4:15pm on Saturday the 4th of July.
Mission accomplished. Alexis, Jeanie, Jackie and I attended the first "Fare Thee Well" show last night at Soldier Field. Phil opened with "Box of Rain" and then also played "Bertha" and "Jack Straw" in first set. Amazing moment with perfect weather off Lake Michigan and the Grafeful Dead (sans Jerry) bursting in to "... wind and water... Believe it if you need it and if not just pass it on."
And dancing there with my wife and two daughters almost 30 years to the day that I last saw the Grateful Dead. Two guys named Dave sat to my right, one also with a 22-year-old and a 20-year-old and some guys behind us and their wives who smoked weed almost the entire concert. Everyone was doing it all around us. I'm still a little foggy about the order of the second set.
And I'm a little bit sad. I don't know why. I had looked forward to that concert last night for a long fucking time. I talked about it on the air even and my wife and daughters knew how much it meant to me for them to see a side of me, through music, that they had only heard about. Thirty years ago I walked around Berkeley and bounced around California as a wholly different person than I am today. I wanted my wife and daughters to breathe in the music as I did and still do. I wanted magic... and instead I got "New Potato Caboose." Time to go to a family pool party. Perfect day for it.
Friday night Set One:
“Box of Rain”
“The Music Never Stopped”
Friday night Set Two:
“Fire on the Mountain”
“New Potato Caboose”
“Playing in the Band”
“Let It Grow”
“Help on the Way”
Encore - “Ripple”
8:51pm on the Fourth of July. Sitting on my bed listening to a live stream of the Dead show tonight at Soldier Field, some 25 miles from here.
I suppose if you walked outside and you listened real closely… if you got your heart down to Gordie Howe levels, you could hear “Deal” dance across the darkening water of Lake Michigan.
Wait until that deal go down
Don’t you let that deal go down
That’s if it wasn’t the Fourth of July. There’s a contrast of sounds invading the bedroom. There is the beauty of “Deal,” which I would have loved to have heard last night at the Dead. It’s playing on shitty computer speakers but it’s still the Dead and it’s still pretty much live, if you account for the six or seven second delay of encoding and unencoding.
Last night? You wanna know about last night’s show? Yes, as you can tell from the photos, wife Alexis and daughters Jeanie and Jackie and I had a great journey in attending the first of three Dead shows at Soldier Field. It’s a wacky weekend, with every freak from the Midwest walking around Grant Park, Wabash, Field Museum, don’t you let that Deal go down.
This should sum it up for you how it went. Daughter Jackie texted me this morning.
Thanks Dad Always remember it
Always remember it. I don’t know if that’s a command – Dad, when you’re feeling low, just remember you, mom and Jeanie and me dancing in section 133, row 14, seats 9-12, on Friday, July 3, 2015. The night, the moment, the sunset, the music – the family – we had a perfect moment and no one can ever take that away from you. Believe it if you need it, dad, if not just pass it on.
Or was it this? – It was a night that I will always remember, Dad. Mom and you dancing to Fire on the Mountain and me and Jeanie getting along really well. I will always remember the Grateful Dead concert of July 3rd, 2015, at Soldier Field in Chicago.
Does it really matter? Daughter Jackie, who doesn’t like to be part of my blog or my facebook or anything like that, had to get up and wait tables starting at 9am today. “I made 90 bucks today. Lots of Deadheads. I told them I went to the show last night and how they played “Bertha,” which used to be my mom’s name, and so they liked me and tipped pretty well.
I never saw so many dredd locks in one place before either, dad. Where do all of these people live?”
I don’t know, Jackie. But they have certainly come out from under the cellar floorboards to invade Chicago.
Alexis and Jeanie and I got up relatively early this morning and checked out of the Congress Hotel and waited for nearly an hour as they tried to locate our car. “It’s a Lexus. Charcoal gray. A little scuff on the back bumper where I backed into a telephone at my sister’s house on New Year’s eve. Looks like someone rubbed white shoe polish on the rear panel. I don’t know how that is. A telephone pole is brown and the car is dark gray, but the stain comes out white.”
“We’ll find your car shortly, sir. We’re sure it’s in the garage somewhere.”
It turns out that the Congress Hotel has been known in the past as “Hippie Hotel.” Someone at the show last night said that to me so it must be true. Alexis and Jeanie and I walked through this mass of humanity to the south steps of the Field Museum, where we waiting patiently for Jackie to get off of work at the restaurant and take the L down to Roosevelt. Several people offered me drugs, which I declined. I must admit to a slight bit of hesitation when a guy who went to high school with one of my cousins came by and asked me if I’d like a sip of a special tea he had brewed.
“I love tea. Drink it every morning. But no thanks.”
I meant to do some interviews of Deadheads from around the country, but I was too caught up in the moment of hot Dead chicks in Uggs and burly Deadheads in tiedyes and bandanas and children in colorful tiedye jumpsuits and policemen in bulletproof vests and, of course, an amazing early evening sunblast over Lake Michigan. Jackie finally took the train down from Lakeview and when she finally showed up we took a picture on the steps of the Field Museum, where there’s a Grateful Dead exhibit going on. It’s a picture that of which I can say that I will Always Remember It.
The Dead, with Trey, Phil and Bobby out front, and Hornsby hanging off to the side and Frick and Frack drummers and more… started out with "Box of Rain," which is one of my favorite Dead songs. Then they hit JackStraw and Bertha and you get the picture. The first set was strong, with Trey taking Jerry’s strengths and improving on some but of course it wasn’t Jerry and we all knew that.
The guy next to me, Dave, and his other buddy, Dave, pointed to the moon coming out in the second set during “Fire.”
“Jerry’s here,” Dave said. “His ghost is alive.”
I considered this for a moment, and then continued on with my face in the back of my wife’s hair and watching my two daughters bop to one of Jerry’s best songs. We danced hard to "Fire" and "Scarlet Begonia" but besides those two, and maybe an acoustic version of Ripple as an encore, the second set didn’t match the energy of the first set.
How could it? They opened with Box of Rain, which is the last song they played with Jerry ever… and it was on the very stage. It was perfect. There were four, maybe five, perfections –
Phil singing Box of Rain, full voice, tight beat
A lotta people were all giddy about New Potato but I never liked that much anyhows, and they rarely ever played it live. All in all, I’ll listen to my daughter’s admonition to “Always Remember It” even when I get old enough (hopefully) that I don't remember what I was supposed to Always Remember in the first place.
….. There’s fireworks blasting all over Hammond, Munster and Highland, Indiana, and Lansing, Illinois. Sounds like a warzone. And someone named “TaperRob” is streaming the Dead show live from Soldier Field. It’s intermission so you just have low guitar riffs in the background. I don’t know if this is legal or not. It’s on Ustream and they keep popping in a Best Buy commercial so it must be legal. Best Buy wouldn’t buy time on an illegal stream.
So while it’s intermission on Ustream, and while fireworks explode all over the Region are starting… I gotta tell you that I’m a unexpectedly sad and anxious right now. And it's been that way all day… It actually started last night during “Ripple,” the encore.
Now if you’re an experienced DeadHead, and you bought in to the whole scene, kit and caboodle, then you’re probably thinking – your drugs wore off, dude. That’s all it is. The blacks set in on the way down. It’ll pass.
No, that’s not it at all. There were 45 to 60-year-old men and women all around us, and many of them were smoking pot like it’s going out of style (which it very well may be), and I’m not gonna say if I turned the stuff down when it came my way. Let’s not go there. I will admit, however, to drinking a continous stream of 16-ounce Coors Lights and that was kinda cool, except for having to go to the bathroom every 30 minutes of so. Spent a good quarter of the whole time there waiting in line, looking at a poster of Walter Payton.
No, it wasn’t a drug comedown. I understand what that might be. It was something else. I’ve thought about it all day, why the sadness mixed with anxiety. It followed me around when Alexis, Jeanie and I went to the home of Maria and Timmy Peters for a Fourth of July party. All my nieces and nephews and sister and dad and others were there… but I carried around this churning of agitation and a little bit of, not sorrow, but its milder second cousin.
And I’ve thought about. Why the anxiety, the sadness? Here’s a couple stabs at it.
1. I just don’t know if my kids really enjoyed the show as much as I wanted them to. That’s not fair to them but I’ve been looking forward to this weekend for months. A chance to show my girls what I once was. That’s a lotta pressure to put on one four-hour show at Soldier Field in the middle of summer. And it’s a lotta pressure to put on my girls. I just wanted them to love the music, the scene, the sense that anything can happen as much as I did, do. I know they loved seeing me happy and dancing and into something really deeply (because I’m after all “reserved” dad all the time) but I’m not sure whatever it was that I wanted the show to convey to them actually happened.
2. It’s been 30 years since I last saw the Grateful Dead live. That would have been at the Greek Theater in Berkeley. I would have walked across campus up Strawberry Canyon with a bunch of other freaks and we would have most certainly been freakin. No shit, the concert last night, with the perfect moments of having the wife and kids there, made me somehow ask that question that never makes any sense – what the fuck have I done with my life? I’ve most certainly made mistakes, had failures, felt grief and sorrow. Somehow on the lengthy walk in a crowd of freaks and with my wife and daugters, it seemed as though I could feel the weight of 30 years of sorrow, failures, humiliation and hate all at once. It was too much and I found myself physically shaking my head just to chase the whole feeling away.
3. And there’s this last bit of reality that might be, like castles burning, bringing me down a little bit. And that is the fact that tomorrow night at Soldier Field is scheduled to be the last show ever of the core four that are left. Bob, Phil and Frick and Frack. That means that it’s over. The whole shebang. This saddens me. And even though I’m going to the show tomorrow night, I’m sad as shit that it’s all gonna be over. It’s like going to a funeral and that will always make you sad, especially if you knew the guy or woman… as intimately as I have felt that I have always knows the music of the Grateful Dead.
So there. I wanted to tell you how I’m feeling since the end of last night’s show. Exhausted and anxious and aching (walked 12 miles yesterday, according to daughter Jeanie’s FitBit) and sad. Just sad. All day long I keep asking Jeanie – did you have fun last night?
Dad, you keep asking me that. Yes, I had a great time.
Did you, really?
I just want to type long enough for the Grateful Dead to start up again after intermission on this livestream. But that might be a while. Last night they took an hour and ten minutes to come back to life… and then, as mentioned, the second set didn’t match the perfection of the first set. Tomorrow… will be a better day. I’ll feel a lot better about going to a funeral for a friend I haven’t seen in a long time, like 30 years.