It sounds funny in retrospect, but really, it all started in a parked car, in the driveway of my friend's parents house in New Jersey. We had worked together for about a year, during my last year of high school, and it was the summer before I went off to college and I was biding my time until my release to freedom. It was one of those hot summer days, where it's too humid to actually do anything, so we sat in his air conditioned car, listening to music. He - I don't remember his name now - asked me if I liked the Grateful Dead and I proceeded to explain how I hated that loud, heavy metal crap. I said it pretty authoritatively too, what with having just graduated high school and being so smart and worldy about everything. He looked at me as if I was speaking Russian and said, "Huh? It's not heavy metal." "Yes it is", I said, "it's like that Black Sabbath shit, isn't it?" He laughed and then smiled, as if he was about to reveal some big secret to me that only a few people know. I remember him reaching over and pulling Workingman's Dead out of his glove compartment, and popping it into his 8-track player. Yeah, I said 8-track, go ahead and laugh now and then you can finish reading this story!
So he puts in the album and instead of hearing crashy heavy metal, I heard the most beautiful music pouring out of his car speakers. Music that was melodic, meandering, and that had lyrics woven into the most stunning poems I'd ever heard.
"Maybe you'll find the answer, in some direction, where it's been waiting to greet you..."
"When I had no dreams, you dreamed them for me..."
"There is a road, no simple highway...that path is for, your steps alone."
"It's just a box of rain, or a ribbon for your hair, such a long, long time to be gone, and a short time to be there..."
I couldn't imagine writing such stunningly gorgeous lyrics. They were, quite literally, lyrical. They unfurled themselves like delicate silk ribbons, floating on a breeze across a field. And as I explored this music more deeply, the storytelling mesmerized my soul. I felt like I was sitting in a candlelit tent in some Arabian Nights realm and this band was Scheherazade, enthralling me with these captivating tales of forgotten places, corners of the universe where mystical things happen on a regular basis. Tales of love both requited and unrequited. Epic battles of good and evil and the human condition. But everything was wrapped up in these precious stories of cowboys, gamblers, men on the run, sailors, soldiers and fair maidens - each one wrapped with a musical ribbon that, as it unraveled, the story came to life, leaping into the air between the band and the audience. Each one, waiting to be deciphered by the listener, each listener's experience different from one another.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to turn you into a Deadhead, I'm just trying to explain something that's really, honestly, sort of unexplainable. I mean, just look at the guys who created this music. A motley bunch of guys who weren't particularly good looking by today's standards, but their musical souls, ahhh! There was a never-ending pool of stories that they kept pulling up from that well, one bucketful at a time, and each one both quenched the listener's parched psyche, and at the same time left us all thirsty for more, as if we were wandering some sort of musical desert desperately seeking to quench this audible thirst we felt. Like the ragtag band, we too, were a mishmash of all kinds of people - students, doctors, lawyers, professors, off the gridders, hippies, parents and grandparents - all coming together for one reason - to listen to the music play and to dance the night away, like some tribal ritualistic dance that has been passed down from one generation to the next, without words, just through a shared experience. To experience that moment when the outside world faded into black, and the only thing present was an aliveness of story and color that the music created, captivating us all, transporting us from city to city, town to town, like a roving circus of musicians and audience, moving as one entity across the country and back again. I saw many towns back then, met many people, experienced many things. All of which I'd never have done had it not been for this music.
There is a new incarnation of the Dead today, and while there are key voices missing, there are enough original voices remaining to conjure up the incantations needed to create the magic. As one of the original voices always says at the end of a show now, it's a collaborative relationship between the band making the music, putting it out to the audience, and the audience receiving it and giving it back to the band, creating a unique synergy that is never the same. Like a shamanistic ceremony, every night is different, every song never played the same way twice, as it's always been and, hopefully, as it always will be. There are times when I can let the music play throughout my body, dancing and enjoying the moment, and then in the next second I feel hot wet tears, unstoppable from the palpable loss of not having the dearest voices still present. And yet, I can hear those missing voices coming through the music, and I know that even though I don't really believe in religion, or heaven and hell, I know with absolute clarity, that the spirit of the missing voices is present in those moments, guiding the band towards a new path, a new direction, a new way of playing a particular song that night. And in those moments, I feel so incredibly lucky. Lucky to have been turned on to this music that touches the inner core of my being in such a visceral and tribal way, and lucky that even today, when so many of my old friends have fallen from their musical path, I can still enjoy this music live, in the company of friends old and new. Lucky to have this touchstone, that I can go to whenever I feel like I am getting too far away from the core of who I really am, and have it bring me right back to the freer, unrestrained version of me that I found so many years ago. And at the end of the night, if I'm really lucky, and they play Brokedown Palace, I will cry for the sheer beauty of this music, and what if feels like to be touched so deeply by something so primal that, even though I've described it here, it really isn't all that describable.
"In a bed, in a bed, by the waterside I will rest my head; listen to the river sing sweet songs, to rock my soul."
Everyone should have something this special in their life. I only wish I could remember that guy's name, so I could look him up and thank him for unknowingly giving me a gift that changed my life and lasted a lifetime.
I occassionally like to tally up all the countries I've been to, just to see how many it is. It really seems like a lot to me, in my head at least, but according to this site, world66.com, the 49 countries I've been to only amounts to seeing 21% of the world's countries. That seems like such a small percentage compared to how many places I've been to, doesn't it? Check out your own world map tally at: http://www.world66.com/myworld66/visitedCountries
A friend of mine shared a video with me today that just stunned me. Absolutely the best use of spoken word poetry and video I've seen in a very very long time. The sort of thing I wished I'd made, but didn't. For your enjoyment, I present Taylor Mali's "Totally like whatever, you know?" Video typography by Ronnie Bruce.
Since viewing the above video this morning, I started researching the work of Taylor Mali and, well, simply put, he's brilliant. His use of language to disect and highlight the obvious in our society is so spot on, it brings a tear to the eye.
On the irony of our educational system:
For more on Taylor Mali, please visit his website at: http://taylormali.com/
You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/user/taylormali
The Bowery Poetry Club: http://bowerypoetry.com/
So yeah, it's been a while since I blogged and I just checked my comments and someone named emily asked if I'd blog again soon and that she particularly enjoyed my blog entries on my Dead/Furthur antics so in honor of emily, who has shamed me into blogging again today (no really, THANK YOU Emily!), here we go...hold onto your hats...are you ready?HAPPY NEW YEAR 2011~ So we went up to San Fransisco again this year for two nights of Furthur shows at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. Met up and shared shows with our good friends from Orcas whom we met at last year's NYE run, and who we've gone to other shows with over this past year. Nothing like a great show shared with great friends, old and new! Met up with a very cool dude named Dorian (PM me here if you see this Dorian or Friends of Dorian!) and ended up sitting with his entire crew of very kind folks from Santa Cruz, Eugene and all points in between. In fact we liked this crew so much that we ended up saving seats for all them for NYE so we'd be surrounded by the coolest of people! But you don't wanna hear about the people per se, you wanna hear about the show, right? Okay, on to the show... Furthur has definitely improved in some ways, compared to last year. And while last year seemed like a weirder, freakier show, this year they were a tightly oiled machine. Joe Russo is sooo much better without that other dude jumping next to him all night long (that dude wore me out looking at him bouncing all night long!). And Sunshine Becker and Jeff Pehrson really sound lovely together and their harmonies are a nice addition to the classics like Attics Of My Life and We Bid You Goodnight. The below clip has a nice mix of the band, the floor audience and the "floating floor show" that passed by us both nights...that was as entertaining as the music! I particularly love white t-shirt holding-drink-while-dancing dude, and then when he rotates out of the picture Jerry-handprint-tshirt dude fills his place. Excellent...You couldn't choreograph this stuff, it just happens naturally, mannnn...
I'm happy to say that Twirly Light Dancing Bear Apron dude was there again, doing his thang with his twirly light ball. I love this dude, he brings an added dimension of weird and cool to the shows he's at. Here he is making his way past where we were sitting/dancing...There's clips of him in the above video as well.But you probably want to see what happened at midnight, right? Well, here ya go...courtesy of the Mr. and my new Canon G-12, which totally rocks, by the way, in all it's HD video glory...
As you can see, it was a circus theme, not quite as mind blowing as last year's disco-mirrored skull and roses but I suppose it's hard to top last year's midnight events! And the cool thing was last year they played Golden Road to Unlimited Devotion as the first song of 2010, and this year, it was the last song they played of 2010...nice touch I thought!
If you'd like to see more video of Furthur's NYE 2010-2011 shows, please check out my You Tube site at: http://www.youtube.com/user/noodleprincess1. Until next year...wishing you a 2011 filled with health, happiness and lots of great live music...see you at the shows...peace!
I know, it's San Francisco so why would I be surprised at seeing this sign? And yet, I was. Surprised, that is. I looked up and BAM! There it was, inviting me to touch someone's junk while both being nude and live. Hmmmm, I'd love to but I've got plans for this evening, maybe another time? Seriously, it's one of the funniest signs I saw this trip, but what was even funnier was Mr. Noodleprincess's questions about it, "So do you think this is for the newbie performers or like an open mic night for the general public...?" Yeah, uh, I don't know.
We rolled into SF early in the morning so we headed right to the best dive diner we know, The Pinecrest. It's one of those gritty diners where you can order just about anything you could possibly think of, any time of the day or night. They're open 24/7 too.The counter at the Pinecrest, filled this fine morning with a swat team of Italian tourists who were mysteriously all dressed alike.And there was this little gem, the Kabuki Hair & Skin Care salon. Now I mean really, how many times have you woken up during a holiday season and said to yourself, "Damn! If only I could find a really top notch Kabuki hair and skin salon so I could, ya know, look like a real Kabuki dancer..." I know, I think that alllll the time. And yes, they had pictures all over the salon of Kabuki entertainers. I wonder who their clientele are?