Monday, August 9, 2010

He's Gone... 15 Years Ago Today

Five years ago today I wrote a piece about Jerry Garcia and posted it on Gooseneck, a blog I've long since abandoned. Now it is the 15th anniversary of his death, and I thought I would dig it out of the archives and share it with you. It's still seems to fit, five years later.

As time passes some things seem to fade, but not those memories... The links I added to the old post are new, as are the photos I have posted with it. With advancements in technology and the invention of Facebook, it seems to be easier to find people talking about his death here at the 15 year juncture. I remember not hearing much about it five years ago. Jerry Garcia is still larger than life, and perhaps more popular now than he ever was. I know we can't go back in time, but sometimes I wish we could.

I still miss Jerry and his captivating smile. And on my best days I am still listening to his music.

Where Does the Time Go?

Ten years ago today Jerry Garcia died. It's been 10 years. Unbelievable.

I was much younger 10 years ago.

Though my days of following the Grateful Dead were way behind me in 1995... I still kept a certain affinity for the band. And especially Jerry.

He had been there when I really needed someone to be there for me... When I was young and into foolish things, and in real need of some positive guidance. Jerry was able to do what nobody else was able to do... He got to me. It was almost like he picked me up and carried me through my twenties.

But it didn't happen over night. I had been listening to bits and pieces of the Dead since about 1985. At first I was a "sometimes" listener, but then suddenly... WHAM! I was hooked.

I attended my first GD concerts in 1989 at the Alpine Valley Music Theatre. It was three nights of whacked out bliss, especially from the standpoint of an impressionable 21 year old. From there the train just got rollin. I attended over 25 shows in the next three years and traveled all over the country to do so.

In August 1991 I attended a very rare Jerry Garcia Band concert on the banks of the Eel River in Northern California. I was lucky to get in, as tickets were extremely scarce... The only reason I managed to do so was because I had climbed to the top of the surrounding mountain the night before, spent the night under the stars, descended down the other side early the next morning, dropped myself off of a 20 foot cliff into the waters of the Eel, and swam to the shore... To the venue parking lot.

Once I was in the parking lot, I was in the concert itself... There was no separation between the two.

It was like a dream. Once inside I rubbed elbows with the likes of Ken Kesey, Bill Graham and Wavy Gravy... Plus about 500 stoned out naked hippies... Nobody had clothes on in the parking lot, and only a few did in the concert itself.

The show was run entirely on solar power... There was probably no way to get electricity out to this desolate spot that went from one day being genuine Bigfoot country to the next this amazing concert venue.

Jerry on the Eel River 1991

I managed to walk right up to the stage and stare at Jerry, without any pushing or shoving what so ever... And did so until his magical eyes met my gaze. I must have looked happy, because without missing a single note on his guitar lick during his version of Lay Down Sally, he flashed me a smile that still rebounds off of my memory to this day.

That had to be the pinnacle.

By the end of the following summer the crowds started to get out of control. There were fights in the parking lots, huge drug busts due to carelessness and overuse, kids crashing gates to break into shows... The whole scene took on the feeling of a dark cloud. It was like the shadow of Altamont had once again returned, to waggle it's finger at our impending doom.

By the fall of 1992, I quit going to shows. It wasn't about the music anymore, and I was tired of watching the crowd literally consume itself to death.

But... I still had my tapes.. And I still had my friends who were into the old scene... And we kept it going throughout the early 90's...

But it more or less stopped in 1995 after Jerry passed away. He had everything in the world going for him but he just couldn't kick his addictions.

While the scene was certainly still alive in the late 90's, even in Jerry's absence... It has NEVER been close to the same since then, as it was back then... When the music first and foremost brought the people to the band, and the band to the people.

There's never been another band as uniquely creative as the Dead, and Jerry Garcia was the biggest link to the scene. Nobody in the world of music reeked of coolness as he did.

But anyway...

I haven't seen anything on the news channels about Jerry dying ten years ago today. And arrogantly, I'll assume that there aren't too many blogs talking about it either.... But that's okay. Jerry always reigned in the deep crevices of the counter culture. He was an estimated prophet... if not an unwilling one. He brought hope and happiness to thousands of people, and saved more than just a few of us from the edge of madness.

There's no doubt that he had his demons... Just as there is no doubt that he saved me from some of mine. He knows better but I know him.

And for that, I'm grateful.


Anonymous said...

Great read, Troy!


Anonymous said...

Wow - Rings so true! Great post!

Subliminally Incognito said...

I like this one!!!

...and this line in particular.

"When the music first and foremost brought the people to the band, and the band to the people."

People don't even come close to understanding what that means today.

T.Church said...

Thank you all for your comments. I have often said that only two musicians have the power to bring a tear to my eye simply by their music and words. One is Johnny Cash, and the other of course is Jerry. With a tear in my eye I write this. Love is real not fade away.