|Poster: Jack Jaxon|
People that didn't get it then will probably never get it, it was the nature of the beast, a twelve armed fire breathing dragon when it was on, but an almost ridiculous caricature to those people looking in from the outside.
I certainly wasn't an original deadhead. The band started playing around 1965 and I don't remember listening to them until 1970 or 71, while in boarding school.
Later it went harder and electric, then softened up a bit. On a really good night, they were simply the best, tightest and most cerebral band in the world.
The group formed near Palo Alto and the principal writer, Robert Hunter, was an early attendee of some of the Stanford MK - Ultra LSD experiments. LSD, you will remember, was still legal at the time and used by such pillars of society as Steve Allen and Cary Grant.
Psychedelics were a major part of the essential fabric of the band and the hippie culture at the time and the Grateful Dead were formed and tempered in a magical alembic of acid chaos. They cut through the kaleidoscopic soup like modern day explorers.
The dead had a country phase, a soft harmonic phase with Workingman's Dead and American Beauty and a powerful period of 1968 and 1969 that some of us refer to as the cranial period, an immensely intense phase where they would play their grand opus's, the other one and dark star, powerful explorations into open space.
They often jammed the songs into new territory and had a great habit of sort of making it all up as they went along. Later they touched a whole bunch of other disparate musical styles and idioms, including jazz and disco.
A loving and sometimes tripping community. Never touched the stuff myself, preferring to sit in a corner and read Proust when things looked like they were maybe getting a little out of hand.
I met the various members of the band, some of them many times, including Jerry, connecting through the art conduit and having a good intimate relationship with many of the crew. Backstage, front of stage, back of the board, in the high rafters. It was all good.
Deadheads of course came in all stripes, straight, gay, rich, poor, stoned, sober, liberal and conservative. It really didn't make all that much difference. You were there to groove and have a good time. Didn't matter what you drove or what was in your bank account. Just are you kind?
But it was, at least for me, largely unlistenable without the giant brain in the middle, Jerry, cranking it out on stage.
The surviving members of the band are getting back together soon for a 50th anniversary concert in Chicago, supported by Hornsby, Trey Annastasio of Phish and Jeff Chimenti.
Many Deadheads are floored at the audacity of them now doing what they once pronounced they would never do, which was to play another concert under the sobriquet of the Grateful Dead. Why are they doing this? Is it merely a payday and one last chance to cash out? And if it is, so what?
But would I go? No fucking way. Not if you paid me. Wouldn't walk across the street now to see them. Word today that some tickets are going for up to 15k per ticket. Ridiculous. Wealthy deadheads are taking Lear jets to Chicago and paying off insiders with cases of expensive cabernet. For what? To listen to what? Some fucking horrible trucking jam? Face it, the idiom is toast, fellas.
When you plunder an artform a million times over, the magic escapes, the air leaks out, it happens every time. The whole concept, always an anachronism, is officially tired. Over. The magic is done gone for good and whoa-oh, nothing's gonna bring it back.
If a bunch of sybaritic jet setters want to pony up tens of thousands of dollars to delude themselves into thinking that they caught the actual Grateful Dead, well let the cash registers ring, baby. We are after all, all entitled to our illusions.
|Poster : Dennis Larkins|
Truth be told, things were starting to get stale long ago, when the real band was playing. The air was coming out of the balloon even then. The worst aspects of the experience resembled your Uncle Mortie's Shriners convention in Vegas or Fred and Barney tying one on down at the Loyal Order of Water Buffalo. Old home week at the fraternal organization.
Now the rich kids can try to squeeze back into those tie dyes and dust off those rusty strings just one more time. Or was it rust off those dusty strings? I forget.
Trey is a fine player but not nearly as fluid as Jerry and he has a very poor to fair voice. Hope he doesn't try to sing the late guitar player's vocal parts. The whole thing just doesn't add up, at least for me.
I love the Grateful Dead, I proclaim my fealty to them, I treasure all of their contributions, brilliance and output. Life would not have been the same without them and they gave us the greatest possible playgound imaginable to hang out and play in. I just wonder why this particular reunion was necessary?