Monthly Archives: July 2016

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I just got my kids off to camp… I woke up with sludge coming out of my eyes that I assume is some of my brain that never returned to a solid state after last night’s liquefication. The only substantial problem with “Never Miss A Sunday Show” is always Monday morning. If I inhale through my congested nose hard enough, I can actually see the top of my head succumb to the pressure differential and flatten out. It doesn’t seem to be a problem since the flat spot goes away as soon as I reverse the pressure by blowing my nose… I did it all from the comfort of my own living room and still feel like a speed bump on a busy road.

Enough about that, Dead & Company continued its relentless run around the country with another night of mind-melting material. Apparently part of the energy that contributed to the power of the event was the addition of my friend, Allison Moseley. A Holy Ghost filled Mama with dreadlocks and smiles for miles was asked to sing Donna parts but humbly declined. It’s rumored that Unicorns have tattoos of Allison’s face on their calves. The stage was set for another night of musical acrobatics and our favorite musicians were well prepared to deliver the goods. Apparently, Mayer auditioned for a remake of “Joanie Loves Chachi” earlier in the day and didn’t have time to change before taking the stage. An episode of “Someone Dosed Chachi” was about to take place. As the band took the stage, Sunday’s Samson and Delilah immediately took shape and Weir did his best Stevie Nicks impression by grabbing a tambourine. It had as much impact as when Mickey plays his floor tom with one gloved finger…Live Video - Google Chrome 7_11_2016 10_29_28 AM

The warm up quickly turned into a workout as Samson can leave ya gasping for air if you don’t have the wind for it. That’s why ya need to train full Rocky mode for this stuff nowadays! Half Step was a great way to keep the mother rolling and it reminded me of so many nights in the memory banks of my mind. When that tune started going across The Lazy River, Garcia would sing it like all of his dreams would be fulfilled once he got to the other side. His expressions as he sang would lead you to believe he was holding a newborn and praying through song that the precious child’s days would be filled happiness and protection. As the moment rooted itself to the confines of his carpet, he’d throw the pick hand in the air and lean back about 2 inches as the emotion grew rapidly from its roots. We’d go batshit crazy because he was feelin it that way and leaned back a few inches. That shit definitely doesn’t happen anymore but I still loved the Half Step!

Loose Lucy was up next and we all knew our share of them back in the day! That’s all I’m gonna say about that… Then the intro to Standing On The Moon… Here’s where I’ll get the folks that don’t agree with me. It was average. It wasn’t great. Just like with Althea, Garcia’s words had this incredible weight to them. When Garcia sang, there was actually a very definite mass that could be associated with the words as they came through him. Lyrics would leave Garcia’s mouth and there was a heavyness that would lay on your consciousness like a cold wet towel on a sunburn. It was unexplainably soothing while the density of his words were absolutely undeniable. While I’m at it, What’s up with John singing constant falsetto during backup and harmonies? It’s completely overdone and a little bothersome at times. One of Garcia’s great strengths that often goes unrecognized is his talent as a backup singer. Just about all of my favorite parts to most Weir tunes were Garcia’s backup singing. The way he’d take it full belly during Masterpiece or cool as liquid nitrogen backing up Samson. John could learn a lot by paying attention to Garcia’s back up singing. John is starting to sound like somebody that sips their drink from a cocktail straw… Garcia drank right out of the blender!

The GDTRFB was completely off the hook! Pure fire from beginning to end. While we’re talking about vocals, you’d think the guys would realize by now that Oteil has the best voice in the band. When he’s getting fed cornbread and beans, his voice comes from an incredibly deep and soulful well. When I consider how Garcia was really the largest part of the overall Soul of the band, Oteil is providing so much of that substance in this band. It’s not the guy that happens to be playing Garcia’s guitar parts, it’s the brother on bass that’s laying down the heaviest portion of Soul to the experience. His work all tour long has been in another world. He finger picks the damn bass like he’s playing with skinny guitar strings. High Time would be a great choice for Oteil’s voice and while it’s probably unlikely, I hope he gets a chance to sing it. That tune would suit his voice perfectly. The best thing that happened to Dead & Co is Mike Gordon declining on the offer. I love Mike but he wasn’t the brother for the job. Phish is KILLIN it on Summer Tour but I know a bunch of y’all don’t wanna hear shit about that… GDTRFB was stellar!

I’ve always had a habit of continuing to watch the stage after the musicians have left. It’s like continuing to watch the TV when the power goes out. You’re not sure how long it’s gonna be but you keep watching. When you keep watching the stage, you get to see how much effort is put into properly placing the musician’s water bottles during intermission. I swear there’s a dude that gets paid to spend the entire intermission continuously adjusting the position of the water bottles that nobody ever seems to drink. I want THAT job! That one I can definitely handle! After 45 minutes of making sure the bottles were just right, the lights went down again.

Sugar Mags starts a party with an immediate inferno, no need for a spark. It ended abruptly just before the Sunshine Daydream and the Gooey Groove that is Viola Lee was up next. That jam just covers you in psychedelic syrup. Another moment that reminds me of Garcia. His jamming would sometimes sound like the strings turned all gooey on him. Like his fingers were stuck to the strings and he was working feverishly to get them off. You’d look at him and there would be that constant squeezing and bending of the notes playing his guitar like a violinist. While the vibrato wasn’t always obvious to the ear it was completely obvious to the eye and had to have an impact. Anyway, Viola Lee kicked ass and Mayer and Oteil were KILLIN IT on that one as well. If you thought it couldn’t get any better, it did when Scarlet took shape. Another favorite that is growing its old wings back after increasing repetition. The jams in and between Scarlet and Fire are a total kaleidoscope for the ears. The jams just fall apart while immediately reconstructing themselves over and over again. Just when it seems like all form is lost a perfect new form is reborn and it happens in a matter of seconds. Unbelievable… Mayer was blistering hot in the jams throughout while his falsetto Donna harmonies were slightly aggravating at best. I really do appreciate him stretching his vocals and stretching is good but how much you really need to stretch? Mama Mia… I’m probably just picking fly shit out of a pile of pepper but that’s what I do. His contributions obviously FAR outweigh any shortcomings and I’m Grateful he’s part of this incredible ride we’re all having. The Fire was as monstrous as The Scarlet and while I prefer the old ending to the new one, at least they all seemed to end at the same time on this one.

Wharf Rat was beautiful out of Space and as I sat and listened this tremendous wave of gratitude came over me. I thought about the journey that began for me in 85, much later than some of you and considerably earlier for others. I reflected on the absence of the community in my life after Garcia’s Graduation Day in 95 and the resurgence of my personal commitment to all of it shortly before the 50th shows were announced. I thought about the experiences that took me from a highway in NJ to sleeping in Golden Gate Park during the Summer of 89 using only my thumb to get there. I thought about the nights spent celebrating life all over this country with all of you for the past 30 plus years of my life. I reflected on those of you I have a deep love and appreciation for that I haven’t even met due to the Social Media aspect that has erupted in recent years. It was impossible to hold back the tears that had the color and content of so many different emotions on the spectrum. I became overwhelmingly grateful that I can now sing in my head, “I Knooooooow that the Lifffffffffffffe I’m Living’s Sooooooooooooooooooooo Good!!!” The opportunities that have presented themselves to me after 3 decades of sowing seeds of Love and always wanting to be a contributor for good into the lives as many people as I can and as often as I can. That lesson was learned because I was a tiny part of the greatest musical community that history will ever know. It was encouraged by my parents who didn’t necessarily understand my obsession but instilled many of the same virtues in me since I was born. The community that exists around US and through US today is as beautiful as it has ever been. While we don’t have Garcia and that’s like trying to make Chocolate Chip Cookies without Chocolate Chips, we have US! The Love that has been perpetuated forward with exponential intensity, had me so flooded with emotion that I couldn’t stop crying. I thought about how much I Love my family and felt terrible that I’ve considered selling them in order to go on Tour (If you read this Toniann, this was a joke). They are the deepest joy in my life and my heart. Their Love, beauty and tolerance for a man that is completely and unpredictably obsessive are unmatched. It wasn’t because of the way Weir sings Wharf Rat, although I do think it’s one of the Garcia ballads that he’s best on, it was just the way the floodgates of emotions happened to open at that point.

Sunshine Daydream came around to dry the eyes and get back to celebrating life. The moment built on itself like a wave and came crashing into the beach in cool and refreshing ways. The incredible joy lasted only until the Ripple… Then I relapsed on all the crying and shit… When I think of all of US, I think of how much meaning exists in ALL of it. The Shows… The Music… The Transformation… The Old and The New… The images from the past along with the experience of the present… The relationships that have been built on our common passion for all of this… There definitely IS a road… It’s definitely NOT a simple highway… The impact of the ongoing Dead experience on all of US celebrating life with our favorite musicians, along with some amazing new company, is every bit as emotionally developmental as it has been in the past… The scene around you personally is a reflection of the current condition of your Soul. I’d say for most of US, the purifying musical experience through the years that has cleared the waters that were once very murky has left US abundantly satisfied with what is presently manifesting as our reality. For those that can’t find the way still, or are struggling with the things that the meat grinder of life is putting you through, If I knew the way, I would take you home… Touch was a great second encore. Whatever it is that has any of US feeling like the road is too hard to endure, together, somehow, We WILL get by… We always have… We’re not only surviving, as a community we are completely thriving! Thanks for all of it! Everybody! Those On The Stage, those in the crowd, those in the past that have shaped a future that is our current present. Those in the present that guarantee our future is every bit as beautiful… Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! Total case of wet face like the guy from the Wizard of Oz when he heard Dorothy telling her story cryer

To top it all off, Oteil ends the night with the clam chomp! That’s not for the Florida Gators y’all. That’s the official Clam Chomp! If you didn’t know before, ya do now!!! Who are The Clams? I’m not at liberty to say. Secret Society from what I’ve heard…13620137_10210306879173770_5504573715812431686_n

Love you forever! See ya down the road… Outta time and outta mind…

Dead To The Core,

Dean Sottile (Pronounced So Tilly)


The last time I camped while touring was at Alpine Valley in 89. As soon as the first We Bid You Goodnight since the closing of Winterland, 12-31-1978, began, I felt like I was struck by lightning. With every verse Garcia sang, electricity blasted through my body sending shockwaves to every hair follicle I possessed. Everybody’s nipples were instantly the same size as their pupils. I’ll never forget that full body sonic orgasm as long as I live. My mind was so blown, I don’t think I had any recollection of the Johnny B Goode encore that followed for several years. I’m not even sure whether or not many tapers captured it. We were all too busy hugging each other. As I’ve been so often throughout the years, I was a Lone Wolf that night. I wandered off spending the show with just about any and all groups of people that seemed to really “Get IT” and gave off a welcoming vibe. I made thousands of acquaintances but always preferred never being too attached to any one group of folks. Summer of 89 was really the ultimate adventure for me since I left home with a backpack, a few bucks, and a confidence that the rest would somehow work out. We had no way to get in touch with each other back then, no cell phones, no pagers… If I lost the folks I showed up with, I just sat at the lot exit with my thumb in the air and hitched a ride to the next show. The rains that ensued following that night turned euphoria into youfuckedia. When I finally remembered where my campsite was and got a ride there around sunrise, there were ducks in my tent. The ducks were diving for the fish that were in the deep end of the tent. I slept in water that morning… Too tired to care. I wasn’t completely dry until a week or two later. I made so many friends that Summer that touring would no longer be as renegade as that again. 89 will always be the most adventurous Summer of my life. Maybe more on that tomorrow. By 90, I had learned how to work the road well enough that I usually stayed where the band stayed or in accommodations that were similar.

Back to Alpine Valley… There was always something about that piece of land in the middle of nowhere that causes something otherworldly to come forth. That shed has been home to some incredible moments for US and for whatever reason, it brings out the finest our favorite musicians have to offer. When the band takes the stage, If someone screams “CASSIDY” you would typically assume they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. Last night, the guy that screamed that and you thought didn’t know shit, got it right. The force was clearly at work from the get go and Cassidy came out of the free form jam that got the whole thing started. Brown Eyed Women showed John’s confidence was high and his playing was creative, aggressive and completely front and center. If you think you could be that confident wearing a shirt you bought at a Welcome Center while crossing the state line into Florida, just try it! Then, as every other time Dead & Company has played I Need a Miracle, Weir couldn’t even get himself to sing the words. A song he has sung thousands of times through the years totally eludes him now. I would have to imagine it’s because the opening line makes him think to himself, “No fuckin way twice my age”. By the time he got around to singing about the woman twice his weight, he realized the woman would be much bigger than the ones he made reference to decades ago but seemed to have an easier time accepting that as the lyrics made their way back to him. Either way, the jams in between were fantastic and the boulder was rolling downhill early. Dire Wolf made its debut to the delight of most of US and sounded excellent. The first few runs through some of the tunes can be rocky but not Dire Wolf. It seemed tight and well played throughout. Ramble On Rose was fun and I’m starting to warm up a little to Weir singing some of Garcia’s tunes. When he’s not to Weiry on them, I can dig em. Ramble on Rose had the bounce it has always had and continued the party with a hundred verses in ragtime taking us to the leader of the band. It gives me pains to say that Dead & Co’s Box Of Rain may be an improvement over the Boxes of the past but, if there’s a song that I can say that about, it’s Box Of Rain. I don’t like saying it at all but I’m being honest with myself and with you. The tune has found some really cool spots that are new to my ears and completely acceptable. The set closed with The Music Never Stopped and nothing could be more true. The songs seemed to flow to and from each other with relative ease and little time between them to think about too much. It was great to see Weir just let go and not really try to direct too much traffic. He just let the music travel wherever it decided to go and gave it as long as it took to get there.

The second set opened with Deal and this group can play the hell out of it. The band was having moments throughout the night that you could tell they were completely going off the radar for minutes at a time. Those moments you completely disappear as a human being in the flesh and become a cosmic smear of energy that paints the universe with the trail you leave as you fly through. Eyes has always provided those kind of moments for people like US and the experience was left intact last night. The music that weaved its way in and out the cosmos was brightly colored and filled with electrical energy. Oteil’s solo that has become a trademark of Dead & Co’s take on the tune gives you a look inside of his soul. Incredible complexities along with moments of tension that push against the surrounding resistance and are ultimately overcome by the strength that’s been created by overcoming the opposing external forces the world has applied over the years. St. Stephen comes flying out of that with a purifying fire that was consuming all of the inhabitants of Grateful Dead Land. There were no gaps in the action and it seemed like each moment existed to provide another step on the ladder for all space travelers to continue climbing upwards. All parts of the song were extended to maximize impact as brains were expanding and contracting at record rates. As if all that wasn’t enough, we get thrown in the cosmic laundry machine as Oteil blasted the opening notes of The Other One with the kind of low-end power that can knock freckles off of a redhead. I’ve seen that shit happen… The tempo didn’t suffer as much as it can at times even with Weir putting space that doesn’t really belong between vocal verses. I understand that when I’m writing, there are times that a sentence should end and a new one should begin. If the experience is too intense to cause a break in the action, I’m gonna leave out the period every time. When the singer in my head arrives at a lyric and it hasn’t arrived yet, it causes me to go backward instead of moving ahead. Maybe I’ll just have to adapt to that shit and get on with it.

The Drums was great as usual and one of the only times you can hear what the hardest working drummer that usually can’t be heard is doing. Mickey is a little easier to hear through an HD Stream due to the clarity of the mix but from the shows I’ve attended, I can’t hear what he’s doing at all. I know he’s probably doing a lot of cool shit but between Mickey and the inability to keep Jeff’s volume where it should be, we’re missing out on a lot of potential energy that isn’t being properly expressed. One song Jeff is loud and clear and moments later he’s completely muted. Jeff has A LOT of fans out here and we would LOVE to hear him properly. This has been an issue since FTW and at times has gotten better but is completely inconsistent. I’ve heard from people that it’s easier to hear Mickey and Jeff in certain locations of the venues but I don’t understand why their volumes in the mix should be location dependent. Maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about… That’s always a possibility… When I listen to the 24-bit recordings of Spring 90 or the Betty Boards from the 70s, or I reflect on my own 300 plus shows I attended, there’s a world of difference. The keys were always prominent and powerful. Mickey and Jeff probably don’t care and might not even notice it from the in ear and stage monitors but I know there’s a lot of US that do. TURN UP MICKEY AND JEFF! End of rant…

The Hard Rain that came out of Space was menacing. The music created tense spaces between notes and conveyed the mood of the song brilliantly. One of those moments that you almost have to put your arms around yourself to make sure you keep your molecules together. Weir did a great job of transferring the feelings that reside within the words. It was a fabulous moment that made me perfectly uncomfortable inside. Then the opening chords of Help On The Way. It’s like being harnessed on a rocket that will be taking off shortly. The impending commitment to taking the trip creates internal sensations that ultimately come face to face with the reality of the trip itself. Paradise Waits! No more perfect an opening line has ever been created to fit the tune that’s unfolding. I’ve now listened to the Help-> Slip-> Frank 3 times in order to confirm the accuracy of my initial assessment. Help On The Way benefits from John’s singing much moreso than Bob’s. The solos between verses contained elements of the Slipknot without revealing too much almost like watching a shadowed silhouette of a woman undressing. Provocative and able to stimulate thought and creativity without being overdone or giving too much too soon. The Slipknot was the most technically complete one that this group of musicians has assembled to date. EVERYBODY was moving spiritually in the same direction… All twists and turns were made in a completely congruent way. It couldn’t be added to or subtracted from in order to make it more than it was. The note that you hoped would be there when you arrived always was and the space you hoped would be absent was absent. When a gap opened, John or Oteil’s licks were right there providing the protection required to prevent you from being sucked into orbit forever. As it all continued to wind up against itself before expanding to release itself, it did so according to the natural rhythm of the planetary breath as well as the rhythm that pulsated throughout time and space for that moment… Only in Grateful Dead Land… Nowhere else… Then came the payoff as John calls it, Franklin’s. Even Weir’s awkward approach to the vocals couldn’t hold back the momentum that was moving forward regardless. The precision and improvisational colors that blasted the night sky with transformational tunes had people from all over the world being set free from the turmoil of daily struggles and life that exists outside of our community. While tumbling wildly inside of Franklin’s the injustices of a fallen world are forced to flee from US as we join in an experience that’s devoid of race or religion. Political differences are replaced by the intense revelations of our deep and soulful similarities. In that moment, nobody is different than anybody and everybody is just like anybody else. I love the false ending in Franklin’s that they’re doing. Just when ya think it’s over, NOPE, back around the block again! What a great touch to that one! Then in keeping with the long-standing tradition, one more Saturday night gets closed out with One More Saturday Night! It was Rockin and hard and fast like having sex in a 100-degree tent. The tune revolved around the entire hub that created the magic for the evening. As it spun around it was wildly decorated by the notes that were flying at it from every instrument. EVERYBODY WAS ALL IN!!! Billy laying down the heat that fired below the pistons to keep em moving, Jeff making the Jeff face while sliding feverishly up and down the ivories, Mickey basting Chicken like a mad BBQ Master, John looking like a chicken pecking food off of a wall, Oteil covering the final stretch of the 10 miles he marched in place throughout the evening, Weir throwing chords up to the heavens and reaching down deep for a falsetto moment at the end that he ABSOLUTELY hit! 100%! What a moment! What a night!

After we all marinated in the brilliance that just took place, the band returned at approximately the same time that Garcia would play his final encore with The Grateful Dead exactly 21 years ago this night. While many, including one of the literary legends of Grateful Dead Land, Blair Jackson, find my opinion on BMR inaccurate and reprehensible, my take on Knockin may be met with some opposition as well. I always LOVED Knockin and many a splendid night in our lives ended with this Dylan gem delivered by Garcia with the kind of Soul that ONLY Garcia could put to it. That being said, John Mayer delivered Dead & Co’s first Knockin On Heaven’s Door with the passion and feeling and depth that was well able to bring tears to the toughest of his critics. His liberties on the tune resonated deeply within me as new life was breathed wholeheartedly into an old favorite. Some felt that it was a painful look toward current events while others a form of salute to Garcia. For me, it was as rich with meaning as it has ever been following a week that has seen those wearing badges being blasted as well as those wearing badges blast a brother. Take this badge off of me, put my guns in the ground… Imagine a world where everybody came to the same conclusion. I can’t shoot them anymore… As Mayer revealed the contents of his internal markings throughout the solos following each verse, I believe he showed more of his heart and soul than we’ve ever seen to this point. His runs lagged slightly behind the moment beautifully at times keeping the moment from getting too far out in front. He used other moments to race ahead and clear a path for the song to develop more completely. When those moments arrived, brilliant and emotive bursts of compassion erupted forth in waves and were joined appropriately by the rest of the band as the congregation just knodded in agreement. If John has had a moment on stage that has caused me to further appreciate his internal components, last night’s Knockin was a highlight for me. While most of US have had moments through the music of literally Knockin On Heaven’s Door, If Garcia was Knockin On Heaven’s Door nowadays, he’d be doing so from the inside trying to get out for a few more runs. He’s a well-established resident for over 20 years now. It’s moments like these when you realize you got as close to the Promised Land as one can probably get while still being alive and had a moment to Knock On The Door. Just as Weir was able to let the moments happen all night without feeling the need to direct traffic, John became a little too confident in his attempt to lead the traffic himself. As Weir attempted to bring the moment home with the “Just like so many times before” line that seems to bring it all to a perfect close, John wasn’t yielded to the direction of the wise elder and kind of shit in pants in a little. I’m sure he thought it was just a fart at first… The end fell apart at that point which gave Weir the opportunity to say, “Just exactly like a Swiss watch” before heading off the stage. When the tear-filled experience ended, the door had disappeared… For a moment we sat on the precipice of entering that sacred place yet the lights were turned back on firmly planting our feet to the earth that we spent the last 4 or 5 hours completely detached from.

“Never Miss a Sunday Show” mantra is in full force… With this bunch of musicians, you really never want to miss a show PERIOD! Too time-consuming for me to proofread right now, sorry about typos, errors and omissions… Love You Long Time and Forever and there’s nothing you can do to stop me!

Dead To The Core,

Dean Sottile (pronounced So Tilly)