’ve created new magic, their own magic, and shared it with the rest of us. These men should be honored; not for emulating Garcia, but for stepping into a situation where, no matter what they do, or how they perform, they will be roasted one way or another. Whether they aim towards replication or reinvention, criticism is often the hallmark of many of these performances. As deadheads, we are a critical bunch, and while it may be unfair to compare the stylings of these men to Garcia himself, we often can not help ourselves.
Nevertheless, each of those that dared are outstanding performers in their own right…the former GD band members would have never chosen them otherwise. For the rumored upcoming tour, the three band members that are allegedly taking John Mayer with them, would not be if it wasn’t for his consummate skills, and his understanding of the Dead canon as a whole. You do not have to be a fan of John Mayer music to appreciate his competence as a guitarist extraordinaire. The band realizes this, and as deadheads we should respect the band’s decisions, and applaud the musicianship of Mayer and the rest these men, even despite our personal opinions.
In the spirit of celebration of 50 years of transcendent music, we present this quiz to test your wits in respect to a handful of these guitar players’ stylings. Rich Saltz, a fellow Deadhead, edited together the below Soundcloud clips, without any labeling, so we deadheads can challenge our preconceived notions about who our favorite deadhead family guitarists have been. With an aim towards open-mindedness, please press play on the below Soundcloud file, and while you’re listening, scroll down and take the quiz. Choose the lead guitarist that you think is playing in each respective clip. Rich chose to take six versions of the first break of Morning Dew, played by six different guitarists, and leave it up to our wits, experience, and overall knowledge to guess who’s who. The original intent was to listen to each clip without the added prejudice of knowing who is playing them, and then decide which one is your favorite…in upping the ante, we’re now asking you to identify each respective player.
While many of you will surely hypothesize correctly, we imagine many of you will not as well. And in making errors in identification, perhaps some folks will drop their preconceived notions relating to who is better than who. If even through doing this, one person develops a new respect for one or more of these impeccable guitarists, then this experiment will be absolutely worthwhile. The most important thing is to be kind through this process, and in any comments thereafter. Criticism is fine, but try to make it constructive and purposeful, and most of all, respectful.
And while only six guitarists were chosen for this test (Jerry Garcia, Trey Anastasio, John Kadlecik, Stu Allen, Jimmy Herring, and Warren Haynes), many more deserve a shout out. Including those mentioned, we’d like to thank the whole bunch of Dead family lead guitarists for continuing to spread the music we hold dear to our hearts. So thank you Steve Kimock, Mark Karan, Jeff Mattson, Larry Campbell, Barry Sless, Jeff Pevar, Al Schnier, Jackie Greene, Robben Ford, Derek Trucks, John Scofield, Stanley Jordan, Keller Williams, and likely a few others as well, for giving us your best over these past couple decades.
Now press play, sit back, and enjoy the Dead Test! And most importantly, have fun!
So with my second blog post on this page, Dear Youngins: A Message To Post-Jerry Deadheads, I went viral. Well, as viral as one can go within the online Dead community. Through this unexpected experience, and also through the excellent tracking tools WordPress provides for bloggers, I had a long-held suspicion confirmed. A suspicion that many of you likely have: that we are EVERYWHERE.
Grateful Dead is a uniquely American band. Everything about the members, songwriters, music, lyrics, and past shows, oozes something that is particularly American. Due to this, and the fact that the band only seldom toured outside the States and Canada, most Deadheads are American. Yet a dedicated Deadhead Diaspora has emerged outside of North America as well, intricately connected to the band and the community by an appreciation for the songs, transcendent jams, ideals, and spirituality that the Grateful Dead phenomenon has to offer.
A diaspora is a group of people with a commonly held cultural identity that, for whatever reason, are settled far from their ancestral homeland. The world Jewish population became a diaspora community with their initial expulsion from the Kingdom of Judah (present day Israel) during the Babylonian Captivity. Many people from war-torn countries that have become refugees make up diasporas of their own, such as the Ugandan Diaspora. The Tibetan Diaspora emerged as China occupied Tibet and the 14th and current Dalai Lama made a pilgrimage from his homeland, with many followers, in order to escape the aggression of their occupiers in the late 1950’s. As Deadheads, our circumstance is a little different. We weren’t personally expelled from our homeland, nor were our genetic ancestors (unless you happen to be a part of another diaspora community as well), yet I contend that members of the Grateful Dead and their extended family were expelled from their home when the scene in the Haight District became untenable after the influx of aspiring “hippies” during the “Summer of Love” in 1967. While no longer in existence, the Haight district of the mid-sixties embodied the utopian ideals that many Deadheads hold near and dear. As Deadheads, this is our ancestral homeland.
This deterioration of the Haight-Ashbury scene, and the increased popularity of the band throughout the greater San Francisco area, and the country as a whole, encouraged the first out-of-state touring for the Grateful Dead. Their first East Coast tour was during the summer of 1967, where the Dead found themselves playing a show in New York City, and then at SUNY Stony Brook campus out on eastern Long Island. These shows encouraged enterprising folks who liked what they heard to promote shows for the Dead on Long Island and throughout New York in the years to come. What emerged was the first diaspora community, composed of New York Deadheads. The New York Deadhead community remains an essential part of the Deadhead Diaspora, evidenced by Phil Lesh’s choice to play residencies at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, NY, since he’s retired from touring. I go into greater detail of how this went down in another piece I wrote, which I link here. As the Dead toured North America, what happened in New York transpired for other regions and what I coined as the Grateful Dead Diaspora truly emerged by the end of the seventies, as Deadheads from across the continent identified commonly with the band and their ideals.
Now the emergence of a worldwide Deadhead population couldn’t have only been spurred by touring, since the band toured outside the country merely a few times during their career. Despite that, through taper networks, the selling of studio albums, and Deadheads’ early adoption of the internet, there is a healthy GD community outside the bounds of North America. While many of these are certainly American expatriates, I am certain many of them are not. To use one country as an example…a country that has an inclination towards American music possibly due to the United States post-WWII occupation and continued presence therein, that based on my stats happens to have the largest international Deadhead Diaspora community (outside of Canada), here are three photos involving two Japanese Deadheads…
Exhibit A, a photo of a Japanese Deadhead holding up her sign looking for a miracle ticket at the Fare Thee Well shows in Chicago.
Source: Anonymous Japanese Deadhead
Exhibit B, a poster made by an enterprising Japanese Deadhead named Miki Saito.
Exhibit C, a letter from Miki Saito to the band.
Source: Saito, Miki, “Japan Deadheads poster with letter,” Grateful Dead Archive Online, accessed July 10, 2015, http://www.gdao.org/items/show/825781.
Also emanating the vibrant nature of the Japan Deadhead community is Exhibit D, Japan’s premier Grateful Dead cover band. Here is a link to an article, on Jambands.com, showing Joe Russo performing with Warlocks of Tokyo in 2014. Please click the link for set list information. If I ever venture to Tokyo, I will surely check this group out…they can noodle and jam with the best of ’em, and absolutely capture the vibe in their music.
Back to the present day, and my widely dispersed blog post (I don’t mention this to boast, but to show definitive evidence of our presence amongst the people of the world). WordPress allows bloggers to see where their posts are being read, and what I’ve confirmed is that we are on every continent on Earth (excluding Antarctica, although I’d bet a miracle ticket that there is a Deadhead or two amongst the hundreds of folks currently wintering in that frozen tundra). Here is a list of countries and territories confirmed to have Deadheads currently living within their borders (in order, from the most Deadheads reading in each country, to the least):
United States, Canada, Japan, United Kingdom, Israel, Germany, Brazil, Australia, India, Spain, Italy, Mexico, France, New Zealand, Netherlands, South Korea, Thailand, Sweden, Ireland, Austria, US Virgin Islands, Denmark, Norway, Costa Rica, Philippines, Belgium, Portugal, Russia, Finland, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Slovenia, Taiwan, Singapore, Argentina, Romania, Colombia, Vietnam, Bahamas, Anguilla, United Arab Emirates, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Puerto Rico, Cambodia, Jordan, Hungary, Jamaica, Nigeria, Rwanda, Peru, Chile, Ghana, Andorra, Antigua & Barbuda, Indonesia, Uruguay, Nicaragua, Grenada, Fiji, Guam, Qatar, Tanzania, Poland, Aland Islands, Nepal, Malaysia
Now I decided not to list the individual numbers of Deadheads in each country and territory because these stats are not scientific in the least. They do prove Deadheads live in each country listed, but only the ones that read my blog, and more certainly exist. Some of these sectors of the Deadhead Diaspora appear to be extremely small, yet once again their existence proves that we are here, there, and EVERYWHERE.
We are a worldwide scattered community consisting of people who all share a commonly held identity based around the Grateful Dead, and more importantly the Deadhead community as a whole. Within our Deadhead subculture certainly exists diversity; diversity in nationality, religion, and opinion. Show me two Deadheads, and they will give you fifteen differing opinions. We are a very opinionated bunch! Yet our disagreements exist due to our strongly held convictions about the band, community, collective history, spirituality, ideals, and culture we have in part created, advanced, and consistently been a component of throughout our developed lives. Some of us are more dedicated than others, but each of us identifies with our reciprocal symbols, knowing that we are far from alone on this “bright blue ball just spinning, spinning free.”
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.