Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The bus came by and I got on......

Everyone remembers their first time. Their one true love. Well, this post is about the first time I ever heard The Grateful Dead. Corny as this post may seem, their music changed my life. Let me start by saying that since that fateful day, I have not gone more than a week or two without listening to their music in some fashion. Jerry and the boys opened up for me a whole different way of listening to music and their music was instrumental in opening my mind to the likes of Ornette Coleman, Johnny Cash, Howling Wolf. and Bill Monroe.

I can't remember the first time I heard most of my favorite artists; The Beatles, The Stones, Dylan, Husker Du, or Bowie but I sure remember the sheer joy of hearing The Dead sing "Box of Rain" for the first time. Unlike most kids with cool older siblings, this only child did not hear a note of Grateful Dead music until 1987; my freshman year in college. I can honestly say that as much of a music fan as I thought I was, I didn't even know The Grateful Dead existed. They were never played on radio stations and none of my friends seem to be into that world. All the more shocking considering my parents were progressive music listeners whose collection contained everything from Ritchie Havens to Captain Beefheart. Years later my mom told me she thought only bikers listened to The Dead. Classic!

Anyway, back to 1987...

So I'm hanging out in my new-found hippie friend's smoky dorm room. While staring at his wall of Dead tapes, I reveal to him that I have never heard The Dead. This blew his mind (it didn't take much) and he asked where I was from. I told him Chicago. So he gets right up, goes to the wall of tapes, and pulls out 04-10-1987-UIC Pavilion, Chicago, IL-Set II.

Iko Iko, Looks Like Rain, Box Of Rain, He's Gone>Drums > Space > The Other One > Black Peter > Around And Around > Turn On Your Lovelight
Encore It's All Over Now, Baby Blue

From the moment I heard Jerry Garcia's joyful guitar and the crowd reaction when the he gives the first "HEY NOW" in "Iko Iko"; I was hooked for life. The music just seemed to be everything I was searching for but never knew. Happy, sad, progressive, beautiful, angry, classic sounds all rolled into one unique package. I sat there for the next 90 minutes with a huge grin in my face feeling I'd just discovered the key to divine joy and enlightenment. From that moment on, I saw them live whenever I got the chance (40 + shows) until the sad, final show on 7-9-1995. I'm sure some of those stories are to come in future posts.

I now own thousands of shows on video, hard drive, CD, and cassette; but my copy of 4-10-1987 is still the crown jewel in the collection. I would say it is the perfect show to initiate any virgin to The Dead's music. It isn't one of their far-out jammy shows by any means. It has an amazing amount of band/crowd energy and is one of those nights where the band and crowd seemed to be completely in sync. A bonus is the playing is top notch throughout. It's the kind of Dead show that kept people coming back any chance they could. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have and just maybe it will change someone's life like it changed mine....

Some Highlights from Set 2:
Iko Iko: The shear joy you can hear in the audience during this tune is unlike anything I'd ever heard before.
Looks Like Rain: Jerry's mournful guitar lines are just heartbreaking along side Bob Weir's passionate singing.
Box Of Rain: Hearing them sing the "A Box of Rain will ease the pain and love will see you through" part is still spine tingling for me.
He's Gone: "Nothing left to do but smile, smile, smile!
The Other One: Phil's thunderous bass and Garcia's propelling guitar riffs rock as hard and any heavy metal band. Dig the interplay between keyboardist Brent Midland and Jerry Garcia before the first verse.
Black Peter: Jerry sings the hell out of one of my favorites. If this doesn't get you then you have no soul.
Turn On Your Lovelight: The joy is simply contagious.
It's All Over Now, Baby Blue: Hearing Jerry sing Dylan is always a treat. The perfect end to a perfect set.

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