We interrupt your regularly scheduled and over the top praise to bring you some saddening news. Tuesday night in Charlotte, NC, The Weight was killed in an unfortunate musical accident involving members of the psychedelic rock band, The Grateful Dead. Born in 1968, The Weight brought countless joy to untold millions through its storied life. I was in Nassau the night The Weight was adopted by the Grateful Dead in March of 1990. When Garcia stepped up to the mic and sang, “I pulled in to Nazareth” the entire place erupted! Ahhh memories…
Unfortunately, this time around, The Weight wasn’t so fortunate. While attempting to enter the second set, The Weight was struck by a massive train of misfortune. While many rejoiced in our dear brother Jeff getting to sing a line in the song, his verse was a dagger in the heart of a song that was slowly dying right before our eyes. As if watching the death of the song wasn’t painful enough, Weir’s last verse sounded like a cat being slowly crushed under the wheel of a golf cart while a wolf ate its legs. Even the lady that does sign language interpretation didn’t know what the hell to do there. If they were going for musical comedy, they might’ve come close to suceeding with that. As I mourn the death of a great song of old, I push on… The Weight was only 49 years old and is a survived by a multitude of songs that have yet to be killed by anyone… The rest of the night was extremely well played!
One of the greatest blessings The Grateful Dead have always benefitted from is a community of people that are mostly tone deaf. I wish I had the ears that some y’all do. I could just walk through Urgent Care Centers listening to people moan and think I heard the best music of my life. I will say, when Garcia hit a sour note, we went crazy!!! The more his voice cracked, the more beautiful and heartfelt the moment became. A lot of people think we’re so lucky to have these guys and in a lot of ways, we definitely are fortunate. Those motherfuckers are abundantly luckier to have a fan base like us. We really are the most forgiving bunch of tone-deaf and loving people in the world. Maybe we’re not really tone deaf, maybe we just love the music and the scene and the musicians so much that it’s easy to look through the debris and find the patches of absolute beauty in even the harshest of moments. My daughter played Soccer for a couple of seasons. If I’m being honest, let’s just say that soccer isn’t for her… She would suit up for the game and all I could see was the most precious and beautiful girl on the field. She ran away from the ball like it was a rabid raccoon but I wouldn’t even think of missing the chance to watch her display her lack of talent as it pertained to soccer. All I could see is the most beautiful and creative and intelligent little human that ever existed, in my eyes. It’s kinda like that with us and all things Dead.
Tone deaf or not, Atlanta was hot! The band took the stage and started with some fiddling that for some reason has to precede certain songs nowadays. Whether it’s Phil and Friends or Dead & Company, I’m not sure what the whole running start thing that developed is all about. I guess it’s the musical equivalent to old folks rocking back and forth a few times in order to get up from the couch or a chair. Anyway, after they rocked back and forth a few times they were able to get up off the couch and jump-start Truckin. We were off to the races and the band’s sonic fitness seemed pretty good. While Truckin seemed like a good pick for Dallas and the soft machine or NOLA since they say New Orleans, they just couldn’t let it beeeeeeee eeeeeeeeeeeeee no noooooooooo! For me personally, the end jam in Truckin is really where that tune’s pay dirt lies. I’m not sure what it is, but to me, they just can’t get any tension built up in that end jam anymore. I’m not saying that it isn’t good or anything that might hurt the feelings of you extra sensitive fuckers out there, I’m just saying the tension that should collect itself in order to be properly released at the end of Truckin has been mostly absent form Dead & Company Truckin jams. I like to see Smokestacks and Spoonfuls following Truckin and Smokestack got the call last night. I’m gonna tell ya this outta nowhere, Mayer is like Dead & Company Hugh Hefner with his bathrobe collection. That brother has an impressive bathrobe collection. Sooner or later he’s gonna capitalize on that shit and make his own line. I know some of y’all will be coming to shows in the future with your damn Mayer Edition bathrobes on… Stranger followed and it didn’t get all that strange really. Dire Wolf sounded good and took us to Loser which was, in my estimations, somewhat anemic but what the fuck do I know anyway? Cassidy only got a partial meltdown in the middle because Birdsong was next on the list and it’s tough to go too deep on consecutive tunes that have really similar melty middles. If they get too far into back to back chaos jams, some of those spunions might never make it out of the trance. Deal is like smacking someone that’s going crazy across the face to snap em out of it and that’s pretty much what it did. I’m glad it has found its proper place in the scheme of things, closing first sets!
There’s something about hearing the tuning and fiddling around that precedes the great anthems of Grateful Dead Land that stirs up the soul as well as the expectation of the conscience mind. The little riffs before they start shit like Help On The Way are like the voices in the Atlanta airport that say, “Doors are closing, please wait for the next train”. Buckle up fam, ready for lift off! For folks that are bothered by repeats, they’ve played 100 different songs. I’m just glad they’re repeating the good ones. During the last years of the Grateful Dead they repeated shitty songs so there’s always that… I’m grateful that I don’t have to hear Samba In The Rain, Picasso Moon and I Fought The Law every 3rd night. That shit was dreadful. Anyway, in not so dreadful news, The Slipknot was funky as a Limburger cheese factory and at times the jams bordered on sounding a little Phishy. Slipknot was different in a fantastic way and John stretched it out with everybody’s assistance. To me, Franklin’s is like everything I Love about life encapsulated in musical form. I really don’t know of another jam that brings out the many forms of happy that exist in me like Franklin’s! The intro to Comes a Time sounds like little drops of wax coming down a candle if little drops of wax coming down a candle made a sound. That tune always starts the process of some form of internal improvement and last night was no different. The song was deep and beautiful and well able to spark an interest in the internal betterment of one’s self. The visceral chord that gets Viola Lee kickstarted is like the sound of a Harley’s engine upon ignition. You know you’re in for a good time! If a song has the word “Blues” at the end of it, you can rest assured that Mayer is gonna slay the fuck out of it! They really need to look through the repertoire and pick out all songs ending in “Blues”. They’ll all be guaranteed winners with John. Viola Lee is another tune that’s a musical representation of what my spirit animal looks like. It was great throughout and in my view the song selection catered to all my favorites in the first half of the second set.
It was another great night of mood creation for our favorite drummers as the drums segment explored some cool new territory and painted a picture that was vibrant with percussive architecture. Space was spacey. Jerry Ballads out of Space is the new black and a Wharf Rat came out a dark hole when the time was appropriate. Weir was much better at Wharf Rat than he is at changing clothes nowadays and did justice to the procession. There’s some good and some different I’m gonna infuse into this part of the conversation. What do you want first? Here’s the good. Last night was the first time I could really hear Oteil sing during the backup and harmonies. It made a big difference. Derek is a little slow at altering the sound as evidenced by the nearly 2 years that it took to get Jeff’s keys where they should’ve been since FTW. Jeff’s increase in the mix has dramatically improved the band’s overall sound. If the volume of his keys is attached to the same lever as the volume of his microphone, I understand why the brother wouldn’t want to bump that shit up too much but it isn’t… Personally, from what I’ve experienced, the mix on the stream is much better than the live mix. Mickey is the last silent member of the band for the most part but that’s probably because he’s been playing with dildos instead of sticks. I think once we really hear what Mickey is doing the music will get even better. That brother adds so much to the music and it’s like his drums have laryngitis. I’m not sure if I covered the good news or the bad news at this point but the harmonies for 3 guys that sing pretty good plus Jeff are really not very good at all. They sound MUCH better when John isn’t forcing that shitty falsetto. Dude needs to back off the Red Bull a little. His natural voice sounds so much better as backup than that false shit does. It’s totally unnatural and takes more away from the harmonies than it adds. I’m sure when he does that at his solo shows the little girls scream but that shit just sounds poor to my ears. I love the music and I love this band, don’t get me wrong here. For all of you that say shit like, “We’re just lucky to have them playing”, I think the opposite is true. Why the fuck am I so lucky to be spending a heap of loot and the kid’s inheritance on all this shit? They’re really lucky to have a bunch of people as devoted as we are pouring tons of admiration, love and money into everything they do. I hear ya whining already out there, “One day they’ll be gone and yadda yadda yadda”. When that day comes, I know what I’m gonna do… Get back to having a shitload of money in the bank again! For now, I’m happy as a pecker at a pussy convention following the music all over the world again. I have some opinions about things but I understand they’re pretty irrelevant and so am I for the most part. I just enjoy talking about the things that make up the music. Your opinions don’t bother me at all and mine really shouldn’t bother you. I might have to start doing this shit on video so you can better sense where I’m coming from when I talk about stuff.
Throwing Stones was strong and the jams in that one really created the sound of the big ball spinning, spinning free. It was dizzy with possibilities and they were all handled with passion! Good Lovin or Lovelight probably should’ve followed but we got another US Blues instead. It was good but with all the verse switching these guys do, nobody knows whose verse is whose. Pick someone to sing the motherfucker and let it fly… Instead, it’s like a vocal game of rocks, paper, scissors. I know how much you love it so that’s all I’ll say about that. Brokedown is always a beautiful way to send folks home. Another game of rocks, papers, scissors with vocals on that one but who cares? While I offer some different points of view, I thought the show was a great one! The song choices that started the second set were all some of my favorite tunes and the music was played strong and with tremendous authority. I loved Atlanta!
The holidays are right around the corner and here’s a gift idea for The DeadHead in your life! Larry Reichman’s book, Barton Hall 5/8/77 will take you on a photographic journey of probably the most famous concert in the history of the band. Use code FRIEND15 to get 15% off of the purchase for the special DeadHead in your life this holiday season! You can’t go wrong with that one! You can find it here!
I’ll be doing the pregame for Dallas on Reddit’s Grateful Dead Ask Me Anything. Check it out if you’d like and ask me anything! Love You Long Time and Forever! See ya soon!
Dead To The Core,
Dean Sottile (pronounced So Tilly)
@gd50th on Twitter
Grateful Dean on Facebook
Grateful_Dean on fans.com