The first week in November was a big one, two shows and both on school nights. And not small ones like at The Fire, but big ones. Joan and Mavis on Wednesday in New York and then The Dead and Company on Thursday at Wells Fargo in Philly. Where do I start with my love, connection and history of The Dead? First, I have seen a lot of Dead shows in my time. A lot. A lot when I was in college and I will leave it at that since my folks are some of my biggest blog fans (you know 2 of the 12 followers I have). No need for them to realize what I was doing during the Spring of 87 when they were scraping together my tuition bill. Enough said.
I will say that in a convoluted way, The Dead led me to my public interest calling. I went to a very small and conservative liberal arts college in the 80s. I never felt I fit in politically those days. While my classmates were looking to make a lot of money, this was during the Reagan years after all; I was yearning to figure out my place in the world and searching for my community. Dead shows were my first real community I chose as an adult. And while the whole hippie thing was not going to be sustainable for me, I did realize that there was something out there larger for me. I even moved to California right after graduation so I could see more shows. Ironically, I got so busy that the first Dead show I saw after I started my “real” job was at the Spectrum when I came home to visit my folks one vacation. Additionally the Dead, without knowing it at the time, instilled my future love of bluegrass. Bottom line, the Grateful Dead are a part of me.
During the summer, there was some flirtation of going to Chicago to see their reunion tour, but just could not justify the expense. So I was excited to see they were coming to Philly in this new alliteration of the band. For those haters out there, this was not the Dead, yup, you are right; this was not a Dead show. I get it. It was a show with folks who used to be in the Grateful Dead. I am OK with that. Over the years, they were always about collaboration and trying new things, this should not be a surprise. There is no Grateful Dead without Jerry Garcia, folks yell. Also true, so that is why they were calling themselves Dead and Company, or as I was referring to them as “Dead Lite. “All of this fine, I was off to the Spectrum, I mean Wells Fargo.
My good friend AT accompanied me on a rainy Thursday. First, the parking lot. I always loved the parking lot during a show. A cast of characters selling weirder stuff you cannot find. This was no different. My initial excitement of the parking lot scene was quickly replaced with a low level depression. Also, very typical. I think some people are still touring with the Dead selling veggie burritos. Not sure what they did for those 25 years when there was no band to follow, but the cast of characters was exactly the same.
As we were waiting to go inside I saw a friend from high school who I have not seen, well, since high school. She, of course looks exactly the same. I yelled her name and her response was perfect “Sheila, we probably went to some shows together back in high school.” True and a great start. It was going to be stroll down memory lane and I was fine with that. We went in, grabbed a beer and headed to our seats.
You never actually sit on your seats at a Dead show, or I don’t. This show was no exception. We hung out in different hallways and eventually made our way from the tippy top of the arena to the floor for the last couple of songs. That is a successful seat surfing show.
Onto the music. So, here’s the thing about Dead shows. I am not really a great deadhead. There are people who could tell what song they were going to play and when from a flick of Jerry Garcia’s ear. I am not that type of Deadhead. Possibly by the chorus, I could recognize the tune, but their songs were always so different, so I would just enjoy the music and let it wash over me until I figured it out or, in some cases, not. This show was no exception. John Mayer was pretty good and I am a little uncomfortable saying that. I just never really liked him that much, but he definitely has some mad guitar skills. Most importantly, he did not to pretend he was anything but someone sitting in and did not try to pretend he was a member of the band. The only time I really missed Jerry, which I know sounds incredibly pretentious, was during Sugar Magnolia. That was Jerry’s song and one of my favorites. I almost rather they did not play it, but no one asked me. Additionally, when you used to go to Dead Shows, you would see 2-3 in a row, so if you didn’t hear your favorite the first night there was a chance you would hear it the next night or the night after. However, one and done is tricky. I did not hear any of my favorites though I found myself humming “Candyman” for the next week. I just had never considered that one of my songs. And therein lies what I love about the Dead, the ever changing nature of their songs and the shows. Though the show and experience was a trip down memory lane, I came out with something new and fresh. This show was very different for many reasons, but ultimately it still came down to the music. And that is really cool.
20 shows to go, 209 days left…