Friday Fives – the independence of it all

Do you have any Independence day traditions? 

I guess it mostly depends if you are inviting me over for something, are you? There has been an accidental tradition of being at Grateful Dead shows in the 4th. My first Dead show (Jerry is still alive at this point) was July 4th 1989. I was at many subsequent July 4th shows. When the Dead did their first formal reunion, about ten years ago, we were there, too. This was July 4th, at the Gorge. The band was billing itself at ‘the Dead’, as opposed to ‘the Grateful Dead’. I liked this, it was a classy homage to their history, but by not fully using the entire name… it was an homage to the fact Jerry was gone and it could never be the Dead again.

As you read this, I am seeing the Grateful Dead again, and again on July 4th. In the last 25 years, I suppose there have been more independence day holidays not at Dead shows that at Dead show. But, the Dead shows were certainly a bit more memorable. Where would you rather be? What is more American than the Grateful Dead? I can prove it. A couple years ago I had to call customer service for some Dead CDs I had ordered. The call center for the customer service was in India. That is how American they are. It made me sad. A bit of a sell out, and Jerry wouldn’t have allowed that.

Do you have any Independence bad memories? 

Well, yeah. After the aforementioned Dead reunion show at the Gorge, we were camping there. We had driven from Denver, you see. After the show, it being the 4th, everyone had fireworks. This is quite common at Dead shows. What you don’t have, though, is people in any condition to be shooting fireworks. It literally felt and sounded like a war zone. Shit was flying EVERYWHERE, and exploding. It wasn’t stuff flying up and exploding, either. It was stuff going sideways, and blowing up. It was terrifying.

Not conducive to sleep, and we were tired. Not just a ton of driving that day, but then an 8 hour concert. The Allmans opened up. Each band plays for about 3 to 4 hours, with set breaks in between. The amazing Warren Haynes played lead guitar for BOTH bands. 8 hours on stage. It was an amazing show, and the Gorge is still the most beautiful venue on Earth. I say that as someone who lives just a few miles away from Red Rocks.

It was tough to sleep. On top of that, some asshats set up a serious powerful speaker system out of their truck and played rave music. LOUDLY. It could be heard for miles. We didn’t want to hear ANY music, not to mention rave electronic music. We kept thinking security would come and tell them to turn it off. We were afraid to leave the tent, because of the fireworks issue. It wasn’t safe to walk around. Finally, after about an hour of this, I snuck over in the dark and unplugged their shit. Not just the power, that would be too easy. They could have just plugged it back in. I know how sound systems work, since I am in a rock band on the side. I think I pulled out the quarter inch audio jacks and then hid amplifier transfer box thingy under their tire. They would find it in the morning. It worked. Power to the people!

I am aware it’s ironic and kinda fucked up that a guy going to see the band who was the ultimate fuck you to the power structure… and I am now the ‘turn it down and get off my lawn’ guy. Had to be done, and everyone was appreciative.

What’s the most patriotic thing you have ever done? 

That thing above. Shutting down that goddamn fucking rave. Does ruining some kids one shot at a good time make me an American hero? Yup.

What is one of your earliest fireworks memories?

None come to mind. I can tell you this about fireworks. They were illegal in AZ. Super illegal. Like, you can’t have a sparkler. It’s the desert, and 120 in July. So, it absolutely makes sense. There were professional fireworks shows, of course, but it just wasn’t that big a deal. Well, I have some great stories about Mexican fireworks, but we don’t have time for that now.

What part of American history did you learn as a youth that you have discovered is completely misunderstood. 

Yeah. I remember finally figuring out the pledge of allegiance is some fucked up bullshit or a country that prides itself on freedom of everything.   I pledge allegiance to the flag, and the country, and to god? Fuck you, buddy. Now, there is nothing wrong with having pride in your country, and teaching that to kids. BUT… we were taught that before we knew what any of those words meant. THAT is what I resent. In my lower teens, I started the whole ‘society doesn’t know dick and is all about oppression and we gotta break the whole thing, man!’ phase. Did you have that? I hope so. I started standing for the pledge, but not saying it.

Power to the people. All power to the people. I can only hope that somewhere, some kid is writing in his blog about his 4th of July memories. He is telling a story about a joyous after concert dance celebration with the fans of the Grateful Dead, until some narc spoke into their shit and killed the joy. Probably a cop, no Deadhead would do such a power move.

Are you out there, kid? Happy 4th!

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