Band of three of the remaining four Grateful Dead members truck on.
In part one, I detailed the first night of the Dead and Company Folsom Field show and talked about John Mayer’s inclusion in this band. Moving on to night two, I’ll start by briefly talking about jam bands.
There’s no singular defining sound of a jam band. Calling any band that ‘noodles’ one is insulting to the skill of the players and the collective abilities of the group. Though rooted in the freer forms of jazz, jam band music includes ALL genres. From metal to country to classical (in October when Bob Weir takes the National Symphony Orchestra through selections from the Grateful Dead songbook), jam band music refers to its ability to move through the uncharted waters of improvisation. A jam band may be described as one that consciously explores within a very loose musical structure. To me, the distinction between jamming and noodling is this. Jamming requires the split ability to play AND listen concurrently. Unlike noodling, jamming is not endless soloing. It’s endless listening. Listening to what everyone else in the band is doing and seeking a complimentary space within. While members may be soloing, even all at once, without adhering to what the hivemind is communally creating, it’s purposeless and banal. And noticeably annoying to most listeners. But perhaps this definition is too nuanced and anecdotal. Not everyone likes it. But as Jerry Garcia once said of Deadheads, “Deadheads are kinda like people who like licorice. Not everybody likes licorice, but people who like licorice, REALLY like licorice!”
Most, if not all those licorice lovers capable, came back for the second Saturday night show at Folsom Field in Boulder, CO. With another early start, the band was out of the gates with the one-two punch opener of China Cat Sunflower into the traditional folk tune, I Know You Rider, the first a jumble of words and phrases expertly written by poet and Dead lyricist, Robert Hunter and deftly sung by Bob Weir. Next the slow and quiet of He’s Gone dropped into the upbeat and always lively Brown Eyed Women, one of a handful of songs that John Mayer has put his own brand of shine upon. Back in the 70s, some said this song could’ve been a commercial breakthrough for the band if they had only wanted to try. Played for the first time in D&C’s history, the next song, Foolish Heart was one that actually hit number eight on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Track single chart in 1989. One former Pigpen-fronted song that John Mayer has owned and brought to some awareness is a cover of Tampa Red’s love blues It Hurts Me Too. Mayer didn’t disappoint. The first set closed on a high note with a pair of Bob Weir’s 80s yacht rockers. Usually played as a pair, the nautical allegory Lost Sailor, segued into its other half, Saint of Circumstance before giving the sun-baked crowd a rest. The second set opened with another setlist bustout that emerged on the 2022 summer tour, a cover of the Traffic song, Dear Mr. Fantasy which added a taste of Hey Jude, a nod to day being Paul McCartney’s 80th birthday. The jazz-rock song duo of Help on the Way and Slipknot absolutely seared then slid into common Dead entry song, Franklin’s Tower which had the massive crowd singing along and dancing. Another night’s session of Drums and Space followed, the latter including Oteil Burbridge. Space touched down upon Miles Davis’ Milestones briefly before hopping to another cover, Bob Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower. Next was the Grateful Dead’s interpretation of the traditional song, Going Down The Road Feeling Bad, which they turned into an ensemble vocal piece. The show proper ended with a stunning version of another song made theirs, Morning Dew. This was the song that hooked me and likely many others. Having a listen to most versions the Dead and Dead and Company played will show you why. After a brief pause, the encore began. Instead of the predictable rocker One More Saturday Night, the opening notes of the epic suite Terrapin Station rang out. To be honest, I was trying to get ahead of tens of thousands of fans leaving after the show, but there was no way for me to leave during what could be my all-time favourite song. I accepted the inevitable hassles and cost by that decision. It was a particularly sweet rendition that did eventually lead into Saturday Night. After the song crashed to a close, the band took their traditional bow. However, the Original Three remained onstage to take the final one as 40,000 odd (and delightfully odd) fans cheered what was a very special weekend.
Dead and Company continue their summer tour on June 28 in Noblesville, IN before heading east to end with a pair of closing shows at Citi Field in New York City. More info about the tour can be seen here.
The opportunity to share a weekend of amazing music in not only a historic venue but a town full of and happily taken over by Deadheads was a tonic. As post-lockdown events go, I couldn’t have imagined one I wanted more. While this isn’t a travel piece or political statement, some things must be said. It was easy to fall in love with Boulder, Colorado. With mountains seen from almost any viewpoint, great public transit and bike paths, good coffee and legal cannabis, I took to this place immediately. This is a city that not only defies the growing shift towards theocratic totalitarianism in America but has fostered and celebrated progressive and inclusionary values for decades. Despite Boulder appearing to not possess a lot of pigmentation, it seems all, truly are welcome here.