“So this is what a Grateful Dead crowd looks like”

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In honor of the ‘Days Between’, I figured I’d share a story from the Dead days.  The ‘days between’ is an annual celebration we do of Jerry Garcia.  Jerry was born August 1st, and died on August 9th.  So, instead of celebrating his birthday, as we do with most… there is this tradition where we take a week to celebrate Jerry… the ‘days between’ his birth and death.

This is a story from seeing the band back in the late 80s and on and off through the 90s (Jerry died in 1995).  The Dead attracted some great opening acts.  I guess when you tour the world playing only football stadiums (70K people a night, or more), you get your pick of the litter.  In the years I saw them I remember CSN, Edie Brickell, Santana, 10,000 Maniacs (playing to their home crowd of Buffalo, NY), Dave Matthews Band (totally unknown at the time), and Sting.

This is a story about Crosby, Stills, and Nash opening one of those nights. It’s a story about ‘Croz’.  That is an affectionate name we all call Crosby.  I may use it.  You may not.

CSN was opening several nights on a Dead summer tour.  It was likely  1990.  What a perfect pairing of bands!  During their opening set, Croz calls out ‘So this is what a Grateful Dead crowd looks like!”.   We went nuts.  We were quite an odd site to see.  An entire football stadium full of shirtless freaks tripping balls and dancing in the brutal summer heat.

Croz knows the scene, and the boys in CSN and the Grateful Dead go WAY back.  Know the Nash song ‘Teach your children well’?  There is a pedal slide guitar in that song, it’s Jerry Garcia playing.  We are all quite proud of ourselves, and it was a fun way to ingratiate themselves with us.

The next night (or… day for the opener.  They probably went on about 4pm) we got to see CSN again.  Now, they have about 40 years of songs to jam into a 45 minute set.  YET… they do the exact same set the next day.  Weird.  Don’t they know it’s almost the exact same crowd?  That is the thing we are famous for… going town to town and following the band.  Doing the same setlist isn’t egregious, but it stands out.  It’s what Croz says inbtween songs “So, this is what a Grateful Dead crowd looks like!”   David, David, David… learn to read the room, buddy.

I fully get these are first world problems to have, and it was great to see two of my favorite bands together.

Friday Fives – rock star deaths

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Another rock star died today, and by his own hand… again.  It’s time to have the talk.  The big talk.  The one your dad was supposed to have with you when you were 12… but he was afraid to.  So, instead he just told your mom that you two had ‘the talk’ and just bought you a Penthouse from that 7-11 over at 44th & Camelback?  You know, ‘scary Larry worked there overnights?’  Dude was LEGEND, and would sell ciggies and Mickey’s Big Mouth beers to anyone as long as there were no other customers in the store.

Or… am I being too specific?  So let’s just finally have that ‘talk’.  The ‘talk’ about rock stars dying.

ok, let’s get into it, shall we?

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Kurt Cobain – do you think Courtney was involved?

No.  I wouldn’t put it past her, though.  I would not be surprised if we found out she was involved.  In this specific situation, though, I think it was all him.  Totally doesn’t mean she wasn’t planning that very second to have him killed.  It’s like the joke my pal Jeff told me about Kennedy’s killing.  There were so many people out for him:  the mob, the Cubans, the Republican hawks who didn’t want him to draw down Vietnam.  So, his point is more ‘who wasn’t trying to kill Kennedy that day?”

Here is the thing, I am kinda obsessed with Courtney.  I am in love her with, and reviled by her.  I have written about her a lot, and I will admit to you I also have a nude photo of her on my phone which is just fantastic.  She defines the term ‘hot mess’, and I also call her lovingly ‘the original Charlie Sheen’.

Is the ’27 Club’ a real thing, or just a perfect example of confirmation bias?

Yes, it’s a real thing.  Now, let me clarify… I am not saying more rock stars die at 27 than normal people.  No.  What I am saying is that when it comes to rock stars dying… there is overwhelming numbers that show it happens at 27 years old.  Believe it or not, I have a whole web site just about this.  I have been fascinated by this since high school.  That was 25 years ago, and it keeps happening.  I never could find a good site that just focused on this phenomenon.  Plus, I truly believe I know more about rock music that most folks alive… so who better than me to tackle it.

It’s called ‘Remember the 27’.  It’s cool, you should check it out if you are a music person.  I take a look at what I consider the top 5 reasons why this might be happening… and then drill down on each one.

What’s your favorite rock star death?  I know that’s a sick question… let me rephrase it ‘what is the most interesting death… to you’?

Brian Jones (from the Rolling Stones)… his death was listed as ‘death by misadventure’.  You don’t know the name, which is a shame.  He wrote their best early stuff – Paint it Black, Ruby Tuesday, Mother’s Little Helper.  He drowned, and everything about it is suspicious… but we’ll likely never know… since it was prolly 50 years ago.  His sacrifice may have been worth it, though… as we have the term ‘death by misadventure‘ in the lexicon now.

What rock star death hit you the hardest?

Initially, as in “I just can’t believe that happened.  I am still waiting for someone to tell him it was a mistake” – Chris Cornell.  Over a lifetime, though, Jerry Garcia.  Thing is, I wasn’t that impacted when it first happened because I was mad at him.  We saw them on their last tour, and it was terrible.  So terrible we walked out, which I had never done at a Dead show before.  Basically, when it happened, I wasn’t even a tiny bit surprised.  However, the sadness has compounded over the years.  I think he was the greatest guitarist we had.

Who is the rock star that you are most surprised isn’t dead?  Difficulty challenge – other than Keith Richards.  Don’t be so obvious, man!

Courtney.  She doesn’t just love drugs, she seems to have a lot of emotional and narcissistic tendencies.  I would bet her mentality about drugs is that they kill weaker people.  She also seems to possess all kinds of impulse control problems.  When she goes, it will be like Weiland.  We won’t be surprised… except for maybe how she lasted as long as she did.  I am pre-mourning her death in anticipation of the inevitable.

also, honorary mention on the ‘how is he still alive’ definitely goes to Slash.

 

Friday Fives – more music because my editor is a lazy bastard

I can say that, right?  I mean… it’s with love.  Plus, it’s about music.  I can hold forth all day long about music… but you poor sucks already know that, don’t you?

Who is the worst band you’ve ever seen live and why?

Flaming Lips at Red Rocks.  They were opening for someone, I don’t remember.  I was initially very excited to see them.  Wayne Coyne is famous for his great live shows.  Red Rocks is also a magical place that has coaxed amazing performances out of mediocre bands… like Radiohead.  The Flaming Lips were horrible.  I finally realized they are built on kitsch and novelty.  They are not good songwriters, they are not good musicians, and Wayne Coyne is not a good singer.  10 or 15 minutes into their set I have to leave. I went up top to drink and look at the amazing view.

See, if you go up top, the sound is horrible… which is best for the Lips.  It means it is also the quietest up there.  Red Rocks doesn’t put speakers anywhere but the base of a stage.  Normally, this would be fine… were you not on the side of the mountain.  If you are not in the first 30 rows, the sound is terrible.  This is especially true when the wind whips around, which it tends to do on the side of a mountain.

but why were they so bad?  The music just wasn’t compelling on any level.  Not catchy, nor thoughtful.  You know those kids songs Charlie Sheen’s character wrote on 2 and a half men?  It was stuff like ‘who cut the cheese?’.  Yeah, that is Flaming Lips catalog.  Anyone who likes Flaming Lips is a hipster douchebag!  Trust me, it takes one to know one.

But… any concert at Red Rocks can’t be that bad, right?  It’s like how they say a bad day fishing is better than the best day at work?  Well, they weren’t at this show.  To close, Will Rogers never met this band.

Who is the best band you’ve seen live, and why?

Oh golly, I have see a LOT of bands, and a LOT of great bands.  It is almost impossible to pick 1.  So, I’ll pick two.  This answer goes out to Cody in Utah, a month late.  Sorry on that, bud.  James Taylor and Barenaked Ladies.

James Taylor I have been seeing since high school, possibly longer.  For one, and maybe this is a given, he sounds perfect… every time.  80s, 90s, 2000s, 2010s… every decade I have seen him he was amazing and crystal clear.  Every show gets the obvious hits.  Here is what people don’t know who haven’t seen him; he is hilarious.  He is a seriously funny and engaging guy.  I have seen comedians live, many of the great ones:  Richard Lewis, Mitch Hedberg, Lewis Black, and Brian Regan.  I have laughed that hard at every single James Taylor show.

Barenaked Ladies have always killed it live.  First time I saw them, it was the ‘Rock Spectacle’ tour, which was a very early greatest hits tour… of sorts.  I wasn’t a big fan, but I Gordon.  The internet wasn’t everywhere yet, so I hadn’t seen clips or read reviews.  After that show, I was amazed.  As everyone knows now, they are amazing live.  Funny and sweet and musical and surprisingly improvisational.

Every show becomes a very unique experience.  It becomes about your city, and current events.  I have seen them 3 or 4 times, and every show was better than the last.  I should have to mention this was all back when Steven Page was with them.  I can tell you every person who has ever seen BNL at any era with Steven Page will tell you it was the best concert they have ever seen.  I agree.

What band has your go to perfect album?

Again, SO many.  How about three?  Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti,  Guns & Roses Appetite for Destruction, and Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream.

What are the best comebacks you know?

The question implies a witty rejoinder, a la ‘the jerk store called’.  In the spirit of the questions leading up to this, I will assume it is a poorly worded question about career comebacks in music.

I have been seeing bands for 30 years now (it starts with the Police in 1983 and Rush in 1985… and keeps going).  One day, ask me about the golden girl I saw at the Rush, and how that kinda changed my life. Hint, it involves boobs and a 13 year old boy. A lot of the acts I have seen were regarded as ‘comebacks’, but never left.  I saw Pearl Jam in 1997, and the critics were calling it their ‘comeback’ tour.  They never went anywhere, never broke up, and never stopped making music.  Same has been said for seeing Page & Plant together, James Taylor, and Paul Simon.  To qualify, we have to count a band who fully broke up before I saw them.  I think these guys broke up a lot.  Heck, they just re-broke up again last fall.  This time, I think it’s for good.  Greg must be in his 70s.

The Allman Brothers.  I first saw them in the late 80s.  They had already been broken up and reunited several times by then.  Over the years, I saw them more than any other band, except maybe the Grateful Dead.  I have seen both bands around 20 times.

When I count the Dead above, I am talking about with Jerry Garcia.  Since his passing, I have seen another 20 shows of their very many offshoot bands.  Also saw Bobby and Jerry solo while Jerry was alive.  Still go see Bobby every year.  Going to see him this summer, too.

The Allmans are a unique class of band that got better with age.  They are also a band that thrives live.  I say the same about Iron Maiden.  They not only get better, they get more popular.  Iron Maiden is amazing, and one of two bands I NEVER miss when they come to town (the other is Pearl Jam).  Sorry, since we are talking about great live bands, I had to get in a plug for Iron Maiden.

The radio is on and you are driving down the road, a song comes on. At what moment did you realize “Damn.. I’m getting old”?

HA… I remember the exact moment.  Wifey and I were driving through Northern Arizona on our bi annual trek to see movies.  We were in a car that likely only had a cassette deck, and we were sick of our tapes.  Maybe it was CDs, who knows?  We were searching the radio for anything.  Of course, when you are in the middle of nowhere, you only get county and bible shit.  Why is that?

FINALLY we find a good station.  Prince was on, from his Purple Rain heyday.  We were so pleased with ourselves until the dj came on.  “you’re listening to Northern Arizona’s golden oldies.”.  we listened for another hour.  We knew, and loved, every song.  We were OLD, man.  I swear we were only in our early 30s, if even that.  We are early 40s, now.

* for the record, Wayne did this.  It was cool and all, but clearly a distraction from shitty music.  Prince never had to do this.  Also, he was afraid to get passed back/up.  Reasonable, since Red Rocks is built into the side of a mountain.  Still, though, that woulda been cool.