Tag Archives: grateful dead

Faring Well

A few thoughts from the homestead on this Fourth of July, which is a rarity these years. One reason is that this is the first summer since 2010 that I haven’t taught abroad, and I’m usually gone by late June. (I much preferred to stay home for some needed family time.) It’s also notable that I’m home because I opted out of two great musical weekends occurring simultaneously: Grateful Dead at Soldier Field and Dave Matthews Band at SPAC. (This weekend is one of our few opportunities to spend a quiet few days at home this summer, and I was a little exhausted by the thought of both musical prospects.) Curiously, this extended weekend brings a number of things full circle in a somewhat solipsistic manner.

This weekend at Chicago’s Soldier Field, the Grateful Dead fare thee well with a three-night run after a half century of trailblazing. I’ve been listening to much of the festivities’ broadcasts on SiriusXM, both of the actual shows and the pre-show coverage. (Friday’s pre-show included a wonderful and unexpected interview with Charles Lloyd, one of my personal favorites.) Seeing The Dead on this night in 2009 (and similarly with Phil Lesh & Friends the summer before) is one of my fondest musical memories. I felt like I really was part of something special. My social media feed this weekend has included a regular stream of updates from folks I know who traveled to the Windy City this weekend. As I wrote here, I’m no Deadhead but I definitely consider myself a fan.

Soldier Field was where the Grateful Dead performed their final shows in 1995 before the dead of Jerry Garcia. Speaking the Dead in 1995, Dave Matthews Band opened for the elders for their threenight run in Vegas that May.

Coincidentally, Soldier Field was the location of my first and fourth DMB shows (06.29.00 and 07.06.01, respectively). This is my first time not making the annual pilgrimage to SPAC with my brother-in-law in several years. However, I was pleased to see that DMB very unexpectedly covered Grateful Dead’s “Friend of the Devil” during tonight’s acoustic set in honor of the latter’s goodbye run. Classy move.

Fear not, I’ll be seeing DMB this coming Tuesday outside of Detroit for my 65th show, almost fourteen years from the date of my fourth show. (In fact, it’s my first year attending only one DMB concert since I started attending frequenting the band’s concerts, assuming there’s no winter tour.) I doubt they’ll be busting out any Dead covers, but it shall be a great time regardless. Until then, fare thee well, core four. Hopefully I’ll hear a little “Loose Lucy” pop up in a set list before the weekend’s over…

…And I’ve returned because as soon as I clicked “publish,” the Dead started performing “Friend of the Devil” in Chicago. Full circle, indeed. As Robert Hunter wrote, “Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right.”

Game On

Regular readers and/or subscribers may notice that I didn’t post anything last week. I was on a much-needed vacation with my wife in San Francisco and Sonoma, CA. I had considered prepping something before we left to be published while away, but then I would have had to have logged in regardless to pimp the new post via social media. I decided it would be better to just stay offline and away from a computer as much as possible. And it was well worth it…

A couple of things worth mentioning here happened last Tuesday (the usual day for MTH-V posts), which made me laugh. The first actually had to do with my recent MTH-V post on the Grateful Dead. We were hanging out in the Haight-Ashbury district and found the famed Grateful Dead House. Of course, my picture looks far different from the classic photo…

Shortly before taking this picture, I wandered and drooled through Amoeba Music. There are few things I love more than browsing through and shopping at a great independent record store. I walked out with SkalaThe Seven Words, Nyman: Concertos, and Harmonious Breath. Lovely. (Of course two of the four are ECM titles…) The Nyman disc has been on my “must buy” list for years, and this was the first instance in which I’ve seen a new hard copy for sale in a store. I could’ve purchased it via Amazon years ago, but I much prefer “the hunt.”

It was refreshing to get away from the horns, computers, and all work/responsibilities for a week. But now, game on…

MTH-V: GD’s “Shakedown Street” Live

I’m busy with a lot of playing this week, so I’m posting another vid that doesn’t require too much annotation: a live performance of The Grateful Dead‘s “Shakedown Street” from 1989. This particular performance has been one I’ve returned to time and again for the last few years.

Although I don’t quite consider myself a Deadhead, I am a fan. (Since I’m the equivalent of a Deadhead for DMB, I know what’s involved in such a moniker, and wouldn’t claim to be such for The Grateful Dead when I’m obviously not.) A number of my friends and musical partners past and present are Deadheads, however, so I’ve been around their music for about a decade. I have a number of albums and live recordings, and actually consider my attending concerts of both The Dead and Phil Lesh & Friends to be some of my more profound live music experiences. I’ve also played their music in a number of groups: Teag & PK, Zentropy, The French Henchmen, and all of my musical endeavors with Pat Harris (including The Dirty River Jazz Band & The TCQ – two iterations of what I consider to be my first real band).

“Shakedown Street” is a great song. It’s definitely a dance number, which is a big reason I enjoy it so much. That also makes it fun to play – if done right, the crowd gets moving, further fueling the band. (I played this quite a bit with Zentropy; it was always a fun time.) It’s the title track of their tenth album (1978), and is also the namesake of the fan-run vendor area, selling items legal and “otherwise,” found in the parking found at their shows. (The name has since been extrapolated to other bands and fan communities – the vendor area for any band/festival is generally referred to as Shakedown Street nowadays.)

As mentioned, I don’t consider myself a Deadhead. I can’t get too deep into the minutiae of X month of Y tour being my favorite, etc., but I do have a relatively active knowledge of the band’s history. (What recordings I have span their output.) Hopefully I won’t cause too much controversy by saying that I really dig the late-80s live material, the lineup for which included the late Brent Mydland. This video’s performance comes from July 9, 1989 at Giants Stadium. (Recorded just days after Truckin’ Up To Buffalo – I mention that because I own that recording, and I love Buffalo – it’s my wife’s hometown and where we got married. :)) As is evident in this video, the band can not only jam, but groove. Hard. Jerry, Bob, Brent, and Phil snake in and around each other’s lines and ideas, all while maintaining the ensemble’s forward momentum. Jazz snobs take note, because the Dead display improvisation and group interaction as well as most any other jazz ensemble…

I hope you dig it. I have for a while, and will for a long time to come.

MTH-V: Blues Bros. Live: “Almost”

While not nearly as “historic” (for me) as last week’s video, here’s another hidden gem from years back. Believe me, I’m sure many of you are probably thinking Blues Brothers? It was a good movie, but really?! Yes, indeed! Not only was Blues Brothers a comedy classic, but it’s a popular pick among musicians (especially of the jazz, blues, and rock ilk). However, moving beyond the movie and SNL skits, the Blues Brothers Band was (and in some capacity continues to be) a killer rhythm and blues band. (Yes, the real R&B…) A great mix of a Memphis rhythm section and New York horns.

Luckily for Belushi and Aykroyd, they had the Saturday Night Live Band at their disposal when originally wanting to do their blues bees skits. Deciding to transform their skit into an actual band, they recruited a dream-team of studio and touring musicians, including (most of the names should be familiar):

Steve “The Colonel” Cropper – Guitar
Donald “Duck” Dunn – Bass
Steve “Getdwa” Jordan – Drums
Tom “Bones” Malone – Trombone & Saxophones
“Blue” Lou Marini – Saxophones
Matt “Guitar” Murphy – Guitar
Alan “Mr. Fabulous” Rubin – Trumpet
Tom “Triple Scale” Scott – Saxophones
Paul “The Shiv” Shaffer – Keyboards

Anyone familiar with the backing musicians of popular music from the 1960s to present should see MANY familiar names. Cropper and Dunn were part of the house band for Stax Records (!!!), Marini has been with James Taylor for decades, Scott did some work with Joni Mitchell (he’s all over her historic Court and Spark), Steve Jordan is a top studio and touring drummer (recently collaborating with John Mayer), you see Malone every night with Letterman, and Paul Shaffer has played everywhere with everyone. Behind Jake and Elwood on the stage and in the recording booth is a Who’s Who of American popular music.

Aside from the movie soundtracks, there aren’t many recordings of the Blues Brothers Band. I picked up The Definitive Collection in probably 1997 and still listen to it quite a bit. (It’s great for late night driving.) Sure, John and Dan aren’t the world’s greatest singers, but the band more than makes up for it. The below video is of one of my favorite songs of theirs (a performance of which is included on The Definitive Collection). Assuming the poster included the correct date, this performance comes from New Year’s Eve 1978, meaning this gig was an opening set for the Grateful Dead at Winterland. “(I’ve Got Everything I Need) Almost” was originally written and performed by Canada’s Downchild Blues Band.