I stepped off of the plane after the cross country flight filled with anticipation, excitement and this tremendous sense of wonder about what new adventures and revelations the week ahead was holding for me. Being much younger and abundantly more of an outlaw and renegade back then, I got to my rent a car and began peeling off the Elbow of vacuum packed, kind organic magic broccoli squares off of my body. One of those moments when you feel like Mission #1 is complete. I got here without getting arrested! As we pulled away in the car, broccoli blazin, we turned on the radio to immediately hear the news that Bill Graham was killed in a helicopter accident. The bright colors of upcoming expectations left us immediately as the grey heaviness of the moment smacked us squarely in the heart. We cried… We pretty much were just starting to feel a little better after Brent’s untimely passing. There’s something about recognizing the impending infinite absence of someone that leaves unexpectedly that just seems to hurt more than those you saw coming… With no way to escape from the sunken feeling we all began to wonder if the Halloween Run would be cancelled. It’s overwhelming how fast unbridled joy can turn into something exactly its opposite.
We went to walk the streets of San Francisco to go through Uncle Bobo’s scrapbook as best we could. The loss was taking the invisible fuel from our emotional capacities much quicker than anything could fill it. News came before long that the Grateful Dead would perform as scheduled and at the simple mention of the shows going on, the world became just a touch more illuminated than it had been only seconds before… The steps down Haight became a little bit lighter… The shifts in the emotional landscape were so extreme yet confined to only the first couple of hours of our day. It was a lot like the experience we’ve lived for at Dead Shows having our emotions move unpredictably through every color of the emotional and spiritual spectrum all within minutes of each other… This was much different though… Regardless of the swings in mood, nothing was gonna patch this one up…
On October 27, 1991 the entire weight of the West Coast Music World sat directly on the shoulders of the band that changed musical history and delivery forever, with the help of Bill Graham. It was almost as if he scheduled the band that would perform at his funeral. The mood was hushed and the sorrow that filled the air was thicker than tar. We didn’t know if we should play volleyball or sit quietly as if at a wake. In hopes of behaving properly and to be certain that conduct would be appropriate given the moment, we tried hard to act in a way we weren’t accustomed to acting… Refrained… Reserved… Pensive… On that night, it seemed as though it took a year and a half from when we entered the Coliseum until the lights finally went down. What would happen next… How was everybody gonna pull this off???
What unfolded from there there were quite possibly the best consecutive 4 nights The Dead had played in a long, long time as well as the best consecutive 4 nights they would play ever again… When faced with incredible loss and the trials and tribulations associated with life, regardless of your position on the social or economic ladder, we either crumble or get get recreated… The Grateful Dead reached deep and lifted the entire situation to unspeakable highs and the most wounded of lows. The emotions that fueled those 4 nights were the medium by which absolute transformation takes place. The music was crisp and uncolored. There was a quality about the sound that seemed to lay down the technology and recreate the same magic with a return to the purity of simple and clear amplification without the gadgets or filters that were prevalent at the time. We were all completely transcended throughout that run with some of the best music available in this lifetime. The special and unforgettable moments between Sugar Mags that opened the run and Werewolves of London that closed it were far too numerous to count. Perhaps the finest example of Garcia’s command of the pace that he and he alone was known for can be heard at the end of I Know You Rider when the entire band is too far ahead of where Garcia wants it to be and he absolutely commands the entire procession to his pace. Listen and check it out for yourself. During Peggy-O when Garcia comes to the verse singing, “Sweet William he is dead” the entire coliseum got so quiet you could hear a mouse pissing on a cotton ball. It was eerily beautiful. The Terrapin is outstanding as is just about everything that was played. Nobody will ever forget the intensity of the jam that brewed while Ken Kesey came out for Bill’s eulogy to us. We were all so full of chills we could feel the root of every single follicle of hair on our bodies. The Werewolves ending with Garcia Howling as he sings “Werewolves in Oakland Again!!”
I wrote about this because it was such a deeply embedded memory and I know many of us will be doing a lot of travelling in the next couple of weeks. I wanted to give everybody a gift, that doesn’t already have it in digital format. A great way to spend several hours of listening time without having to hear a single repeat. Here y’all go!! 4 Nights of downloadable gems for your trip!! Travel Safely!!! Can’t wait to see you on the Road of Life!!!
We’re ALL Getting In!!!!!!!! EVERY Night!!!!!!!!
Dead To The Core,
Dean Sottile (pronounced So Tilly)