Summer is in the air. Wait, or is that weed? Whatever it is, it smells good and won’t last but a short time.
Dead & Company rolled in to Blossom Music Center for “an evening with” on September 7, for what is oddly enough, one of the more intimate shows on the tour, which includes stop at venues twice the size including Citi Field in NYC and Chicago’s historic Wrigley Field.
Sometime in the very early 90s, Grateful Dead rolled into the now-leveled Richfield Coliseum. For no other purpose than self-amusement, my father took me to neighboring Peninsula to have dinner at The Winking Lizard and gawk at the “Dead Heads,” the loyal following of fans that traversed the country to watch The Grateful Dead. The small-town police, equally curious, watched along with us as the Dead Heads poorly tried to conceal their marijuana before enjoying ten-cent wing night. I’d never seen a man with long hair, had never been exposed to a chest-length beard, and had only seen tie-dye shirts at church camp. I asked my dad what the smell coming from the parking lot was. “It’s a dead skunk. I almost hit it on the way in,” he replied. Not even in double-digits for age yet, I took that at face value.
Formed from the ashes of one of the pioneer jam bands, The Grateful Dead, who paved the way for groups like Phish, Umphrey’s McGee, Yonder Mountain String Band, and so many more; so much has changed, yet so much remains the same.
The changes: Dearly departed principal member Jerry Garcia went to join Heaven’s house band in 1995, effectively ending the era of The Grateful Dead proper. Nobody can ever replace an artist such as Garcia and what he brought to the group.
The great thing about Dead & Company? Replacing Garcia isn’t the point. When Dead & Company formed with Grateful Dead members Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, and Bob Weir along with guitarist extraordinaire John Mayer, keyboardist Jeff Chimenti and bassist Oteil Burbridge, the group became more of a celebration of Grateful Dead; not an imitation or replacement.
The first of two sets kicked off with a cover of Sam Cooke’s “Good Times.” Good times, indeed. I’m too young to have attended a Grateful Dead concert prior to their demise, but fortunate enough to see one of my guitar heroes, John Mayer, alongside surviving members, performing many GD songs, that I can only imagine how surreal the fan vibe must have been back in yesteryear.