Jerry & Bobby & Everything of That

I’m trying to figure out this moment, like a glimpse from the ridge, the sun just right, the river and valley streaming out, where the getting to where is gotten to and there might be nothing more. It’s the end of the first set opener – Sugar Magnolia for The Closing of Winterland on New Year’s Eve 1978. Bobby is raring to go, strumming and, well, bobbing, while Jerry watches, amused by these simple chords that we are all ready to jump and die for.And they go on, Bobby strumming and bobbing, Jerry beatific, Donna unwittingly caught in the whirligig of this remarkable everything thing.And because it’s recorded, I watch it again and again and come to the realization that a simple thing is not that at all.

Too Many Spongy Black Fungi

It was the black fungi’s texture more than anything that was intimidating – and the volume – but I like mushrooms and so ate them all while working on a screenplay about taking psilocybes at a Grateful Dead concert and expected to go on a massive involuntary trip. But it wasn’t like that

I just felt wonky and, after reviewing a few more pages, drifted off to my deep-jungle Carlos Castenadian dream-past, escaping savages in dugout canoes only to be cornered, the spears and arrows raining overhead, and then sunk by a polar bear at which point I decided to wake myself up, not wanting to be mauled, roasted or whatever was to come next. I lay in the cold stillness to consider how much we were ahead of that, that I shouldn’t be so concerned with the extra demands at work, just be happy for what I have, even if a tribal chief of the worst order was at the helm of the country, and felt like that on my way to work, until a wave of exhaustion hit me and I wrote this instead.

The Ten Worst Concerts of My Life

Concerts are not always what we expect. Indeed they can be so fraught with the promise of excitement, that they turn into just the opposite. BadticketsUnderstanding that some of the worst events have probably been permanently deleted from my brain, I offer the worst concerts which I remember:

10. Amon Tobin (Brooklyn Masonic Temple, October, 2011) Amon Tobin - ISAMA spinning electric thing mess that clacked and clanked, all so monotonous and loud.

9. Sebadoh (The Rage, Vancouver, September 1996) SebadohLiveMikalaTaylor4The highlight of the evening was the lead singer announcing that tour t-shirts were available “for anyone who still has a pulse.”

8. Bob Weir & Rob Wasserman (Ontario Place, Toronto, July 1990) 220726_198378933539730_171771132867177_538449_2519996_oBob Weir should never play lead guitar nor sing Take Me to the River again. Ever.

7. Elton John (Barclay’s, Brooklyn, October 2013) Elton John-1342899The song-writing great went through his catalogue and butchered every last one. That wasn’t Rocket Man, was it?

6. Destroyer/Dan Bejar (Miller Theater, New York, September 2009) destroyer_daniel_bejar_googleganger_1-1Bejar subjected the audience to a naval-gazing slide show and wincing music.

5. Cabaret Voltaire (Concert Hall, Toronto, May 1985) cabaretvoltaire310112wArriving two hours late, the band played a haughty 45 minutes with slaughterhouse videos as a backdrop. No encore, thank goodness.

4. Bob Dylan & Tom Petty (BC Place, Vancouver, July 1987) farmaid_2Great music transformed into distorted abominations. Like a Rolling Stone wasn’t even decipherable.

3. Jimmy Cliff (Roman Amphitheatre, Carthage, July 1989) amphitheatreCliff’s terrible Las Vegas style performance was undoubted torture for the performing ghosts from centuries past.

2. The Grateful Dead (Syracuse Dome, Syracuse, October 1984)1983-03-29warfield6Terrible sound and energy, low-lighted by Jerry Garcia missing verses and, in the end, unable to pick up his coffee off the amp.

1. The Who (CNE Stadium, Toronto, July 1980) 7104372_f496A bitter experience with fights in the stands, hollow sound and the empty realization that live music was sometimes a terrible disappointment.

Top Ten Concerts

Yes, I admit this is both anal and childish, but I like to remember the places where my thoughts worked best – even if I didn’t remember much of it at show’s end.

10. Ravi Shankar, Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto (1983) Beautiful hall, incredible music. Ravi Shankar performs at Paleo festival, Switzerland in 2005

9. Emmylou Harris, The Boot Saloon, Toronto (1992) A honky-tonk night.Musician Emmylou Harris performs during a concert celebrating musician Pete Seeger's 90th birthday in New York8. Tragically Hip, Cleveland Flats, Cleveland (1995) Canada’s greats, straight & full-on.20140504_2316477. Guided by Voices, Fillmore West, San Francisco (2002) The club is open.GBV Philly 6. Jane’s Addiction, Key Arena, Seattle (1995) Farrell and Navarro in summer dresses. perry-farrell-of-jane-s-addiction 5. Low, The Aquarium, Fargo (2012) Three full sets.Phone 061 4. My Bloody Valentine, Roseland Ballroom, New York (2008) Ears are still ringing. IMAG3757

3. Noel Hill & Tony MacMahon, Mother Red Cap’s, Dublin (1994) The pure drop in a tavern.

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2. Sufjan Stevens, Bowery Ballroom, New York (2013) The end of the world – December 21, 2112 – with a few hundred others. IMAG2066 1. Grateful Dead, Oklahoma City Zoo, Oklahoma (1985) Full moon, at a zoo.Grateful_Dead-Greek_85-1 (walstib)

Coping with the Apocalypse

Whether it’s to come by holocaust, super-storm, bio-plague or sheer boredom, Mr. Mayan has predicted that our world is to end in exactly one week: December 21, 2012. meteorsWhile the prediction is dubious at best, the exercise of what you might do if this actually were the case, is interesting. You’ve got a week. Now what? Starting today – and using the seven stages of grief – I offer my Survival Guide to the End of the World.

Today is easy. It’s all about SHOCK & DENIAL.You don’t have to do anything really.You’re numb and can deny the reality of this in order to avoid the pain. Shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once. This may last for weeks…but you only have the day. Anyway, you just need to deny what’s coming up. Nothing more.

First of all, I recommend some music. A long and involved listening to the Grateful Dead’s Dick’s Picks Volume 16, Filmore 11/8/69 is ideal. No need to think. Just relax your mind and go with it.dicks pick After this, you might consider watching the film, Superbad (Greg Mottola). It’s so excellent because it’s so stupid, one of the most genius dumb-ass films ever made.superbad And, if you are able focus yourself for any time, try and read Joseph Heller’s Catch 22. Everyone’s in denial throughout the story; nothing is as it should be. And that’s good, right? catch And finally, you should do something different. Maybe juggle or kayak. Have your fortune read– Oh, maybe not that. I’m going to see a new band: Grizzly Bear. grizzlyAnd maybe I’ll take a pedi-cab after that. Arggh! (That’s a Grizzly roar.)

Future soundtrack

A few songs have figured prominently in my head as I wrote My Bad Side and thus figure in my dream soundtrack for the film:

Jet (Paul McCartney)

Last Day of Our Acquaintance (Sinead O’Connor)

Somewhat Damaged (Nine Inch Nails)

When I Go Deaf (Low)

Alas, it seems unlikely that there will be any Grateful Dead. Dee just isn’t a Deadhead.

Good Old Dead

I failed Music in Grade 8.  Mr. Clements said I was a “capable student in theory class, but very little effort (was) shown all year instrumentally” resulting in a 47% final grade.It was the only class that I failed in school – except of course for Grade 13 Physics which doesn’t count because I didn’t go to class. (The teacher was confused: “I find it difficult to understand why a student would let himself get into a situation like this” and awarded (?) me a final grade of 21%.)I know nothing about performing music (clearly) but I am an obsessive listener. Music is magical and mysterious, all-consuming, so much more so because of its temporal nature, overwhelmingly there, and then…gone. Music is a dream I remember and must get back to.I have great regard for so many musicians – Alan Sparrowhawk (Low), Robert Pollard (GBV), Laetitia Sadier (Stereolab) and Mozart (eponymous) to cite a few – but nothing compares to the collective of The Grateful Dead. This group played over 2300 concerts spanning 1967-1995 and acquired a devoted following, worshipful during the performances as everything was offered from psychedelic (China Cat Sunflower) and traditional folk (I Know Your Rider) to country (Me & My Uncle) and rock ‘n roll (Sugar Magnolia), covering practically everyone in between (Not Fade Away), and weaving it all through the holy and endless jam…but the thing about The Grateful Dead for me isn’t so much the songs, singing along, as how remarkable it is for making my mind work.Truth be told, I was stuck as to how to write this blog and listened to The Grateful Dead’s Augusta, Maine concert (October 12, 1984) to get myself on track. That’s where the idea of posting my failing grades came from, citing the Augusta show, indeed focusing back on how the music affects my mind, not to mention helping me fix a problematic scene in My Bad Side, structuring a Middle School lesson on Film Theory and remembering to call my therapist.

The funny thing is that the members of Grateful Dead, well known for the remarkable stage camaraderie, are not so well regarded for their inter-personal skills. (Read Dennis McNally’s A Long Strange Trip for more on that.) It’s unnerving thinking about what a personal wreck Jerry Garcia was; indeed it is profoundly sad, especially knowing that he was in the thralls of heroin for the Augusta concert cited above. What do I do with that? The music is so wonderful, so crystalline and pure; it is of another world. Is that what I should have tried for my Grade 8 clarinet test? That sure would have shown Mr. Clements. Only if.