In the old days, What happened in Vegas stayed in Vegas. Nowadays, what happens in Vegas is seen by everybody sooner or later. Dead & Company kicked off Summer at the Smorgasbord of tomorrow’s regrets to the delight of thousands and the disgust of a few dozen. While those few dozen will be vocal, at least they have the ’77 Box Set to listen to while still living in their dead parent’s basement.

John, fresh off of playing less satisfying music for the past few months, took a little while to shake the Pop off his rocks. The Music Never Stopped opener was sluggish and fairly uninspired but the joy of Dead & Company embarking on another journey across the country was far too exciting to be overly concerned about how things are sounding on night one. Dire Wolf and Jack Straw were OK but the most satisfying event that was apparent early on was Jeff’s volume. After 2 years, Chimenti was finally prominent in the mix. During his solo on Dire Wolf, it seemed like he finally was where he should be in the soundscape. I sure hope it stays that way! Contrary to most other songs, FOTD got a boost in tempo. If you ask me, Weir singing FOTD sounds like listening to people that post themselves playing on FB. Sounds awkward and shitty most of the time. The faster tempo made it pass quicker at least.

Oteil was wearing a beautiful shirt! Whoever got that for him must love him very much…

Brown eyed women was decent but I was feeling a bit unimpressed early on. Then they took their first trip below the surface during Birdsong. Oteil’s runs through the chaos portions of that were outstanding. I’m certain his heart was incredibly heavy after the loss of Gregg and a couple of other partners in crime over the last few months. I’m grateful that Oteil and our community have a month’s worth of solid live shows to help us move through the feelings associated with those losses. May their passing be fuel to the creative fire that we’ll be gathering around for the next few weeks.

Intermission involved people smoking a ton of pot and having conversations that were most likely interesting to them but sounded dumber than shit on the streams. While I’m mentioning streams, If Nugs is there, why the hell isn’t the entire show streamed? I’m grateful they gave us an extra couple of tunes but WTF? If much shittier bands can stream every show of their tour, why can’t Dead & Company? I’m grateful they’re streaming 8 but they should be streaming 20. Really no excuse for that.

The Playin that started the second set began the process of healing. Before healing takes place, one must confront all wounds head on and deal with the reality and impact of challenging and painful events. The jam that commenced during Playin got sticky as thoughts that would attempt to be shaken seemed to be covered in glue and unable to escape the process. I found myself in this spinning vortex where images and faces, both past and present, passed through my visual fields. They passed by slow enough that I could clearly see who they were and how they felt but fast enough that I couldn’t spend too much time analyzing them either way. Some moments and faces were filled with joy, some faces projected feelings toward me that were hostile or unloving, some showed empathetic concern while others wished me ill. Either way, the conveyor belt kept the thoughts and images moving along, teaching me to not to attach myself to anyone else’s experience but to continue living my own. As a layer of my emotional onion was peeling off, I was able to welcome the process, knowing it was for my benefit. While at times painful, experience has shown me what’s available on the other side.  I ultimately found balance and peace and joy within the complex and confusing jams that surrounded me. Those are the moments that are still available through Dead & Company that I haven’t found with any other project since The Grateful Dead. I was beginning to remember why flights and hotels are booked in several areas of the country…

Deal is always better in Vegas or on an Indian Reservation but since the band doesn’t play Indian Reservations, Vegas is best. Last night was no exception. The band was beginning its familiar ascent as the internal turmoil that was kicked up by Playin was quickly swept away by the soul building experience of Deal. Chinacat is always welcomed by me and the jams between verses seemed to be fresh and unique. John was taking great liberties finding his way through that one and while I was busy trying process whether or not I liked it, I realized that the jams continuously forced me to examine that question. It was different. Maybe too different. Maybe different but really good. Maybe not good. As it pushed me to keep searching for an answer to my own question, I realized that it was doing exactly what Dead Music has done for me for decades. It was throwing resistance against my comforts and my mind, forcing me to process all of them and refusing to let me get away with indifference. That made it a total success and once again showed me that the music would continue to push my mind, my soul and my thoughts much further along the path. I Know You Rider showed me that life is fast and the day will come when all of this will be missed when it’s gone. The Stage that supplies this experience is in the final innings of its game and the opportunity to hear this music in a setting this large is fleeting. The ingredients required to create what is being created have an expiration date that is much closer to where we are now than where we were before. While the music will carry on forever, I’m not certain the size and power of it will exist after any more of the original developers are gone. I hope I’m wrong about that…

From Drums came Space, from Space came The Other One.  The Other One takes all the thoughts you figured you were done dealing with and brings them right back to the forefront of the experience. As it moves through its course, stray and wayward emotions pass by like cats stuck in a tornado. It moves along fast enough to keep insanity at bay but intensely enough that the same insanity can’t be ignored. Black Peter provided the appropriate setting for looking at the loss of Gregg. As we sat by his spiritual bedside, as best as we could in the factories of our earthly consciousness, we collectively felt the emotions dressed in heaviness and sorrow take center stage. We gathered as a family whether in attendance or in our living rooms and experienced the process together. It was delightfully uncomfortable yet entirely mandatory. Emotions rose like flood waters as Black Peter roamed painfully across the canvas of our lives. One More Saturday night was a tissue and a hug and helped US realize we would always find a smile on our darkest days. We will continue to rejoice through pain and suffering and The Lord’s Grace will always give US refuge, albeit brief and temporary at times, to keep dancing through it all.

Knockin was a perfect choice and Gregg was appropriately memorialized on the screens. Once again, the Cosmic Rollercoaster of Emotional Music Development submerged US, completely wrung US out and repeated. In moments like those, we find comfort in  community as much as we find the intensity multiplied enormously by the togetherness. If it wasn’t for the Playin Reprise, everybody would’ve shuffled out of the building in the depths of despair. The show closed with a reminder that we’re ALL just playing a part in the band of life that keeps moving through time. The screen that held an image of Gregg will one day hold the image of every single one of US. I couldn’t be more grateful than I am today for the quality of people I’m walking through life with. The blessings are too abundant to entertain the voices of any of the folks that curse you along the way. We’re extremely fortunate to have US! May the feeling, dealing and healing be abundant as we embark on this sacred tour… Love you forever!!! Photo credit goes to Secret Agent Bader, the Austin Powers of Dead & Co Tour.

Dead To The Core,
Dean Sottile (pronounced So Tilly)

@gd50th on Twitter

Grateful Dean on Facebook

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