“Grateful Dead concerts are like baseball games: no two are ever alike. The plays are always different, and there’s always fresh hope. Sometimes the game’s an all-timer even though individual performances are sloppy; sometimes everybody plays great but the team loses anyway.
Some people thrive on yesterday’s moments, and aren’t too keen on the way the game’s played today. Some have only been fans since last year and don’t care what happened way back when. You can cherish the great victories and triumphant seasons and chart them across decades, or you can go simply for the enjoyment of tonight and to hell with the standings. Like all the great teams, the Dead have their pennant years and bleak innings, perfect games and whippings, hits and foul balls, heroes and goats.
To many they’re an institution, to some mere child’s play, and to others the Grateful Dead is more or less an indispensable part of life. There are those who say the game’s too slow, that the brief moments of action and excitement are too few and far between. Like “America’s Favorite Pastime,” the Dead are both celebrated and criticized, and some people will never see what’s to enjoy.
Like big-league fans, Deadheads are as varied as the game is long. There are scorekeepers who record every detail for statistical analysis and a place in the Hall of Fame; camera buffs and video freaks; armchair umpires, die-hards, groupies. Some are bleacher bums who’d be in the stands no matter who was playing; and there are even spousal fans who go because if they didn’t, they’d be left home alone. A lot of people attend because they’ve always gone and really don’t care to stop.
It may take a few visits to grasp the subtleties, but if you let yourself into the flow of things, there’s something to enjoy from the very first moment you’re there. As the old saying goes, the mind believes what the mind believes: Grateful Dead is cerebral if you choose to analyze it, but it’s basic and instinctive too. Like the game of baseball.”
This quote is from 1983 and since that time, because of the Grateful Dead, you could apply this quote to live music - at least the type performed by bands who have seen the wisdom in the model of the Dead’s ever-changing setlists and performances each and every night.
Even more so, I appreciate that baseball and Dead shows have/had a structure even though no two games/shows were ever alike. For baseball, there is always 9 innings in a game and 3 outs per half inning. In almost all baseball games you expect each team to get a hit, multiple hits. For Dead shows, at least in the later years, there were certain first set and second set openers, a cowboy tune sung by Bobby in the middle of the first set, drums and space in the middle of the second set, the Jerry ballad towards the end, and a one song encore. That structure even weaved it’s way into performances of songs. Scarlet Begonias would almost always lead into Fire on the Mountain. Help on the Way would find it’s way into Slipknot and then Franklin’s Tower. But every now and then, this structure would break. It wouldn’t happen often. Sometimes, as in the Dead’s last show, there would be two encores. Then there were the few occasions when the boys decided to weave Scarlet into something else. The structure that so many fans were used to would be broken, and it made the experience even greater. The same thing happens in baseball. Sometimes you need more than 9 innings to finish a game. Other times a team needs to get 4 outs in a half inning in the case of a passed ball on a strike out. Then there are those magical performances when a pitcher or pitching staff doesn’t allow a hit to the opposing team. Or those crazy examples when a pitcher doesn’t give up a hit to the opposing team, but still loses the game.
It’s these rarities that create excitement and tension, and it’s this tension between the structure and the performance that has always attracted me to baseball and live music with the Grateful Dead being masters at it.
Queen - Under Pressure (HQ) (Live At Wembley 86) (by chipo312009)
I was never a huge Queen fan, but like many, this is how I remember them - playing the largest stages in the world. Then I think about touring bands today. Who can pull these type of crowds anymore?
The list is short, and it keeps getting shorter as we get older. When I first started going to shows in the late 80s and early 90s, The Who, Stones, U2, Guns N Roses, Pink Floyd, and the Grateful Dead were all selling out stadiums. I’m sure there are others I’m forgetting about.
Now that list is down to the Stones, U2, and Kenny Chesney (sometimes).
While stadium shows don’t provide the live music fan the intimacy of a club show, there is something about seeing a concert in a huge fucking stadium. It is an event like none other. It’s a life-long memory when you see a band in a stadium, especially when you are young. I’ll never forget when it started raining during The Who’s Love Reign O’er Me in Tampa Stadium with 60,000 others in 1989. I know it seems cheesy to some, but it’s a concert memory burned in my mind due to the enormity of the crowd and the moment.
From an experience standpoint, festivals have taken the place of stadium shows these days. And that’s awesome too, but I look forward to the day again when a new band can dominate the live music landscape by uniting 60,000 fans for 25+ shows in stadiums across the world such as Wembley.
Discovering new music is never-ending. I am not only seeking out new artists, but recordings of live performances from bands that have been around for decades. Everyone has their sources for finding new music. For many it’s the (current) big players in the market - Spotify and Pandora. Not me. They don’t satisfy my craving for new music and don’t provide the user experience I am seeking. Here is a rundown of the sites, apps, and stations that bring pleasure to my ears on a weekly, if not daily basis.
I’ve been a fan of ex.fm since the beginning and continue to be one. Besides the fact that the team behind it are really good people, it is my favorite service for discovering new music. I listen to ex.fm every day during the week. If you are new to ex.fm, the simplest way to get started is to listen to the music that the ex.fm team highlights each week in the Explore section. If you really want to reap the benefits of ex.fm, follow others. For me, music is the number one reason why I might follow someone on any social network. If our music tastes are similar and, better yet, you are introducing me to new music, I will follow. There are several people/blogs I’ve followed on Tumblr for a long time that have active ex.fm accounts, which made it really easy for me to adopt ex.fm as my number one source for new music. It’s ironic that I rarely listen to music through the Tumblr dashboard now because my favorite music bloggers on Tumblr are also on ex.fm. Once you start following others, you have access to a never-ending feed of music that has been “loved” by those accounts that you follow. It’s music curation at it’s best. I can’t not mention the iPhone app when sharing ex.fm. The interface, experience, and functionality is as good as any other music app I’ve tried.
I consider myself a bit late to the game when it comes to Soundcloud. When the Beastie Boys premiered Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 last year on the service, I started to pay more attention and follow more artists and accounts. I never (and still don’t) get into the whole “home recording” aspect of the Soundcloud model. I frankly don’t have an interest listening to random sounds or conversations by others because they typically just aren’t that good. But, when more and more artists started using it, I got hooked. Add to that the many podcasts on Soundcloud, and it really is a wonderful source of new content. My only complaint is that I still struggle a bit in finding new accounts to follow. Hopefully this is addressed with the next soundcloud.
Is that a radio station on my list? Yes, it is. WNRN is a commercial free radio station operating out of Charlottesville whose signal can be heard all across Central Virginia. It is the best radio station I’ve ever listened to because it provides more variety than any other station I’ve ever listened to. You can’t label WNRN. Weekday mornings are reserved for acoustic music ranging from bluegrass to country to indie to classic rock. Saturday mornings are reserved for the jambands. Three hours of the Dead, Phish, and many others. WNRN turns into a talk radio station on Sunday mornings with discussions on local issues. Rap and Hip-Hop rule the airwaves every night, and there is even a weekly show for 80s (and now 90s) music.
Live Phish iPhone app
The Live Phish iPhone app doesn’t provide anything out of the box when it comes to features, functionality, and experience. It could have been released to match the features of the website, which is a place to purchase and download live Phish shows. It provides that and a lot more. Hours after each show, I can fire up the app and stream last night’s show free of charge. There are archival releases available for streaming, which change on a regular basis, and I can stream all of the shows I’ve purchased for download.
Live Music Archive
Every live music junkie knows about the Live Music Archive. If you don’t, go check it out. See you in a few weeks.
Soundaboard is a blog I found a while back. It’s a great source for live SBD recordings from a variety of artists. I really need to spend more time listening to their picks. The ones I have download are outstanding.
Like every other music junkie, I have a circle of friends that share the same passion for music that I do. We don’t share playlists in rdio or Spotify. We don’t get on turntable.fm. We still send around links via email. Often times my friends are the best source for new music. I doubt this will ever change.
I’m happy to be home, very happy, but spending a decent amount of time in a new (for me) part of the country was refreshing and valuable. It also kind of pissed me off … specifically about the town I live in, Charlottesville. Don’t get me wrong. I love living in Charlottesville, but I just can’t agree with those people who feel that Cville has the best places to eat, drink, and be merry.
Being away from Cville the last week reminded me how damn expensive it is to live here. I enjoyed tastier meals and a week without seeing (and most importantly drinking) Starr Hill at a much cheaper price in Austin. I still feel that Cville is a great live music town - an awesome one for its size and I’m thankful for that, but Austin is on a whole another level. Wow. That was fun. If I could go every year to SXSW music (not Interactive), I would. I love the variety, the short sets, the focus on technology and the open bars.
While this post has conveniently turned into an Austin v. Charlottesville rant, I don’t want to move. I don’t know the first thing about Austin. I just loved SXSW and occasionally you hear us locals compare our town to Austin. So as I re-enter the pretentious Cville atmosphere, can we drop the “best whatever” bullshit lines and be a bit more rational and critical of what we have and don’t have here?