‘Come to the darkside, we have cookies’
I went to a Grateful Dead show once. I believe it was at Shoreline in Mountain View, CA. I didn’t go inside or anything; just hung out in the parking lot and partied with my friends. If someone would have asked what my favorite Dead song was or to name a member of the band besides Jerry Garcia, I would have been at a loss. This was a band from my parents era and I couldn’t care less about them, much less stand around trading trinkets for tickets. This was before I knew I didn’t like jam bands and before I got into punk and realized these deadheads were my mortal enemies (or so Minor Threat and Teen Idles told me). I just knew there was a party going on and I wanted to be part of it. So I partied and kept on truckin’.
For years now I have been anti-jam band. It’s really the only form of music I cannot stand. I can appreciate a bunch of talented musicians honing their craft onstage by playing off each other’s vibes, I just don’t want to stand around for 4 hours and watch it. I’m sorry, it’s just boring! I went to see one of my favorite bands open for The Allman Brothers last year. I stuck around thinking these guys have been around for a long time and probably had something to teach me…they didn’t. I was bored out of my mind. That being said, good for them for being able to jam for that long and good for the fans who enjoy it…it’s just not my thing.
So what the hell was I doing at the first night of the Furthur festival at Red Rocks on Friday night?
Well, my wife had a pair of 29th row tickets comped tickets that she was unable to get rid of and I figured what the hell. If I’m ever going to give jam bands a chance…if I’m every going to come around, then what could be better than seeing the godfathers of jam perform at the venue that was made for this type of music. Phil Lesh and Bob Weir at a sold-out Red Rocks performance from the 29th row…for free? I’m in.
‘Molly, K, Sas, Doses?’ ‘mollyksasdoses?’ ‘mllykssdses?’
My wife looked at the kid like he was speaking Arabic. ‘Ahh, no thanks man’ I replied before explaining to my wife that he was asking whether we wanted MDMA, Special K, LSD or something called Sas, which even I am at a loss for. It was 6:30pm and the strange trip had already begun for some. We were not partaking in the party on this particular night, as we had plans in the city later and I was going to be driving. We were mere spectators at this event.
‘…drove from Arizona, you gonna be here all 3 nights?’
People had come from all around to see the newest incarnation of the Dead. Thousands of miles driven in vans with thousands of bumper-stickers. It’s definitely about more than just the music in this scene; it’s a lifestyle, a religion, a way of life. Maybe not 100% the same, but similar to what has become of the Burning Man crowd. I felt like someone traveling through a foreign country. A friendly country that could turn hostile if they found out my nationality…
‘I can’t listen to Phish unless I’m spun’
Really? Do a bunch of speed and listen to Phish? Maybe the definition of spun has changed since I was a teenager. Or maybe there’s some hardcore band out there name Fish. I don’t know. But I do know the huge, orange moon coming up over the rocks was astonishing to the sober eye, so I can only imagine what it looked like to people on Mollyksasdoeses!
That moon introduced the band at 7:35pm. The aging men took the stage like ministers of a church, their faithful, fucked-up flock on their feet ready to be saved. The stage was lit by simple blue lights, but that didn’t matter to the man behind me who announced to no one in particular ‘the visuals are amazing!’
The show started out with some slow jam that had me worried I made a mistake by coming here. But it led into Truckin’, which is one of those few Grateful Dead songs I do know. My wife, who had been sitting down ‘waiting for it to start’ , got to her feet and started dancing. I believe the row we were in was occupied by all industry people and the girl next to us worked for Jim Beam and was happily feeding her cocktails.
The show then went into a bunch of material I’m not so familiar with. Cosmic Charlie, West LA Fadeaway, etc. What surprised me was how much fun I was having. We were all dancing, the sound was great and the songs actually had vocals and all ended (or at least bled into the next song) before the 10 minute mark.
Hating to admit I might have been wrong all these years, I had no choice but to go with it and enjoy myself. If this weren’t Red Rocks, if it was not a beautiful night, if we weren’t surrounded by such cool people, if, if, if…I might not have liked it as much, but all the pieces fell into place for a great experience. I will never understand the people who dedicated their lives to following this scene around the country…but I will say it was worth the 15 minute drive and hike up to our seats…and then some!
Friend of the Devil is the one Grateful Dead song I’ve always liked and the crowd seemed to love it as well, but the real highlight for me was the first set closer, Casey Jones, a fast rendition of the song that sped through the amphitheatre like a freight train on cocaine.
Walking to the car after the first set, there was no way to explain to the unfortunate masses that had not score a ticket why we were leaving. It was always the plan to stay for the first set and then head downtown to meet our friends, but I would by lying if I said I didn’t wish we could’ve caught the second half.
The one negative thing I will say about the night is that Bob Weir’s voice doesn’t carry all that well. I wish he would have relied more heavily on John Kadlecik, who sounds a lot like Jerry and has the stronger voice.
So overall, I won’t be tie dying my Bad Religion shirts any time soon and I have no plans to buy a VW Van, but I don’t think I will be talking shit about jam bands any time in the near future.