Thank you Travis!
Strangers Stopping Strangers, Just to Shake Their Hand:
Saturday, May 2, 2009
With demolition of the Spectrum scheduled for September, this was to be the final concert ever put on at the legendary Philadelphia arena and expectations were running high. Such expectations are typically a bad sign for deadheads, who know well that our boys tend to disappoint at the big ones, noting lackluster performances at Woodstock, the pyramids in Egypt, and a handful of Bonnaroo festivals. Yet this time the band came to play, the audience came to listen, and for one more night we found ourselves at the center of the universe.
Late in the second set, as the band was winding down the improvisational section Drums->Space that they do each evening, guitar player and vocalist Bob Weir struck the first chord of the 1960’s post-apocalyptic folk song Morning Dew. What followed was a storybook excursion to a place that only the Grateful Dead know. With a blood-red rose affixed to his microphone stand and a woman in a long, flowing Spanish flamenco dress synchronistically twirling in the light of the hallway behind his left shoulder, Weir led the band through this much-loved Jerry Garcia staple. They charged through a solid rendition of Dew that was both respectable in its own right and respectful of the audience’s collective memory of and love for Garcia. The energy in the arena built and built, until Weir belted out the final line: “I guess it doesn’t matter, anyway.”
And the crowd went wild.
Weir was clearly drained and the band came to a complete stop not typically found in this segment of their concerts, milling about the stage as if both to collect themselves and to give the audience the space we needed to dwell in the moment. Others have noted that this performance seemed to be a particularly emotional one for Weir, almost bringing him to tears. At a lull in the crowd’s roar, I noticed bassist Phil Lesh walk over and give Weir the celebratory fist bump made famous by the President and First Lady. Extremely proud of my lifelong hero and thrilled by yet another triumphant display from our home team, I cupped my hands in front my mouth and yelled “Attaboy, Bobby!” from my 6th row, just-right-of-center seat. Even though I was close to the stage, I assumed that my voice would be lost in the crowd. However, the very moment after I screamed out my message of approval and support for the tribute he had just paid to his fallen friend, Weir changed his stance to face my direction and, guitar in hand, took a slight bow. I was stunned and unsure of what had just happened. I’ve read enough skeptical philosophy to know that the juxtaposition of two events in time does not necessarily indicate causation. Yet through my doubts, I do know what occurred; for a brief moment in time I was recognized and thanked by a person to whom I have been, and will be, eternally grateful.
15 minutes ago