Don't trip, I get it In the summer of 1995, I was visiting San Francisco sometime shortly after Jerry Garcia died. I picked up one of the Bay Area weekly papers and found a multipanel cartoon inside that showed two men standing over an open casket with Garcia's body in it. As I remember it (I can't track down the cartoon anywhere), one of the men was talking about all of the important contributions Garcia and the Grateful Dead had made to the world, and to San Francisco and its identity. After he spoke, there was a pause with one frame showing both men standing silently. In the final scene the other guy replied, “Yeah, but their music still sucks.”
That cartoon was a great illustration of how people view the music of the Grateful Dead: there are those who love them and (even on their home turf) those who despise them. There are very few in between.
It's no secret that I'm not much of a fan, but as we were assembling this week's cover story commemorating what are the Dead's final shows, I've tried to not be a jerk about things and instead immersed myself in the band's music while taking my turn reading both Alan Sheckter's beautiful story and DNA's hilarious one. Some of the music I couldn't stomach (Terrapin Station—nope), some I was already familiar with and dug (the “hits” from American Beauty), and some I heard for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed (almost all of Workingman’s Dead). When I sought out the live versions of songs I liked, however, they were destroyed for me as the previously simple rhythms and elegant melodies went tripping along crunchy grooves and spiraling down the rabbit hole.
I say all this to get to the point that, even though I don't “get it,” I do get it. If we're lucky, most of us have a thing—surfing, chanting, having sex, meditating, gardening, screaming in a punk band, or just laying on our backs and staring at the stars—that allows us to tap out of our routines and into whatever energy it is that gives life and connects us all (or some other hippie shit). As Sheckter said so concisely about his take on a Dead show: “It was an opportunity for everyone to test their own boundaries, explore their inner selves and, well, listen and sway to the music.” I'm not a swayer, nor a twirler, but I do like to nod along with my hands in my pockets and lose myself in the sound of someone humping the feedback out of a giant guitar amplifier. So I get it.
Naked Aye Jay! Despite the typically self-deprecating announcement for his show—up at the Naked Lounge during its Fourth of July I Want You … Naked! concert (with The LoLos and Seth Prinz), and for the rest of July—Aye Jay Morano is no hack. The local artist has been well-known over the last decade or so for his work in comics (Gangsta Rap Coloring Book), his skateboard and T-shirt designs, the Chico Legends print series and making tour posters for comedian Patton Oswalt. But back in the day he was the king of local fliers. His bold, witty, pop-culture-savvy style defined the local music scene across many genres—rock, indie, punk, metal, rap—for much of the 1990s and into the following decade. Aye Jay is responsible for some of the most iconic images ever plastered around Chico, and especially if you weren't around for his flier-art heyday, this is your chance to experience all of it in one place. Don't miss it.
RIP MoondogI got word just before deadline that local man about town and former Chico State librarian Jim “Moondog” Dwyer died in Sacramento on Sunday, June 28. He was 65. I'll be devoting next week's column to this undeniable local freak and very dear friend of mine.