Peak Times for Deadheads

No Simple Highway: The Grateful Dead Edition

It’s an interesting time to be a fan of the Grateful Dead. Jerry Garcia is gone, but his replacement is the incredibly capable and much more mainstream-popular John Mayer. Dead tour shorts, once only favored by actual hippies and boarding school bros like myself, have become prized possessions for the fashion-obsessed ($160 at Net-a-Porter if you’re inclined). And GQ, the epitome of men’s fashion media, even profiled Bob Weir (Bob Weir!) in a piece last year called King Weir, and it, like Mayer’s playing, is fantastic.

This traveling band of hippy minstrels, long disregarded as acid freaks and jam-band burnouts by many, have gone mainstream, and I’m so happy they have.

I’ve been a Dead obsessive since I was old enough to take the train into Boston and buy bootlegs cassettes at Mystery Train. My mom raised me on Ripple and Touch of Grey. And last week, I FINALLY got to see Dead & Company at Madison Square Garden. To say it felt like a homecoming would be a massive understatement. It felt superb. Every. Single. Note.

Out came John Mayer lighting up Cold Rain and Snow, with the entire arena singing backup on the chorus. And there was Bob Weir in a kilt carrying us through Ramble on Rose and eventually Morning Dew, pushing his pipes as hard as he could. And hey. there was Maggie Rogers filling the garden with her beautiful warm voice on Friend of the Devil and The Weight.

It’s almost odd to have something you love so much be accepted so suddenly and so widely by mainstream culture. Like a stoner who’s just found himself smoking legal weed for the first time, being a fan of the Grateful Dead now feels so... normal. And that’s so refreshing.

Sometimes when I look out at our world from my little cave up in the hills, I get a little down. So much of what is cool and what we give our precious attention to is so commercial. But then, for some reason, everyone decides that the Grateful Dead are great and worth paying attention too. And that’s not only life-affirming, but it’s also damn hopeful. It reminds me that the work we do - the good creative non-mainstream work we make - will endure. It makes me believe that it’s true what they say about the arc of humanity, that it’s long but it bends towards the Grateful Dead.

Dry your eyes on the wind,

John

LINKS

  • The Car Cassette Adapter Was an Unsung Hero at the Dawn of the Digital Age (Vice)

  • The Glorious Inconsistency of The Grateful Dead. (The New Yorker)

  • July 4th Weekend 2015 with Jerry Garcia + The Grateful Dead (American Routes)

  • The real story of The Pizza Tapes with David Grisman (YouTube)

  • That time the Grateful Dead Dosed The Crew Of ‘Playboy After Dark’ With LSD, (Live for Live Music)

LISTEN

A little hat tip to Relisten, the giant free trove of live performances. It’s an amazing treasure chest to explore when you have an hour or 500 to spare.

Here’s the show I just caught at MSG. 

FOLLOW

Josh Goleman knows how to photograph musicians. Follow @joshgoleman.

WATCH

And here’s the performance from that infamous LSD-laced trip to ‘Playboy After Dark’. More about that here.

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