OUT with the ROLLING RIDER
The hallowed walls and diamond-shaped exterior made the Coliseum seem like some futuristic temple, and our exodus was like a church recessional. It was as if a 50-foot tsunami had crashed over us, and we washed up, somnolent, on the beach of illumination.
I could barely recognize my friend's faces as they were indeed stolen only a short period ago. But what I did recognize was that everyone sported a similar smile, a stouter nose, and I could swear for a moment, a little coiled stubby pig-tail: " Th-th-th-thhhhhhat's All Folks!
The next morning, we made our way to the parking lot, which was glassy from the dew drop morning rain. Still in the afterglow of last night's second set, impervious to the cold, the elements, and even hunger, we blew like dry leaves through the maze of microbus wanderers. Almost jaded from the introspective overload of the previous day, we entered the grand hall, weary but reborn, and on the cusp of revelation.
Set One: " New York to San Francisco, So Many Roads I've Known "
TOUCH OF GREY was heaven sent, and the first familiar bars breathed life into our collective cores. Interestingly, the 'silver lining' motif inspired a song of that same title by Jerry's namesake Jerome Kern. Bobby pulled out WALKIN' BLUES, and LOSER felt like a pair of old shoes: comfortable, and sentimental to a religious point. Encased in the rhombus-shaped patterns of the coliseum, the always-apropos Garcia crooned, "I can tell the Queen of Diamonds by the way she shines".
QUEEN JANE APPROXIMATELY hammered home the motif of our road-weary spirits: 'at your feet, to convince you of your pain'. The unmistakable D-Sus chord that opens SO MANY ROADS was like the first crack of dawn, and "thought I heard a Jug Band play" teleported us back to the roots of the Dead. Surely a nod to the Casey breakout the night before, Jerry crooned, "thought I heard that KC when she moan".
For the first set finale, Bobby had it flowing for MUSIC NEVER STOPPED, summoning up the fireworks of Phil's bombardier rhythms, the calliope steam whistles of Mickey and Billy rhythmically bursting the seams of our brain, and the clowns that we were, dancing through to daylight.
Set Two: "You know our Love will Not Fade Away"
SCARLET BEGONIAS into FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN was an elliptic dragon, spitting the fiery mantras that were the touchstones of our lives: " if mercy's in business, I wish it for you, more than just ashes when your dreams come true". I remembered a sage's description of the 'long distance runner' as a human being in the race of life and Jerry himself as "a dragon with matches, loose on the town', lighting matches, Hunter's words, from city to city, with the spark of his musical delivery. As Hunter said himself in his elegy to Jerry: "Without your melody and taste, to lend an attitude of grace, a lyric is an orphan thing; A hive with neither honey's taste, nor the power to truly sting". The payoff: if we serve the music, that fire, our journey will amount to more than mere ashen memories.
LONG WAY TO GO HOME>CORINNA allowed the boys to showcase their fledgling material, and segue into Grateful Dead 101, namely UNCLE JOHN'S BAND drifting down the riverside and into a reprise of PLAYIN' IN THE BAND. From there we reached the transom of DRUM>SPACE, a windowpane through which we slipped easily, equipped with a new map of hyperspace, into a virginal dimension both holy and obscure.
THIS COULD BE THE LAST TIME was like a benediction, and we reached into the well hell-bent on relishing in every last nanosecond. Without noticing it, the band was almost packed and gone, and time was a cupped handful of rain water. As Jerry strummed the first bars of HERE COMES SUNSHINE for the 3rd time in 1200 shows, the lights changed from orange sunshine and burgundy to ice blue and translucent green. Wake of the flood. Laughing water. Forty-nine.
THROWING STONES was dogged and prophetic, as Bobby warned: "We will leave this place an empty stone, or that shining ball of blue we call our home". One sacrosanct element of our community, environmental consciousness and activism, has no temporal limitations, and hopefully the heads of this generation will carry this mantle. The instrumental jam at the end of the song pounded like the galactic forces that spin the Earth. The music flowed through thousands of ears in the Coliseum morphing every mind into one.
Then came the national anthem of Oakland Coliseum - NOT FADE AWAY. I was macramé-d into the wasteland of the stairs, as dehydrated and delirious as a pre-teen at a Britney Spears concert. I arose, laughing uncontrollably along with the rest of the band. Literally, even the gruff security guards were bouncing and clapping along to the Not Fade.
We danced ecstatically with our fists in the air and our feet stomping on the floor - Phil's machine gun like bass notes roared through the Pulpit. I kept thinking, "Is this Not Fade Away or The Eleven? Is this really the Phil Lesh Band?"
BABA O'RILEY>TOMORROW NEVER KNOWS articulated the mystery of our collective souls:
down all thought, surrender to the void; It is shining -
Epilogue: " Many have tried, to find a Love, a Love like Yours and Mine "
The next morning we noticed a wet flyer stuck to the pavement like a moist autumn leaf. It announced a 2-night bonus JGB run at the Warfield Theatre, the annex to the Wizard's Pulpit. We stared at it like an oracle. Those were the days. We walked over to the local mall, and right past the Orange Julius we bought a pair of 17-dollar tickets for the show.
Not to rub it in too much, Phans, but Garcia opened with the flagship Bay Area hymnal THE WAY YOU DO THE THINGS YOU DO>MISSION IN THE RAIN. We were treated to such jewels as LIKE A ROAD and SENOR, and the second set opened with an eternal and radiant SHINING STAR.
My trusty longtime companion was kicked out of the show at halftime for using a fake ID. Such a reprimand was until then unthinkable at the family venue, but alas, during the SHINING STAR, I covered my ears with my fingers - if my brother couldn't hear it, then I couldn't either.
A priceless hippie girl next to me pleaded, "Don't cover your ears, brother! This song is beautiful!" She thought I was dissing the old man: In fact, I was merely thinking of my friend, who at that moment was sneaking a listen in the back alley stage door, deserted except for a raspy old black man blaring on the saxophone.
And he played
real good, and for free.
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12/16/04 - "Wizard's Pulpit" 12 Year Anniversary of 12/16/92