Grateful Dead – U.S. Blues
I had a really hard time picking one Dead song for today but hey, it’s the 4th of July weekend so this one, with its bicentennial video, seemed appropriate. Plus it’s one with Jerry Garcia on vocals and as tonight is the first of the three 50th anniversary Grateful Dead concerts in Chicago – which are also commemorating 20 years since they played their last shows before Jerry died – I thought it was fitting.
My oldest sister was (is still) a Deadhead. I don’t remember not having the Dead playing around the house as a kid. She put a “Honk if you like the Grateful Dead” bumper sticker on our family station wagon and much of the time it would be my mom driving around with a bunch of us littler kids in the back. She went off to college in 1979 and my next oldest sister and brother carried the torch for a while too but never to the same extent. I’m sure she toured as much as her money and available transportation allowed but it wasn’t like she ever dropped out and followed the band exclusively.
When we moved up to Maine, lots of the kids in my class were Deadheads. I was instantly welcomed by them as I knew all the songs and could sing the higher vocals in their basement jam sessions. And when a friend found himself with an extra ticket for the second show at the Augusta Civic Center in October of our senior year, he offered it to me. I was sure my mom would let me go, even though I was asking about going just hours before the show. To be honest, I didn’t have any of their albums myself and I was more interested in newer music but there’s no denying that the Grateful Dead helped shape my tastes, and I felt like one ought to go a Dead show at least once in life.
I can’t say I remember a whole lot about the show, not because I was high (although is it possible to not have at least a contact high at a Dead show?) but just because it’s been 31 years. I remember it being an unseasonably warm, sunny day and wandering around the parking lot before the show to buy a t-shirt to change into since I hadn’t had time to go home and change and my yellow and white striped button-down shirt really made me stand out. For all the concerts I have attended over the years though, this may be the one at which I saw more people just totally into being there. Completely immersed in the experience. It’s almost impossible to imagine a concert in 2015 that would have people that dialed in to a collective musical event.
My oldest sister lives in San Francisco now and she just went to the two shows in Santa Clara. Trey Anastasio is filling the Jerry Garcia role for these shows and even though I’m not a Phish fan, I can’t help but marvel at the way this has come full circle. One of those guys I was friends with in high school, went off to college where he became an early Phish fan, and subsequently became their manager. Small world.
Happy 4th of July and Happy 50th Birthday to the Grateful Dead!