Fare Thee Well, Grateful Dead

GratefulDead-fare-thee-wellSo, last night, at Soldier Field in Chicago, the Grateful Dead played what was billed as their last ever concert, which is to say that the “core four”, the four surviving members of the original band — Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann, and Mickey Hart — claim they will never again all play together after the run of five shows they just did.

I was fortunate enough to be able to watch the show via Pay-Per-View at a friend’s house, it was a very emotional experience, and today I find myself still reeling with feelings.

I’ve written numerous times, here at Fish & Bicycles about my longstanding love of the Grateful Dead and my unapologetic identification as a Deadhead. I’ve gone VERY deep with the Dead’s music over many years, and I’m so grateful for all of the fun, inspiration, and meaning it has given me and will continue to give.

One of the things that was so special about the Grateful Dead, and which partly explains why I’m so emotional about their grand finale, is that the band members were never rock stars. Instead, they felt almost like friends. After all, they cut their teeth at the Acid Tests, where they thought of themselves as participants in a communal experience, rather than hired musicians up on a bandstand, there to simply entertain the party guests.

Eventually, of course, they graduated to larger and larger venues, and were, by necessity, up on a huge stage at a distance from much of the crowd, but they weren’t egomaniacal showmen, prancing and strutting around the stage for attention, as if it was all about them. They simply made music and cared deeply that their shows should be meaningful, exploratory, and uniting experiences.

Another thing that contributed to the Grateful Dead’s appeal, especially to aspiring musicians like myself, is that, due to the improvisational approach they took to their music, pushing the envelope every night, exploring new ideas in front of a live audience, not every idea worked, a flub here and flub there, just often enough to remind you that they were human, so that you notice you still love them, warts and all, and they always pulled themselves out of the occasional train wreck, eventually.

Again, for an aspiring musician this is a powerful, powerful thing, it’s the thing that encouraged millions of people like me to pick up a guitar, learn some Dead tunes, and to stick with it, in many cases long enough to get good enough to play with other musicians, where the real fun starts.

Finally, the last element of Dead appeal derives from their hippie roots. I’ve mentioned my fondness for hippie culture before, and I still long to be surrounded by people who truly believe that love; peaceful, supportive, inclusive community; and freedom of expression are the most important things.

Last night, then, was decidedly NOT just another concert. It was a fond farewell, the end of a long, strange trip, it was friends saying goodbye to friends in all directions, it was the band saying goodbye to each other, it was Bob Weir choking up and struggling to get through the lyrics of his song Throwing Stones, and then Phil Lesh doing the same thing on his tune Unbroken Chain, at the realization that this will be the last time they will ever sing those songs with their bandmates of 50 years, it was the conspicuous and painful absence of Jerry Garcia who had been the heart and soul of the Dead, and it was the reverent, loving tribute that Trey Anastasio paid to Jerry, filling his shoes as best as he could, emulating some of Jerry’s classic tones, riffs, and licks, while bringing his own touches and voice, just as Jerry would have wanted him to do.

The show ended with one of the band’s more obscure songs, Attics Of My Life, a haunting hymn from their classic 1970 album American Beauty, a song about the power of music, and about how music is even more powerful when partnered with love and shared.

In the attics of my life
Full of cloudy dreams unreal
Full of tastes no tongue can know
And lights no eye can see
When there was no ear to hear
You sang to me

I have spent my life
Seeking all that’s still unsung
Bent my ear to hear the tune
And closed my eyes to see
When there were no strings to play
You played to me

Here, then, is that performance, which, even with crappy sound quality, moves me deeply once again. And, just to make up for the crappy sound quality, I’ve included the original studio recording, so that those not familiar with the song can hear more clearly the sublime beauty and lovely harmonies.

Fare you well, Grateful Dead, fare you well
I love you more than words can tell…

Video Fridays: Belated R.I.P. Chris Squier

chris-squierI’m WAY late in acknowledging the passing of a monster bass guitar player, the now-late, great Chris Squier of the band Yes.

I don’t love all prog rock, and I don’t even love all Yes music, but the Yes music that I do love has stuck with me for nearly 40 years, via powerful memories of songs like Yours Is No Disgrace, Starship Trooper, I’ve Seen All Good People, Roundabout, Long Distance Runaround, Close To The Edge, and And You And I getting regular airplay in the 1970s, and then, once I bought the albums, regular airplay at home, where I was entranced by what sounded like Classical music being played with Rock&Roll instruments and Rock&Roll sensibilities.

As The New York Times‘ Peter Catapano declared in his wonderful eulogy, of all the members in the band, Chris Squier Made Prog Rock Rock:

Squire, who was well known for being the band wild man, was a virtuoso of sorts who also poured a Stones-like street fighting spirit into Yes’s ethereal music, and saved many a song from descending into Hobbit-land (being human, he wasn’t always successful). Out of the mist of organ tones and castrati vocals would come a growl, disconcerting, oh-so-low, almost too low to be music, a primordial beast raising itself from the mud with a giant yawn. It was impolite, indelicate, wrong, and soon to be funky.

Indeed. Like I said. A monster bass player.

It took me no time to decide what song I would feature in this Video Fridays installment, as a testament to Chris Squier’s artistry and bad ass-ry, the first song I always think of when I think of him, Heart Of The Sunrise from the 1971 Yes album Fragile.

The song kicks off with a quintessentially wicked-fast Squire bass line, which it comes back to several times, the intro moves into a lush, slower, synth-drenched segment with seriously funky Squier bass, and there’s just wonderful bass throughout the whole song.

R.I.P., Chris, and thank you SO much for all of the wonderful music you left behind.

Headline of the Day: Threats To Male Genitalia, Part II

pacuA few weeks ago I posted a Headline of the Day installment, featuring an article in British newspaper/website The Guardian, with the cringe-inducing headline: Penis transplant patient to become a father

Well, I don’t know what it is with British newspapers, but they seem to have a very specialized interest in threats to male genitalia, evident by this latest cringe-inducing headline from another UK newspaper/website:

Testicle-munching fish species found in US lake

The Telegraph

OWIE!!!!!!!!!

You gotta love the drama they’re reaching for here:

A species of fish best-known for attacking human testicles has apparently invaded America.

It’s an invasion!!! Protect your reproductive organs! Run!!!

LOL!

And could they have picked a better photo to accompany the article? I think not! Coupled with the following bit of information, it makes for a very effective argument that men should avoid these fish at all cost!

I know I will!

“The pacu is not normally dangerous to people but it has quite a serious bite, there have been incidents in other countries, such as Papua New Guinea where some men have had their testicles bitten off…”

Squalicum Harbor Sunset

squalicum harbor

Video Fridays: Marriage Equality Edition

marriage-equalityThe news this morning, that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that states can no longer deny same-sex couples the right to marry is a major breakthrough for justice and civil rights.

We still have VERY far to go, so many areas where inequality — racial, gender, age, ability, economic, etc. — remains, here in the U.S. and around the globe, and yet today’s victory feels particularly poignant.

After all, as one of the catch phrases of the marriage equality movement points out:

Love is Love

I’m still one of those dreamers, though not the only one, who truly believes that All You Need Is Love, and we need LOTS more love to overcome the remaining inequality challenges, to end violence and war, to save the planet from global climate change.

Let all people love each other and make lifelong commitments to each other and tell me how that can have any other effect than to heal the world?!

Happy Weekend, everyone!

Headline of the Day: Wordy & Grim

AP-FOXOne slight problem with doing this Headline of the Day series: When the original source of a news item is a wire service, such as Associated Press or Reuters, and the item has been posted to a news website that has a wire service subscription, there’s no real way of knowing who has written the actual headline that has caught my attention.

In the case of today’s Headline of the Day installment, FOX News.com posted the item, which they got from Associated Press, and though we’ll never know who wrote the headline, one thing we do know is that the writer was intent on fitting in all of grim details of the story, in one of the longest headlines I’ve ever seen:

Man who hit pedestrian and drove with him stuck in car’s windshield sentenced to prison

Fox News.com

Tweet of the Day: @TheOnion

Given my recent post waxing nostalgic and all sentimental on the subject of fatherhood, including references to the common fears that seem to come with the job…

…this TOTALLY cracked me up!