Article by Thomson McCorkle
Photo by David Shehi
I made about a three hour drive to Atlanta on Saturday, July 18th (with a stop to pick up a gallon of draft beer) to catch Bob Weir and Ratdog. I rode with one of my childhood friends to the show, and we reminisced about that first show we went to when saw Moe. SCI, Government Mule and Galactic (all on the same bill). We also talked about the rich history of the Grateful Dead, and Garcia’s undying and endless catalog of music which will be shared for generations to come. I didn’t really know what was in store for the Ratdog show, but I had just finished seeing the Dead at Shoreline, the Gorge and then Rothbury. All shows were fun, unique and, in my opinion, musically creative and at times, groundbreaking. This was going to be my eighth Ratdog show, but first one down South.
We arrived on the lot about two hours before Moe. was slated to begin. I got out my case of glass and took it over to Shakedown with a case of bottled water and some stickers. My buddy was already set up selling wraps and stickers that said “Hug Me, Love Me, Take Me On Tour,” and “Support Your Local Shakedown Street.” There was a fairly decent lot scene with little police presence. That being said, there wasn’t much illegal activity going on, so a low police presence was appropriate. I got a delicious chicken wrap and then ran into my parents who were wearing, respectively, a black golf shirt and my mother, a black dashiki style shirt. They were waiting on my two younger brothers who were also going to be at the show. The lost scene was impressive, even in the deep south. Almost everything you can imagine needing at a show was available if you looked hard enough…or didn’t look too hard. I got a small bottle of homemade patchouli oil, one of my favorite scents.
I heard Moe. do a rendition on “The Race Is On” from the parking lot, for which Bobby joined them on stage. When I entered the show, untouched by security, Moe. was wrapping up their set. None of their songs sounded familiar to me, because I haven’t seen them since that first show when I was 14, but I had a good time bouncing along to their tunes that seemed to be equally original and inspired by bands like Phish. I must mention I was very impressed by Rob Derhak, Moe.’s bassist and seeming leader of the band.
When Bobby’s instruments were moved into place and the tuning began, the energy change was palpable. Everybody in the venue got twenty years older and there was a serious, yet jovial sense of camaraderie amongst everyone in the Masquerade. Before the show started I attended a Wharf Rat meeting with my friend Arthur and though I wasn’t sober, the meeting was nonetheless powerful and inspiring and gave me hope that I too, one day, may be able to lead a group discussion about my sobriety. I was impressed by everybody’s stories and struggles and glad to see they still had that special sparkle in their eyes after all these years of battling addiction. After all, we were there to pay respects to Bobby, one of the elder statesmen of tour.
The show opened with a rolicking jam—> “Shakedown Street”. After hearing the lyrics: “nothing’s shakin’ on Shakedown Street/ used to be the heart of town” my thoughts immediately shifted to the lot scene. I thought to myself, “well Shakedown still has a place in my heart,” and it seemed to be booming, safe, and family oriented. A five year old sold me a tye dyed bandana! The Shakedown jam was awesome, with Bobby leading the way using his steely licks to cut and slice through the jam. “Maggie’s Farm” was next. At this point in the show I was standing with my mother and father. My dad was joking about how Bobby used to wear those short blue jean cut-offs while I was noticing that he had moved to the longer, knee length pants. My old man was reminiscing about moments from the eighties in RFK stadium, while I was trying focus on the new energy Bobby was bringing to the table. I also had gone through a rough break up and Bobby’s singing and Dylan’s lyrics (“Well, I wake up in the morning, hold my hands and pray for rain/I got a head full of ideas that are driving me insane” … “Well, I try my best to be just like I am, But everybody wants you to be just like them”) reminded me to follow my dreams, and not give into what others want me to do, without a consideration of myself and my dreams first. “They Love Each Other” (TLEO) was a fun time, and I took this opportunity to get a beer and let my parents explore their first Dead experience together since Jerry’s death. I found my brother Walter and we shared a beer and a smoke, then went along our merry ways. The next song, “Easy to Slip” is one I had never heard, and can’t recall without another listen. Must be one of Ratdog’s tunes. “Bird Song” gave a fluttering lift to my heart as I danced around the edges of the crowd smiling to all who would meet my eye. “Lazy River Road” was just as I imagined it would have been in the late nineties and sounded superb. I’ve always loved the lyrics to this song.
The second set opened with “Me and My Uncle”, the most played song in the Grateful Dead repertoire. Bobby was rocking the acoustic and Robin Sylvester was playing standup bass. Interestingly, I can’t remember Bobby playing his sleek, blue guitar all night. The ensuing “Corrina” was lacking energy (perhaps I got this feeling because I spent most of the show with people who were 55+ years old), but was fun nonetheless and made me wanna shake it up! “He’s Gone” was emotional. I’ve now seen DSO, Bill Kreutzmann Trio (BK3), and Ratdog do this, and each time it brings a new dimension to my trip. Though I never saw Garcia, I still feel the hole his spirit left in what he sometimes called “The Grateful Dead Outback”. But, that is a reality, which extends far beyond the reaches of the Grateful Dead’s music, and is a special time and place that younger up and coming bands must respect as a region of the accessible universe, though not the same analogous to that original space the Grateful Dead created. Robin Sylvester opened “The Other One” with a thunderous bass line, sounding like Phil from ’72. This was deep, dark and psychedelic in ways that the rest of the show was not. Karan stepped up his playing and his impressive wah tone led the band and crowd into new levels of perception regarding time and space melding Garcia-like licks with his own style of furious shredding. Bobby signaled to the band to kick it down a notch and “Sugaree” made an appearance in the set. This was an interesting choice because “Corrina” always seemed like a latter day Bobby version of Sugaree, so to see both in one set was, to say the least, intriguing. “Bird Song” reprise brought the crowd back home, and me to the reality that I was at a show, and my feeling of eternal bliss was but ephemeral and that soon I’d be back in the lot with the chicken wraps, tye dye, t-shirts, and glass. And of course we got our “One More Saturday Night”, after all, it was just one more Saturday night! Bobby left us all with a rockin’ classic that is certainly a favorite from the Dead catalog of many heads.
The parking lot was fun after the show. I drank some cheap beer and witnessed a wookie tussle that was mild, and more to show that the scene was still volatile and alive than. There was certainly a good deal of commerce, post show, as well. I traded for a “Hoffman Bicycle Day” t-shirt and also scored a poster for The Dead at Shoreline. As we all packed up and started the drive to the hotel, I reflected on having seen one of the legends of music lead and direct his band through nearly three hours of rolicking, psychedelic, good ole Grateful Dead, with a twist. More and more I’ve begun to enjoy shows without mourning Jerry, and the loss of what was, and accepted the music as it is, with its own newfound energy, that we as fans, help Bobby and the band create. I can’t wait to do the Oregon through Boulder run later this summer and look forward to running into some of you “Heads” in the future.
I: Jam > Shakedown Street > Maggie’s Farm, They Love Each Other > Easy to Slip > Bird Song > Lazy River Road
II: Me and My Uncle@, Corrina, He’s Gone@ > The Other One*+ > Stuff*+ > Sugaree* > Bird Song* > One More Saturday Night*+
*-with Bryan Lopes (Sax); +-with Al Schnier (Guitar); Bobby sat in with moe. on “The Race is On”