On this day 2 years ago, I was getting off of the plane in Chicago instead of getting on a plane out of Chicago. In the time between then and now, my life has changed dramatically. I got in touch with my pal, Peter Shapiro last night during intermission and gave him a hug right on the infield of one of the most special places in the world, Wrigley Field. It was at the most special event in the world, which is anywhere my favorite musicians are assembled. Why he ever kept in touch with me, I’ll never know. Must be my magnetic personality… Shapiro was like the wick in this stick of dynamite. FTW was the biggest band reunion in Chicago since The Blues Brothers. The scale of GD50 was massive. It was like the entire city got dosed. Every establishment in the city, every hotel, bar and restaurant played Dead all weekend long. If you ever hang out with Peter, you’re aware that one of the more common things people say to him is, “Thank You for FTW”. We were having a few laughs and high fives and the brother takes out his wallet, opens it up, and pulls out a cigarette. You ever see somebody pull an undamaged cigarette out of their wallet? I’m not sure why, but that shit was hysterical to me. I’m still laughing about it! Fuckin Shapiro…
Anyway, the events that have occurred throughout the years on the first week of July have created this enormous spike in my biorhythmic activity calendar. If you’re not sure what that means, it’s like a neurological fingerprint. Events that have an impact on our lives are stored in some kind of cloud that’s permanently attached to our psyche and emotional condition. It’s a way that others deposit themselves into your emotional bank accounts forever. There are folks or events that may leave a less desirable imprint as well but that’s not the purpose of this piece. Through the imprints that people and events leave in the neurological databases of others, they are able to live long after the physical matter that makes up their body has given up the ghost. The only imprints that last are those tied to immersive emotional activity. Garcia’s Spiritual DNA has been grafted into our neurology as long as we exist. We can still listen to his work and have the same emotional reaction that thousands of people had while it was being performed originally. Mundane events that are devoid of emotional significance are like breathing on glass. The condensation appears briefly but leaves no signs it was ever there once it’s gone…
Who the fuck do I think I am??? Deanpak Choprah or something? Just get on with it already….
After the first night at Wrigley, day 2 had all these elements to contend with. The immense joy still in us from the night before coupled with the end of the tour immediately on the horizon. As soon as I stepped out of the taxi, I heard the Ship of Fools being played at soundcheck. It felt like I was the only person outside that was paying attention. I froze and took it all in while people around me went about their business like it wasn’t even happening. I knew it would be tough to match what happened 24 hours ago but I was ready to experience all of it one last time this Summer. They opened with Cold Rain and Snow which should be illegal when it’s 90 degrees and I’m sweating my way past the powder on my nuts. Singing that tune in the summer is like singing about chicken to people that are staving. It was good and Oteil had a beautiful new blouse I hadn’t seen before. Jack Straw delivered and the band’s chemistry radiated joy but I wasn’t able to access the corridor that leads to nirvana just yet. My pal on the rail was from Tennessee and he raved about how much he loves Tennessee Jed because of the depth of meaning that it contains. He said he filters all of his life’s problems through the spiritual colander that he feels Tennessee Jed provides. I might’ve also made all that shit up…
After Oteil sang Comes a Time, he asked me if he was gonna sing another tune, what would I pick. It was hard to have only one answer but Ship Of Fools was at the top of the list. It’s not like he just asked me and I’m making requests to a wedding band but the answers among Dead Heads are usually pretty similar. He shared verses on Ship of Fools with John and it was beautiful. John and Oteil really seem to have made a much deeper soul connection this Summer and we all were blessed to watch it happen. The Dark Star from Friday night got finished and for some reason when they do that with acoustic guitars everybody thinks something special happened. In order to preserve that feeling for you I’ll just say, “That sure was special!” Friend Of The Devil got played fast with the verse Garcia never sang because he realized the song was better without it. Althea is always great to hear and Jeff slays that tune every time. His solos on that song sound like the brother is falling down a mountain strapped to his piano and screaming through his fingers on the way down. Casey Jones was a great way to send us into intermission to wait on painfully long lines for urinating and buying drinks.
Dear people with full beers, how about you drink some of that shit before you start walking through the crowd, particularly if it’s your 5th or 6th of the night. Venues should sell that shit in sippy cups so drunks don’t spend the first few minutes spilling their beer all over themselves and anyone unfortunate enough to walk anywhere near em. No blood no foul I guess but I’d rather have the blood on me than that beer that’s equivalent to brickweed.
When the band came out for the second set, I was under the impression that some mighty special shit oughtta happen. They didn’t waste time getting special when the set started with Sugar Mags. Weir was fantastic and I’m not sure how he can sound that good and keep that scowl on his beautiful mug at the same time. Dancing In The Streets officially passed me right through the magical corridor of life. When that tune gets played, I feel like I’m flying through space on a magical unicorn wearing a white jumpsuit that doesn’t have a single stain on it! Those jams were ferociously funky and the whole band was in on it. Everybody just killin it! Those are the moments I feel like Rerun dancing to The Doobie Brothers on What’s Happenin! Playing In The Band always shows up on the good nights and that kept the set moving in the right direction.
The first notes of Comes a Time sound like sonic teardrops to me. You know, those notes. Oteil stood up there and just sang the fuck out of it. I was crying like a family on Extreme Makeover Home Edition when they move that bus. It blew my mind to think that Oteil has played with all these bands for all these years and for the most part rarely had a mic in front of him. Dude has a voice like an Angel. His ability to convey the emotional components of a song is capable of creating enormous peaks in the biorhythmic imprints of our lives. That Cat puts a spike in the emotional meter every damn time he has something to sing about and last night was stellar. His connection with Jeff and John throughout the song, the night and the tour was the stuff that makes magic and that’s exactly what happened. For some reason, Weir looks like a dude over there just thinking, “You kids get off my lawn!”
I understand being Bob Weir must be a pain in the ass. I mean, for over 50 years women have been throwing their undergarments at him and even straight men look like total goobers when they see him. Imagine if every month a few thousand strangers came up to you and said pretty much the same exact thing for 50 years. Imagine waking up and thinking to yourself, “I don’t want to control the damn weather anymore. Let somebody else do that shit.” Most people will just reference a bank account but don’t consider the burden of being Bob. That’s probably why the universe gives famous people a lot of money. This way they can go places and live in homes where nobody can mess with em. It’s probably even harder being John Mayer. You have all the same problems with a fan base that’s half as cool and twice as big. Paparazzi hunts dudes like John. They wear concrete camouflage and lean against buildings trying to get a picture of the dude going to get an ice cream cone and then wanna write a story about what flavor he got and why. There’s always a price… I’ve said it many times, when you come into life, the bucket that holds your blessings is the same size as the bucket that holds your curses. I’m sure it gets pretty heavy when they’re both full…
Then you get Scarlet-> Fire! That’s about when you get that Arnold Jackson, “Whatchu Talkin bout Willis?” face. Those jams between everybody were insane. I was dancing so hard and happy by then I realized why we were all such skinny fuckers when we were on Tour full time. 3 hours of cardio 4 nights a week plus all the walking you do to get there and back. I was sweating to the oldies and in my glory! Weir fiddled around with some shit and I think he maybe had some technical issues or maybe had to take a leak. Maybe he was trying to direct traffic and nobody was paying attention. The funny thing with Bob is, I think he’s probably more than a little hard of hearing by now. He’s got some fried out frequencies and he keeps turning certain shit up until he can hear em. By the time he can hear him, he’s so damn loud that nobody else can hear anybody else but him. Guess what? Doesn’t matter, He’s Bob Weir! There’s always the possibility that I’m totally wrong about everything.
Drums was so powerful it knocked the plaque right off the teeth of some dude next to me… Dude should’ve been required to pay Bill and Mickey a cleaning fee. I meditated during Space that it would end and they would play more songs. I must be getting good at meditating because it worked! The Other One that came out of Space was to music what Bruce Lee is to Martial Arts. That was just one of the baddest bitches ever! Those jams had so much intensity they caused my eyes to sweat just watching it. The interaction between everybody was off the charts.
If there’s a Garcia Ballad that I absolutely love Weir singing, it’s The Days Between. He gives that tune the same kind of emotional landscape that Garcia used to. He was powerful and emotive and the song made everybody cry as we all thought about getting our asses back to work again next week. I usually don’t get the chills when Bob sings but I get em on The Days Between on the last night of the tour. Not Fade Away was the perfect way to end the weekend, the set and the tour. I always keep my eyes closed during the singing parts of that one because I don’t wanna accidentally make eye contact with Weir or Mayer or some other dude while singing “You’re gonna give your Love to me” and shit like that. I’m not certain what, if anything, could happen but I’m not willing to take the chance. You don’t have to forgive me since I will not take the chance. I’m sure a lot of you have your eyes wide open during that for your own reasons.
Brokedown kinda broke us all down. The pages of this tour went through my mind like the finger of time going through the scrapbook of my life. I saw pictures of every great moment since Vegas, knowing inside that the one I was currently having was about to be filed in the same book. I’m glad they closed with Fireworks and Sunshine Daydream or I would have been more of a basket case leaving the venue.
In closing, I want to thank every member of Dead & Company for putting out a product I get very high on again. I break a lot of balls during the course of a tour writing reviews and shit like that but I love this community dearly. I think of Bob, Bill and Mickey as absolute staples in my personal book of life. The music that was born through them and has now given birth to several generations of life changing experiences is without comparison. Their contributions are responsible for more biorhythmic activity in more people than could ever be calculated. Whether it’s Bill with his eyeballs rolling back in his head or Mickey having fun playing some slippers, it brings neverending joy into my life. Hearing Bob still howl at the end of Good Lovin or Looks Like Rain instantaneously rattles decades of experiences loose from my memory banks where the combined happiness of each and every moment celebrate together all at once. May it always be known how much I appreciate this journey and the musicians that have made it possible.
John, when you’re not singing falsetto, you’re a badass brother! In my opinion, you’re the best skinny lead guitarist we’ve ever had. While I hope you’ll always be healthy and safe, I think your vocals would benefit from some hard times. I’m trying to think how you can accomplish that without having to go through a bunch of wives and drug problems. I think you just might be intelligent enough to find an imaginary place where sorrow lives and visit with it. There’s something about hard times that bring substance to these songs. I hope you can find that place within you and sing from it. I think you play from that place already. Maybe have one of those little square paper snacks sometime… I just got a better idea… Why don’t you blow off the rest of your obligations and responsibilities like the rest of us and just do an assload of shows every year with Dead & Company! Then again, maybe you should just do your thing and I should STFU… Maybe that would be best. In all seriousness, watching you have as much fun as you’ve had and providing that much fun to so many of us is worthy of massive appreciation. I appreciate hearing you talk about the music and the respect you’ve always shown the music and the community is something to be admired. You’re a really loved sumbitch around here. You’ve infused a lot of new life into the old repertoire. We’re blessed to have you. The haters can go fuck their unhappy selves. As crowded as shows are getting, I hope some more of em stay home…
Jeff, after 2 years they finally turned you up! As an outspoken leader of the TURN JEFF UP movement since FTW, I’m glad you got the volume you deserve this tour. The entire band changed when you became more audible. Being able to hear you this tour was one of the greatest gifts for all of us! You add so much life to the catalog and I think you might even know it better than Weir. When you go off the hook, we go off the hook! For most of the fan base, we’re not happy about the little things like you and Oteil’s names being in small print. I know you and Oteil probably don’t care but a lot of us do. Because of you guys, this band has new life. I hope the next time we see some shit from the media, there’s no big letters and no small letters. You’re the musical director in this thing and when the band doesn’t know where they are or forgets what the hell happens next, they all move their ears in your direction. It doesn’t go unnoticed. Maybe you should get a tune to sing… You bring it every single night and we love you for it!
Oteil my brother, your star has risen like a motherfucker. You give everything you’ve got to every moment you play. Regardless of what’s going on in your own life, you somehow find a way to funnel massive quantities of joy and love into the lives of everyone that is fortunate enough to watch and hear you. I listen to you very closely when you play and you make it look so effortless. We finally have a musician on the stage that’s dancing as hard as we are! The greatest thing that happened to this band is you becoming the bass player. You’re so much more than that though. I’ve watched you bless people without ever making it known. You give from your heart abundantly not only to the music but to those of us that make up the community. This tour, you went from cornbread and beans to some serious meat. Every chance you got at the mic, you hit a home run. You’re responsible for more tears and emotional cleansing on this tour than anyone. Your singing is as effortless as your playing and that’s because of who you are. You’ve been like a glow stick this tour. Everything that’s happened to break you, only made you shine brighter and brighter. From The Col. to Gregg to Kofi and a few things in between. Things that could’ve brought you down you used as fuel to lift everything up. All of them lived through your expression. Some of Garcia’s songs that people have complained about other people singing since his death have been born again through you. You are Treasure, my friend. You’ve blessed me with something more than the music… You’ve blessed me with the gift of friendship and I’m completely humbled by that.
Next, to all of the people out there that make up this amazing and wonderfully dysfunctional family, including the musicians I’ve already named, I Love You more than words can tell. Your kindness and support towards me have been overwhelming. I never take for granted the gift I have in being connected with all of you. Any time a performer performs or a writer writes or a hacker hacks, it could be the last time(They probably should start playing that one out of Space again). Taking the ride with all of you once again this summer has been a blessing that I’ll cherish forever. The memories have continued to put markers of intense biorhythmic activity throughout the calendar of my life. The new friends I met this Summer will be people I know I’ll be rockin life with as long as I live. There’s no way to thank you enough!
To John Barlow, Thanks for posting on my FaceBook page! That shit gave me some legitimate street cred overnight! I took a screenshot of that shit and framed the hell out of it! I printed it out and brought it to the show and they told me they didn’t give a shit, I’m still gonna need a ticket… Thanks for penning part of the soundtrack of my life. I’ve never been more honored… Hope you’re feeling better and healing better!
To my amazing wife and kids, I’m on my way! My beautiful bride has been abundantly patient with my inability to grow up. I’m not sure she totally gets my obsession but she’s as gracious as possible dealing with it. Ariana saw her first show and that will go down in history as one of the best nights of my life. She can’t wait to go back. Jovanni is coming too next time around. I’m gonna vanish for a little while as this hobby has taken a bunch of time away from them. My wife asked me, “Who spends this much time working on anything without getting a paycheck?” I told her, “Pretty much ALL of US!” I know she’ll be very happy to have a dinner that doesn’t include me streaming a show from my phone. I Love You The Most babe!!! See ya soon!
Pic compliments of the Badenator!
Love You Forever!!!
Dead To The Core,
Dean Sottile (pronounced So Tilly)
@gd50th on Twitter
Grateful Dean on Facebook
Grateful_Dean on fans.com