I wrote this back in 2016, and having no place to put it, left it in draft form. Two years later, I can see no reason not to hit publish.
On a hot and sticky July night in baseball’s oldest, and perhaps most revered ballpark, the Grateful Dead took the stage.
I know. It wasn’t the Grateful Dead. There was no Phil, and, of course, there was no Pigpen, no Jerry.
On a hot and sticky July night in baseball’s oldest, and perhaps most revered ballparks, three former members of the Grateful Dead plus, “the Donna”, a guy who played for the Allman Brothers (well, not the real Allman brothers, but the band that called themselves the Allman Brothers in the late 90’s and early 2000’s) a keyboardist who’s been playing in Grateful Dead spin-offs and the guy who brought this steaming pile to the American songbook took the stage on a hot and steamy night in America’s greatest ballpark on a Friday night in July.
And it was wonderful.
Confession time. I am a huge deadhead. Yet my introduction to this
music experience sub-culture came late. I first discovered the Dead in 2007 at the age of 28. I had just purchased a VW Passat that had a combination CD/tape deck in it. I happened to pop in one of my sister-in-law’s bootleg tapes of a dead show from the late 70’s and was hooked from then on.
Fenway is a wonderful place to watch a show, but you lose out on some of the tail-gating spectacle that you see at other venues. I use the word lose there, because I’m sure there are some that are looking for that. I’m not one of them.
The show was an early start, the sun was still setting, and it was covering most of the outfield at that point. If this was a ballgame, the outfielders would no doubt have trouble fielding a high fly-ball. The heat, was real, and so was the opening jam. It was sticky, nectary sweet. From the teasing and foreshadowing of “Morning Dew” (turning out to be the penultimate song of the second set) at the :32 mark into a “Jack Straw” that Bobby sang with all of the heart and vigor of a man half his age.
The percussionists beat the tools of their trade in a mostly in-sync fashion through the night despite the heat. Newbies, Oteil and Chemeti played brilliantly.
There were times when one could sense Mayer was pulling the other, older members along with him and energizes them through a classic late 70’s set. There were also times when you could tell that the old dogs in the group were pulling back on the reins with a, “Whoa…Easy boy…”
Any question of whether or not Mayer is the right guy for this gig have long past. His Bluesy background (omitting is terrible originals) served him well that now. No, he doesn’t have the bluegrass background of Jerry, but there is magic there. He has mastered Jerry’s tendency to park himself on a section of the neck of the guitar, milk it for all it’s worth, and move on to the next section. Wash, rinse, repeat.
And he can do the weird.