Tune indrop out
An Internet broadcast delivers non-stop action at the Grateful Dead family reunion
At 43 years of age, my old Grateful Dead show memories continue to move farther back into my memory banks, my ancient live cassette tapes get played a little less, and conversations about the Dead have become less and less frequent.
But what a pleasure it was to pick up the Other Ones’ feed over the weekend from www.dead.net in the comfort of my home via RealAudio, with a couple of clicks of the mouse and a couple of slams of the enter key. (This came after a few encounters of a droning message that said something like, “Due to popular demand, the Internet stream you requested is unavailable.")
This was the first Dead reunion concert since 1995, the year Jerry Garcia died, and featured former members Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart. Also playing were Rob Barraco and Jimmy Herring, from Phil and Friends, and Jeff Chimenti, from Ratdog. The event was billed as “Terrapin Station,” named after one of the Dead’s prominent songs.
I was unsure going in, but when it was all said and done, the music, through my admittedly inferior PC speakers, was pretty great. Although at times it seemed to sound like a Phil Lesh and friends show, with guest vocalist Bob Weir and a little extra vitality to the drums, the players dazzled me with their cohesiveness, interplay and song choices. And there was a Garcia tradeoff.
While Jimmy Herring did an admirable job, arguably playing better than Garcia in his later years, Herring and vocalist (and piano player) Rob Barraco couldn’t replace all of Garcia’s intangible, mythical magic and energy.
The two shows offered excellent song lists, for those who find merit in such things, with songs that fans clamored for in the Dead era, including “St. Stephen,” “Dark Star,” “Uncle John’s Band” and “Mountains of the Moon.” The band also offered two semi-recent songs, Weir’s “Banyan Tree” and Hart’s “Baba Jingo,” both of which appeared on the Other Ones’ 1998 (and only) CD, The Strange Remain. Aside from those two songs, all material was from the Grateful Dead catalog, with some songs appearing in slots that differed from the old days. “The Other One,” for instance, was offered in the first set Saturday, while “Let it Grow,” a typical first-set selection, ended the second set Sunday.
Of course, I wasn’t there experiencing the communal spirit of the weekend, the opening acts or any of the crazy and wonderful stuff that comes with any Grateful Dead carnival. So maybe I don’t have any room to talk about the thing at all. But, I think I have a somewhat informed opinion, stemming from the 20 years of first-hand experience I have of the Dead and its folklore.
“Born Cross Eyed,” a song that hadn’t seen the light of day for more than 30 years, was a treat for the ages, as were the three-song encores that we would’ve died for back in the day of four-minute, oft-played “Day Job” encores. And all that came after a full day of other, and I’m assuming wonderful, music.
All four of the current Grateful Dead offshoot bands appeared at Alpine Valley, featuring Lesh, Weir, Hart and Kreutzmann. Other performers included Jorma Kaukonen & the Blue Country, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe and the Disco Biscuits.
Word has it that the pilgrimage of 200,000 youths that local authorities feared never materialized, as the band sternly spread the word not to come to the concert site without a ticket or do anything else that authorities would frown at. Local officials reported that there were no more arrests than at any other typical show at the 35,000-capacity venue.
And hey, you know what was a cool by-product of the Web feed? The absence of ads, or even an announcer. Looks like the Budweiser and Toyota ad machines haven’t embraced live Internet performances (yet). There was not even a guy saying, “Live from Westwood One,” or anything of the like that listeners have endured over the years with FM-radio feeds. Saturday, between the end of “One More Saturday Night” and the encore, the Web feed stayed on, uninterrupted. We just heard 10 minutes of the crowd and various levels of cheering. Uneventful as it was, it was pure ambience straight from the show, and I for one appreciated it.
A fall Other Ones tour is planned, but so far, Chico fans, all shows are east of the Mississippi.