“If I told you ’bout all that went down, it would burn off both yer’ ears…”
This weekend The Dead played Madison Square Garden. Most of us have always called the band the Dead, but of course they were formally known as the Grateful Dead until Jerry Garcia died in the summer of 1995.
It’s hard to quantify what the band meant to me. In high school, and especially in college, I found myself sucked into a vortex that revolved around the music, the lifestyle, and the people in my life – a self-fulfilling cycle, to be sure. The more time I spent within its ban, the deeper I went into it. But I was happy there, and made a lot of friends. Tommy Rosen, a very good friend of mine, wrote a piece for the Huffington Post that describes it extremely well:
On October 15th, 1983, I went to the Hartford Civic Center to see the Grateful Dead for the first time. People were friendly, funny, silly, self-deprecating and loving. Life felt exciting. There was possibility and openness. The music was so different than anything on the radio. I danced with strangers as a sixteen year old boy that night in a way I had never before. To dance with others spontaneously, ritualistically was thrilling. We danced in sync with one another and it deeply moved me. Though I did not know it at the time, I had been searching for this my whole life to that point.
The only difference I can report is that my first show came two years later, in the Spring of 1985, followed by many more. It’s difficult (and possibly self-incriminating) to describe some of the most memorable moments… but let me just short-hand a few for those who were there: the week in Teluride, the Holiday Inn in Hartford, the highly-fueled drive to Red Rocks, the Mescalero Bandit, and losing our shoes in Boston.
At some point I drifted out of the scene… it was becoming a little unhealthy for me. After I moved back to New York I rediscovered other music, other styles, and realized that long hair was not conducive to my dating efforts. It is where I made the Big Change, and Tommy is one of the few people who knew me before and after, and someone who made the same Change.
It’s been seventeen years since my last show. A LOT has happened since.
I guess you had to be there.
That’s me with the striped pants. Tommy’s top left.
I know you can never go back, but I would have loved be at the reunion. I know at least fifteen people who were at the show on Saturday, possibly even more. Everyone’s been posting pictures on Facebook, and it looks like a lot of good clean fun was had by all.
Yesterday we had some friends hang out with us at the house for a lazy Sunday. All the kids were playing Jedi Ninja around the tree fort, the sun was out, and later that afternoon Karen made her excellent whole-wheat pizza. Later, when I was in the kitchen cutting tomatoes for the Quinoa salad I put on some music. I was a little sad to have missed the show at the Garden (and the reunion of so many friends), so I picked a bootlegged Dead show from ’77, one of my favorite years stylistically. As I lost myself in memories it occurred to me that none of my friends in Berlin, not even my wife, could know what I saw, what I experienced, what I felt back in those days. There is a part of me they will have never met. Not only would I not be able to go back, it was something I would never be able to share.
Nonetheless, it’s nice to know that I’ve had experiences in my life that are so positive and memorable. I’ve had a fantastic life thus far, with no boredom in sight. There have been a number of life segments that are beyond description, and I have resigned myself to the fact that they are beyond sharing.
I moved to Berlin just as it stumbled out of the Cold War and became one of the coolest cities in the world, while being deeply embedded in Germany’s Techno music scene that happened in the 1990s. Not only was I a participant, as a founder of a record label I had the chance to shape it. But all the stories and pictures from that time still can’t let someone know what it was like – it was our music, our fashion, our parties that the world was trying to emulate.
From 1996 into the new millenium I found myself owning a software company in the heart of the tech revolution, a period that changed the world more thoroughly – and quickly – than any other development thus far. It’s where Karen and I met, but our friends that weren’t there can’t imagine the positive energy that swept everyone up at the time… and the insanity that enveloped everyone as it was reaching its bitter end for many of the late-comers.
I guess the ultimate personal experience is family and children. Though many of us face the trials and tribulations of parenthood, it is always a small and intimate circle that shares it with you. God knows it will never be entirely perfect. But if your vibe is right and your partner is kind, all you remember are the good times. Just like my time with the Grateful Dead.
And for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about… here’s a track called “Eyes of the World”. This one was recorded at the Winterland Arena in San Francisco, on October 19th 1974.
Fair warning, it’s nineteen minutes long, and may lead to dancing.