"If you tell the Truth, you don't have to remember anything"
-Mark Twain
"You realize, of course, that everything I say is horseshit." -Kurt Vonnegut

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


There is only one show that the Grateful Dead played on this date in 1982 and it is available to stream on archive. Instead of writing about it, I'm going to share a paper I wrote in college. And no I was not able to major in the Grateful Dead, otherwise I would have graduated in 3 years instead of 5. Yes, I enjoyed college longer than most. The musical companion for this can be found HERE.

Song of this Bird
"Which brings to mind one more notion to add to the bit about Singers of echoes and Echoers of Songs: the notion of Dance. Not the weekend dance in the Saturday-night sense, but where you two-step to music you've heard before and always known." -Ken Kesey
There is no feeling that I have experienced that is more pleasing to my senses than music. There is an ecstasy that is created when I hear a familiar song. I have not always felt this way. It actually came to me at the second concert that I went to. This was also the second time I had seen a show by the Grateful Dead.
I went to my first show because my friend wanted someone to go with. I saved up, bought a ticket with a bracelet at a ticketmaster outlet at the Toy Box. The second show, I got the ticket when a friend had to bale because of a test the next day. 
My music collection, at the time of my second show, had grown past the Zeppelin "IV" and "American Beauty" tapes I originally owned. I now had a bootleg tape collection, about seven. Since then this collection has grown to about 500 tapes, 70 Digital Audio Tapes, and 35 CDs. It's an obsessive-compulsive thing that I have with their music.
The Show:
The 19th of October was a Wednesday night in 1994. The show was at Madison Square Garden and it was the last night of a seven night run.
The excitement started on the walk from Grand Central to the Garden. The weather was pretty good for October, it was still cool enough for a jacket but it was not freezing out. The wind can sometimes come whipping down those avenues, causing your body to temporarily lose all heat. Even though it was not cold out, I still remember welcoming the warmth of the Garden. I think that it was because I did not feel safe in the City so the Garden was a safe haven.
Our seats were in the upper mezzanine. We were on Jerry's side, which means we were on the right side of the stage. There was no one in front of us at the start of the show. I guess they practice what I do nowadays, they moved to better viewing seats. It is not that we could not see the band, it is just that we could not see them as well as some one lower. I did not care about where we sat, I was happy to be there.
The Music:
"The Fat Man Can Really Play" -SW Amoroso
We knew that two things were going to happen; one was that a Bobby song was going to the opener -because a Jerry song had opened the previous night- and that during the second set we were going to be engulfed by Drums and Space. Everything else during the course of the night was left undecided.
When the lights went out, we immediately took out one of our pre-rolled lumpy joints. We got stoned as we danced to the opener "Feel Like a Stranger." Fitting, considering our walk down the New York streets. I had this style of dancing that I had adopted from this forty-year-old guy that got me stoned at my first show. What I would do is make two fist and place one on top of the other in the middle of my chest, as my elbow would be kept on my sides. Then I would rock my head from side to side. It was the Truckin' dance. It didn't matter what the song -the rocking "Bertha," the slow bluesy "Spoonful," of the cowboy "El Paso"- I would be there Truckin'.
About forty-five minutes into the set, Jerry stepped back and started a riff where he walks up the guitar then circles back, almost to where he started but not exactly. Looking at the other members of the band; there was a sequential drop of the bass and drums, the easy strumming of the rhythm, and the light piano. It all fit together so effortlessly. It stopped me. For the first time all night, I had stopped my Truckin' and was only looking at the band. "All I know is something like a bird within her sang." He sang so elegantly. I did not have this song on one of my bootlegs but it felt familiar. It so naturally fit my mood and my space.
There were now two older guys in front of us and they called the song title, "Bird Song." They had started to smoke a bowl of hash and it filled our section with it scent, which is a cross of pinesap and marijuana. The lights on the stage were a shade of light blue that you can only find on one of those sixty-something Dodges. For the first time in my life, I was feeling the music flow threw me. It started in my toes. It tickled my tingling feet and gently shook a wave up through my legs and up to my body and head. Then the energy traveled down my arms, releasing my elbows from my side and breaking my fist. My arms shot up in the air before they fell into beat with the rest of my body. For the first time, I was in tune with the song. I felt like a puppet and Jerry was the puppeteer; he was making my body move. It seemed like I had known this song forever, even though I do not know if I had ever heard it.
"Tell me all that you know and I'll show you, story and rain." After the verse, the band broke from the song structure and opened the song up to a musically improvised period. Jerry Garcia has the uncanny ability of picking up on the feelings and thoughts of nineteen hundred people and ciphering how to demonstrate this intuition, musically. He played my thoughts and the band followed his lead. I could not control my body, I was jumping, spinning, swaying, bouncing, and dancing all to the sound of his guitar. About ten minutes in this blinding mist of music Jerry hit a chord progression where he was slamming an A, then glimmering a D, as he returned to belting the A. This caused me to start head banging until he hit an A note twice then yanked that to a brief B before playing the calming C#minor. Then I sang the break with the band, which was funny because I was not sure they were still playing the same song. I was lost in the music but still right in the middle of it.
I remember repeating the last line of the verse, "Tell me all that you know and I'll show you, storm and rain." This line ripped right through me. I think that I replayed that line in my head every hour of every day for at least a week after the concert.
There some things that happen and you almost immediately forget that they ever occurred. Than there are other events that you can never forget, like this "Bird Song" experience. It is an experience that will always be there with me, one that I constantly relive. Every time I listen to that tape. But when I am not listening to the tape, I can relive it in a more vivid way.
Since that event I have felt that there is some sort of mystical connect between myself in the band, but I'm not the only one. There are millions of Jerry's Kids out there. We all feel a connection to a man that rarely shows emotion or speaks on stage. This link can take fifteen minutes like my "Bird Song" experience, or it could take three minutes in a "Beat It On Down The Line." This connect has extended to my family because when I hung up that phone on August 9th, I was not the only one to mourn the passing of Jerry Garcia. My whole family mourned the loss of Garcia, and they did not do it to appease me, they were all generally sadden.
I am the only DeadHead in my family. I adopted a dog recently and named her after a different Dead song. My dad suggested Garcia but I went with Althea. My family understands the Dead's hold on me but they do not understand the connection.
My parents recently went to San Francisco, which is the birth place of the Grateful Dead, and on their visit they did some shopping. They got all the kids some sort of Grateful Dead tee shirt, which is cool but what impressed me the most is my father got himself a "Grateful Dad" hat.
This "Bird Song" experience has changed my life. My life would not be complete if it was not for Jerry Garcia and the song of this bird.
That's it. I had to try to watch myself, to not edit it more than I wanted to as I transcribed it. The computer I originally wrote this on got fried. And thankfully my parents never threw it out all my old papers. As some might know, I am now a father and my son is Jerry.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Love this post....tears in my eyes! Your Niece and Goddaughter is named Scarlett after Scarlet Begonias too! I (your sister) am equally a dead head from your influence!! xoxo