The Lure of the Windy City
I don’t deserve to goto Chicago; as much as i tell myself that the real reason I’m not going is cause I’m broke and probably wouldn’t get in anyway, and i slept too late and am too depressed to drive halfway across the country alone, But I don’t deserve to be there anyway.
I love the music of the Grateful Dead. I didn’t even like it till after Jerry Garcia was dead though. In fact i pretended to hate it for no reason other than i hung out with a bunch of punks that thought hippie music/life was stupid. We were young, we were dumb; most of us are into everything we so openly spoke out against back then now.
I remember the first time i actually took the time to listen to the Dead. I was a freshman in college and my roommate i had known for four hours was blasting the brilliant album “Live Dead”; as “Turn on Your Lovelight” reached it’s frantic peak and conclusion i entered the living room/area to inquire what magic we were being forced to listen too.
My shock was complete. Had this band i spent so much energy ignoring really capable of blowing the doors off a blues standard with such force that you had to take notice? As much as i should have jumped on the ride then i still resisted. I mean the new Rancid album was coming out in a few days and my punk rock cred was at an all time high.
A few months later i turned down a free ticket to see Phish, who i also hated on at the time. It wasn’t until a year later that my little sister, consistently being cooler than me and finding the world before me despite being younger than me, along with my girlfriend at the time, drug me to a phish show. This was a necessary move for my sister as our parents wouldn’t let her attend without my mature presence as chaperone.
I really intended to make fun of phish at this show, however, after spending the first set in utter awe as the lights came up at set break i turned to my sister and announced we had to see this band as much as possible until it was over. I had no clue how it would end and still don’t, but i knew it was real and was something to be seen whenever possible.
Six years later at the same arena I had my first Grateful Dead related event. The Other Ones rolled into Pittsburgh around Thanksgiving time and my sister and me took a break from family festivities to see what’s what. The moment i remember most is the conversation i had with two old heads that parked next to us in lot. They fell out of their car in a sense of awe/appreciation i now easily recognize in myself on tour. They had intended on only seeing the show in D.C. but said it was so good they had to keep going and would most likely finish out the run.
The love they had for what i was just entering flowed out of every word they spoke and step they took. There was something to this scene and i could almost understand it and my awareness was growing stronger every second. The show itself was brilliant. Jimmy Herring will forever have a spot in my top five guitarists seen based solely on what happened that night. As a bonus, Robert Hunter, the man who wrote so many of the lyrics to these beautiful songs, performed at set break.
My next step in Grateful Dead appreciation wouldn’t happen for 10 years. It was July 5th of all days and i was at a Furthur show with a real deal deadhead. He had seen Jerry many times and was in the process of getting into phish. We hit CMAC for Furthur and were going to phish at SPAC the next two nights. Something happened during the “Crazy Fingers” jam. A knob was turned up, pushed by the mighty Joe Russo and lead by the talented Jeff Chimenti, Furthur took that beloved songbook somewhere it hadn’t been and i was right there trying to dance my way along with them.
It sort of cracked me up to hear the real deal deadheads critique the show at it’s conclusion. I stood there blown away yet they had been there done that and thought it was fine but not anything special. I pleaded with my friend to forgo SPAC and head to Philly to see Furthur, claiming that what we saw at CMAC was fresher than what phish would tee up at SPAC. I still believe that to be true and give whatever credit doesn’t fall to the songs themselves to Joe Russo, who takes those songs so far out there i will always go anywhere he is playing Dead songs if i can.
Alas my friend thought i was joking and he really wanted to see Trey and who could blame him. A few weeks later i took my then girlfriend to see her first Furthur show at Bethel. She loved phish but was new to the Dead world. She got it almost instantly, seemingly in the lot and although she recognized almost none of the songs she stood in awe as the lights came up and i knew she got it. She has since moved on from me to bigger and better things but i know that show will always be apart of her and i’m glad i got to show her that world.
As i said though i don’t deserve to be in Chicago; my sister probably does but she has a kid and a husband that believes Huey Lewis should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I’m going to her house Saturday to watch the second night of Chicago. I will sit on her couch as my nephew sleeps upstairs unaware of the fact that someday i most likely will be taking him to a JRAD show or phish show and telling him some of these same stories. We will watch our two bands sort of combine to give these songs another chance to show the world how much they matter. I wish I was there, not just to see the show but to feel the moment. Moments matter more than anything and grabbing ahold of them make life easier.
I don’t deserve to be in Chicago but i wish i was.