Sometimes when I look through social media chatter, I wonder what folks are hearing. The first set in Phoenix last night is a fine example. Our favorite musicians seemed pretty hungover from opening night in Vegas. AK Chin was an outdoor sauna that provided everybody a chance to sweat out the toxins. Nothing like tens of thousands of DeadHeads sweating out the aftermath of a couple days in Vegas. I’m sure the place smelled like a nicotine stained hooker bathing in sweat and vodka.
To start off, I obviously live for the music and love the people playing it, as well as those fine folks that make up the greatest group of fans that history will ever know, US. That being said, I’m also the guy that will ask who farted in a crowded elevator and look for the person that’s blushing. Everybody’s experience is very different and I’m well aware of that. This is all just one guy’s take and never stated as law, merely the experience of one insignificant thread in the fabric that makes up a significant tapestry of humanity.
All that being said, There was a turd in the punch bowl last night… The first set started with a Stranger that wasn’t terrible followed by a Bertha, that ended that way. Interestingly enough, the Bertha was really good until it collapsed quicker than people drinking hard liquor in the desert sun. John was killing it before it killed him. Since Mayer has a grueling schedule on his solo tour, the band didn’t spend time rehearsing with everyone together prior to meeting up in Vegas. It was pretty obvious during the first set last night. I could go song by song but it was just all pretty bad. Minglewood was a mess and when Weir sings Peggy O it seems like he starts on Sunday and doesn’t finish until Tuesday. Sugaree, seemed like the perfect tune to get the train back on the track but I’m not sure it did. It seemed like the jams were anemic where they weren’t totally absent.
Even with a turd in the punch bowl, DeadHeads will convince themselves and each other that it’s a brown ice cube. The best thing about life in Dead Land is the chance at redemption that comes from a fanbase as forgiving as Jesus. Redemption came quickly when Sailor->Saint opened up the Second Set. Weir sounded fantastic and as the weather cooled down the band definitely heated up! During the sonic turbulence of the Saint, every ferocious element found in nature was crafted through the music as furious waves of sound swelled from the band and were sent to crash over US from the rail to the back of the lawn. After being restricted and nearly cut in half by some ill fitting under britches throughout the first set, during intermission, Oteil decided to set the captives free and it helped tremendously. He lead the procession that is Crazy Fingers through its sluggish yet complex measures. The tension at the center of the song was maintained throughout like a spring being wound to tolerance. That song reminds me of that Bugs Bunny episode when he says, “Watch me perplex him with my Super Duper Slowball.” The wind up is intense and constant yet once released, out comes an incredibly spiritual slug. While many may have found reasons not to like it, I thought John sounded outstanding as did the song!
Scarlet-> Fire assured memories of the first set would be erased from our minds forever. The train was not only back on the track but rolling like the well-oiled machine we travel the country to experience. Scarlet was tight and just right, the transition jam found equal measures of subtilty and complexity. The furnace was being seasoned with elements that would continue creating heat until it would inevitably be forced to escape. John’s playing was fantastic and the band was clearly experiencing the hive mind. Fire provided everything we want from Fire and the moment of clarity for the evening struck. Throughout life, we all have times we’d prefer were forgotten. Not only by us but by anyone else that may have experienced them with us. The more we put ourselves out there, the more we allow not only the love of others to enter our lives but the criticism of those that are less impressed. For the musicians, as well as most of us, jams like Fire On The Mountain give everybody a chance to see us at our very best. Our best attributes, our best dancing, our happiest faces are all on display. It’s a song that allows the world to see you for exactly who you are at your core without all of the bullshit that life has thrown on you interfering with your magnificence. During those jams, the best version of US as a group is on full display. If a there was one picture or action shot that our community would be remembered by forever, I would have to imagine it should probably be taken during Fire or Franklin’s jams.
Post Drums/Space got Dear Prudence, a song you probably like Weir singing better than I do, followed by Casey Jones, a song I probably like better than or equal to you! Casey Jones was a blistering way to close a sweltering night in Arizona. Touch of Grey sent everyone back to their cars scheduling trips, that weren’t previously planned, to attend more Dead & Company shows this Summer. After the missteps of the first set, the band provided a night that was exactly what most of us hope for when we enter a venue on any given night. Maybe sometimes folks wonder what the hell I’m hearing…
I’m out of time…
Love You Long Time and Forever! See ya soon!
Dead To The Core,
Dean Sottile (pronounced So Tilly)
@gd50th on Twitter
Grateful Dean on Facebook