Hartford was host to our favorite musicians Wednesday night as the show rolled north a few hours from D.C. The week was filled with mayhem after some dude went batshit crazy on FB and stirred up some concerns. Following tragic events at music venues and everywhere else nowadays, message boards were filled with concerns that thankfully amounted to nothing. We’re almost halfway through the tour and the music is getting the reps required to start tightening up or so you’d think. I drop a lot of disclaimers around here because I never want my motives or opinion to be confused by others. Here’s one now! I’ve spent most of my life following this music and its members all over the fuckin world. I spend a ton of time documenting the journey at my own expense. When it comes to my motives, the truth is, I don’t have any… I never really did. I just wanted to tell a few jokes while talking about the music that we all love so dearly. If I don’t like something and you do, no big deal. I don’t get pissed at you if you like squash because I think squash sucks. I was tired of reading coverage that revolved around some of the greatest subject matter available that was boring and stale. Regardless of my opinions on a nightly basis, I love the music, our community, and the musicians abundantly. Here’s how it went down in Hartford…
I spent so much time traveling to venues along the northeast since 85. Living a half hour outside of NYC made it possible to see over 100 shows before I turned 18. Between D.C., Philly, NYC, NJ, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, lots of shows were always easy to access. I also think that’s why the east coast gets a lot more activity and West Coasters often seem to get left out. On the east coast, you can hit a major city every hour two as the buses roll. Logistically, it’s easier to cover. Anyway, most DeadHeads have done their share of travel up and down the east coast and Hartford is a familiar place for most of us. When I look back on my years on the road, Connecticut doesn’t really stand out as a city that got the most memorable shows on any tour I can recall. I’m not sure last night was much different. Here’s how it went down.
The first set opened with Aiko Iko and that tune is always a fun way to get started. Shakedown followed and the energy was heading in the right direction. Both the openers lend themselves to great opportunities for extended jams but seemed a little abbreviated to me. They Love Each Other sounded good and John embellished his opportunities well. Loose Lucy was Ok and everyone was happy to be awake. Friend of The Devil ensured things would keep moving along at a snail’s pace. They made it harder for anyone to wake up by closing the set with Bird Song. Here’s what I’ll say. I can appreciate the mellow tunes that are a part of the catalog but it seems like Dead & Company tend to play all of them during the same sets. They go on a run of sluggish songs that just leave me flat personally. I get it, you thought it was the best first set ever… Regardless, there are very few shows in later day Dead that were ever known for what was played in the first set. Once again, Loser from Albany in 90 comes to mind, To Lay Me Down at MSG on 9/18/90, The Omni in Atlanta 4/1/90 when Garcia gave us the Candyman, Althea and To Lay Me Down all on the same night. Wowzers, that’s definitely an example of a string of slow tunes that didn’t suck! Regardless, shows tend to be measured a bit more on the contents of the second set.
During intermission, very few people left their seats because they didn’t have the energy following the first set…
The Second got started with Estimated and things were looking up! The whole band was strong and obviously having a good time. That’s when Eyes really changed things for me. If you can get past the spacing that serves a speed bump that Weir has put between the verses, The Eyes was incredible. The spaces have gotten a little briefer than they once were but they’re still more of a nuisance than an improvement. It didn’t really matter because every segment of the song was jammed out with ferocity! Chimenti was unbelievable as he took his paces and it moved the entire experience to the next level. Oteil’s solo was outstanding and if you were someone that wasn’t aware of the band’s history or any of its members, you would think Weir and Mayer were accessories to the Chimenti and Burbridge Experience last night. Night after night, the guys in small print are consistently the biggest players on the stage. I’d wager to say this incarnation might not amount to much without either of them. To push that point furthur, the China Doll that followed closed out the high water mark of the entire show for me. If there’s a song that Mayer really seems to get more feeling into than the others, China Doll is definitely on the top of the list. It’s cool to get The Other One before Space as opposed to out of it and that’s what happened next. Oteil starts his march during that one and it’s on! The Other One from MSG was completely dominated by Mayer. His assault and command of the moment that night was incredible. I was looking forward to hearing it again since the last one left an indelible mark on my memory. The song was much bigger than him last night but it was a good time for sure! He was lead by the song as opposed to completely leading it. Drums continued on a run of fantastic percussive mood making and transcendental experiences that have been really consistent all tour. Once Mickey gets to the beam, he seems like he’d rather stay there all night. That brother looks pissed when the guys come out for space. It’s like they’re interrupting him in the middle of a sentence. You gotta forgive em Mickey, they don’t know when your sentences end…
It was really cool to get a Broken English Jam out of Space. I’m not sure it was fully Spanish. In a continuing series of events, Garcia ballads are now the choice out of Space. One thing about Garcia ballads is that the great ones were all crafted with this opportunity for incredibly high moments at the very end of them. Our memories of the songs over the years are mostly measured by their crescendo which, in Garcia’s brilliance always arrived at the tune’s finish. The best part about that is you can murder the song the whole way through it and if the crescendo is crushed, everybody forgives the mess that preceded it. With that in mind, Weir has gotta be the most Caucasian sounding singer of all time, other than Phil probably. I mean, those brothers are every bit as white as Barry Manilow albeit abundantly more psychedelic. Please don’t get me wrong when I say this, Bob Weir is one of my favorite artists of all time and his style of playing and singing is as unique as Garcia’s, it’s just white as fuck. When Weir sings Black Peter, it should really be called White Peter. The first 3/4s of White Peter was an absolute disaster but was completely saved by the final crescendo that absolutely kicked ass! The end of that one saved it from the beginning and the middle. It will probably go down as a highlight for some because if its outstanding finish. On this day in history, I’m starting a new movement! I’m gonna get the shirts printed and everything. That tune needs to slide over to Oteil’s side of the stage… On this day in history, the movement begins and here it is!
Yes, sisters and brothers, It’s time to make Peter Black again! For all of you that are ready to accuse me of all kinds of shit, I just got off of the phone with Oteil to run this by him before I published it. We both laughed hysterically and thought it was hilarious. If you think it’s racist, Oteil didn’t.
Uncle John’s was ok and followed by US Blues that was a fun way to close it out. Before the encore, Mayer came out and said, “CONNECTICUT!!” It was deep and profound. The Knockin On Heaven’s Door encore was really good on John and I’ve always thought that was a tune that really fits him well. Everybody had a blast in Hartford and the party continues after some Turkey in Detroit.
On this day of thanks, I want to express how grateful I am to be part of the world’s greatest music community! I’m grateful for the life and the music that has fueled the journey. I’m grateful for all it has given me and I’m grateful for the musicians that have played it for us throughout the years. I’m grateful for all of you that have shared the journey with me as our lives have been immeasurable enriched by Grateful Dead culture. I’m grateful we have each other and are currently enjoying the ride that this band and its music have afforded us. I’m grateful for the Love that will Never Fade Away! I wish the very best for you and all of your families as we pass through this season of Holidays and celebration. Thanks for all of your love and support! I Love you forever!!!
Dead To The Core,
Dean Sottile (pronounced So Tilly)
@gd50th on Twitter
Grateful Dean on Facebook
Grateful_Dean on fans.com