I have to start this off with a few very important issues. Number one, It’s my sincere hope that nothing I write today would come off as bragging or would imply in any way that I’m any better than any single one of US. I’m not… Just another completely Deadicated fan that has been part of the community since 11/11/1985. If anything, my story via this blog, over the past year a half has been a public display of what happens when people make an effort to contribute to the community. I was never seeking any of the gifts that have come my way. I was only hoping to add some levity and laughter into the lives of as many people as I could. I hoped I’d be able to do so in a way that would really connect with those of US that have been a part of the greatest musical ride in history. I didn’t feel like any coverage or reviews that I read about our scene or US were ever written by anybody that had a clue about our scene or US. The media outlets that reported on the happenings in our community seemed stale and lifeless and I couldn’t find a laugh anywhere. That didn’t make sense to me since our community is vibrant and completely full of LIFE and laughter. I just wanted to tell some jokes and fuck around with everybody while mixing in memories of the magic that we’ve all shared throughout the years. There were absolutely no motives for my writing other than that. I never expected a single free ticket or anything else from the experience. I always found a way through the past 30 years to find my own tickets and get to shows and have an abundance of good fortune along the way. I never needed any connections because I always felt like I was connected to the invisible source that maintains all of it in existence in the first place. I just had to apply universal principles in every area of my life and trust in the process. Seed time and harvest time is a principle that applies to everyone.
Number 2, I could never thank Oteil enough for the blessing he has been to me. I’ve never seen someone that is playing on this big of a stage with this big of a band, put themselves out there for US like he has on this tour. He’s had dinners with fans on nearly every stop of the tour and has been part of meetups and thousands of pictures with thousands of US. He and Chimenti are ALWAYS smiling in the pictures they take with fans and we’ve all seen how many pics they’ve taken in the past year alone. Oteil has become a friend that I cherish, not because of what he’s done but because of who he is. Anyone that has had a chance to fellowship with him in any way, is well aware of the human that he is. Humble and funny, down to earth and completely one of US. Like all of US, The Grateful Dead experience has totally changed Oteil’s life during the past year. He totally gets IT on every level. He added more life to the music than anybody has in a long, long time. In my opinion, Oteil improved upon his parts of Grateful Dead Music. He actually took what was there and made it better. I can’t say that about anyone else that has played in any of the bands since Garcia. I know there are plenty of people that won’t agree with me but that’s how I hear it. Thanks Oteil, Love You Long Time!
This time last week, I had no idea I’d be flying out west for the last two shows of the tour. After a few texts and within a matter of minutes, I had flights booked and was headed to California. I arrived at SFO at 3:00 Friday afternoon and headed to Sacramento with my dear friend, Traci. We arrived in Wheatland at about 6:30 and the old ways took over. I headed to the Premiere Parking Lot and was ready to hand over the $40 when my hustle kicked in. In my most authoritative tone, I told the attendant I was picking up my credentials at Will Call and was wondering where I should park. They waved us right through without a charge and said, “Park anywhere you’d like!” I could tell I was on the right side of the cosmic arc of life immediately. I went to the Will Call window and was handed an envelope. When I opened it, it was like Charlie from Willy Wonka opening up the chocolate bar. A Golden Ticket to the greatest meeting of minds and musicians that are currently assembled.
I had all I could do to hold back the tears. It was the culmination of over 30 years of personal Deadication to the scene that mysteriously picked me into it long ago. Interestingly enough, my first show took place at The Fillmore East in 1969 as a fetus. I always wondered if that was why I immediately felt at home on 11/11/85. Regardless, the combination of emotions that were alive and active within me were similar to the emotions experienced when my bride was giving birth to our children. Once the water breaks, there are so many unknowns. Every sensation and feeling is a world unto itself. There seems to be an inevitable and intensely joyous and loving outcome ahead but the path is somewhat uncertain.
I immediately headed backstage where I noticed 2 large coolers of Gatorade. Knowing the history of the band, I considered the possible ramifications of consuming large quantities of the Gatorade. Since it was 120 degrees, I decided I was surrendered to the outcome. It was shortly after my second cup that the ground became a little spongy. Before I knew it, I was in the middle of a conversation with Bill Walton and Oteil about the bass line that officially signals the beginning of The Other One.
I couldn’t help but wonder if it was all a dream I was having. As I continued drinking the Kool-Aid, I suddenly felt as though I was walking on air. It was as if I was moving through the scene with no effort of my own. Everyone smiled as I passed by and I began to feel as though I was entering the Zone. From behind the stage, the anticipation being experienced by everyone in front of the stage was projected and multiplied and heading right at me. It was precisely at that moment I realized I was somehow strapped in a Baby Carrier to Bill Walton. I knew I might have had too much Gatorade too fast.
Just as fast as I experienced that, in an instant I was up close, in front of the stage and ready for the molecular transformation to take place. We all know what they played and the first set was paced properly in lieu of the scorching heat. I didn’t mind the heat and it didn’t slow me down much since it was a “dry heat”. Fire is a dry heat as well… While I’m not gonna go song by song, the thing that stood out most was how tight certain segments of the songs had become due to the repetition and the time the band has been together at this point. Whether it was the parts of Tennessee Jed when it seems like the jams wander out into the distance before instantly rushing back to hit you square in the face or the parts of Ramble On Rose and Loser when the procession of jovial celebration builds and finds peak after peak of musical unity, the band was completely on the same ride, at the same time, with the same ideas. We were all heading right into the eye of the hurricane.
The second set was exactly that. From the eye of the storm, you can see how massive and powerful everything is that circles around you. Opening the second set with Lost Sailor felt just like that. There was this remarkable peace as Weir commanded the ship in calm seas. While we basked in the glow of the mood set by the delivery of the Sailor, there was the internal knowledge of the ferocious musical typhoon that was coming. As the final verses were sung, the ship moved out of the eye to experience the turbulent seas that mark the path of making the transition from Sailor to Saint. This must be heaven! As the jams continued, Mayer’s picking was loud and crystal clear and began to add turbulence to the previously calm waters. Oteil’s licks were frantic and precise and began to stir the oceans that were raising the mighty ship to the top of a wave that was bound to come crashing down at any time. Bill and Mickey’s sticks and utensils became mighty oars that were paddling furiously to keep the mighty ship on course and Jeff’s keys battled with the wind to raise the mighty sail that became completely filled with the breath of The Almighty as the vessel reached its highest point before making the dive and racing down the face of the wave in an instant as Weir shouted,”FRRRRRREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!! Sure don’t know what I’m goin fo!” That shit has always brought an incredible feeling of liberty to my insides. This night I crossed the line. The Saint was nearly everything we could want from it. The band moved outside of the eye to experience the surrounding storm in all of its glory.
After raging in those waters as long as was necessary, we moved back into the peaceful yet daunting eye of the experience as He’s Gone gave us the inward sensations that were similar to The Sailor. Reverent and completely committed to the duty, our favorite musicians bounced through one of the many staples of our community. It was beautifully eerie and completely consuming emotionally. At parts it was impossible not to smile while in others nearly impossible not to cry. With the confidence that was gained through leaving the eye during the Saint, the opening notes of Chinacat proved that the fear of traveling outside of the safe zone was conquered and we were heading back to do it again. This time, there was no trepidation in taking the ride and the confidence of being able to navigate those seas were unmistakable. Where once there thoughts of danger, this time we all realized we were more than able to handle the torrential rains that existed beyond the peace of our center. What was once an obstacle became a playground as the waves that tossed the vessel earlier were now merely a playground for the entire community to ride through. Each verse and accompanying jam harnessed the power of the storm that circled around US and used it to continue fueling the movement upwards and outwards. It was as if our souls were simultaneously projecting happiness from our cores and blasting the feeling into the surrounding environment over and over again. “The sun’s gonna shine, in my back door some day!” has always been a verse that I’ve attached all of my hopes and dreams upon. As many times as I’ve heard it, I’ve always heard it with an incredible confidence that it was indeed my reality. It has been more of an affirmation than a lyric and I’ve chosen to believe wholeheartedly in its meaning. There has never been a shortage of detours in my life. Every time one takes me down a path that I would rather not travel or seems to once again delay the progress I’ve been hoping for, I’ve felt confident in proclaiming, “THE SUN’S GONNA SHINE!!! IN MY BACK DOOR SOME DAY!!!” At this moment during this show, the tears started rolling down my face as it truly was a day that found the sun shining in my back door as promised for so many years. The jams continued to overwhelm every cell in being. Drums and Space sent me back for more Gatorade.
New Speedway Boogie marched out of space and I began to realize that I had adapted over time to the pace that is inevitable during this time in the journey. I didn’t seek to judge it, I only sought to feel every bit of the raw emotion that was on display. Then as if the night couldn’t get any better, the opening notes of The Dew met my ears and elicited the same internal response that I get when I hear the voice of my children. While we will never hear a Dew like the ones we heard from Garcia, there were way more reasons to love it than there were to not. While John may not possess the internal ingredients to hold the entire community in the palm of his hand like Jerry did, it was outstanding. While Garcia sang the last verses of the song, it would alter our breathing. I would make a concentrated effort to be sure my breathing in no way interfered with Garcia, as if they had the ability to do so. My shoulders would move upwards prayerfully as I’d make sure I wasn’t in anybody’s way of taking it all in. It may not be that way ever again, but it was as close as I have experienced since. Mayer finally got the end right as he fanned the strings with fervor as the victory flag was raised and stabbed onto the emotional hill that now took the place of the seas we passed through prior. Casey Jones turned the tides once again as we all got onboard the train that was moving US closer to the impending destination. We found our legs firmly under US once again as we all jammed together as hard as we were able. Conflicts were clarified, from stormy seas we returned to solid ground and the parade moved on with a renewed sense of accomplishment. The Ripple to end it was perfect. That was some INCREDIBLE Gatorade!
The following day we headed to Shoreline for the finale. I’ve seen more than a dozen GD Shows there over the years but hadn’t been back since 93. We got there extremely early in order to take in every single second of the day. After meeting up with Oteil and Jess, we headed into the venue. We ended up backstage in Oteil’s area that was walled by curtains. After having a few laughs and talking shop a little, I heard Bill getting warmed up before soundcheck. I looked out of the curtain and there he was a few feet away.
For the first time in my life, I was truly having the experience from the inside. After a little while, he came back where we were hanging and sat down. Everybody talked a little bit and inside my head I was laughing hysterically at where I was currently sitting. How the fuck did this all happen? Unbelievable still really… Somebody came in and gave Bill the set list to which he replied, “This is gonna be GREAT!” he then passed it along by way of me to Oteil. As much as I didn’t want to look, I couldn’t help it. In my head I said, “DON’T LOOK! DON’T LOOK! DON’T LOOK!” as my eyes completely couldn’t be obedient to the command. There it was, right in my hand, Help-> Slip-> Shakedown… The second thing I noticed was the absence of One More Saturday Night. The best part was, I didn’t take it all in during that glance so I never really saw the Brown Eyed back into Slipknot into Franklin’s to close the first. That was the highlight of the night musically for me without a doubt.
Even with All Access, you don’t see too much of Weir, Mickey or Mayer. They walk by pretty closely but they’re kind of like Faberge Eggs. You’re reminded that with or without the lammie, you’re still a nobody. There aren’t any chances to get too close to them and they have security around them at all times. I understand, it’s probably a pain in the ass to be them at certain times. Not everyone feels as comfortable dealing with all the fanfare and I’m not really one to attempt to force some kind of introduction or greeting unless it happens naturally and without deviating from the path I was already moving. So my friend Traci and I are talking with Oteil, Jess and Billy, separated from the rest of the band as we were for most of the weekend when we hear somebody scream, “CLEAN UP!!!!” We looked up and there was Mickey peaking into the room with mallets in his hands. The curtain opened a couple of feet away from me and Weir’s head came through saying in an extremely soft voice, “We’re gonna have presentation now”. In an instant we were right there with everybody… Then everybody vanished… It was the most surreal 10 seconds of the entire weekend. Words could never adequately explain the feeling that was experienced at that moment. It was like sitting in the woods and having Sasquatch put his head into your tent to say “HELLO!” and then disappearing. Total shock and awe…
I was actually surprised more people didn’t know about the opener because they played it for the sound check. The Slipknot-> Shakedown transition was extremely rocky and they worked on that a little with John ultimately providing the best solution. It came off during the show much better and more naturally than it did during the sound check. There’s clearly just more magic available when ALL of US are present. The music found US at another old stomping ground and I had forgotten how close to the band you are at Shoreline. In a tour full of pretty big venues, at Shoreline it really felt like you’re right on stage with the band when you’re up front.
The second set wasted no time by directly going into outer space with Dark Star. The sound was enormous and all of the parts were moving to the same places at the same time. After 2 complete tours, it was clear that the hive had learned to direct the course of its flight using one mind. The jams seemed to travel in the same direction even when they were breaking down and falling apart in order to be intentionally reconstructed once again. St. Stephen hit a speed bump at the very beginning but quickly recovered to be as strong as it ever has with Dead & Company. The Eyes jam was as incredible as the song has been since the beginning of this band. Maybe not as strong as The Gorge but Oteil had some help from Owsley that night. Jams wound themselves up tighter than a knot before releasing themselves to be tied together again. Oteil’s solo that has become a fixture in the Eyes conveyed the emotion that was prevalent throughout the course of the evening while unleashing some parts that were as complex and intense as the entire experience. Terrapin was born from the silence that briefly followed. Here we ALL were again! Some rising, some falling, some climbing, some flying, some hitch hiking! After all these years, we find ourselves once again doing everything in our power to get to Terrapin! The old feeling is alive and as the whistle is screaming we bask in the brilliance of the jams that are the soundtrack we’ve marched to all of these years in order to be right where we were at that very moment! The ending was once again given the extended workout it rightfully deserves and left US on the peak of that mountain that was scaled during the second set.
Drums was a special treat as Bill Walton joined in on the fun along with Oteil and the Rhythm Devils. From the peak of the mountain we climbed during the first half of the second set, it was natural and became obvious that The Days Between was a perfect choice. A song that details the journey our favorite musicians, along with US, have taken all these years. A song that tells the tale of the experience from the top of the mountain looking down at the path that was taken to get there. It’s like looking at a maze from above. Everything that life threw at US and every dead end we ran into led US to where we are now. When you’re in the maze, it all seems so confusing yet from the perspective you get from above it, the course seems to make much more sense. So many different sights, sounds and beliefs along the way all with the common thread of wanting nothing more than to learn and love and grow… The music being played caused the environment around it to take notice. It was as if the breeze stopped to acknowledge the magnificence of the moment. The only thing left to say after all of this had taken place was NFA… We all took in every verse as it was our last because in all reality, you really never know when it will be. The Love was palpable and flowed from above-> down and from US-> outward. This journey that started at The Fillmore 2 months ago had gathered the steam and momentum from all of the events preceding it and was blasting out the final notes of what has been the best tour our favorite musicians have performed in decades. The US Blues wasn’t on the initial list but made its way into the encore as we came to the heartbreaking conclusion that for this band, Summertime done, come and gone, my, oh, my. Brokedown reminded US of the journey that was beginning the moment the lights went back on… Going Home, Going Home…
What a night! What a weekend… What a tour… What a life…
Trying to get my mind around what took place over the weekend is no easy task. The Official Home of Unofficial Grateful Dead and Music News was born as a joke when I published an article about Weir canceling all remaining dates on his tour almost 2 years ago. It became a more regular thing when FTW was announced and I had some fans as well as some folks that couldn’t stand me. 2 years later, I have some fans and some folks that can’t stand me… There’s been progress and a lot of my initial haters have become good friends. I always made it clear that I was a nobody and spoke only for myself. After the ticketing incident with the 50th Anniversary Shows, a lot of the media and other bloggers were among the first to subscribe to the blog to collect news that could be used for their stories. That work led to a bunch of money being returned to a bunch of US following the FTW Shows. I did a lot of bullshitting and used a lot of smokescreens. People were looking to get info from a Prankster and nobody really knew when I was making jokes or being serious but me. I always hoped to bring more laughter and Love into our scene. That was always my only mission. Some folks appreciate it, some folks don’t, so what! Some folks understand my jokes, some folks don’t, so what! Some folks like me, some folks don’t, so what! As I’ve said before, we all run out on to the playground and the scene sorts US out.
Regardless, it was never really about ME. It has always been about the journey that all of US have taken and are still taking together for over 50 years now. It’s about the path that the greatest society of musical and nomadic souls have been traveling down for decades. I’m a character in the story only because this blog has served as my personal journal and is something my kids can read about their dad once he’s gone. It’s more about the potential that exists for every single one of US to turn our gifts and talents into an art form that can be appreciated by others. It’s about the potential that exists when we take the light that we’ve received from the experience and put it on display. The bible says, “No man, when he hath lighted a candle, puts it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light.” When our light is on full display, there’s a lot of things that happen. People who are trying to sleep curse the light. While the light may attract many people and illuminate a way for some, there will always be plenty of bugs and bloodthirsty mosquitoes that seek it out as well. When your light shines, you don’t have the option what it will and will not attract. You have to understand that it will attract both. I always choose to let neither distract me from shining my light anyway. We can whine when our thoughts come up against vitriolic resistance or we can just make the decision to keep walking in love. I’ll end it with this. While talking with Oteil this weekend at Wheatland, he said something incredibly profound. I don’t recall how the conversation evolved but he said, “It’s NOT who you know, it’s WHAT you sow!” I gave the brother some witness to that statement like a lady with a huge hat at an all black church! Dropping Hallelujahs and shit! The best thing we can all do is continue sharing our gifts, talents and abilities wherever they’re required. Sow abundant seeds of Love and Laughter into the world as a way of life and don’t judge the outcomes on the short term results or lack thereof. Go about the business of blessing others like it’s your job and you’re getting paid double time to do so. Don’t worry about what other folks think of you or say about you. Their thoughts don’t have any impact on how the universe responds to your seeds. Do nothing but good and let the universe take care of the rest. My story started on 11/11/1985 at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, NJ. Since then, the years that followed have been about sowing good seeds into the world in any way I’m able. There’s been a lot of times when it seemed I wasn’t getting much return on my efforts and my crops were pretty thin. This weekend seemed to me to be the manifestation of over 30 years of sowing good seeds. I started this blog a couple of years ago. I’ve spent a lot of time, effort and treasure to provide something different for those that were interested. I was never seeking anything out of it but thought it was a good way to serve the community that I love with all of my heart. I remain no different than any single one of US. No more important, no less important than anyone. If anything, I just helped to be a fairly public example of how The Lord, The Universe, Karma or whatever you wanna call it works shit out. Keep shining your light regardless of what you see happening around you and trust in the process. The bible also says, “Whoever sows sparingly will reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” It says, “You’ll know them by their fruit.” It says, “A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit.” People can curse a good tree all they want but it will yield good fruit in spite of them. The fruit will always say much more bout US than anybody’s words ever will…
I’ve considered closing this chapter of my life at this time. I’ve literally spent hundreds and hundreds of hours on the blog and maybe it’s a good time to take a final bow. The journey has been well documented at this point. Maybe it’s time to finish the book I started writing.. Unless of course there’s a Halloween show coming… Or New Years… Is Mayer really done for now? I don’t know nuttin… I guess we’ll see…
Love You Long Time Forever and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it!
Dead To The Core,
Dean Sottile (pronounced So Tilly)
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