My Grateful Dead Rant

Why Won’t We Let the Grateful Dead Just Die?

I was browsing through the newly redesigned Kynd Music / 101 Report Blog and I noticed this little snippet of news that was too good to pass up on…

Keller Williams’ April 8th show at the Fillmore in Denver is set to include Jeff Austin of YMSB and Keith Moseley (SCI) interpreting Grateful Dead classics as bluegrass tunes. Dead Grass also promises the additions of other players as well…

This sounds pretty damn cool even though I’m sick with the idea that every single year all we do is “look back” at the Dead and honor them.

That starts to bug me, actually. I know they were the force that brought this whole scene together in the first place, it just seems that the longer we friggin’ sit here and play all Dead covers, the longer it’s going to take for the scene to move forward, move on, whatever…

Is there too much nostalgia in the jamband scene? Is there too much of “well, we don’t know what to play, so let’s just cover a Dead tune to make the crowd happy…?”

For as much as I can respect their music and enjoy listening to it, as well as respect their prior and continuous contributions to the scene, I also thought it was funny when this punk-rock guy I knew in high school created “I’m GRATEFUL he’s DEAD” stickers after Jerry’s death. He was blasting the scene and the wooks, not Jerry.

The Grateful Dead is neither Dead, nor Grateful that they’re legacy continues as wookie godfathers…DISCUSS…

Note: I’m just as guilty by even bringing this discussion here and there really is no right answer. I’m just not fully steeped in Dead history, etc. I’m just curious at to whether or not they are others that have this feeling sometimes. My Indie Music Rant will be next…

  • http://bestshowever.blogspot.com Chilly Jackwater

    I 100% agree with you Justin. At this in point in time, hearing that Phil & Friends is playing 7 nights in my hometown gets me about as tingly as a bowl of oatmeal. And as for Ratdog, let’s just say that I’m working on drafting state legislation that would make “Because I was forced to listen to Bob Weir” an admissible plea in murder case precedings. Don’t get me wrong, the GRATEFUL Dead’s music is fantastic and I rarely go a week without listening to them. But their music was more than just a bunch of songs to be played by anyone for the rest of history. Much of the essence of them was in the way that Jerry told stories about down and out people, rough parts of town, or, uh, dark…um…stars. Just thinking about Keller doing his fake trumpet solo thing he does during a cover of “China Rider” or whatever turned me into Ron Artest.

    But what the hell do I know. That show will probably sell out 12 nights in a row. And by the way, I’d like to hear what Kreutzman’s son has to say about this. I know you’re out there. Your dad has easily emerged as – and always was – the coolest of the reamining members of the Dead, can’t he hold some kind of jamband summit like Cyrus did at the beginning of “The Warriors” calling for an end to Dead covers? (Well, without the assassination, of course)

  • http://bestshowever.blogspot.com Chilly Jackwater

    I 100% agree with you Justin. At this in point in time, hearing that Phil & Friends is playing 7 nights in my hometown gets me about as tingly as a bowl of oatmeal. And as for Ratdog, let’s just say that I’m working on drafting state legislation that would make “Because I was forced to listen to Bob Weir” an admissible plea in murder case precedings. Don’t get me wrong, the GRATEFUL Dead’s music is fantastic and I rarely go a week without listening to them. But their music was more than just a bunch of songs to be played by anyone for the rest of history. Much of the essence of them was in the way that Jerry told stories about down and out people, rough parts of town, or, uh, dark…um…stars. Just thinking about Keller doing his fake trumpet solo thing he does during a cover of “China Rider” or whatever turned me into Ron Artest.

    But what the hell do I know. That show will probably sell out 12 nights in a row. And by the way, I’d like to hear what Kreutzman’s son has to say about this. I know you’re out there. Your dad has easily emerged as – and always was – the coolest of the reamining members of the Dead, can’t he hold some kind of jamband summit like Cyrus did at the beginning of “The Warriors” calling for an end to Dead covers? (Well, without the assassination, of course)

  • http://www.livemusicblog.com katie

    When it comes to the Dead, it all boils down to this: Either you get it or you don’t. I didn’t grow up listening to them, so I tend to fall into the “don’t get it” category which leaves me pretty indifferent on this topic. But there are many people still out there that do get it. And as long as people still get joy out of listening to the Dead, there will always be a market for their music. The problem is that this scene does tend to get stuck in the mud with old habits and trends. I feel the same way about glowstick wars. In and of itself, a glowstick war can look pretty cool. But after seeing it happen 50 bajillion times, you just want to roll your eyes and say, “here we go again..” I think that too many people in the jamband scene just lap up anything that seems like a trend. Even when there may not be any value left in it. I am reminded of all the morons out in front of the Trey & 70VP show with one finger in the air begging for extras when the show WASN’T EVEN SOLD OUT. Do they even know where they are or what is going on? I think if you stripped out all of those people from the scene, you would be left with a much more organic and real experience. In a perfect world, the music would be there to serve the real fans instead of just providing background music for mindless noodle-dancing, hula-hooping, and gooball eating. Not that there’s anything wrong with that =]

  • http://www.livemusicblog.com katie

    When it comes to the Dead, it all boils down to this: Either you get it or you don’t. I didn’t grow up listening to them, so I tend to fall into the “don’t get it” category which leaves me pretty indifferent on this topic. But there are many people still out there that do get it. And as long as people still get joy out of listening to the Dead, there will always be a market for their music. The problem is that this scene does tend to get stuck in the mud with old habits and trends. I feel the same way about glowstick wars. In and of itself, a glowstick war can look pretty cool. But after seeing it happen 50 bajillion times, you just want to roll your eyes and say, “here we go again..” I think that too many people in the jamband scene just lap up anything that seems like a trend. Even when there may not be any value left in it. I am reminded of all the morons out in front of the Trey & 70VP show with one finger in the air begging for extras when the show WASN’T EVEN SOLD OUT. Do they even know where they are or what is going on? I think if you stripped out all of those people from the scene, you would be left with a much more organic and real experience. In a perfect world, the music would be there to serve the real fans instead of just providing background music for mindless noodle-dancing, hula-hooping, and gooball eating. Not that there’s anything wrong with that =]

  • kiley Watson

    I agree that a lot of these dead cover bands(including Ratdog) are LAME. All they doing is a sucky half-ass job of trying imitate other musicians. Most cover bands have no option but to pretend they care about a “scene” that provides money for them. The best thing about the “scene” has always been the fans before and after 1995. The band is just an excuse to get together and have FUN.

  • kiley Watson

    I agree that a lot of these dead cover bands(including Ratdog) are LAME. All they doing is a sucky half-ass job of trying imitate other musicians. Most cover bands have no option but to pretend they care about a “scene” that provides money for them. The best thing about the “scene” has always been the fans before and after 1995. The band is just an excuse to get together and have FUN.

  • http://www.livemusicblog.com Justin

    Chilly: I’m glad I’m not the only one, and that’s not to say that other scenes or other bands aren’t eligible for some of my future rants…

    The Dead is an easy target…

  • http://www.livemusicblog.com Justin

    Chilly: I’m glad I’m not the only one, and that’s not to say that other scenes or other bands aren’t eligible for some of my future rants…

    The Dead is an easy target…

  • http://www.the101Report.com Scotty Greene

    First, kiley, how can Ratdog be a Dead cover band when one of the founders of the Dead plays in the band – does he not have a right to play the songs he’s written and sang for almost 40 years?

    Second, jason, I can see how if you’re not a head from back in the day all this revisting can be annoying.

    But for those of us who still carry the love, there will never be enough tributes toi honor the memory of the Grateful Dead and all they meant to us. Never…

  • http://www.the101Report.com Scotty Greene

    First, kiley, how can Ratdog be a Dead cover band when one of the founders of the Dead plays in the band – does he not have a right to play the songs he’s written and sang for almost 40 years?

    Second, jason, I can see how if you’re not a head from back in the day all this revisting can be annoying.

    But for those of us who still carry the love, there will never be enough tributes toi honor the memory of the Grateful Dead and all they meant to us. Never…

  • http://www.livemusicblog.com Justin

    But for those of us who still carry the love, there will never be enough tributes toi honor the memory of the Grateful Dead and all they meant to us. Never…

    Here’s what I’m saying, though…

    Don’t confuse “love” and “counter-productivity”.

    I think it’s GREAT to still have the love for the Grateful Dead in your heart, but to blindly say that any tribute to one of the greatest bands in all the world is a good tribute and good for the scene is not true, in my opinion.

  • http://www.livemusicblog.com Justin

    But for those of us who still carry the love, there will never be enough tributes toi honor the memory of the Grateful Dead and all they meant to us. Never…

    Here’s what I’m saying, though…

    Don’t confuse “love” and “counter-productivity”.

    I think it’s GREAT to still have the love for the Grateful Dead in your heart, but to blindly say that any tribute to one of the greatest bands in all the world is a good tribute and good for the scene is not true, in my opinion.

  • http://southerngent.org Nico

    I think it’s a bigger problem in the jamband scene that the Dead are still the “reigning” kings of the scene, though Phish held the crown for a long time during their run.

    I’m curious if this is because the Dead (as well as Phish) created/developed a unique backstory and history, whereas other bands fail to do this and are relegated to being derivative?

    I think you hit the nail on the head with that bit. I LOVE the dead. Heck, I’m reviewing the entire Dick’s Picks series on my blog, but the problem with the scene is that so much of it is derivative garbage.

    Sometimes I’ll hear people go on and on about something and am amazed at how bland it is and how much it pales to the Grateful Dead, Phish, Widespread Panic or whoever some of the giants of the scene are.

    Thankfully, there are other extremely talented acts out there doing their own thing: Benevento-Russo Duo, Galactic, Particle, Robert Randolph, etc.

    I have to say though, I saw the Grateful Dead a handful of times, I saw Phish 25+ times and I’d rather listen to the real deal that a bunch of phony imitators any day of the week.

    That being said, I’m always out seeing new bands play and looking for the next big thing. There’s plenty of great stuff out there, but there’s also a trainload of pretenders and wannabes.

  • http://southerngent.org Nico

    I think it’s a bigger problem in the jamband scene that the Dead are still the “reigning” kings of the scene, though Phish held the crown for a long time during their run.

    I’m curious if this is because the Dead (as well as Phish) created/developed a unique backstory and history, whereas other bands fail to do this and are relegated to being derivative?

    I think you hit the nail on the head with that bit. I LOVE the dead. Heck, I’m reviewing the entire Dick’s Picks series on my blog, but the problem with the scene is that so much of it is derivative garbage.

    Sometimes I’ll hear people go on and on about something and am amazed at how bland it is and how much it pales to the Grateful Dead, Phish, Widespread Panic or whoever some of the giants of the scene are.

    Thankfully, there are other extremely talented acts out there doing their own thing: Benevento-Russo Duo, Galactic, Particle, Robert Randolph, etc.

    I have to say though, I saw the Grateful Dead a handful of times, I saw Phish 25+ times and I’d rather listen to the real deal that a bunch of phony imitators any day of the week.

    That being said, I’m always out seeing new bands play and looking for the next big thing. There’s plenty of great stuff out there, but there’s also a trainload of pretenders and wannabes.

  • http://www.the101report.com Scotty Greene

    I hear you, Justin, and it can be counter productive, as all these tributes seem to melt into one and you can’t tell one from the other. I’m with you on that.

    But also, I think alot depends on who it is that’s honoring the band, like the B52’s (just an example) opposed to Keller/Mosely/Austin. Those 3 guys love the Dead and play their music constantly on tour, so a tribute, I think, is appropriate, irregardless of how many there have been or will be. I think it’s also cool hearing other artists’ take on Dead tunes.

    Would be better not to have so many come at once, for sure

  • http://www.the101report.com Scotty Greene

    I hear you, Justin, and it can be counter productive, as all these tributes seem to melt into one and you can’t tell one from the other. I’m with you on that.

    But also, I think alot depends on who it is that’s honoring the band, like the B52’s (just an example) opposed to Keller/Mosely/Austin. Those 3 guys love the Dead and play their music constantly on tour, so a tribute, I think, is appropriate, irregardless of how many there have been or will be. I think it’s also cool hearing other artists’ take on Dead tunes.

    Would be better not to have so many come at once, for sure