I learned that this latest incarnation of the Grateful Dead is a force to be reckoned with. I seriously had my doubts when I heard the band was teaming up with John Mayer (just like I did when they tabbed Trey to play the Fare Thee Well shows) but being at the shows in St. Louis and Minneapolis this weekend changed my attitude completely.
I saw the Dead when they toured with Warren Haynes in 2004 and I left disappointed. The performance I saw lacked depth, feeling, and soul. The music was flat. I came to prefer Ratdog over Further, The Other Ones, and Phil and Friends. I wasn't cool with the choices to "replace Jerry" and basically swore off the Dead forever under the assumption that nobody would be able to create the sonic masterpieces that Jerry did. Well of course their music had become tattooed into my soul, and staying completely away from it was never a realistic option.
John Mayer was an interesting choice for the lead guitar part, but now having seen him play, it all makes sense. Not only is he capable of hitting the notes in a soulful way with exceptional tone, he's also able to mark the songs with his own signature in a way that doesn't step on the toes of the songs themselves. Plus his energy really seems to be combustible - Bob Weir hasn't looked this young and vibrant in years, and it was great to see him smiling again and having fun.
I learned that Oteil Burbridge is a damn incredible bass player and I was reminded that Jeff Chimenti is a beast on keyboards. I also learned that Chimenti has been with the band for 13 years - making him the longest tenured keyboard player in the band's history.
Phil Lesh never shook his ass when he played. Oteil does it every single night.
I realized that I miss the Bob Dylan songs the Dead used to play. Wish they'd mix one in now and again, especially when playing Minneapolis, which is Dylan's hometown.
I was reminded a Dead show is an ever-revolving guessing game. Knowing this, the band is extremely subtle about creating their set lists and often throw curve balls when doing so. For instance, where was "Big River" in St. Louis and/or Minneapolis? As much as it seems to be a no-brainer, the Dead ignored it - but not completely. Their performance of "Mexicali Blues" in Minneapolis is in itself is a nod to "Big River." Dead Heads know what I'm talking about.
I realized that cowboy boots are great to travel in because they are so easy to kick on and off. But by all means don't leave home with just cowboy boots. A comfortable pair of tennis shoes would have gone a long ways considering how much walking we did and how often I found myself standing in one place for long periods of time.
I learned about Reverb, a non-profit organization that is committed to keeping concert tours as green as possible. I volunteered to sell Nalgene water bottles to help raise money and awareness for this organization in exchange for free admission to the Minneapolis show. Reverb goes through the trash at the end of the night and separates recyclables from garbage that belongs in the landfill. They also go through garbage in the concession stands, removing leftover or thrown away food, and they turn it into compost. It was a great experience even though I missed the entire first set of the show and some of the second. (I could hear, just not watch.) I was given a kick-ass shirt for volunteering and it gave me an opportunity to hear the band sound check before the doors were opened to the public, and that was definitely cool.
|Water bottles for sale|
I realized that getting stoned and trying to sell water bottles to strangers can be a very strenuous and difficult task. If given the opportunity, I won't make that mistake twice.
I learned that sometimes you get lucky and get travel companions that, even though you don't know them well - or even at all - they turn out to be the best travel companions in the history of the world. I'm not exactly sure what happened that put me in the same car as Trucker and Jezebel, but the stars must have been shining because it was PERFECT. Big thanks to those two for the 1400 miles of endless conversation and general feeling of togetherness. I actually felt like I was in a tribe.
(I love you fuckers!)
I realized that the Dead are the last bastion of American rock and roll. No other band comes close to providing the experience you get when the Dead comes to town, and I would venture to say that no other fan base anticipates the music as much as Deadheads do. There's a reason people quit their jobs to join this circus, and while most regard that act as irresponsibility, it is a thing that happens and I totally get why it happens.
I'm still trying to figure out a way to make the New Years Eve shows in Los Angeles a reality.