The Traveling Musical Transformation Society settled into the house that BoBo built last night to make it happen under the Titty Tents of Life. A hometown show of sorts in Grateful Dead Land. Memories in Shoreline are too numerous to count for the majority of us. The most dominate for me probably being the Death Don’t Have No Mercy bust out in ’89. The first show I saw there was The Allman Bros in the Sumner of 89 during the almost 2-week break between Cal Expo and The Greeks. August 11, 1989. The first show I saw at Red Rocks also happened to be The Allman Brothers during the extended break that same summer between Alpine Valley shows and Cal Expo on July 31, 1989. Yesterday being the day of Gregg’s funeral, and the party the family threw in his honor in Macon, it’s hard not to reflect on that… Rock In Peace Gregg… We Love you forever Allman Bros Family!
Nearly 30 years later, Dead & Company got the party started with Playin and things were pretty good early on. Mayer was changing guitars like Madonna changes costumes. I see him one minute and he’s jamming on a beautiful green PRS. Next time the cameras show him, it’s a red one, both of them beautiful instruments. I blink again and the green one is back… There were some great jams that morphed into an even greater Viola Lee Blues. I wanted that one to go on forever. When Mayer is feeling it, he looks like a chicken plucking feed out of the air. Pretty cool how he hops around like he’s jumping rope at a pace that’s completely divorced from the tempo of the song. Garcia used to sing like that instead and stay completely still. Jed was great then they played some other stuff that was ok. Saturday Night not so surprisingly closed the first.
I’m writing this piece today to express my gratitude for one of the best moments I’ve experienced through Dead & Company since their inception. Regardless of what’s being played and how it sounds on any given night, I’m incredibly grateful they’re playing and we’re talking about it. Last night, as The Bells of Heaven started ringing, I experienced the most perfect musical moment of the tour and possibly of the band for me. Oteil is more than just a musician I Love, he’s a human I Love and more importantly a friend. As I heard the opening notes of China Doll, I felt nervous… It was like watching a relative at bat in The World Series. It’s been a really hard couple of months for him, starting with the death of Butch, then Col. Bruce, then Gregg. While Gregg’s funeral was taking place, Oteil was at Shoreline. He gathered up all of the emotions of the past couple of months and used them as the substance through which his singing was filtered. He didn’t try to force his own will upon the song but let the colors of the song paint for themselves. His eyes stayed mostly shut throughout as if he was searching through the contents of his own heart and sharing Only.. What he found… Mayer’s solos were able to obtain fuel from the depths of that emotion and carry it forward in the hauntingly beautiful manner we’ve experienced from China Dolls throughout our history. Oteil’s bass lines gave the song a bottom end that was felt below our feet and coursed through us from below-> upwards. As each verse came through Oteil it appeared as if he was drifting calmly through the dark waters of the song. The moment seemed somewhat Owsley inspired. His approach to each verse and the manner they were delivered preserved past memories of the song without offering anything that would come into conflict with them. Jeff’s Hammond lifted the song well above the plane it was being played upon. In The Long Strange Trip, Bill makes a great statement about his desire to create a feeling more than keeping time. He and Mickey’s work during China Doll was a fantastic example of that. When it came time to take up my China Doll, I was totally fractured. Chills were manifested on the entire outline of my physical body and as the La Las began, my face was wet with tears. It was as honest and sincere a performance as I’ve witnessed from Dead & Company. That’s probably because Oteil is as honest and sincere of a vessel as the song could ever come through… He was really nervous about it but it was never reflected in any way during the song. Love you my brother! You knocked it out of the park! I know I speak for a lot of people when I say, Let that brother sing some more!
Eyes immediately followed which is another tune that lends itself brilliantly to Oteil. It really was his night. Deal sent everyone into Drums hugging and high-fiving each other. The Wheel rolled outta Space and while I wasn’t too crazy about it, it lead into Weir’s finest moments of the night with Looks Like Rain. I think the post Space Ballad slot typically reserved for Garcia’s masterpieces is a good place for LLR. It probably didn’t belong there while Garcia was alive but it fits pretty good there now. Good Lovin closed it out and it’s impressive that a brother Weir’s age can still go way up the register on the falsetto at the end of that one! Black Muddy River sends everyone to the parking lot!
I can’t wait to see what awaits us tonight! I doubt the surprises are over for Shoreline. I’m completely out of time so I’ll catch ya later! Photo is courtesy of Doug Clifton. That brother is providing a ton of outstanding coverage of this tour via FB and I thank him for his service to the community! YOU DA MAN DOUG!
Love y’all forever!!!
Dead To The Core,
Dean Sottile (pronounced So Tilly)
@gd50th on Twitter
Grateful Dean on Facebook