Dad and I went to the Furthur show at Shoreline Amphitheatre last night. And it. Was. Awesome.
I’ve been going to the occasional dead/furthur/dso show practically since the day I was born and I’ve always loved it. The smells, the music, the crowd, the dancing, the lights, the magical powers one has when singing along with the sweet soft harmonies…
But really, I just love going to the shows with my dad. Fathers and daughters can relate in many ways, but there is nothing like shaking your hair and flailing your limbs around with your dad totally shredding the air guitar until he has blisters on his fingers and just when the air E string is about to snap from the major shreddage happening he switches to drums and the sheer speed in which he is snapping his wrists would make even Keith Moon roll over in his grave. And no matter what is being played on stage, I can turn to him and ask, dad, what song is this and even if it takes a few more notes, he nails it. Every. Single. Time. And he knows when it was played at the last show he was at and has probably analyzed the meaning of the lyrics as it relates to a medieval poem and can draw parallels to the most perpendicular lines of other lyrics from songs of other musicians but somehow they all fit into an intricately etched sketch and the artist of it all is my dad.
So it’s the second set and Furthur is jamming deep in space. I hear what I think is a little ditty of St. Stephen and I get all excited and say dad, I think St. Stephen is next! Do you hear it? Do you think they’re going to play it next? And he says No, I didn’t hear it, maybe it’s next but maybe not… And we travel through space a couple minutes more until the stage erupts into an explosion of sound and there it is! St. Stephen bellowing from the bellies of the beats and the crowd goes wiiiild!!!!
And there it was. I crossed a threshold.
The spinning light orb that meanders through the crowd at nearly every show was going wild off in the distance… from afar it may look like the light floats round on its own, but it is wielded by the legendary dancing bear. The dancing bear and his orb are familiar to any one who has every been to a show. And anyone who has ever been to a show knows that the dancing bear and his orb define the show even more than the musicians on stage. The reason I even had the tickets in the first place was because the dancing bear aka Rob kindly offered them to my father and I.
The dancing bear is Rob, and he owns a bunch of houses in palo alto a couple in SF, each named after a different Grateful Dead song. At the end of August I had the privilege of moving into one of Rob’s many Dead houses. It is across from the Marina Green in SF and has a beautiful magnolia tree on the side. Thus, the house is appropriately named Sugar Magnolia, and you better believe that they ended the show with that song. It may be the greatest love song ever written, and every time I hear it faint memories of falling asleep as a child to the sound of dad playing it on acoustic come back to me. And next to us was Rob – the dancing bear himself – in his element.
Warning: Philosophical Tangent re – characters.
There are many characters in the world – i.e. Dancing Bear at Dead shows, Banjo Man at the A’s games, the “Happy, Happy, Happy” guy who stands on the corner of Telegraph and Bancroft and says “Happy, happy, happy” all day, etc. These characters are an integral part of an experience and even come to define an event. But the event/culture also defines that character. They’re intertwined to the point where they are codependent in their existence – a show is incomplete without the dancing bear, but the dancing bear exists only in the context of the shows.
And the question I always wonder about is – how did this character come to be and who is it really? At what point does the dude become an actual “character”?
When I worked at KALX I wanted to do a news series where each week we would bring in one of the Berkeley characters and do an expose interview to answer these questions. This never happened as so many ideas get lost in the happenings of life…
While I still wonder, I am content in the wonder. For even if you do know who the character “is”, all you can really know is non-relevant information about a guy – and the guy is not the character. For the character is an icon, that is alive only in it’s element. And when the element is taken away, there is no character… ?!
It’s like the age old philosophical question about personal identity and fission – where if you take a human brain and transplant one hemisphere into another body, are both bodies the same person? See Section 5. Yes this is a burning question in my mind.
I guess all I’m really trying to say is last night’s show was. AWESOME.