The Dead melt thousands of faces, no one’s upset

5 07 2009

By Justin Jacobs (@justinhjacobs)


Bob Weir, The Dead, Rothbury 2009

By Festival Saturday, Rothbury had turned into a fully functioning mini-nation, with its own culture, its own people and its own, ahem, underground economy.

It’s hard not to feel part of something at a festival as well-organized and friendly as Rothbury — aside from the bevy of kooks too spun out on acid blotter to know what day, or often year, it is. And truth be told, most of them aren’t so bad either.  Just a little hard on the nostrils.

Though The Black Crowes tore up the main stage Saturday afternoon, much of the crowd remained before the stage during the hour-plus that no music was played. Why? Easy: The Dead.

Judging from the reaction of the crowd — the jittery, free-form dance that consumed the entire pit of 30,000 and didn’t quit for almost five hours. Even during The Dead’s hour-long set break, the groove didn’t leave the crowd.

My crew of Colorado twenty-somethings had spent much of the day separated (let’s be real, how can a true-blue music fan pick between John Butler, The Black Crowes and Zappa Plays Zappa? It’s like picking a favorite child), one thing brought everyone together for The Dead: a green golf flag.

From the time The Dead took the stage, folks meandered through the dense crowd — with people dancing together as close as puzzle pieces, and in just as many shapes — searching for the green flag in the distance. An hour into the set, more than a dozen of us had found home base. By set break we numbered near 20.

That feeling of return, of finding home, was the theme of The Dead’s gorgeous, blistering set. It’s the thread that’s pulled The Dead to continued relevance and still-booming popularity throughout the decades even after Jerry’s death. A Dead show isn’t a concert in the sense that a Linkin Park or Jay-Z show, and not just because of the much broader drug selection; it’s the converging of a community on a single spot to celebrate, dance, embrace.

The Dead’s trip to Rothbury carried more significance than the rest of this spring’s tour — the set was the band’s only summer festival date.

Sure, I know, I know. It’s an old cliché to relate that Grateful Dead fans are a community, not just folks who dig a certain band.

If you find the notion tired, then you haven’t found yourself in the middle of a crowd of 30,000, with heads bobbing endlessly in every direction except forward, where a crew of old, still-kicking dudes are still finding sublime joy in the creation of music.

Heavy stuff? I know — The Dead wouldn’t be around anymore if their music didn’t carry so much weight.
From “US Blues” to “Sugar Magnolia” to an absolutely stunning “Drums/Space,” The Dead were on, playing until face-melting was achieved by one and all.

Bob Weir, the last Dead member to walk off the stage, waved at the crowd and smiled.

“Take this feeling,” he said motioning the mood of the night. “Take this feeling home with you.”




One response

6 07 2009
Uncle John

It was Mickey Hart who at the end of the night as they were walking off said something like, “Take this feeling home with you and do something good with it.”

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