(Couldn't find the Help>Slipknot>Franklin's Tower that opened the show last night, but I love Branford playin' with the band, and the energy is the same - rockin'!)
Last night I went to see the Dead at Shoreline. I was somewhat trepidatious because I still miss Jerry a lot and I wasn't sure that this wouldn't make me miss him more, but when I heard that Warren Haynes and Jeff Chimenti are touring with the band I figured it would be worth it to check it out.
It was sooooo worth it.
My friend Ron - the man who is getting my kidney - is a Deadhead. He started going to shows back in 1973, AND he lives in NoCal, so I called him up and asked him if he wanted to go with me. He was totally up for it. We were going to bring Peg (his wife and one of my besty's) and Em (the 13 year old daughter) since it was Mother's Day, but when we found out it was a night time show on a school night we decided it was better for them to stay home for some mother-daughter bonding time.
Adi wanted to come and have the experience so he flew in from Vegas to meet me. He never got to see the Dead when they were Grateful, and since he grew up in Israel and the Dead never got a lot of top 40 radio play, he is unfamiliar with most of their music, but he loves good music and I figured he'd appreciate the excellent musicianship. Plus, if the parking lot was still happening that's always a good time. He was even up for the pot cookies my neighbor made us. I had to call the transplant center and ask if I could eat pot without screwing everything up. The coordinator laughed when I asked her and said that she knew exaclty the doctor she could ask. I wondered if he was going to be at the show too and if I could have him do my surgery. The word was go so I went.
We flew in on Saturday and started listening to the Grateful Dead channel on Sirius non-stop. It was on first thing yesterday morning, so Adi got to hear some Jerry shows and Ron and I got more and more excited because we were going to a show!!! I haven't felt that feeling in a long time, and in that time I have aged and so had everyone else who showed up. Except of course those stoned young souls in the parking lot who never got to see Jerry play a show because they were 3 when he died.
Or maybe they were those babies in the parking lot whose parents took them on tour throughout their formative years and they just never got out of the parking lot.
In any case, we spent a couple hours roaming around the B lot which was a tiny microcosm of what I remember as a sprawling bazaar of commerce and cuisine d'ganga. It was all still there: the music, the dancing, the dread locks, the tie dye, the women with hairy armpits, the chubby babies (although now most of them had ear plugs), and the ganga peanut butter cups all encompassed in a cloud of smoke - just a smaller group because in the 16 years since Jerry died some of them, probably a lot of them, got real jobs.
My favorite T-shirt listed all the stops on the AARP tour 2009.
Adi asked me what had changed the most between then and now and I told him honestly that there were a lot more old people. The Deadheads have always been a transgenerational crowd that rocks and bobs together, but now there were a lot more gray heads and glasses in the group. The elders are definitely in the majority.
We got to our seats in the 200 section and at 7pm the place was empty. Weird. At 7:20 it was barely half full and Bobby came out and announced that for safety reasons they weren't going to start playing because there were still about 10,000 people lined up to get in. It was like everyone was out of practice, or else so glad to see each other that they forgot what they came for. Timing your drugs for a show is still important and so it could also have been that they got too high and lost track of time. On the pot cookie front we ate them waaaaay too early and the show started late so midway through all I had going on was heartburn.
Adi had been snapping pictures with a big smile on his face from the moment we arrived. As the people filled in around us I was reminded of how very diverse we are as a group, and how much fun it is to "do a show" with the people you sit with. Adi sat on my left and next to him were a threesome who were probably at the acid tests. They were decked out in original tour shirts from the early 70s and all had gray hair. One gentleman had lost a leg, but had a birkenstock strapped on his prosthetic foot, his friend had lost his voicebox and had to speak through one of those handheld devices and smoke his joints through the hole in his neck. They were like two old beaten up old warriors who still loved life. Between them was a lovely lady with long silver hair who danced like she was surfing a wave and although her face was lined you could still see the girl she was back in 1968 in her beatific smile.
Ron was closer to the aisle and so he got the roaming dancers who lit next to him for a song or a jam and then moved back out to the stairs to leap up and down and spin around and around. I still can't get past the fact that these people are for the most part barefoot, I mean it's great that they're having fun, but how high do you have to be to dance around in your bare feet in the area where the drunk guy in the red hat took a big, long leak because he didn't want to miss anything? The mean age of our section was about 45, mostly due to the fact that down in front of us was an adorable man who appeared to be about 89 years old who'd come with his son who was about 65, and pretty much everyone was puff, puff, passing. I prayed that no one would go down with a heart attack.
At 7:45 the place was full and the band came out and ripped into Help on the Way>Slipknot>Franklin's Tower. The place went crazy and the energy was amazing. The sound was good, the band was tight and everyone was singing at the top of their lungs - you can hear the crowd singing in the clip above and I imagine it was like that where ever they went.
I could critique the show, song by song, but ultimately, for me, it was different but the same. I miss Jerry and I always will, but at the end of the day a jam done well for people who appreciate it, is a good time. Warren doesn't try to replace Jerry and he honors his music and his spirit while doing his own thing - something he does really well. Jeff is an amazing player and when he took over and took off it was a great ride. What I liked best is that these two guys could join these four guys and because they all love the music... and we all love the music...it was magical.
As old as the band is and as old as the crowd has gotten we still rocked all night - until midnight in fact. Adi was nodding off after 10 hours of non-stop music from the house, the car, the parking lot to the show but for a first timer he held his own. I could barely walk this morning when I staggered out of bed to catch an early flight.
Ron and I are hoping that they will tour again next year so we can go after the transplant and celebrate - in which case I will have to start training. I forgot what dancing for four hours can do your neck and your hips and your knees.
I'm sure that there are deadheads out there who just can't do it without Jerry. But I know for myself and the people who showed up - we were really ready to do this again because no matter what's happening in the world and with the economy - there is nothing like a Dead show.