Forecast for the Future

"Every individual without exception bears a potential writer within himself. The reason is that everyone has trouble accepting the fact that he will disappear unheard of and unnoticed in an indifferent universe, and everyone wants to make himself into a universe of words before it's too late. 

Once the writer in every individual comes to life (and that time is not that far off), we are in for an age of universal deafness and lack of understanding."

- Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

Monday, April 7, 2008

LATE ENTRY Week 13, Concert Going Day 5 (Thurs): Ratdog Recap

Sorry for the delay, but here's my recap of Ratdog last Thursday--

Ticket and backstage pass

First things first--I live-blogged last Thursday about a lot of what happened during the show, but since the links are buried below now, here they are:

#2 Terrapin Station (Not)
#3 iko iko
#4 Set Break Death
#5 Hot as a Pistol
#6 mule time
#7 Birds
#8 Fin

Now, the rest of the story:

While most of my plans for shows last week just seemed to fall into place, I wasn't sure wanted to do for Thursday. A quick glance at Oh My Rockness! (a great primer for daily events) revealed little, so I sent an email around to friends soliciting thoughts. Of course, with many helpful friends both fans of music and also "in the business," I had some immediate replies, including some from a few folks who posted entire calendars of events for each day of the week.

Bob, meditating on a barre chord (photo not mine)

However, even after being made aware of the extended possibilities, I still wasn't too thrilled with Thursday's offerings. The one item that caught my attention was a show by the band Ratdog at the Beacon Theatre.

If you are unfamiliar with Ratdog, you might be thinking that they have probably one of the worst band names you've ever heard (which means that you are probably also unfamiliar with just about every other jamband--many even more poorly named--in existence). Ratdog is the band of the Grateful Dead's "other guitarist", Bob Weir, began in 1995 in the wake of Jerry Garcia's passing on August (I can't really say "untimely", can I?). At one point Ratdog shows were made up of a mixture of Ratdog originals and Dead "Bob songs"--meaning Dead songs sung/written by Bob Weir, as opposed to those sung by Jerry--but over the years, as the waves of nostalgia-demand have beaten on his door, Bob began to slowly relent and submit to the demands of his new and old fans looking for a piece of the fading magic, playing not only more and more Dead songs but also including songs by the godhead.

I haven't been really looking to recapture any kind of "magic" of old, but I was once a big fan of the Dead and the thought of going to see a member out on the road seemed like a neat idea since I somehow haven't yet seen any of them before (have passed on many opportunities to see Ratdog or the bands of bassist Phil Lesh and drummer Mickey Hart). Unfortunately, tickets for the show ran $40-$60, which was more money than I was willing to spend on a band I was only hoping to take a flyer on [sidenote: I regret not having obsessively recorded all of the many Hyperliving expenses I've incurred this year, as I'm sure the total amount would be interesting/horrifying]. Thankfully, when I shot out my high interest/low $$$ situation back across the email chain, my friend Mikey Greenhaus, a writer, associate editor & podcast producer for jamband-focused music magazine Relix stood up and said, "Ok, you all you had to do was include the words 'jam' and 'blog' in the same email--I can hook you up with one of our Relix tickets and we can go together."

This fortuitous turn of events impressed me as it not only filled in an otherwise gaping hole in my week, but it demonstrated to me once again how the success of the Hyperliving project has been significantly increased due to the constant and ever-present contributions of the great many people in my life. I feel blessed to know so many smart, creative and active individuals, and all of this would be a far less interesting exercise if not for the expansion that their skills, motivations, and world-access have offered it.

I immediately got stoked for the show and began thinking about how crazy it was that not only had I never been to see any Dead shows, but that I've also never seen a show at the Beacon, a venerable NYC institution (now, unfortunately, owned by the Dolan empire's MSG Entertainment).

I met Mikey outside the venue around 7:30, at which point I was reminded of how different jam band shows are from all the other shows I tend to see. First of all, when I go to a show at, say, the Bowery, the only timeframe I'm usually given s a "Doors Open at...." time. So it ends up working out that with a group like Beach House, for example, tickets will say "Doors at 8pm", meaning the first opener goes on at 8:30, the second at 9:15-9:30 and then finally Beach House goes on at 10:30-11, 2.5-3 hrs after the "doors open". And that's when things are running on a good timeline, as they sometimes get later and sloppier. Ratdog, on the other hand had a stated showtime of 7:30 (doors opening a bit before that) and began exactly on time. And unlike Beach House or anything else that I see, Ratdog, like most jambands, don't have a opening band because they play two 60-90 minute sets for a total show of 2-4 hrs. It's funny, because I used to see Phish, the Allman Brothers, and many other similar bands "back in the day", but I seem to have gotten so far from those times that I can't even remember the habits and rituals that defined them.

What I didn't forget about these kinds of shows, however, were the fans. The crowd for Ratdog was much more similar to my experiences with the Allmans brothers than any other contemporary jamband, as it was made up of a mixture of grizzled baby-boomers, thirty somethings reliving their own late-phase band glory and young kids looking to connect with a newly discovered hero. Thankfully, there seemed to be less of the "Lot Wookies" who usually hang around outside, but that could have just been because it was NYC and not Star Lake, PA.
The fans at the show seemed normal/nice, outside of a few assholes near me who threw beer on a woman after she asked nearby security to make them go back to their seats. Largely, the audience was filled with people who just seemed thrilled to be there, which is a refreshing change from the sea of disaffected stares I often see filling the room at Cakeshop or Mercury Lounge.

And so what of the show?

It was pretty swell. My live-blog entries tag out best how I was feeling as the show went on, but I basically had a great time. I wouldn't try to make an argument to many of my friends why it would be in their interest to check out Ratdog (68-72 Dead is pretty much all I'll ever recommend to anyone, if at all), but to anyone who's ever really cared about the Dead, I'd be happy to convey to them that Bob still sounds great and that he's playing with a band that seem to know and love the material well and do a great job continuing to flog new life and out of some of the most played-out tunes on earth.

Here's some really LQ Treo photos from the night:

Mikey, as a backstage ghost

Somehow Bob Weir literally glowed like an angel all night long. This was NOT an effect on my camera.

This is the the stairway I fell down and almost died on--the same that put Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun in a coma, leading to his
eventual death.

Beams of light.

Also, make sure to check out Mikey's music blog, the Greenhaus Effect, for his entry on our evening and more. As a full-time music writer, Mikey makes my Hyperliving show activities seem pedestrian as he goes to shows nearly every day of the week. Lately his been trying to notepad what he's seen and I'm certainly envious of the access he gets.

All-in-all, it was a solid victory of an evening in my book and I'm glad I had a chance to experience everything. Thanks Mikey!

Oh, also, I saw music-scribe godhead David Fricke for like the 53rd time since I've been living in New York, waiting in line for the show.

[To celebrate the culmination of this experience, I have just listened to a forty (!!!) minute version of You Enjoy Myself from Halloween '95. Erm. I probably may not do that again anytime soon.]

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