For those of you that don’t like the video, you’re in luck. I got hit by some kind of virus and spent the last 36 hours in bed sweating. I’ll get around to posting some video when I can but I’m looking like 600 pounds of sin right now. I learned a lot from the experience and we’ll cover that here soon. We’re gonna write this one out but bear with me, I’m definitely not at 100%…
Dead & Company rolled into Sunrise to play 13 miles away from the mass shooting that took the lives of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. For me, when I see the events as they have always taken place in Grateful Dead Land, I have to acknowledge the existence of a God that somehow brings our scene to the communities that need us most, when they need us most. When I think about the canceled shows and the disappointment they caused to so many that had already made the journey to New Orleans in December and those that were on their way to Florida, myself included, you couldn’t help but consider the possibility of something bigger that was taking place. “Man’s setbacks are God’s setups” one of my mentors always tells me. When I look back on New Orleans and what happened with George Porter, Jr. then, with the community surrounding MSD High School, there’s just continuously too many coincidences to consider them coincidences anymore. Maybe it’s just 53 years of incredible coincidences, you make your own call. That community didn’t need us in December nearly as much as they needed us now and Dead & Company showed up really big for everyone in Sunrise.
Shakedown got things rolling and at more than 10 minutes of rockin, nobody was putting the brakes on the evening’s musical exploration. The emotions of the guests and the people Dead & Company spent their time with from the MSD community was infused into every note of the proceedings and the magic of Grateful Dead music was once again lifting a heavy cloud for a bunch of people that really needed it. Cassidy followed and Weir was at his best throughout the entire show. It seemed as though he was less stylized and singing directly to the point of every verse on every song. Oteil had a holy calling with Comes a Time and he delivered 100 percent of his heart and soul to the moment. Only Love can fill… John’s guitar cried along with many of us. They Love Each Other was followed by a Birdsong that was complex and as beautiful as Birdsong could be and moved into a New Speedway that had the added element of the tension inherent in an atmosphere like that. The New Speedway seamlessly moved into the final verse of Birdsong which was incredible, in my opinion. Then the Deal went down and it was as full and bright and electric as you could ever expect. John blazing through every measure as the music changed from a band playing a concert to a group of people collectively having a massive release of intense emotions that had accumulated up to that point. Every note by every member of the band seemed to fall in a perfect place. If there seemed to be a gap anywhere in the music it was immediately filled by Jeff’s keys or Bob or John’s guitar or Mickey and Bill’s thunder. What a great way to close a set.
Then they open the second set with The Weight. Good choice for the moment but that’s all I’m gonna say about that. Help On The Way was appropriate and by this time in the night, Help was already underway. The Slipknot takes you deep into your own mind and thoughts and was capable of bringing about a multitude of conflicting emotions. I usually don’t like anything other than Franklin’s out of Slipknot but the transition to Eyes was flawless and beautiful. That Eyes had every member of the band throwing their talents into the stew. Then ya get Dark Star to make an incredible first half of the second set. Drums was insane and capable of making anyone that was a little too high seek shelter. Space was equally as thought-provoking and deep. Then came the moment of the night for me, during a night that had a lot of incredible moments. Weir delivered a Days Between that was as haunting as it was beautiful. As chilling as it was comforting, as dark as it was illuminating. During the quiet moments of the song, you could feel the air become heavier. It was as close to perfect as I can imagine at this point in time. The mood created by the collective heart of the band was all the reason you would need to understand why we follow this band far and wide and have been doing so for a long, long time. Chimenti on the Days Between is better than anyone that I’ve ever heard. When Valentines of Flesh and Blood go out and he moves from the piano to the Hammond for a bit, then back to the some of the most heartfelt piano… Incredible. After a dense jam leading out of that, Throwing Stones bats cleanup and hits it out of the arena. The jams were hard and filled with passion. Mayer fanned the strings with fury and the end jam on that one was funkier than a month old bag of tour laundry. Jeff finally got a MSDSTRONG shirt for Touch Of Grey and it ended an incredibly touching evening. The band showed up big for the people in that community giving out well over a hundred tickets to people that were impacted. The entire band gave the best they had to give. How much we’ll never know…
It can be hard to follow such an emotional night when you’re back on stage in less than 24 hours. Instead, our favorite musicians used all that emotion to continue fueling them. When John comes out with Silver he’s like The Lone Fuckin Ranger! Hi Ho Silver AWAY!!!! St Stephen right out of the gates gets the party started early. No time for warming up before you get to dancin, we’re out of the gates and off to the races! The Jams were great, full of power and the band was showing no signs of fatigue. Mickey was up there looking as sinister as a guy throwing BBQ brushes could possibly be. When I see him slam those brushes down at the end of the jam before the last verse I imagine what that would sound like with a pair of sticks in his hands. I don’t think Weir could handle it being right in front of him, Mickey is too strong. It would knock a few pixels out of Weir. That’s probably why Garcia took that side of the stage. Anyway, the Stephen was great and then Weir counted some shit out and Bill and Mickey dropped a beat that didn’t seem related to his counting much. It worked its way into a great Bucket. Mayer sounded great throughout coming through what appears to be some new equipment for him with Dead & Co using the Soldano Surf Box. His tone has been incredible and it was on full display throughout this 3 show Appendectomy Tour, 6 if you include Mexico. Next Time You See Me was strong and Jeff and John played off of each other as tastefully as you could expect. Ramble On Rose was good and Row Jimmy was up next. Here’s where I learned some shit from having a virus and Row Jimmy. With a fever of 103, I totally understood its beauty. Listening to Row Jimmy was like watching gymnastics in slow motion. My body at that point must have been releasing as many chemicals as possible to keep me alive because Row Jimmy was sonic acrobatics in slow motion and I loved it. Loose Lucy typically isn’t my favorite on Weir but I think he nailed it. Brown Eyed Women is always a big ass dance party for Dead & Co and it jammed accordingly. The Wheel closed the set… Who the hell thought that was a good idea? I thought the jam at the end was funny and John going from Frankie Valli to Paul Simon and dropping “If you be my bodyguard… I can call you daddy”. I understand the lyric is supposed to be “I can call you Betty” but it always sounded like “Daddy” to me and it did in Orlando too. It was a fun moment but the Wheel has absolutely no business closing a set.
China Rider wasn’t a big surprise kicking off the second set and it delivered as China Riders usually do. The jams were powerful and the tempo wasn’t being dragged. Weir on Chinacat is incredible. He does a lot of amazing shit that he makes look totally effortless. To him, it probably is. Listen to that Chinacat from Columbus from a few months ago on this tour and just focus on what Weir is doing. The transition to The Rider found everybody in the right spaces and all at the right times. The tidal wave of music was cresting and broke into a fantastic Rider. When that wave breaks the amount of unadulterated Love that’s released is unspeakable. Then you get Althea which seems to have found a home in the second set. It was outstanding and kept the momentum moving forward in a big way. Then we get a strong Estimated followed by Terrapin. Drums was once again really powerful in Orlando and The Rhythm Devils brought some serious heat to Florida! Coming out of Space you get Wharf Rat and Casey Jones makes ya consider taking up cocaine again, however briefly. US Blues ends The Fall Tour 2 months later!
It’s incredible when you think of how this all developed. John’s appendicitis happened late enough for everybody to be in New Orleans already to support George Porter on the passing of his bride. In between then and the rescheduled shows, the communities around Sunrise Florida suffered devastating losses. George Porter was able to take the stage and get some help healing and the shows were there in Sunrise to help families that suffered unimaginable loss. On December 26, 2013, my 7-year-old niece, Angelina was killed in a jet ski accident while on vacation. After 2 days of nonstop crying for me and my entire family, I went to see Phish at MSG on the 28th. Whether you like Phish or not is irrelevant in the context of this. There was one person in the family that had a brief reprieve from what has now been many years of sorrow for everyone involved. I had music… Nobody around me knew what I was going through… The band certainly didn’t know what I was going through… The music that night offered me a glimmer of hope and a brief respite from the pain that I’ve only found through my faith and most commonly my music. My faith seemed incredibly fractured but the music was stronger than ever. I was on a plane to California the next day to attend the funeral. I’ve often told others that have run-ins with people that are nasty or unresponsive, “You never know what the person next to you is going through right now.” This time, I was that person. When I got on the airport shuttle to my rental car at LAX with sunglasses on to hide the tears that wouldn’t stop falling from my bloodshot eyes, there was a family that was on their way to the terminal seated across from me. They were all smiling and so happy to be heading on vacation. They talked about all the cool shit they were gonna do like go Jet Skiing. That was my brother and his family a week prior… I couldn’t hold back the tears and I started crying somewhat audibly. I could tell it scared them a little bit and I felt bad about that but I was that guy. While the pain of Angelina’s loss will never disappear, through music we certainly are given the benefit of accelerated healing. For that, I’m truly Grateful. The Appendectomy Tour was an unbelievable time of healing for so many people. I’m sorry John had to give up an organ to make it possible but it takes what it takes. In the end, there’s still that song…
Dead To The Core,
Dean Sottile (pronounced So Tilly)
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