The scene in Chicago was everything you might expect from Chicago. Approaching Addison on the train, my mind released scenes from The Blues Brothers and my spiritual compass immediately began to sense the overwhelming pull that always points to Terrapin. I’m amused by people that do things like Google weather reports up to a week in advance. It’s as if people forget on an ongoing basis that Tom Petty doesn’t control the weather, Bob Weir does. Peter Shapiro was there last night and you can bet your ass if he was in charge of the budget, we would’ve gotten a rainbow. Corporate stiffs running things here won’t spring for gigantic rainbow making machines but Shap would have…
I passed on all the preshow parties to get inside early and secure a spot up front. I’m not sure if most folks understand what people up there endure to have their spot. If you come up there 10 minutes before the show starts thinking you’ll make some new friends, chances are you’ll be upset about the outcome. I try to be as warm as possible at all times and I’m always happy to let folks jump in and take a picture or have a moment but it’s probably not the warmest bunch of characters you’ll ever come across if you roam up there mid show. I prefer to let my aura determine my space as opposed to attitude or aggression but It’s a petty passionate bunch up there and they’re not the rainbow family for the most part. Once you get to know the folks up there, you realize they’re totally deadicated Heads and are much nicer than you might assume. Some of them are on line already to have their spot. It’s an obsession but it’s pleasing… There’s a reason I personally sacrifice a lot of my day to be there when the music starts. I’m one of the 1 in 10,000 that come for the show. I know you are as well, regardless of where you prefer to spend the show. When the music starts I want to experience it loud and clear without any extraneous chatter or distractions.
The Music Never Stopped got us started down a road that was bound to be paved with pleasure. It was immediately apparent that both band and crowd were well oiled for the night. Bertha was packed with an energy that refused to be diminished and would clearly be multiplied. The band moved through its measures clearly carrying the invisible ingredient. During Me and My Uncle, Mickey played shoes and Weir got in an argument with himself. I took my shoes off and started playing along. It was liberating and I understand why Mickey does it now. I’ll be playing assorted footwear forever and I might finally be able to play in somebody’s band! Sugaree was beautiful and when Mayer started going deep into it, it left a vapor trail. The solos reached to the furthest boundaries of the legendary ballpark and took in all of its energy before recycling it to be redistributed again and again. It was an extremely clear example of Mayer having an extra gear or two that I haven’t experienced in this music since Garcia’s passing. In the strangest of places if you look at it, right?
Let It Grow is one of those tunes that intentionally waits to make its contents expressed. One of those tunes that you think you know when lyrics are coming but are inevitably wrong again and again. Just when ya think that sweet note that alters the course of the song is coming, it’s not. Just when you think Weir is gonna jump into it again, he’s not. He’s waiting patiently… Letting it grow… It’s not by changing the song or putting spaces where they didn’t previously exist, the song has always been that way. It was absolutely brilliant and the only thing that could’ve made it any better would’ve been the Weather Report Suite that has apparently been saved for another day.
When the acoustics got strapped on, I thought we were getting Ripple to close the set. Instead we got a brilliant uncle John’s that in the same order as Let It Grow has those segments that consistently have me ahead of the curve when it comes to the expectation of the tide turning. Weir seemed like it didn’t go as he attempted to command it and made reference to it as the set closed. It was perfect Bob, imperfections and all!!!
The algorithm that determines the probability of hearing Shakedown was strengthened and proven once again last night. The more likely you are to get mugged in the city you’re in, the greater the chances of hearing Shakedown. It was full of the energy that cities like Chicago instill in the music and the band was in constant cosmic communication. Oteil ‘s playing and scattin at the end was fantastic. Dark Star crashed through next and the jams throughout that song could confuse the most orderly of minds. The interplay between the band confirmed that they were as deep in the moment as I was. From the chaos of The Dark arose the perfect clarity that the first two notes of St Stephen bring about. There was only one gear last night and that gear was HIGH! The Stephen fanned the flames that burned brightly and brilliantly all night long. It sounded like Weir maybe wanted to go William Tell again but couldn’t influence the moment enough to get it there. He had a few moments throughout the evening when he looked pissed but I’m starting to think that might just be his “This shit is Awesome” face…
If you thought it couldn’t get better you were wrong. If you knew it would, you were right! China Doll was as beautiful as it could be and Oteil delivered it in a way that a appeared to blow his own mind. The band was doing that all night long. You know something special is going down when you’re blowing your own mind. John’s playing throughout came from a place that stored the emotional prerequisites for proper delivery. It’s the kind of playing that separates John from his predecessors. He has delivered in a way that exemplifies and solidifies his space at the top of the musical food chain.
The opening riff of Terrapin is like the starting gun in the marathon of life. You know what’s ahead of you and while you acknowledge the challenges faced on the road ahead you receive your marching orders with a psychedelic certainty that defies any and all logic. The music unlocks mental treasure and allows it to be expressed through the physical manifestation of the music. I found myself engrossed in the journey that has consumed me for 32 years of my life. It represents everything I hold in the center of my values. It encompasses the path that not only exists now but deep into the past and well into the future. I’ve had rising times in life that have propelled me to experience the potential that exists. I’ve had falls that have been as hard as nearly anyone’s. Regardless, I keep climbing knowing that my life isn’t defined by the accolades or approval of others nor is it defined my the multitude of errors I’ve made in the past and continue to make every day. I feel as though I’ve known I’ll be there soon my entire life. With that comes the realization that I’m never there and probably never will be in this skin suit but the destination feels as though it will always be here soon. Then you finish Uncle John’s… FINALLY I could hear Mickey climb the ladder on his runs through Terrapin!!! My skull popped open and confetti flew out… Mind blown moments brought to you by your friends at Dead & Company…
After drums and space, the moon grabbed a perfect seat in the sky in order to listen to a song about itself. I cued the Garcia vocals that are stored in my brain and placed them over the ones being sung. I’m sorry, but I have to do that for SOTM, at least until Weir closes with the crescendo. It was one of those moments that you realize how the whole thing is orchestrated by something far beyond circumstance.
Then you get the absolute rage fest of Help on The Way-> Slipknot-> Franklin’s! Mama Mia, I’m not sure how it gets any better than that. The jams throughout were powerful and the band was bending time and space. Thoughts that contained the ability to hinder growth were evicted from the conscience and replaced by a certainty of victory over all the things that could seek to hold us back. I could go on and on but I’ve already used more time than I hoped I would.
From beginning to end the music last night possessed a quality that causes you to see how much bigger it is than some songs printed on a page. The Ripple encore made me cry like the ending of Old Yeller. The series of reminders that there is a road but it’s by no means a simple highway. The fountain that has brought forth all of this clearly could never be made by the hands of man. It’s so much bigger than that. US Blues served as a painful reminder that this summer tour has damn near come and gone, my oh my….
The guys in the band were vessels that an inordinate amount of incredible energy passed through last night. It can’t be easy when you’re the vehicle that kind of information passes through. I meditate on their strength and ability to be surrendered to that process for one last night on this tour. I didn’t even care to go to hear any music afterwards because I didn’t want anything else to share the space in my head where the music was still percolating… How do you follow that? I guess we’ll know soon enough…
I’m totally out of time… No time for proof reading this one, embrace the mistakes!!!
Dead To The Core,
Dean Sottile (pronounced So Tilly)
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