--If you get confused listen to the music play.....Robert Hunter, Franklin's Tower
There were moments of magical harmonic convergence and moments where the boys got lost in their jamming, no one really taking charge. But really who cares? This is the 2009 version of The Dead and warts and all, I was just happy to see them (albeit the back of their heads), hear them and shake my bones.
I met BFF Kim at Bombers Burrito Bar on Lark Street. Lark Street is a funky little street of bars, restaurants, stores and is kind of the home of whatever is hip at the moment in downtown Albany. Not to many hipsters, heads, goths or gays were out when I got there. It was too early but by the time we left for the show the place was hopping. Personally, I prefer the food at El Loco Mexican. But this isn't a restaurant review now is it? I mentioned to Kim as we left dinner, in the old days i would be fueled by Molson Golden Ale and hallucinogens, Now i wanted Starbucks or a nice herbal tea.
Before heading up to find a parking spot for the night, which in downtown Albany is the poker players version of chasing a backdoor flush and hitting an inside straight (lucky), I cruised through the Corning Preserve. Back in the late 1980's, early 90's that was the place to see and be seen pre-show. Not too much was going on down there. As I headed up Madison Avenue to Washington Park I could see the beginnings of Shakedown Street forming. It was still too early, and on a Friday, NY state workers had the parking monopolized.
Kim & I have been friends since the age of ten. She's been my partner in crime for many adventures, and along with California Rob the person I've seen the most shows with. People eavesdropping on our conversation would be like what the hell are they talking about? We can do that mind meld thing where we dont even have to finish sentences and our conversation just flows from one topic to another rather randomly. Kim, who has worked with her students on issues concerning Darfur, caught me up on how she & hubby Michael are sponsoring a family back in Zimbabwe and how she was thinking of going over to do some relief work over there. Of course Zimbabwe, being on a UN watch list isn't that safe to travel too. I'm like.... "Dude, can't you just help build a house for Habitat for Humanity or something?"
After burrito's and chat with my Earth Mother BFF we walked our middle aged bones down the hill to the Times Union Center. Shakedown Street was now in full swing. Wookies and their Wookie dogs were out in full force, including a rather awesome drum circle of Wookies. A Wookie owned dog had a lightning bolt shaved into its back fur. Kim mentions and I agree, that you can tell the weekend warriors, or fair weather deadheads by their dress. They don't look comfortable in their tye-dyes. I purchase a new tye-dye on Shakedown. Its in the style of an old Not Fade-Away tye- dye that I still own and whose color is still good but which has tons of tiny little holes in it now as its about 25 years old.
Before long, I hear a screech of "OMG Lori, I knew you'd be here!!" and catch up with a former co-worker Lynne, whose boyfriend Gary is a long time Deadhead like myself. Back in 2002 I caught most of the Other Ones show at the then Pepsi Arena from Gary's box. No box for them this time but they have floor seats. We walk past rows of glistening cycles. Satan Cycles says the banner over their table/tent. Kim tells me she's now into reading about the Hell's Angels and what their tattoo's mean. The bikers are vending energy drinks which I refer to as "Meth in a can." Kim starts laughing and about this time I start my D-List comedy shtick poking fun of Wookies, myself, bikers etc ala Kathy Griffin.
And why is it that some random freaky looking Deadhead with glazed Charlie Manson eyes always seems to get in your face and leer at you. I can never figure out if they want to kill me or get freaky with me. I'm never sure if breaking eye contact first is a good thing or should I get into a freakish stare down.
Out in front of the TU center, Albany's finest is on mounted patrol. Piles and Piles of horseshit are now everywhere. I tell Kim to watch out for horse shit. She shrugs and says shes used to it. I mutter thats right you muck your horse and sheep barn, I muck cards. Some dude in his early 40's, gets his buddies to take a picture of him squatting over the horse shit pile. I shout over too him.. "Put that picture up as your Match.com profile and you'll have a winner of a profile!!". That sends the guys clinking their drinks and into hysterics.
Inside, we stop by the Wharf Rats table and I get another "OMG... Lori!!!." I catch up with an old friend Amanda who works the tables at Dead shows and who manned the Phellowship table at Phish Hampton. I hadn't seen her in a few years but we were both at the Max Creek show in March and missed each other. Since I've been clean for 19+ years and a Deadhead for 30+ years I guess I'm considered a power of example for those struggling with sobriety and Amanda encouraged me to stop by at set break for the meet-up. Sobriety is something I never take for granted but I don't preach about it either.
Instead of going up to our seats we went down. No one hassled us except one bitch who accused me of bumping the back of her seat about two songs in. She sat slouched in her seat the entire time with a girl friend and four stoner teenagers who fell asleep during Set II. Why spend $60 a ticket 6x over to have your spawn fall asleep at a concert after smoking weed? Anyway, this downer of a chick, overheard me joking to kim about them not being our seats and she wanted Kim to stop coughing (medication Kim is on is making her lungs dry fortunately I had my asthma inhaler on me) and to show her some respect. Kim asked me what she wanted and when I told Kim she was like tell her to go fuck herself. And I stated next comment she is going to get the bird in her face and a DILIGIF. I have an idea she would rather have been at a Metallica concert or OZFest.
The guys came out on stage pretty much right on time.
Cold Rain and Snow
New Minglewood Blues
Into The Mystic (Van Morrison song.. sung by Warren Haynes)
West LA Fadeaway
Brown Eyed Women
Viola Lee Blues>
The Other One>
Comes A Time>
Not Fade Away
The opening notes of Casey Jones had everyone on their feet. I was anxious to hear what would follow. During the first set there wasn't a lot of jamming from one song into the other. They seemed to need a little bit of time between songs to figure out what direction to go. Since I was seated behind the stage off Warren and Bobby's left shoulders I could see that both Bob and Warren had sheet music up to refer too. Kim joked about that. In the old days, if Bob opened one night Jerry would open the next and you could kind of tell what song would lead into the next one by the teasers that would be thrown into the jams. Kim of course put me to the test to see if I was as skilled as I used to be calling the next song, but during the first set there was a definite end and beginning to the songs with not a lot of segue jamming.
The modern day current hardest working man in Rock & Roll, Mr Warren Haynes sounded beautiful on Van Morrison's: Into the Mystic. I confess I had to ask the dude next to me what the name of the song was and twittered Warren on VM song. West LA FadeAway sounded really jazzy with hornlike sounds and a Ratdog Vibe. Brown-Eyed Woman was a nice surprise and the first set finale of Cumberland Blues really showed us how good it could be when they fire on all cylinders. The TU center became a rocking hoedown. I actually twittered Cumberland Blues before I was actually sure it was Cumberland and said to Kim hope I'm right. I was. I noticed I beat the dead's official tweeter to the punch a few times (they were having technical tweeting issues with their I phone) and tourtweet. Sometimes it pays to be an old-timer and a fast texter even though I only have a crappy basic cell phone (no I-phone, I-touch or crackberry yet)
Intermission saw us do one circuit of the TU Center. Too many people trying to go nowhere. I hate aimless meandering crowds in my way. I am not a patient person.
Back in our seats a long long jam into Viola Lee Blues. I had never heard Viola Lee Blues or Unbroken Chain performed by the Grateful Dead. The last time I heard those two songs together in a show was at the Phil & Friends show at the Glens Falls Civic Center in 2007. Sometimes the jamming in VLB got a little lost. When the lyrics were sung it really came together. The jam out of VLB fed into a sweet, sweet Warren sung Sugaree. Warren had to change guitars mid Sugaree. I saw him signal to his guitar tech who was a few rows straight down from me onstage. Both he and Bob were having equipment issues at times Friday night. Vocally, Warren has the best/strongest voice of any of the members. Personally I always felt Brent Mydland to be the best vocalist of my era of Grateful Dead. Warren kind of has that Brent timber to his voice and could actually do a great job on some of the old Donna sung lyrics too.
The Viola Lee Sugaree jam lasted approximately 35 minutes before another long jam into The Other One with no Cryptical Envelopment lead in. I know at this point people were leaving for bathroom breaks. Drumz/space followed. Kim mentions to me that Bill Kreutzmann uses actual drum sticks whereas Micky is using what looks like tom-tom heads on his sticks. I love drums, I love percussion I love hearing Micky playing trippy stuff on the thunder machine giving Drumz a really stomp-like sound and what sounds like an electronic Xylophone. I know some old heads complain in the old days it was all with electric guitars, there was no sampling, looping or digital anything. As far as I'm concerned we are just guests at the party. Sometimes the guys are trying things that don't always work out, they are experimenting, learning the feel for each other again. There are bound to be mis-steps, wrong turns, u-turns and what the fuck is that but that was always the Grateful Dead experience.
We left Space and were treated to a sweet Comes A Time, followed by Phil's Unbroken Chain. Set II closed with Throwin Stones. I love the semi political message with the lines of a children's nursery rhyme thrown in. Yes, I've heard it Throwin stones a lot by both the Grateful Dead and Ratdog but Bobby was extremely strong on this song. The encore began with Phil's Organ Donor speech and ended with Not Fade Away. That wasn't the strongest closing NFA from the audience side or the band side for that matter as I've heard in the past, but it sure made me hope this isn't a last call reunion tour and that we will be treated to more musical goodness from these guys.
I will add that although this was by far not a perfect show, the foundation of great things to come is there. Bob is really playing well, laying down great rhythm guitar work, Phil's new bass is loud and strong and Jeff Chimenti is playing some killer old school organ. And in my opinion, who cares if Bob is wearing the same shirt and pants four shows in? Since when did dead-heads become fashion police?