From: email@example.com (Beth Dyer) Subject: Surviving the Dead: A rookie's eye view of a Grateful Dead show Date: 9 Sep 1993 04:02:13 GMT
OK, so in the veggie burrito thread, I ragged on the local paper in Santa Cruz for always mentioning the Dead only in connection with 'heads caught doing illegal acts. Well, so what did I find in last Friday's Spotlight (the entertainment insert)? An article on the Dead show, Wednesday at Shoreline, written by Wallace Bain, the resident reviewer/ interviewer of talent passing through these parts, and incidentally, Dead newbie. I won't say this article is the best I've ever read, but Wallace does make some interesting observations. It's by far the most positive thing I've seen in the Sentinel. Apologies in advance to those who already read this and are not blessed with an 'n' option...
Reprinted without permission from The Santa Cruz Sentinel, Spotlight,
A NIGHT OF LIVING DEAD by Wallace Bain
One could hardly expect a more joyous scene at the gate of St. Peter as the righteous cross over into the Promised Land.
It's about an hour before the Dead come to life on stage in the first of three consecutive late summer shows at Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View.
Stand with me, for a second, here just inside the gate. Watch the reaction of young Deadheads as they pass the gate and surrender their tickets after standing in line for an hour or more.
There is whooping and shouting to be sure. But there is also jumping, tumbling and expressions of body-shaking triumph usually seen only in Pentecostal revival meetings. There are hugs that last longer than a Jerry Garcia guitar solo and shows of affection not witnessed in public since the hostages were released from Iran.
This is not the Promised Land. But it's not just another rock concert either. It occupies some weird space in between, a cultural safe place where the initiated can find a fleeting transcendence for the price of a general seating ticket.
Let us not waste time or ink trying to explain the Dead phenomenon. I am, after all, a pilgrim in a strange country here. My expertise on the cultural significance of the Grateful Dead is roughly equal to Gomer Pyle's on the Sri Lankan slave trade.
I am here to groove on the is-ness of the experience, to open my mind like a baked potato, to take the first tentative steps on the multi-colored road to the land of the dancing bears and the rose-adorned skeletons.
I will be looking for a moment of sartori similar to that of author Annie Dillard when she wrote "I had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck." Strike me, Jerry. If I meet a friend of the devil tonight, he will become a friend of mine.
A Dead show starts long before the band actually jumps on stage. It starts, in fact, in the parking lot outside the arena which becomes a Deadhead encampment, a Jerryville, with its residential and commercial sectors.
As the sun begins to sink below the horizon, while the rest of America is watching "Jeopardy," the makeshift Deadhead village is thick with people. The scene is part Persian bazaar, part country fair flea market with a pervasive hippie feel throughout.
Buses, trucks and vans -- each idiosyncratically decorated with '60s style aesthetic -- get the choicest spots. The commerce is chaotic but wide- ranging. Some "merchants" work out of the back of their van, others roam around like peanut vendors at a baseball game selling everything from veggie burritos to ganja brownies to small felt pouches holding magical crystals.
The thoroughfares move slowly; no one is hurrying. The parade of faces and bodies is about as colorful a pageant as the human species is capable of. Many of the "hippies" here weren't even born during the glory days of Haight-Ashbury. These younger people are the most decorative and free-spirited in manner and dress. For the most part, they choose a hip seediness, a curious blend of hippie tie-dye, Marleyesque dreadlock hairstyles and '90s body adornment (tattoos and navel piercings).
These "Deadlings" seem to be the most uninhibited of Jerry's children. There are shirtless men in saffron skirts, semi-nude women wrapped in gossamer scarves, Granny dresses and Guatemalan shorts are more numerous here than tie-pins on Wall Street at lunchtime.
Also in the crowd are knots of thirtysomething Deadheads, dressed a bit smarter and perhaps more recently bathed than their younger counterparts, but looking the part enough to get disapproving stares at a church picnic.
The elders of the tribe, this is those in the same ballpark as Jerry, are less conspicuous. But they are here in goodly numbers letting their freak flag fly, however gray it might be.
Approaching the arena, we pass dozens of Deadheads with their arms raised above their heads and their index fingers raised to the sky like football fans at a Super Bowl parade. They are saying things cryptic to the uninitiated: "I need a miracle" or "Jerry me" (Rough translation: "Please sell, trade or give a ticket to me").
Somewhere in the bowels of that distant arena is King Jerry, the boyish Weir, the goofball Lesh and other members of the imprisoned by their own unlikely fame. I wonder if Garcia, like the prince in Shakespeare's "Measure for Measure," ever feels the urge to don a disguise and walk out into his kingdom to rub shoulders with his subjects. It would probably be a treat to him to be like I am now, the invisible observer, watching the pageant as it goes by.
In line, waiting to get in, I meet a Deadhead who by day is a chemist (not of the psychedelic variety I'm afraid) who works out of a Bay Area lab. With his purple and green T shirt and his rondo sunglasses, he looks almost anonymous in this crowd. I wonder if his colleagues in the white lab coats would recognize him here.
A younger friend with him is talking excitedly about another hippie jam band of much younger vintage: "Man, you should really check out Phish. They're really cookin'. Don't get me wrong," he says so as not to be thought of as a heretic, "Jerry still rages. There's nobody like Jerry. The Dead is still the best, man, no doubt. But..."
He trails off in defeat. Nobody wants to hear about Phish right now.
Inside the Pearly Gates, the aggressively commercial side of the Valhalla comes clearer into focus. There are about 130,000 vendors inside the grounds selling everything from Philly cheese steak sandwiches to tie-dye bikinis.
The true ugliness is in the details, however. Here in one of the hippie clothing booths is a toddler jumper, decorated on the front with Dead dancing bears. Look closer and you can see Barney the Dinosaur and Mickey Mouse as well.
On the grassy lawn section of the Shoreline Amphitheatre, thousands of people are on their feet. It's 20 minutes after scheduled showtime and the gods are being summoned. There is furtive activity on stage and the crowd erupts. Recognizable figures emerge from stage right: the gangly bassist Phil Lesh, the dark-haired drummer Mickey Hart. Then His Jerryness.
Garcia stands with his back to the crowd, fiddling with his amp and guitar for a few minutes. When he turns around, the band strikes up "A Touch of Grey," the upbeat hit that marked the second coming of the Dead just a few summers ago.
The crowd comes alive like a boiling pot of water. The hot plate underneath is the Dead groove, a seductive boogie beat that makes you, in spite of your self-conscious dignity, flap your head around as if your neck were made of over-cooked macaroni.
Now that the music has started, let's check out the scene a bit, shall we? Above and behind us, ringing the outer edge of the amphitheater are the "whirlers," the Deadhead dancers who need ample space for their unique, impromptu expressions of in-the-moment transcendence.
No two dancers are alike (this ain't a country line dance, y'know), but many appear to be in a sort of dance trance, hyper-aware of the sinuous rhythms of the music, moving in delicate waves and motions like a hippie version of tae kwon do.
It's hard not to envy the abandon on the faces of these dancers, their bare feet in the cool grass, their heads in the kind of rapture only Deadheads know. I put down my reporter's paraphernalia and try to join in the mass reverie, but a rookie cannot close his eyes to the impressionistic cornucopia around him. The scene here is, for the time being anyway, more interesting than my own personal enlightenment.
Night has fallen now and the enveloping groove of the show has moved a few steps up on the kundalini ladder to dharma. The night is surreal. Voices whisper in the gloom "Dose me, dose me" (Translation: "Please provide me with hallucinogens"). With my camera and notepad, I am clearly an outsider here. The flash of my camera spooks a dancer an she instructs me that taking pictures is not cool and I stand there, feeling like the Ugly American tourist shooting video at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.
There is, however, a remarkably mellow and forgiving current in this crowd. A young woman takes off her top and hops around like a baby rabbit just out of her warren, alternately hiding and exposing her breasts, clearly exhilarated by breaking one of her society's oldest taboos. Two guys near her shake hands and talk excitedly about Eugene in reference to the Oregon shows the Dead played the weekend before. One tells the other to look for him on the road to the next Dead show: "We're in a four-door beat-up, blue 1982 Honda with New York plates. Come by, man. Hang out with us."
In the Presbyterian heartland of America, there is a perception that these types of concerts encourage the most bestial sort of debauchery: glass- eyed junkies lying face down with needles in their arms, indiscriminate, open-air sex, a feral unraveling of civilized behavior.
The truth is, of course, much less titillating. Only the most prudish of judges would give a Dead show even an R rating. Pot smoking is surprisingly discreet and the sociopathic behavior you might see at other concerts is hard to find here. The only instance of trouble we've seen here tonight is three security people quickly ushering out a topless woman, her torso and face decorated with glitter and smears of cheap acrylic, raving like some inmate at an asylum out of "Les Miserables."
As it happened her only sin was that she was in the reserved seating area where she had not paid to be. Later, we see her up on the lawn, no worse for the experience, lost in her tae kwon do.
The night deepens and the Dead are well into their second set. Giant screens situated around the amphitheater show the band on stage interspersed with trippy computer graphics, a concession the '60s have made to the '90s.
Jerry Garcia has not moved much the whole night. He stands before his minions, an overgrown koala bear carrying the souls of thousands with every lightning riff on his guitar. His voice is coarse and thin, almost a choke. But that voices carries the weariness of Buddha.
I am entranced by Jerry's reserve, his magical talent at being aloof and familiar at the same time. I wait for him to strike me as a bell, to christen me one of his followers.
Curiously, it doesn't happen. You get the feeling that to be one of the select, you have to commit somehow to the long, strange trip.
I see everything and everyone as a neophyte in the Land of the Dead; everyone, that is, but that friend of the devil. He waits somewhere down the road.
From: STAFFORD@zenith.dnet.hac.com Subject: Newspaper article about Vince W. (long) Reply-To: STAFFORD@zenith.dnet.hac.com Date: Fri, 17 Dec 1993 22:58:02 GMT
Transcribed without permission from
The San Diego Union-Tribune - Sunday, December 12, 1993
Dead Ahead By George Varga, pop music critic
Vince Welnick grew up in Phoenix and has lived in the Bay Area for the past 23 years. But the 42-year-old keyboardist and newest member of the Grateful Dead qualifies as an honorary San Diegan. "I've been going there every summer since I was 3 years old, "he said, speaking of San Diego from his San Rafael home. "I was just there a few weeks ago visiting my sister. We got together with my dad and my two brothers, and had a family reunion. "He learned to surf at Imperial Beach ("which was way cool") and brought his high school rock band, Next of Kin, from Phoenix to perform at El Cajon's Hi Ho Teen Club.
But Welnick, who replaced Dead keyboardist Brent Mydland after Mydland succumbed to a drug overdose in mid-1990, also remembers his earliest years here for a more profound reason. San Diego --where he performs sold-out concerts with the Dead tonight and tomorrow at the Sports Arena -- is where he learned to walk "for the second time," after a bout of rheumatic fever when he was 4. "I had a heart murmur and couldn't talk for a while, and the doctor said it would be good to go to the beach or somewhere enjoyable to walk," Welnick recalled. "So I learned to walk again (in San Diego), and that (illness) is why I walk like a duck now .My legs turn outward; my feet go at a 90 degree angle when I'm lying in bed. But I have fond memories of San Diego and Imperial Beach because that's where I got it all back together. "Now, nearly four decades later, Welnick is learning to walk yet again. Only this time it's in a strictly musical context, with one of rock's longest-lived and most beloved institutions. Thanks to his status as an official Dead-man, he will join guitarists-singers Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir, bassist Phil Lesh and drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart when the band is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame next month in New York.
As the newest member of the Dead, whose lineup has remained virtually intact since 1968 on every instrument except keyboards, Welnick has faced the formidable challenge of learning the band's extensive repertoire. It spans nearly 30 years of Dead originals, as well as classic blues and rock songs by other artists. He estimates that he has thus far learned approximately 150, or slightly under half, of the songs in the Dead's repertoire. "I'm still learning everything," he said. "I listen to tapes from the last tour before each new tour, and have a keyboard hooked up to my stereo and play right along with it. And it's different every tour, I've noticed. The standard of excellence gets a little better, songs change shape and feeling.
"Initially, I had every song charted; I took three notebooks --350 songs with the words or key bridge and vague little chord charts. For about a month I'd bring the charts out (on stage), just do I wouldn't screw up. Now I have a handle on it."
Prior to joining the Dead, Welnick was a keyboardist and harmony singer in Todd Rundgren's band. He was also working with the latest, pared-down edition of the once outrageously theatrical hard-rock bound The Tubes, of "White Punks on Dope" fame. (It was in 1976, during his first tenure with The Tubes, that Welnick got married aboard the Bahia Belle on Mission Bay.)
One of only a few people to audition for the coveted keyboard position in the Dead, Welnick won over Jefferson Starship veteran Pete Sears and T. Lavitz, formerly of the Dixie Dregs. With little media fanfare but considerable attention from Deadheads everywhere, Welnick joined the fabled band as keyboardist and vocalist despite having little familiarity with any of its work since the late-'60s. "I had all the earlier, 1960s work of the Dead indelibly imprinted in my mind, because they were ever so popular in Phoenix," he said. "I saw them at the Phoenix Star Theater with 'Pigpen' (original Dead keyboardist Ron McKernan, a heavy drinker who died of liver disease in 1973).
"Because I was with The Tubes since the late '60s, I lost track of what had been going on with the Dead for all of the '70s and most of the '80s, except what I heard on radio, which was the tip of the ice-berg. So I didn't know alot of the material when I joined, but I was pleasantly surprised that the more I heard, the more I loved the band and the music."
A versatile musician who learned to play from his mother, an accomplished boogie-woogie pianist. Welnick has an equally strong background in rock, blues, jazz and classical music (the latter dating to his days as a church organist while still in grade school). As a teenager in Phoenix, his band, The Equations, frequently appeared on double bills with the Vince Furnier-led Spiders, who later achieved stardom as Alice Cooper.
"I listened to alot of John Coltrane and McCoy Tyner," Welnick said. "In fact, The Tubes used to play alot of 'Trane stuff, like 'Asia.' We played a lot of different genres with the Tubes, so I was familiar with most of the styles the Dead do, except the folkier stuff."
His jazz skills have proven especially helpful in the Dead, whose music frequently takes off in extended improvisational flights. While the Dead has a periodic tendency to meander in performance, its best live moments are spontaneous and organic and owe much to the highly evolved, seemingly telepathic communication that has developed between its members.
Tapping into the band's unspoken musical interaction requires attentive listening, sensitivity and the ability to respond swiftly to the most subtle rhythmic, melodic and harmonic changes. "That (unspoken communication) is a constant challenge," he said. "Another main challenge I find is not getting carried away; don't step on the big boys. A great deal of it is what you don't play. It's alot more important to listen, more than in any band I've been in. But my biggest challenge is to be aware of what's going on and not overplay.
"If you're listening carefully, there's so much interplay that it gets frightfully exciting. And when that happens, there's magic every night. I've learned that every time a song comes up, it will be basically different and have a whole different feel." "There are a couple of cues in 'Cassidy,' where there's a chord change, and if you keep an eye on Bobby (Weir) you'll catch it," he said. "On 'Bird Song,' the jam is just in one key. But depending how jazzy it gets, it could be in every key. So it depends on the mood, who does what, who follows what and who jumps on it and plays some tinkly new starry-eyed part."
The way the Dead interacts in stage has been compared to a sports team. "The speed, the dancing, the rhythm, the creativity--it's just like being on a basketball team," said noted Deadhead and former professional and college basketball star Bill Walton. "Basketball, like good, creative rock music, is never the same."
Welnick agreed. "Sometimes I get the nod for solos, and other times it seems like, if it comes around a second time, then that might be a good time for a guitar solo," he said. "On some of the blues songs, Bobby, Jerry and I might all take solos. In the midst of a jam, Jerry traditionally takes the solo part, then opens it up and that dictates how Jerry plays. And he'll sometimes fall into a rhythm-guitar role and give it to you without giving you a nod. He and Bobby can both hear the difference between one note in any scale, and jump right on it."
FROM THE MARS HOTEL
Welnick has also had to make at least one nonmusical adaptation since joining the band. As a member of the Dead, he is now a part of one of rock's most popular phenomenons. The band's intensely loyal fans cut across all age groups and socioeconomic levels, and think nothing of traveling around the world to catch the band in concert. "I'm still in complete awe of it," he said. "I didn't know how 'big time' big time was until I got next to these guys. If it wasn't for the audience we have, and if it was anybody but (the Dead), it might not work. But these guys are so unconditionally loving, and they're very peaceful and good-natured.
"(But) if you start staring and interacting with them too much, they'll suck you right in, and the next thing you know you're in Mars. It's unlike any experience I've ever had." Another profound change since Welnick joined the band has been the health of Garcia, the band's lead guitarist and unofficial leader. Garcia collapsed late last summer, not long after a San Diego performance with the Jerry Garcia Band at Devore Stadium in Chula Vista.
Garcia's lifestyle--overweight from a junk-food diet, too many cigarettes, virtually no exercise--had caught up with him, and his future (and that of the Dead) hung in the balance. Fortunately, the bearded guitarist recovered. He has since assumed a far healthier lifestyle and is now an avid scuba diver.
"I think Jerry got as close to finishing his career as he wanted to be," Welnick said. "But he's in much better shape now. He's on the good foot, and I hope it stays that way. But I never take anything for granted, so I just think good thoughts for Jer." But he's been very much on since then. I did see a change; it was obvious. He's 60 pounds lighter, very alert and has more energy. The guy can still out-run me when we get out of the van to go to the hotel."
With a rejuvenated Dead now touring and writing new songs at a record pace, Welnick is looking forward to a long run with the band that has been a vital part of many fan's lives for so many years. His enthusiasm is undiminished by the fact that all three Dead keyboardists before him are, in fact, dead.
"You don't think about it, but then you do." he acknowledged. "It's like you're in Vietnam; everybody wants to get to know you, but then they wait to see if you're still here.
"I'm a grown-up guy. If I was going to hang myself, now would be the time to do it--I've got all the rope I need! But I like to play music, first and foremost, and being in the Dead gives me a reason to live.... Playing keyboards in this band is a richly rewarding experience."
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Ken Weeks) Subject: Billy K. in "Paddler" Date: Wed, 16 Feb 1994 00:25:42 GMT
A friend dropped this off the other day...ok, a few stereotypes and a "cutesy" drug reference, but what the hell...
Excerpts from "Paddler" magazine, February '94
GRATEFUL DEAD DRUMMER TAKES LONG STRANGE TRIP
Paddles to rescue boogie boarder, but kayak companion dies on surf safari
by Mike Mowrey
The lyrics to the Grateful Dead song "Casey Jones" start out: "Driving that train..."
But the band's drummer [sic] might well want to change them to "Riding that wave train." Because that's exactly what drummer Bill Kreutzmann did recently when he used his kayak to rescue a 17 year old boogie boarder, stranded in a riptide with a broken fin.
"I was sitting in 10-foot waves and there was a strong riptide," said Kreutzmann. "I saw a young kid on a boogie board struggling in the rip, and I got him onto my kayak before we went onto the rocks. We were beached in a nasty area and I had to talk him out of trying to swim out." The two were eventually helped by a rescue team who used ropes to haul them up the cliff. And always hungry for celebrity news, newspapers up and down the coast were quick to bring the event into the limelight with such attention-getting headlines as: "Surfer Grateful To Be Alive."
What the news stories didn't capture was the drummer's passion for paddling. Kreutzmann was introduced to kayaking more than a year ago by friends who frequently surf California's Mendocino coast. He started in an Ocean Kayak Scrambler and now sports a few jet-black Frenzies.
And his involvement with the sport extends well beyond rescuing boogie boarders. In fact, the October he swapped his drumsticks for a kayak paddle and began a five-week kayak surf safari. Only instead of traveling in a VW van or psychedelic school buss he set sail on a 110-foot yacht. [jeezus, that Billy's got strong arms!] His group of seven sailed from San Francisco to Cabo San Lucas in Baja, California, and then 300 miles south to the Socorro Islands, where they managed to obtain a rare exploration permit from the Mexican government.
They even brought along a film crew and plan to release a sort of "Endless Summer" adventure film next year. Rumor has it that the Dead might perform and original song for the film, and Kreutzmann is creating the soundtrack. Initially the story line was going to center on three kayakers, each with a different expectation for the trip...
[unfortunately, one of Billy's friends, Tab Vadon, accidentally died during a routine free-dive. The article concludes that the film may find a different, more serious focus. Anyway, the best part was this sidebar...]
KAYAKING WITH KREUTZMANN
by Jeff Sanders
So, what's it like to paddle with the drummer [sic] of the Grateful Dead? Does he own a tie-dyed boat? Is there a hookah pipe stashed under his deck hatch? [ugh. Oh well...] Do dolphins pick up his vibes and magically appear at his side? [only the ones who haven't sold out to Axel Rhodes (-;]
To find out I joined Dan Wood, founder of California's Lost Coast Kayak Adventures, and Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann, a limited partner in the kayak company, on a paddle north of Mendocino.
After putting in at the mouth of Ten Mile River and paddling out to Mendocino Bay, I found him to be just another kayaker who loves the sea and loves to paddle. Apart from his exceedingly stylish custom-painted helmet, complete with flames, he is as indistinguishable on the water as a fan at one of his concerts. At least until his starts tapping his hull.
As we made our way north, Kreutzmann became fascinated by the deep rumblings of several blow-holes. We paused often so he could listen to their boom. One in particular caught his attention. Located in the back of a massive cave, it resounded loudly of the chamber's walls. "I'd like to sample that," he said, paddling closer, "It would be great to have that on my drum pads."
Slowly he began to beat out a rhythm on the side of his Scupper Pro, pausing to allow the blowhole to answer. Wood instantly picked up the cadence, smacking the hull of his Scrambler. The beat was infectious and soon I, too, joined in. [ha! got another one, Bill!] I wasn't about to miss a chance at jamming on polyethylene [Pam?] with the drummer of the Dead, especially while floating in a cave [hey, I've been there...]
A few minutes later our concert ended and we paddled back into the sunlight. As we prepared to leave, Kreutzmann took one last look inside the cave. "I'd rather paddle the Scupper Pro," he said, "but the Scrambler makes a better drum."
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