Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Hey, I guess it's been a while since I've been actually blogging rather than just posting stuff.
Here's a picture of the entrance to our den- thought maybe some would like to see some of the posters. We have tons more hanging up in the den and a large amount of posters waiting to be hung or framed. Soon.
New to me Grateful Dead Blog
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Pilgrimages keeping Dead alive for fans

GREENSBORO — He told me his name was Pete.

He stood late Saturday afternoon in a small parking lot beside Greensboro's War Memorial Auditorium, hawking T-shirts that bore the recognizable round eyeglasses of guitarist Jerry Garcia, my patron saint of spring.

You see, whenever college basketball turned maddening and dogwoods began to bloom, I always knew I'd be jumping on tour to find Garcia and The Grateful Dead swinging through the South.

But those days are gone. Garcia died 12 years ago from heart failure at age 53. Yet, like Elvis Presley from a generation before, music fans still celebrate his music — and his life — every time former members of The Grateful Dead arrive anywhere.

That happened Saturday. More than 2,000 fans came to War Memorial Auditorium — a near sold-out show — to celebrate Ratdog and the local return of its frontman, Bob Weir, a guitarist who played beside Garcia for 30 years.

And that's where I met Pete. He didn't give me his last name because, well, authorities don't always embrace vendors peddling T-shirts. But he told me he's in his mid-40s, and he keeps busy by doing the only job he ever knew: selling T-shirts in a parking lot.

"People come because it's like communion,'' said Pete, who has followed The Dead and its surviving members since 1983. "You need your fill of what it's all about.''

Since Garcia's death, The Dead scene has fragmented in a million different ways. And even before, uncontrollable crowds and rampant drug use in the last few years didn't help. Despite those troubles, we fans still came.

It was more than just music. We all looked for what is increasingly hard to find these days: that sense of adventure, that chance to rise above the mundane and discover something that, to some, borders on spiritual ecstasy.

Sometimes, you got lucky. The Dead took you there with its classically American amalgam of folk, blues, rock and jazz. So did that big borderless neighborhood of like-minded fans known as Deadheads.

UNCG sociology professor Rebecca Adams has studied Deadheads since 1989. And the more she's immersed herself in that community, the more she sees it mirrors that frontier spirit seen among settlers in the 19th century.

(LISTEN: Adams talks about the Deadhead subculture.)

And there's no better place to tap into that spirit than in a parking lot before a show.

There was a time when The Grateful Dead hit the Greensboro Coliseum and large sections of the parking lot turned into one big tie-dyed bazaar.

But that scene, an example of hippie commerce known as Shakedown Street, has grown smaller as the date of Garcia's death — Aug. 9, 1995 — has become a footnote in the fickle history of our country's popular culture.

Late Saturday afternoon, Shakedown Street encompassed only a few lanes of a sliver of blacktop. Vendors hawked crystals, necklaces, pipes, beer and T-shirts as a man walked around selling artwork in a multicolored coat with the white letters "Love'' across the back.

Bruce Reisinger and Betse Dunham stood nearby, beside their rental car with the large "We Miss Jerry'' sticker on the side. They're husband and wife from Floyd, Va. They've seen 130 shows together since 1982. This time, they brought their 7-year-old son, Neil.

It's his first show. And it's their first chance to show him what steered their lives until Garcia's death. Dunham calls it "going to church.''

"When Jerry died, we had a kid,'' said Dunham, now 44. "There was just this void, a huge loss in our life. You know, folks in church talk about that feeling of rapture. Well, we got that feeling at shows.''

They found that feeling Saturday afternoon. They met Weir before the show. They shook hands, introduced Weir to their son and thanked him for changing their lives, as they said, in a "positive way.''

And Weir thanked them, too. And to Dunham and Reisinger, that chance encounter is what it's all about.

"I miss it every day," Reisinger, a 47-year-old contractor, said of following the Grateful Dead. "Work. Life. It'll bring you down. But once you get in that van, you feel liberated. People get that from hunting, fishing, even religion. It's perspective. That is why you live.''
Contact Jeri Rowe at 373-7374 or jrowe@news-record.com

Bob Weir, RatDog to headline summer concert
AARON LEO aleo@ctpost.com
Article Last Updated: 03/26/2007 01:10:00 PM EDT

BRIDGEPORT — Bands from around the state will have their own stage at this summer's Gathering of the Vibes concert in Seaside Park.
"We have already selected a great array of talent," said Kenneth Hays, president of Terrapin Presents of Danbury, which will stage the Aug. 9-12 concert.
This summer's installment is scheduled to feature acts such as Bob Weir and RatDog, Los Lobos, Buddy Guy, Deep Banana Blackout, Assembly of Dust and the Dirty Dozen Brass Brand, according to a Web site promoting the show.
The master of ceremonies for the event will be Hugh Romney, better known as "Wavy Gravy," an announcer at the original Woodstock festival in 1969. A Ben and Jerry's ice cream flavor is also named after him.
The locals' platform will be called the Seaside Beach Stage, he said.
He said he has compiled a list of bands he plans to invite. The local bands' performances will be open to anyone who can access the beach; tickets to the main Vibes concert will not be required to see them. The city's Board of Park Commissioners recently gave its approval for the new feature at the Vibes. The four-day concert will have different access levels, from one-day passes to camping passes for its duration.
The promoter last staged a Vibes concert in 2000 at Seaside. Although it was successful and attracted thousands of people to camp and listen to musical acts for the whole weekend, park maintenance projects kept the event from returning for the next three years.
The "Vibes"concerts — there have been 12 in all, including several in New York — have featured musicians such as the Allman Brothers, James Brown, Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Chuck Berry, Bruce Hornsby, Arlo Guthrie, Bonnie Raitt and Carlos Santana.
For more information and ticket prices, go to www.gatheringofthevibes.com.

One blogger's Penn's Peak Ratdog Adventures!
Sunday, March 25, 2007
from http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=45508256&blogID=245574417

Truckin' up to Penns Peak (in a snowstorm): the epic Ratdog weekend
Current mood: exhausted
Category: Dreams and the Supernatural

Below is something I wrote last week after an amazing experience..its a little long but I feel its epic, hopefully you can get through it and enjoy it!:

So, we went to see Bob Weir & Ratdog two nights in a row at Penns Peak in Jim Thorpe, PA this weekend...March 16 and 17. I had been looking forward to these shows for quite some time as there's nothing like a Ratdog show these days, the band is playing so well...best way to spend an evening and definitely will take you away from whatever else is going on in your life and let you just enjoy the music. Great musicians, songs, etc but I digress. The crew was me, brother Jerz, Cormie and Miffy with Andrea and Mark meeting up with us for the saturday show.

Checking the weather on Wednesday, it was 80 degrees down in DC...so I was a little shocked when it said it was gonna be in the 20's at night up in PA. I brushed it off...however Friday I heard it was gonna snow. Didn't think much of it, and it was gonna rain down in DC, so once again brushed it off...what is the worst that could happen?

So I left my house about noonish on Friday, made it up to Bmore in a driving rain to pick up Jerz about 1pm. We grubbed and dipped out about 1:30. The first hour of I-95 in Maryland was a little slow, but just rain and we made it through...then the traffic started about 10 miles from Delaware, then rain turned to sleet, then about every mile there was a car in a ditch on the side of the road. There weren't enough cops to even tend to every accident. Keep in mind my window seals are effed up so my windows fog up hardcore...I coudln't really see out the back or sides, just 80% of the front windshield and the right front passenger since there is no tint on it (tint does not take to rain-x, unfortunately...and it was there when I bought the thing).

Soo....we crawl into Delaware in a sleet storm. Its like 3pm. 95 in Delaware is all of 15 miles maybe. Those 15 miles took us almost 2 hours...just crawling getting sleeted on and watching mangled cars pass by...needless to say the roads were extremely unsafe to drive at speed. However, we were going to a freaking Ratdog show, and there was no turning back. 5ish we get into PA and get on the Blue route...plows going south but not North so we were driving on at this point 4 inches of ungroomed BS. Great for the snowboarding, not for driving. It took us another hour and a half to get up to the Quakertown exit of the turnpike to pick up Cormie and Miffy. Current time: 6:30. Showtime: 8PM Sharp. We had time.

The trip up the next 30 miles of the Turnpike was rough at best, scary at worst...but we caught a break for a little bit of plowed road and it only took an hour to get off at Jim Thorpe...so we had a half hour to drive the 4 snow covered miles up the mountain to get to Penns Peak, and see old Bobby, Mark, Kenny, Jeff, Robin and Jay just tear the shit out of the beautiful Penns Peak venue.

The first say 2 miles of country road were rough...about 6-8 inches of snow at this point, a little packed down but thats about it. Couldn't come close to seeing the actual road surface, and it was a little hilly...but we were doin ok. Down the road a ways we saw some people stuck around a bend...we took that bend, and immediate faced an extremely steep hill. I gunned the trusty Civic and we headed up...about 3 quarters of the way I was forced to break to avoid hitting a fishtailing car trying to get up as well. I stopped. Gas. Tires spin. Gas. Tires spin. Fuck. Jerz, Cormie and Miffy get out to push...too steep, snow too deep, we end up just sliding into the left side of the road...doing us no good. A couple four wheel drive jeeps pass by us, having no trouble. I curse at them under my breath. With my head out the window taking snow to the face, we back down the hill to give it another shot.

I backed up about 100 yards...the bitch about this hill was you had to make a 20mph-rated sharp left and then go up it, so getting a ton of speed wasn't an option since you had to slow down for the turn. Whatever...we tried it again, almost hit someone again, and got stopped again. We tried again. Nothing. One more time....stuck again. We backed down resigned...a poor guy who lived at the top of the hill couldn't get up either. We and another group of kids going to the show decided to leave our cars on the side of the road and walk. We had been told it was about a mile and a half from that point...and we really wanted to get to the show. It was about 8 by this point, the band was coming on...so we got as close to what we could call a parking spot and got out to walk.

Then, out of nowhere, what comes down the hill but a plow. Amazing. Clears the snow out enough where we could get up...we joyfully hopped back in, gunned it, and conquered the hill that we just spent 45 minutes fighting a losing battle to. We had life...we made it. We got to the stop sign at the top of the hill, and made the right on our final road.

Problem is, the real hill we hadn't even encountered yet. The plow had turned off of this road and this road SUCKED. We started climbing a gradual, increasingly steep incline going up to the peak that is Penn's Peak. We were doing well, keeping that precious momentum, before we were stuck between a broken down car and oncoming traffic. I had to stop. Stuck again. We watched the broken down guy shovel himself out and then take the rest of the hill sideways...in a 4x4. No way we were doing that. The ship was sunk. We didn't even try since we were halfway up anyway...we looked to find a place to park, so once again we could walk.

We were getting ready to park and walk when out of nowhere this dude was at our window...another concertgoer. He's like "Fellas, we can either sit here and walk, or I can hop on your hood with two of you, we ride up in your car, then you guys walk back down the hill and sit on my hood, and ride up with me." And we were all like, "What the fuck did you just say?"

5 minutes later I find my self revving the engine of the Civic with Miffy, some random dude, and Jerz sitting on my hood. The extra weight was to give the front wheel drive car weight on the drive wheels for traction. It worked...soon we were cruising up territory that was impassable but 5 minutes ago. I couldn't see SHIT- I was getting direction from the hood- "left a bit!" "straighten it out!" Nerve racking stuff this was...I was sick to my stomach at this point, and it seemed inevitable we were not going anywhere but a ditch.

We were making progress when a plow started to come towards us in the other direction. Also at this point I apparently had started to drift off of the road to the right. The random guy on the hood was saying "To the left man, to the left!!" To the left I saw a plow. I wasn't about to turn to the left one inch and risk the car sliding out into the plow. I'm not losing a brother and a friend, not to mention killing a random dude. However, I didn't know what was to the right either. So I did the no-no...I stopped. Turns out we were about a foot from the guardrail on the right side, with a precipitous droppoff past that. Scary stuff for the guys on the hood freezing their balls off, but I personally didn't see any of it when we were moving.

So...the car was stuck again. Not going anywhere. Meanwhile Cormie (sorry Cormie, I personally had forgotten about you for a second there) this whole time, has been walking up the mountain since there wasn't enough room for him on the hood. It was decided that Jerz, Miffy and Cormie would go back down the slope with random dude, and hood-ride his whip all the way up, then come back down again for me since I was temporarily screwed. I stayed with the car. I was running on E, and my engine smelled light burning clutch and oil. I turned the car off, and the winshield started to ice up..road not getting any better.

After about 15 minutes of sitting outside my car in the driving snow watching 4 wheel drive suv's, snowmobiles, and ATV's cruise by my shit, al the sudden a Saab with 3 of my good people sitting on its hood goes flying by at a seemingly impossible speed, with each goon yelling "Left!" "Right!" "A little more!"...so they were doing really well. I sat for a while more contemplating their success after theyd passed, and then two snowmobilers stopped nearby. I figured they'd stopped to ponder exactly how fucked I was, but turns out they wanted to help.

I received much needed guidance from them how to get my car away from the guardrail without hitting it, and did so. THen I managed to get into a decently worn track of snow, and each snowmobiler leaned over a front axle of my car to give me traction. I gunned it. NOthing. I gunned it. Nothing. THen finally I got going...well enough they had to jump off. I screamed, "THANK YOU!" at the top of my lungs to these random people who had the kindness in them to help a dumbass who tried to get up a clearly impossible mountain with the wrong equpment. Then it was time to focus on finishing the job- I was on my own now and I wasn't going to get stuck again. I pressed the accellerator for all it was worth...driving in the left lane, if any oncoming cars had come I was toast.

I managed to make it all the way up somehow and make a left onto the steep, winding driveway of the venue. Luckily they had plowed but I was still driving on snow so I didn't take any chances. While hauling ass up the driveway, I passed the rest of them who were walking back down the hill to get me...I didn't dare stop. I just beeped. I made it up to the parking lot, found a spot, and met up with those dudes...at about 9:15pm, 8 hours after we left baltimore, almost 2 hours for the last 4 miles, we entered the warmth of Penns Peak with Ratdog playing "They Love Each Other", mid first set. It was an unbelieveable feeling. We grabbed beers and settled into the show...they closed the first set with "ashes and glass" which is a personal favorite. What a show it was. Bob Weir acknowledged the crowd and just how tough it was to be there- the band seemed grateful and we sure were happy to be there.

The ride home was just as shady, downhill was easier but not safer. I was almost out of gas, but we made it. We jammed out in the hotel, woke up on saturday, hit a diner, met up with Mark and Andrea, watched the thrill of the Ohio State victory and the agony of the Maryland loss, then drove the plowed, safe roads back up to the Peak. Night 2 was a complete show, and an amazing show at that. It reminded me why we did what we did Friday night to make it there.

I have to give a personal show of respect to my younger brother Jerz, Jared 'Miffy' Smith and Chris 'Cormie' McCormick. There aren't many people out there who could deal with that type of situation with such serenity and fortitude. These guys got kicked in the balls 2 or 3 times and just kept on going...I didn't hear anybody bitch, we knew we were in a tough spot but had somewhere to be and we made sure we got there, one way or another. I'm not saying sitting on a hood in a driving snowstorm going up a mountain where the driver can't even see is a good idea- it isn't, and I didn't really like it, but it was what had to be done given the hand we'd been dealt. So, needless to say next time in March I check the weather on an 80 degree day, I'm not going to make any assumptions about that weekend's weather. But I know who to bring with me either way.

By the way, the band posted this on their website the other day:

"Why we love Dog Heads #999: because you drove through a semi-blizzard with major winds and a foot of snow up a real hill - hey, they don't call it Penn's Peak for nothing - to get to our first show in Jim Thorpe last night (Friday, March 16 th ). G'bless you.

And what those who were there might not know was that half the band was slammed with the extra-vicious Spring '07 tour crud, putting their efforts in the rising-above-it-all category. 'A course, it gets easier to play hurt when your audience had to be heroic just to get there. Thanks!"

-Thanks for reading if you made it this far, it was just as fun to write as it was to experience, and I am glad it happened the way it did...much more interesting that way. And nobody got hurt.

P.S. We saw that random guy on the hood two nights later at another Ratdog show in Baltimore, and he was on acid, we means we probably took advice from a guy who was tripping his balls off...which is awesome.

Have a great day.