Dead & Company – The Long Strange Trip Continues
Dead & Company at Citi Field – Night 1
On a perfect NYC night, Dead & Company kicked off the first of two nights at Citi Field in a beautiful and mesmerizing fashion. The band was on fire from the opening notes of a funky, dance inducing “Shakedown Street”, and only grew hotter as the night cooled off to the ending notes of “Going Down the Road Feeling Bad”.
Balloons floated through the air, fans twirled and swayed in a hypnotic dance display, and the crowd sang in unison to all their favorite songs. I feel deeply grateful (no pun intended) and humbled that I got to experience this show not only as a photographer and writer, but as a life-long Deadhead.
You see, this was my 100th anniversary show! I only saw the Grateful Dead 42 times before Jerry’s passing. It was one of those days that shakes you to your core. You remember exactly where and what you were doing, for the rest of your life. Luckily, the music never stopped. From the ashes rose many creative, inspiring, and magical iterations of the Grateful over the last 23 years. Further, The Other Ones, The Dead, Ratdog, Phil and Friends, Rhythm Devils, and Billy and the Kids to name a few. For all of these wonderful combinations, there always seemed to be a little something missing. You really couldn’t put your finger on it, but it was tangible and you felt it through your being. That is, until John Mayer along with Jeff Chimenti (Ratdog) and Oteil Burbridge (Allman Brothers) joined founding members Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart to form Dead & Company in 2015.
Dead & Company is not the Grateful Dead. Dead & Company is not a tribute band either. Dead & Company is a unique evolution of the Grateful Dead music to a new and magical place that never existed before. Yet even in its 3 years of existence, the band has kept growing, experimenting, adding new tunes, and going boldly where no one has gone since 1995. In the beginning of this segment of the tour, John Mayer wrote on Instagram “it’s the honor of a lifetime to convert my love for this music into the further telling of this beautiful, timeless story with some of its brilliant authors.” After experiencing this incredible show, it’s the never-ending greatest story ever told.
Deadheads are a community of fans that love the Grateful Dead and their music. In historical terms, “Deadhead” is believed to be first coined in 1971 for the legions of fans that went to every show possible. To receive news about the Grateful Dead, a mailing list and newsletter was created. As the years have passed and the list growing to tens of thousands, it morphed into the digital age with an email list and an online newsletter that has grown to almost a 100,000 fans with no end in sight. In 1971, Deadheads officially started taping every single concert, to preserve the heritage of the music, and to share it with other fans. The recording were blessed and encouraged by the band.
The exchanging of tapes between fans is referred to as the “original napster.” From the onset, a code of honor dictated that all recordings were to be exchanged for free and no money exchanged. This policy continues to this day and you can find all shows in digital format on Archive and Etree. Most importantly, keep your ticket stub from each show that you attend! Every Summer 2018 Dead & Company ticket comes with a free audio recording of the show. All you need to do is scan or type in your ticket barcode at http://www.nugs.net/scan to unlock your stream or download it to your computer. To support this habit of experiencing as many shows possible on a tour, Deadheads created a Shakedown Street at every show.
Shakedown Street is an area, usually in the venue parking lot, that is devoted to vending both before and after the show.
From hot food, cold drinks, and snacks to homemade crafts, clothes, crystal/stones, it’s a place for Deadheads to sell their wares to make enough money to get to and into the next show. Going on tour with the band is a ritual of life for some.
By selling or trading their goods, it affords the fan to travel around the country with the band at minimal expense.
The CitiField Shakedown Street was distributed throughout the many lots at the Stadium instead of one big area.
Even if you didn’t buy anything, it’s a great place to meet and see beautiful kind souls interacting with each other. It’s also an interesting site to people watch, take pictures, and bask in the smell of grilled food and patchouli oil.
Going back to the show, the show coincidently opened with a near 15-minute long jam of “Shakedown Street”. Complete with a funky disco ball spinning on the screen behind the band, the song spun into a classic rollicking “Alabama Getaway”. Things got a bit slowed down for a tasty “Loser”, followed by an incredible bluesy cover of Elmore James’s “It Hurts Me Too”. John Mayer just absolutely nailed the vocals and guitar work on this beautiful song.
Bob Weir’s vocals were on-the-money and gritty for the country anthem “Me & My Uncle”. A joyous 25,000 strong “Sugaree” sing and dance along ensued from the Uncle’s passing but luckily for all of us, “The Music Never Stopped”. It is still alive and flourishing and this unique song version segued into the set closing “Easy Answers.”
After a 45 minute set break, Dead & Company opened up the second set with a jammy, jazz fueled version of John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme”. During most of the song, the stage was bathed in a rich and trippy purple light. As the song ended, the familiar bass bomb of the “The Other One” was replaced with a piano bomb from Chimenti. The tempo quickened and Mayer was seen jumping up and down to the beat of the jam. One of the spaciest “Other Ones” I’ve ever experienced morphed into the California hymn “Estimated Prophet”. Bobby’s voice sounded great and was energetic as ever. John Mayer gave us a long and dazzling “Althea”, trading fiery solos with Chimneti throughout the song. If not all of this was not enough, up next was the much-beloved Dead classic “Terrapin Station”. Are you kidding me? I’ve never seen so much exploratory jamming on classic songs, one after another, in all the shows I’ve seen.
“Drums” gave part of the band a break as Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart led us in a beat-driven drum circle with special guest Oteil Burbridge joining in for part of it. The band reappeared for a “Space” journey to a distant planet and then landed into the ending of “The Other One”. Bobby offered up the sad ballad “Days Between”, in which the title is a reference to the days between Jerry Garcia’s birth and passing dates in August. This was the only new song debuted at this show. The set ended with “U.S. Blues”, a joyous summertime song reminding us of previous Grateful Dead tours, friends, and fun to the glee of the crowd
An impeccable and blazing “Going Down The Road Feeling Bad” capped the night as images of Chris Charuki, the bands longtime production manager who passed away in 2017, were shown on the screen as a tribute. In addition, Bob Weir who wore a gray shirt all night, changed into a Misfits t-shirt that was previously worn by Chris. A fitting end to a magical night that left the crowd buzzing as they exited CitiField.
In the end, this 100th anniversary show was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. It’s in my all-time top-10 list of Dead shows. The band just crushed it from beginning to end. The quality of the music has transcended even my wildest expectations since I last saw them a year ago. With new additions to the set list and rearranging songs into a completely new arrangement. Everything seems fresh and new, even though it’s old and familiar. In my humble opinion, John Mayer is now the leader and driving force of the band, taking the music to places where it’s never been before. A high, like no other high, and without the drugs. A place to spiritually uplift you, to become one with everyone else in the stadium including the band, and to forget about everything except what was happening before your eyes and in your ears.
Dead & Company coming to a venue near you, don’t miss it, you won’t regret, and you will certainly not forget it. Lose the expectations and accept the possibilities. Your heart, soul, and mind will thank you for it.
Peace and love to you all.
Internet Archive: https://archive.org/details/etree