Don’t forget the Dead!
This one’s for all you jam-band junkies out there. Guest writer Neil Benjamin, a sports writer for the North Adams Transcript, taps his true talent: getting into the music. He can probably get you into the show, too. – Alicia
With all the frenzy surrounding the return of Phish, it’s easy to forget about all other music. I mean, let’s face it, Phish are musical gods.
Trey Anastasio and the boys returned from a nearly five-year absence in March, and it was all anyone seemed to talk about. Or maybe it was just me. Dreadlocks everywhere smirked with excitement.
But if you need a reminder, another fabulous band has recently returned to the spotlight. The band that originally made 20-minute songs hip is back. Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, the surviving members of the Grateful Dead, along with friends Jeff Chimenti and Warren Haynes, embarked on their spring tour on Sunday.
The delicious smell of headie burritos. The $5 parking lot t-shirts. The girl spinning a hula hoop endlessly without a care in the world. The debates over which “Help>Slip>Franklin” is the best of all time. The blaring of a different Jerry solo out of 10 different cars at any given time. If you are ever in a situation in which all this is going on at once, you know you’re at a Dead show. You can look north, south, east or west and find friends. Everyone is all smiles, just patiently waiting for the magic to begin. (It’s the same way when I do a presentation at school. Truly beautiful.)
The birth-givers of the jam band genre are back together to show the world they can still rock, even in their 60s. In recent years, Bob Weir has focused his time and energy on his band, RatDog. I have seen a lot of Dog shows in my day, and I can honestly say that band does nothing for me. It’s nice to hear Bobby sing an old classic, but it’s not the same. Phil Lesh and Friends has had a revolving cast of musicians since its debut in 1999. Having attended more than 30 shows, including most of the 2006 tour and a chunk of the 2008 itinerary, I have seen the best and worst. Either way, Phil does it for me. He is the best. Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart have been active, too, mainly in the world music scene. Last summer, Kreutzmann joined forces with Allman Brothers bassist Oteil Burbridge and Ma
x Creek guitarist Scott Murawski , playing under the name BK3. I was lucky enough to catch them twice, and they did not disappoint.
But I have been fully satisfied only one time since the Dead broke up: July 9, 2006. Phil and Friends, with Trey on guitar, played on the Dead’s original ’69 Woodstock set at the original Woodstock site. Bliss. (Which is the name of a Phish song. What do you know!)
I am very critical of my favorite bands’ live music. That’s why it came as a shock when I went to Penn State in October for the ‘Deadheads for Obama’ show. In short, the Dead played three hours with no set break. The place didn’t serve beer. The crowd felt rushed all night.
But the experience was great. Shakedown Street was packed with ‘Heads browsing the selection of art, homespun clothing and Rice Krispy treats. Everywhere I wandered, someone wanted to chat with me about Phil or Bobby, “Dark Star” or “The Other One,” and the conversation always seemed to turn to what song the band would open with that night. It turned out to be a sloppy, but heartfelt “Truckin’” that kicked things off.
Bottom line is this: The Dead are back. The original pranksters, minus a few key parts, have returned. I’m too young to have seen Jerry, and I know this incarnation of the Dead is not the same for the tour heads of generations past, but I do know that we can all share in the Dead’s music and what they represent.
See ya in Albany and Worcester (both nights) !
4/12 Greensboro NC
4/14 Washington DC
4/15 Charlottesville VA
4/17 Albany NY
4/18 Worcester MA
4/19 Worcester MA
4/21 Buffalo NY
4/22 Wilkes-Barre PA
4/24 Uniondale NY
4/25 New York NY
4/26 Hartford CT
4/28 E. Rutherford NJ
4/29 E. Rutherford NJ
5/9 Los Angeles
5/10 Mountain View CA
5/14 Mountain View,CA
5/16 Quincy WA
July Rothbury Fest. MI