Sooner or later, it all gets real. This isn't a Grateful Dead line. It's a Neil Young thing. It' s how I feel after immersing into the Grateful Dead menagerie for the weekend. Sure, the music was decent. But the circus surrounding the concerts at Soldier Field was better. Where have all these people been existing for the last 30 years? How do they get by?
In the end, the Grateful Dead did what we do in radio a lot: they rolled something out that wasn't ready to be rolled out. It wasn't as good as it could be and in the process of rushing for some sort of payout they didn't hit the mark, some people saw right through it, and it's probably a good thing that they retired for good last night - after a huge payout, of course.
Can it apply to the situation of Joyce, who called the radio show this morning? Look at my notes. Joyce had an almost unbelievable opening line to her live on-air phone call.
My son killed himself over the weekend.
Yikes. So in a flash I had to make an executive decision of what to do with Joyce and her phone call. I let it seep into me (which is the best way to make any decision) and I plodded forth, allowing her some leeway:
Why did he do it? Why?
Evidently her 46-year-old son had an 11-year-old adopted daughter from China. But a little seeped out of Joyce's pleadings. He had lost his job, had trouble finding another one... and maybe a little trouble at home. And pop. Her other son sat her down yesterday.
Mom, I got something to tell you.
Joyce tells her story on the air. And I have to let her talk. I want to let her talk. I can feel the pain in her voice. So can you. She sounds like one of my Polish aunts. Joyce sounds like one of your (.... ish) aunts. Listen to the podcast when she goes into a few words about... What's wrong with the world. And she finishes with
It's gotta be a dream. I'm gonna wake up.
In this situation, Bob Weir's and Phil Lesh's assurances last night at 11:51pm - We will get by. We will survive - do not apply.
In other equally sad and powerful happenings on the morning show, we again talked about Lauren Calvillo. She was sitting on her porch with some children last week in "Little Waco," not too far from the radio station, and she was shot and killed. Details appeared in an article by Sarah Reese of The Times. A really well-written article by a journalist I do not know. (Or, as is more likely, I've met her several times and just forgot.)
It gets more real. As an infant, Lauren had cancer. She endured a lotta chemo and steroids and pulled through. At 12, she had gall bladder surgery. And at 16, after taking a couple of years of being bullied at Hammond High, she was shot on her front porch
Trying to herd the children into the house for safety.
If you'll remember, last week I drove live on the air to the house where Lauren lived and died. That, too, is in the podcasts if you give a shit. Read the message of the little kids.
I'm 7 years old. I want to live. Please stop the shooting.
That's what is on one of the posters on the home where Lauren lived and died in Little Waco. It is infinitely more powerful than any Grateful Dead moment over the weekend, which is not what I expected. I wanted something out of the weekend and I am left wanting. A little empty inside.
Now, after tangentially entering the worlds of Lauren Calvillo and Joyce, I am not empty. There is no room for a missing piece because there is only empathy and sadness. Whether or not the Grateful Dead gave me what I wanted is irrelevant.
What is relevant is what Lauren Calvillo's mom said in The Times to Sharon Reese I haven't met. You must read the movement as a whole or it won't be nearly as powerful... and devastating.
Hubbard said she would like to see people lining the streets during her daughter's funeral procession Tuesday from Kish Funeral Home... to All Saints Church... "I want a million people standing there to take back our city and show the gangs that we will stand together as a community to protect our children from the violence of the streets," Hubbard said.
There is little to say about this right now. I'm scheduled to be on the air tomorrow until 9:35 and I hope like hell that it gives me enough time to go stand on Calumet Avenue to pay my respects, to take my personal stand... live on the radio. Which is where I belong. Not in the parking lot outside Soldier Field in a tie-dye shirt sneaking pictures and drinking craft beer. Not in the bar of the Congress Hotel talking to DeadHeads arriving from around the country. Not in the Field Museum admiring all of the beautiful envelopes that were sent to Stinson Beach requesting Grateful Dead tickets. Certainly not in section 112, row 19, seats 7-10, which were horrible fucking seats for a concert. Couldn't hear anything Sunday night. Glad, at least, that on Friday night when Alexis and I took the daughters that we sat in 133, row 12, outside the overhang.
I belong on the radio, taking a call from a mom whose son recently killed himself - Why? Why did he do it? - and talking the tough talk about a 16-year-old girl killed on her porch by gang losers. Talk to you later.
.... 7:49pm. It's later now. A huge, quick storm rolled through, knocking power out for a good portion of Hammond. I had to leave a wake all the way up in Whiting to go turn the transmitter on. That's what you do in local family terrestrial radio. No shit.
So this was the Chicago Tribune headline:
Slack tribute to the Dead: Without Garcia, band lacks chemistry it developed over its three-decade run
Okay. So I agree with most of that. It looked as though Weir and Lesh were deliberately making sure that they were in charge now, without Jerry around. The irony may be that the two best musicians on the stage were Roger Hornsby and Trey Anastasio.. yet they weren't used enough.
Without Garcia... this was - at best - a Grateful Dead tribute show, a celebration of a remarkable legacy that reunited Lesh, Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart from the 60s lineup... Despite the formidable chops of the newcomers, the show developed little pace, with slack arrangements and some deep cuts that felt indulgent rather than revelatory.
I agree. The deep cuts especially. Really, a need to play Cassidy and New Potato? Indulgent, for sure. I agree almost unilaterally with this reviewer from the Trib, Greg Kot.
(The band's chemistry) evolved over three decades and 2,000 shows. Introduce new or relatively new characters to the cast - even ones as accomplished as Anastasio and Hornsby... and a new chemistry must be created, and that's something that can't happen over a couple of shows or a few weeks of rehearsals.
... the tentative interplay of what is essentially a new band playing the Dead's songs. Anastasio's enthusiasm.. was evident , from the look of wide-eyed wonder on his face in mid solo or the smile that he couldn't contain when he saw the fans respond to a classic such as "Jack Straw."... But the guitarist often appeared to be walking on eggshells, careful to defer to Weir and Lesh...
So there. Greg Kot said it, not I. But I mean it just as well. My daughters and I, as I look back, had a perfect moment during the first set on Friday night. And that's about it. The second set, as Kot says, was indulgent with deep cuts. And all of Sunday, despite being billed as the last show ever, lacked emotion and rhythm.
So it's after dinner. I'm writing this blog that nobody reads. Still thinking about that young girl from Hammond High shot and killed on her front porch. Cancer as a kid, gall bladder surgery, bullied at school. And then shot trying to protect the littler kids on her porch. Her funeral's tomorrow. I will try my darnedest to stand on Calumet Avenue as the hearse carrying her body turns toward All Saints. And somehow broadcast it.