Sunday, July 23, 2006

Good enough for Me & Bobby Weir

Before getting to my first daily dose of Dead, I must provide a quick anectode of one of the highlights of my summer, as well as the background for the first selection.

Back in May, I found myself perusing as I always do when I'm bored. I took a look at the tour dates section knowing full-well that Bobby had no intention of coming anywhere near Texas this summer. But wait a minute! A new date! 4th of July, Oklahoma City! Holy shit, is this real? Could I really be this lucky? Indeed I was! I anxiously awaited Independence Day, not to celebrate the birth of our country, but to celebrate the Grateful Dead's music. Finally the day came and Jeremy and I embarked on a short, 3 hour journey to the north to visit the Indian-reservation laden land of Oklahoma. At roughly 2, we enjoyed a pit stop at a sports bar in Norman to watch the Germany-Italy World Cup match. I left disappointed, Jeremy left happy, but we both left buzzed with that great sense of anticipation that always occupies your head the day of a show. We arrived at our destination about 4:30 or 5, grabbed some party favors and headed inside.

It is important to note that we had braved some fierce albeit short rainstorms throughout the drive, and it was still drizzling upon our arrival and throughout the Taj Mahal. However, after this, the sky cleared up, as even Mother Nature knows not to get in Bobby's way.

We enjoyed the day's first performance, Taj Mahal, in the late afternoon. I admittedly knew very little about this trio prior to this show, however after they left the stage I was extremely impressed and felt compelled to later download their CD, Live Catch.

After a short intermission, Keller Williams and Michael Kang (SCI's violist/mandolin player/Chinese super freak) took the stage and wowed the audience, moving through a decent set. Then suddenly something amazing happened. Williams began strumming familiar notes and none other than Bob-fucking-Weir graced the stage with his overwhelming presence. And what was the song they began playing, Jack Straw! How appropriate, after "leaving Texas, 4th day of July" Mr. Weir decided to start playing quite early in the day and really gave the crowd a sensory overload. The crowd stood in elation as they performed one of the finer Jack Straws these ears have ever heard, certainly the best post-Garcia. Truly a treat. After this long rendition of one of my favorites, Bobby, Keller, and Kang launched into another GD classic, "On the Road Again." Not the Willie Nelson song, but the traditional song played by the Dead in the 80's. Another instant classic performance! At this point I was really not sure how much more my head could handle, as Bobby had already melted my face and blown my brains out.

We repositioned ourselves at the front of the lawn here, which is by far the closest I have ever been to any member of the Dead. Zoo City only has about 5 - 6 rows of seats and then the lawn starts, making it a great venue to see any band.

After this stellar performace, everyone left the stage, but not for very long. Soon, members of every band began appearing on the stage, Bobby, Taj Mahal, members of Ratdog, Keller and Kang. This all-star jam band performed "K.C. Moan", "Deep Elem Blues" (just for me), "Good Morning Lil Schoolgirl" and a simply breathtaking "Friend of the Devil" with Kang's violin adding a great amount of depth to the sound. Holy shit, after this I really did not know how much more I could take, as again Bobby simply kicked my ears and brain in the ass.

"Feeling good was good enough for me, good enough for me and Bobby Weir."

If those two previous Weir appearances were the appetizer, than the main course simply shut the entire place down. Michael Kang stayed onstange for almost the entire Ratdog set, and it definitely shows in the recordings.

The band started the night off right with an incredible "Golden Road (to Unlimited Devotion)" a personal 60's favorite Grateful Dead party song. This got the crowd into the right mood as the sun was setting and the entire crowd was on its feet dancing its ass off. Then without any hesitation the band seamlessly moved into another favorite "Bertha" This version is absolutely mind-blowing as Mark Karan dominates the solos. When Bobby sang "Ran into a rainstorm" the crowd went absolutely nuts!

Next for us, Ratdog served up a phenomenal "All Along the Watchtower" that rocked Zoo City. The band sounded extremely good and at this point it was evident that Bobby was not messing around this night, he came to kick ass. The entire band sounded tight, and broke the song down into a reggae jam somewhere around the halfway point of Watchtower, delighting the crowd and creating a festive party scene in the ampitheater.

After this long jam to start the show, Bobby brought out Taj Mahal for an amazing version of "Little Red Rooster." Both vocalists provided their best blues voices and it paid off big. Following this all-out blues jam the band moved into their original rocker, "Odessa". Bobby was dropping Texas references like Phil drops bombs at this show much to the delight of the Texan-filled crowd. This was a good version, although Bobby flubbed a few lyrics in the middle.

Next the stage began glowing purple and the band slowly worked its way into a jam that would become, lo and behold, "Dark Star". For a minute I stood there dumbfounded, and then when I realized what they were playing, everyone was going crazy. Many people began lighting sparklers and fireworks and throwing glowsticks around. Absolutely insane!

Following this all-out jam, Bobby switched to the accoustic guitar and played two absolutely great songs, "Me and Bobby McGee" and "Me and My Uncle" (see a pattern). Kang's violin was breathtaking throughout both of these Bobby classics and I can still remember the breeze drifting through the ampitheater during these amazing songs.

After slowing things down for a bit, Bobby cranked everything back up with a 13-minute "West LA Fadeaway" with the entire band jamming their hearts out. Definitely another one of the many highlights of the night. Once the song had ended, I had to take a bathroom break and ran for the nearest port-a-potties, however as I turned around to the stage to see what they were going to play next, I suddenly notice Bobby walking off the stage! I guess great minds do think alike! After a very brief bathroom visit we returned to our place front and center for the end of the jam, which was beginning to heat up, and then suddenly became "Black Peter". Bobby really nailed this one and at one point I remember thinking I felt sorry for him because it's so sad, but then I realized he was only telling the story, not living it.

Of course, the band couldn't resist "Not Fade Away" which they played with great enthusiasm, although this is one of my least favorite dead songs, especially sans Garcia. This version definitely rocked though and the entire crowd was loving it and repeated the chorus throughout the encore break.

Fittingly, the band came out to perform one last song, none other than "U.S. Blues" to pay homage to the birth of our country. They played their hearts out during this song, carrying it on for over a good 7 minutes. During the song, one of the roadies brought a huge American Flag onto the stage and ran around the stage "[waving] that flag, [waving] it high and wide". The crowd responded by cheering very loudly, both for the flag and because it was sure to be the end of the show.

Following the show everyone was in the best of moods, shooting off fireworks, hanging out in the lot and having a good time. Bobby certainly gave OKC more than it deserved but we are thankful either way. At the end I remember thinking that if I could remember my birth, it might have been one of the happiest days of my life, but since I can not remember it, this 4th of July certainly took the cake.

After this extensive review, here is today's Daily Dose of Dead:

The Golden Road -> Bertha -> Watchtower, Little Red Rooster, Dark Star, Me & Bobby McGee, West LA Fadeaway, Black Peter, US Blues

Most torrent sites have this show available and it is well worth the download.



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