I just read my compadre Adam King's blog post (I Shit Music) assessing Bob Weir's episode last night at the Capitol Theatre‚ as well as many other opinions from the community. I posted this on the State of Mind Facebook page earlier this morning along with the video of "Unbroken Chain" and Bobby going down:
Well‚ this certainly can't be the weirdest thing that's happened onstage with members of the Grateful Dead. I hope Bobby gets well. Also‚ bonus points for not stopping "Unbroken Chain"... besides the irony of song and circumstance that's so prevalent in the GD ethos and is apparent here‚ perhaps there's also an unspoken understanding that nothing is more important than making music‚ no matter how dark it gets around you.

Adam King's post‚ as well as many others around the interwebs‚ disagree with my assessment about how they continued to play after Bob did a face plant. As King states‚ "Honestly‚ I feel sad and sorry for Bobby‚ but I feel anger towards Phil. This is a tremendous low-point for the legacy of the Grateful Dead. It's not sad that Bobby was so fucked up‚ it's sad that nobody seemed to care if he was all right. You don't just pretend nothing happened."
The enormity of the Grateful Dead's music continues to amaze me each passing year -- somehow its impact and importance manages to get bigger and even more influential. And in terms of how we come up with our philosophies of understanding it‚ they're as much all over the spectrum as the music. Case in point‚ I disagree with Adam. We both share a love for the Grateful Dead. He plays keys in Dead Sessions -- a fantastic Dead cover band based here in Vermont‚ and no doubt‚ I would play in a Dead cover band if I had the chops to do it right. This music is in our blood and it's worth sharing it. A lot. In addition‚ I can call up Adam anytime and discuss the most abstract experiences with music and we're usually on the same page. He's someone who shares the passion and enthusiasm. We can just dive right in about experiences surrendering yourself to music as deep as you can‚ talking freely about it without any hesitation. It's a wonderful bond. But when it comes to the Grateful Dead's music‚ or continuation and evolution of it‚ we usually end up speaking at each other like we're talking in different languages. Especially when we're discussing anything post-Jerry. So‚ not surprisingly‚ I don't think this is low point in the GD legacy and I don't think it was wrong that the band kept playing (as his post suggests). I think it's my understanding of the GD philosophy and history that makes me feel this way. Let me dig in a little….
I guess the one myth surrounding the Grateful Dead not only from a cultural standpoint‚ but even from within the sub-culture is that it's supposed to represent some utopian‚ hippie idea of peace‚ love‚ freedom and understanding. It doesn't and never has. Sure there are elements of that. But if the music's poetry and improvisation said only that to you‚ well‚ you're not listening to the entire story. In other words‚ there wouldn't be a Grateful Dead if that was the case. There's various sayings about the massiveness of the Dead's music‚ shit like‚ "in order to understand the light‚ you have to understand the dark." It's all in there. Yes‚ their intention might be to hit that higher level of collective consciousness with their audience -- or as Phil has stated‚ "This is the truth; I am not there at all. Nobody else is either. There are no humans on that stage; there is only music." And they've hit that magic spot time and time again and are continuing night in and night out to get back to or further along in that space. We all are… I hope. But between all of that (or perhaps to get to that)‚ it has always appeared to come with a cost. The band has always been a bit irreverent‚ and they've never denied their short-comings throughout their history. Lots of darkness. Here's a look back at some of the less inspiring moments in GD history‚ off the top of my noggin:
* Jerry nodded off onstage frequently and despite a massive drug problem‚ they kept on touring and touring.
* Keith nodded off onstage frequently (eventually he was fired).
* Pigpen died from liver cirrhosis from alcohol abuse (they hired his replacement as he was dying and playing less and less).
* Brent died from an overdose three days after their summer tour ended (about six-weeks later they started their fall tour with Vince).
* Vince killed himself (failed attempt years earlier on Bob's tour bus‚ resulting in never playing with members of the Dead again after that incident).
* Billy was arrested after beating Matt Kelly senseless (apparently Matt Kelly ripped him off on a tour they did‚ and this was payback) and also he's been arrested for domestic disputes.
* Didn't Mickey Hart just assault someone?
You get the point. It hasn't been all unicorns and rainbows on this trip. A lot of things haven't been pretty in the GD history -- shit‚ they're really‚ really human. But when it comes to "the human vs. the music‚" the music always seems to win. And perhaps‚ to a fault‚ nothing seems to be more important than playing music. And you hear all that shit -- the struggle‚ the imperfections‚ the dark side of life -- and the music always goes on for good or bad. For me‚ that's what makes it so vast and mysterious. And always relevant and real.
Also‚ as often you find a kindred spirit in meeting a fellow Deadhead‚ you also run into people you wouldn't want your children around. Scratch that -- there are Deadheads that you don't even feel comfortable around… Lost Sailors if you will. It's a 50/50 crap shoot… similar to a lot of things in life‚ especially American life. And after close 50 years of doing this shit‚ you think these guys are going to stop playing because someone in the band falls over? Why would they start now? I stand with my original thought that there's an unspoken understanding that even if a brother goes down‚ you keep playing. It's gotten them this far on this bumpy‚ oftentimes beautiful road.
It's certainly not the darkest time in GD history‚ and it probably won't be the last time things get dark. So‚ everybody chill the fuck out and let's hope Bobby gets well.
Bob Weir Phil Lesh Furthur