Way back in the day, between, say, 1980 and 1995, I used to go see the Grateful Dead quite a fair amount. I never sold tofu sandwiches in the parking lot, thank god, and never really went on tour, though I was known to see more than one show in a week, but I definitely saw the Grateful Dead more times than I could name or count. I was at famous Dead shows, like Lewiston and that show in Hartford where they played "Saint Stephen" after not playing it for a million years. I was at lame shows in the lame years. I saw them after Jerry woke up from the coma when they were transcendent again. I saw indoor shows and outdoor shows and New Year's shows and Chinese New Year's shows. Sometimes I would go years between shows, but then a ticket would appear, and how can you turn down a ticket to a Dead show?
So I have lots of good memories of seeing the Grateful Dead, almost all good memories, I think, it really was an enormous amount of fun, but I have a special place in my heart for the Jerry Garcia Band. I only ever saw the Jerry Garcia Band in one place, and we went back to that place last month for the first time in maybe 20 years to take M and E to see KT Tunstall, and there is a profound commentary on the shape of my life in that (the place looked exactly the same, down to the aging hippie usher who must have been there when we saw the Jerry Garcia Band, and there is probably more profound commentary on something in that).
Seeing the Dead was always a production. There were those tofu sandwiches, of course, and the twirling dervishes, the Chinese dragons on Chinese New Year and the trek to get to the show, wherever it was, the socializing and meeting up (pre-cell phones), and we'll leave out the rest of it for the sake of my mother.
But seeing the Jerry Garcia Band was always kind of relaxed, even more pure in a certain kind of you-had-to-be-there way. They weren't as great as the Grateful Dead, of course, but they actually were as great in their own way. Just Jerry up there doing his laid-back Jerry thing, and when we saw him he had these awesome Black Amazon back-up singers, and the songs I always think of when I think of the Jerry Garcia Band are "Second That Emotion" and "How Sweet It Is" (yep, The Miracles and JT himself). He used to just loopily and gently rock out those songs, with the Black Amazons wailing away behind him, and it was just awesome.
Anyway, I've been thinking about Jerry since we went to see KT Tunstall, and today in the car I was singing "Your Smiling Face," because I just read a novel with a bunch of James Taylor in it, so I've kind of been in James Taylor mode, and then M asked me to put on the radio because the softball team cheer was about to get stuck in her head (I was glad it wasn't because of my singing), so I turned the radio on right into the middle of "Second That Emotion," and I thought "James Taylor/Jerry Garcia, yes!" and it was just one of those awesome moments you only get if you spent half your life (OK, at this point a third) seeing the Grateful Dead.
(I'm sure people who are into other bands have such moments for their bands too, and more power to them, but I'm happy with my Grateful Dead moments. Which I suppose in this case could also be called a James Taylor moment. Though I'm not sure I'd want to call it a Jerry Garcia/James Taylor/KT Tunstall moment, though then again KT Tunstall was pretty fun, so why not?)
(And can I just say for the record that I never wore tie-dye or Birkenstocks to a Dead show? In fact, and I know this may be hard to believe, I have never in my life worn either tie-dye or Birkenstocks. Though my kids have had endless amounts of tie-dye. Then again, they've never seen the Grateful Dead. Though they have seen KT Tunstall. Except that E didn't see so much of it, and she wouldn't even wake up for "Suddenly." Which tells you something about how ridiculous it is to take a small child to a rock concert. Which could send me off on a long riff about the little kids at Dead shows back in the day, but it's really time for this post to come to an end.)