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A collection of 1996 Phish tickets by mail stubs

January 30th, 2012 No comments

Phish Ticket Stub 1996-08-02
Friday, 08/02/1996
Wolf Mountain Amphitheatre, Park City, UT

Soundcheck: The Old Home Place, Character Zero, Guelah Papyrus

Set 1: Somewhere Over the Rainbow[1], Ya Mar, DwDDown with Disease > GuelahGuelah Papyrus, Poor Heart > Foam, ThemeTheme From the Bottom, GolgiGolgi Apparatus > Tweezer, Hello My Baby, Possum[2]

Set 2: Runaway Jim > Simple > Taste > Free > Fluffhead > CaspianPrince Caspian > HorseThe Horse > SilentSilent in the Morning, AntelopeRun Like an Antelope[3]

Encore: PYITEPunch You In the Eye

[1] Performed solo by Page on theremin.
[2] Oom Pa Pa signal.
[3] May The Force Be With You (The Force Theme from Star Wars) tease.

Notes: This show marked the debut of Page’s theremin. Somewhere Over the Rainbow was played for the first time since July 3, 1994 (161 shows) and was performed solo by Page on the theremin in response to the huge rainbow that appeared over the venue just before the show started. Possum contained an Oom Pa Pa signal. Antelope included a tease of May The Force Be With You (The Force Theme from Star Wars).

Phish Ticket Stub 1996-08-04
Sunday, 08/04/1996
Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, CO

Soundcheck: Character Zero, Poor Heart (half speed), Caravan, Jam

Set 1: CDTChalk Dust Torture, Funky Bitch, Guyute, Fee[1] > SOAMeltSplit Open and Melt, MangoThe Mango Song, SlothThe Sloth, Maze, Loving Cup

Set 2: BagAC/DC Bag > Reba[2], SOAMuleScent of a Mule, SampleSample in a Jar > BowieDavid Bowie, Sweet Adeline, SlaveSlave to the Traffic Light

Encore: Theme from Star Trek[3], Rocky Top

[1] Trey sang verses through megaphone.
[2] No whistling.
[3] Phish debut; performed solo by Page on theremin.

Notes: Trey sang the verses of Fee through a megaphone. Reba did not have the whistling ending. The Theme from Star Trek made its Phish debut at this show and was performed by Page solo on the theremin.

Phish Ticket Stub 1996-08-05
Monday, 08/05/1996
Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, CO

Soundcheck: Strange Design (several times)

Set 1: Wilson > Poor Heart > GuelahGuelah Papyrus, DividedDivided Sky, Wolfman’sWolfman’s Brother, Foam, If I Could, Julius, CoilThe Squirming Coil

Set 2: 2001Also Sprach Zarathustra > DwDDown with Disease[1] -> It’s Ice, Halley’sHalley’s Comet, Somewhere Over the Rainbow[2], Waste[3], Talk[4], Train Song[3], Strange Design[3], Amazing Grace, Mike’sMike’s Song > HydrogenI Am Hydrogen > WeekapaugWeekapaug Groove

Encore: Cavern

[1] Unfinished.
[2] Performed solo by Page on theremin.
[3] Page on a smaller piano, Trey on acoustic guitar, Mike on acoustic bass, and Fishman on a smaller drum set.
[4] Debut; Page on a smaller piano, Trey on acoustic guitar, Mike on acoustic bass, and Fishman on a smaller drum set.

Notes: As urged in flyers handed out by Phish.netters, many fans sat down during the silent part of Divided Sky. Down with Disease was unfinished. Somewhere Over the Rainbow was performed solo by Page on the theremin. Waste through Strange Design were performed with Page on a smaller piano, Trey on acoustic guitar, Mike on acoustic bass, and Fishman on a smaller drum set. This show marked the first performance of Talk and featured an atypical It’s Ice. Mike teased Barracuda before the second set.

Phish Ticket Stub 1996-08-06
Tuesday, 08/06/1996
Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, CO

Set 1: MakisupaMakisupa Policeman > Rift > SuzySuzy Greenberg[1] > Simple, ThemeTheme From the Bottom > LizardsThe Lizards, Dinner and a Movie, Horn, AntelopeRun Like an Antelope[2]

Set 2: CurtainThe Curtain > Tweezer[3] > CaspianPrince Caspian > ADITLA Day in the Life > BBFCFMBig Black Furry Creature from Mars > HYHUHold Your Head Up > Purple Rain > HYHUHold Your Head Up, HoodHarry Hood[4] > TweepriseTweezer Reprise

Encore: JBGJohnny B. Goode

[1] Simple tease.
[2] “21 year old Phish Fan Marcus Esquandolas” was substituted for “Marco Esquandolas.”
[3] Norwegian Wood jam.
[4] Debut of “Hood” response chant.

Notes: Note the “This is Red Rocks, This is the Edge” quote from Trey during the break in Rift. The quote was a reference both to U2’s Live: Under a Blood Red Sky album and Trey’s similar remarks on the Junta-released version of Icculus. Suzy included a Simple tease. The phrase “21 year old Phish Fan Marcus Esquandolas” was substituted for “Marco Esquandolas” during Antelope in reference to a fan’s quote in a newspaper article on the disturbance in Morrison the day before. Tweezer included a Norwegian Wood jam. Harry Hood featured the debut of the “Hood” response chant, initiated by Phish.netters and advertised on flyers handed out at the Red Rocks shows. Among other ideas, the flyers encouraged fans to shout: “Hood” after the band sings “Harry.” It began to rain in the second set; the band responded with Purple Rain, and Chris Kuroda showed the stage in purple lights. The performance of Simple from this gig appears on the Carved in Stone CD benefiting The Rocks Fund, dedicated to the rehabilitation and preservation of Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

Phish Ticket Stub 1996-08-10
Saturday, 08/10/1996
Alpine Valley Music Theatre, East Troy, WI

Soundcheck: Character Zero, The Old Home Place, Funky Bitch

Set 1: My FriendMy Friend, My Friend, Poor Heart > BagAC/DC Bag > Fee[1] > Reba[2], IDKI Didn’t Know, HorseThe Horse > SilentSilent in the Morning, Rift > GinBathtub Gin, Cavern

Set 2: Wilson > DwDDown with Disease > SOAMuleScent of a Mule[3], Free, Fluffhead, HYHUHold Your Head Up > Whipping Post > HYHUHold Your Head Up, HoodHarry Hood > ADITLA Day in the Life

Encore: Contact > Fire

[1] Trey sang verses through megaphone.
[2] No whistling.
[3] Sunshine of Your Love tease from Page during the Mule Duel.

Notes: My Friend featured Trey using his microphone stand as a slide. Trey sang the verses of Fee through a megaphone. Reba did not have the whistling ending. Page teased Sunshine of Your Love during the Mule Duel. Whipping Post was played for the first time since April 20, 1993 (284 shows).

Phish Ticket Stub 1996-08-12
Monday, 08/12/1996
Deer Creek Music Center, Noblesville, IN

Soundcheck: Jam, Lean on Me (instrumental), The Old Home Place, Ain’t Too Proud To Beg -> Jam

Set 1: Ya Mar, SOAMeltSplit Open and Melt, Esther > CDTChalk Dust Torture, Weigh > It’s Ice > Dog Faced Boy, Taste, Oh Kee PaThe Oh Kee Pa Ceremony > SuzySuzy Greenberg

Set 2: TimberTimber (Jerry) > Sparkle > Simple > CaspianPrince Caspian[1] > McGruppMcGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters > AntelopeRun Like an Antelope, Hello My Baby, GolgiGolgi Apparatus, Possum[2]

Encore: SampleSample in a Jar

[1] Unfinished.
[2] All Fall Down and Simpsons signals. Voodoo Child tease.

Notes: Caspian was unfinished. Possum included All Fall Down and Simpsons signals as well as a Voodoo Child tease.

Phish Ticket Stub 1996-08-13
Tuesday, 08/13/1996
Deer Creek Music Center, Noblesville, IN

Soundcheck: Talk (intro, acoustic, x2), Waste (acoustic), Spooky -> Jam

Set 1: DividedDivided Sky, Tube, Tela > Maze, FEFYFast Enough for You > Old Home PlaceThe Old Home Place, PYITEPunch You In the Eye, Llama, Glide, SlaveSlave to the Traffic Light

Set 2: BagAC/DC Bag > LizardsThe Lizards, Mike’sMike’s Song > Lifeboy > WeekapaugWeekapaug Groove -> Somewhere Over the Rainbow[1], Waste[2], Train Song[2], Strange Design[2], Sweet Adeline, BowieDavid Bowie

Encore: Sleeping Monkey > Rocky Top

[1] Performed solo by Page on theremin.
[2] Performed on acoustic mini-stage.

Notes: Page performed Somewhere Over the Rainbow solo on the theremin. Waste through Strange Design were performed on the acoustic mini-stage. Trey played the composed section to Divided Sky over the soundcheck jam. This show was officially released as Live Phish 12.

Phish Ticket Stub 1996-08-14
Wednesday, 08/14/1996
Hersheypark Stadium, Hershey, PA

Soundcheck: Funky Bitch, Tush

Set 1: Wilson -> Jam > DwDDown with Disease, Fee[1] -> Poor Heart, Reba[2], MangoThe Mango Song > Gumbo, Stash, Hello My Baby

Set 2: Runaway Jim > YEMYou Enjoy Myself, HorseThe Horse > SilentSilent in the Morning, CTBCars Trucks Buses > Tweezer, ThemeTheme From the Bottom > HYHUHold Your Head Up > Cracklin’ Rosie > HYHUHold Your Head Up, SampleSample in a Jar > TweepriseTweezer Reprise

Encore: Julius

[1] Trey sang verses through megaphone.
[2] No whistling.

Notes: Trey sang the verses of Fee through a megaphone. Reba did not have the whistling ending. Julius was dedicated to Brad Sands’s brother Matty.

Phish Ticket Stub 1996-08-16
Friday, 08/16/1996
Plattsburgh Air Force Base, Plattsburgh, NY

Set 1: CDTChalk Dust Torture, GinBathtub Gin[1], Ya Mar, BagAC/DC Bag > Esther > DividedDivided Sky, Halley’sHalley’s Comet > BowieDavid Bowie

Set 2: SOAMeltSplit Open and Melt, Sparkle > Free, CoilThe Squirming Coil, Waste[2], Talk[2], Train Song[2], Strange Design[2], Hello My Baby, Mike’sMike’s Song -> Simple -> Contact > WeekapaugWeekapaug Groove

Set 3: MakisupaMakisupa Policeman > 2001Also Sprach Zarathustra > DwDDown with Disease[3] -> NICU, Life on Mars? > HoodHarry Hood -> Jam

Encore: Amazing Grace

Set 4: Flatbed Truck Jam

[1] Brief DEG tease from Trey.
[2] Acoustic mini-stage.
[3] Unfinished.

Notes: This was the first show of The Clifford Ball festival. Bathtub Gin contained a brief DEG tease from Trey. Waste through Strange Design were performed on the acoustic mini-stage. Disease was unfinished. The second set was preceded by a Mary Had a Little Lamb tease. The jam at the end of Harry Hood accompanied a fireworks display. The band took to the back of a flatbed truck at around 3:30 in the morning and drove through the crowd. The performance was one long open-ended jam.

Phish Ticket Stub 1996-08-17
Saturday, 08/17/1996
Plattsburgh Air Force Base, Plattsburgh, NY

Set 1: Old Home PlaceThe Old Home Place, PYITEPunch You In the Eye, Reba[1] > CTBCars Trucks Buses, LizardsThe Lizards, SampleSample in a Jar, Taste, Fee[2] -> Maze, SuzySuzy Greenberg

Set 2: CurtainThe Curtain > Runaway Jim, It’s Ice > Brother[3], Fluffhead, AntelopeRun Like an Antelope > GolgiGolgi Apparatus > SlaveSlave to the Traffic Light

Set 3: Wilson[4], Frankenstein, SOAMuleScent of a Mule[5], Tweezer, ADITLA Day in the Life, Possum > TweepriseTweezer Reprise

Encore: Harpua[6]

[1] No whistling.
[2] Trey sang verses through megaphone.
[3] Ben and Jerry on vocals.
[4] Heartbreaker tease.
[5] Page/Fishman Mule Duel.
[6] Unfinished.

Notes: This was the second show of The Clifford Ball festival. Reba did not have the whistling ending. Trey sang the verses of Fee through a megaphone. Before the second set, Trey paid tribute to Aaron Stein of Syracuse, who was front row center for every show of the tour. The first Brother since August 2, 1993 (257 shows) featured Ben and Jerry on guest vocals. Wilson included a Heartbreaker tease. Antelope featured a female acrobat twirling in the rigging, suspended above the stage in a circus-like fashion. Scent of a Mule featured a Page/Fishman duel instead of the typical Page/Trey duel. Tweezer had big trampolines on each side of the stage and more circus shenanigans. A stunt plane circled overhead during Tweezer Reprise and Harpua. Harpua was unfinished; it was completed on August 16, 1997 at The Great Went.

Phish Ticket Stub 1996-10-31
Thursday, 10/31/1996
The Omni, Atlanta, GA

Soundcheck: Overload

Set 1: Sanity > Highway to Hell > DwDDown with Disease > YEMYou Enjoy Myself, CaspianPrince Caspian > Reba, Forbin’sColonel Forbin’s Ascent > MockingbirdFly Famous Mockingbird[1] > Character Zero, Star Spangled BannerThe Star Spangled Banner

Set 2: Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)[2] > C&PCrosseyed and Painless[2], The Great Curve[2], Once in a Lifetime[2] > Houses in Motion[3] -> Seen and Not Seen[4] -> Listening Wind[2] > The Overload[2]

Set 3: Brother[5], 2001Also Sprach Zarathustra[5] > Maze[5], Simple[6] -> Swept Away[5] > Steep[5] > JJLCJesus Just Left Chicago[7] > SuzySuzy Greenberg[8]

Encore: Frankenstein[9]

[1] Narration referred to David Byrne, who appeared in the mountain as the face of Icculus, threw Forbin off the mountain and into the arms of the “evil” Famous Mockingbird.
[2] Phish debut; Karl Perazzo on percussion, Dave Grippo on saxophone, and Gary Gazaway on trumpet.
[3] Phish debut; Karl Perazzo on percussion, Dave Grippo on saxophone, and Gary Gazaway on trumpet. Tweezer tease from Trey at the end.
[4] Phish debut; Karl Perazzo on percussion, Dave Grippo on saxophone, Gary Gazaway on trumpet, and Trey on bass.
[5] Karl Perazzo on percussion.
[6] Karl Perazzo on percussion. Mama Told Me Not to Come tease.
[7] Karl Perazzo on percussion, Dave Grippo on saxophone, Gary Gazaway on trumpet.
[8] Karl Perazzo on percussion, Dave Grippo on saxophone, Gary Gazaway on trumpet. Born Under Punches tease from Page.
[9] Dave Grippo on saxophone, Gary Gazaway on trumpet.

Notes: The Mockingbird narration included a reference to The Talking Heads’ David Byrne, who appeared in the mountain as the face of Icculus. As Trey told the story, Byrne threw Colonel Forbin off the mountain and into the arms of the “evil” Famous Mockingbird. The second set “musical costume” was The Talking Heads’ Remain in Light. All of the Remain in Light songs were Phish debuts; the set featured Karl Perazzo on percussion, Dave Grippo on saxophone, and Gary Gazaway on trumpet. Perazzo also played during the entire third set. Jesus Just Left Chicago, Suzy Greenberg, and Frankenstein also featured Grippo and Gazaway. At the end of Houses in Motion (which featured Trey teasing Tweezer), an armchair was brought out to the center of the stage and Mike sat in it to sing Seen and Not Seen. While he sang, Karl Perazzo drummed and Trey played bass. After Overload, a bizarre on-stage demonstration closed the set. The third set opened with a Feel Like a Stranger tease. Suzy included a Born Under Punches tease from Page. Simple included a tease of Mama Told Me Not to Come. The soundcheck’s Overload was performed with horns and briefly featured Fishman on vacuum. This show was officially released as Live Phish 15.

Phish Ticket Stub 1996-12-28
Saturday, 12/28/1996
CoreStates Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA

Set 1: Runaway Jim, NICU, Wolfman’sWolfman’s Brother, It’s Ice, Billy Breathes, GinsengGinseng Sullivan, SOAMeltSplit Open and Melt, MangoThe Mango Song, Frankenstein

Set 2: MakisupaMakisupa Policeman[1] -> Maze, Bouncin’Bouncing Around the Room, Digital Delay Loop Jam -> TMWSIYThe Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu > Mike’sMike’s Song -> Strange Design > WeekapaugWeekapaug Groove[2], Star Spangled BannerThe Star Spangled Banner

Encore: JBGJohnny B. Goode

[1] Key words: “Stink, Stank, Stunk”
[2] Ended with long Page solo.

Notes: Makisupa Policeman included the cryptic lyrics “Stink, Stank, Stunk,” which may have been a reference to the theme song in The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Weekapaug Groove ended with a long Page solo. The Star Spangled Banner was dedicated to Kate Smith, who used to sing God Bless America at Flyers’ home hockey games.

Phish Ticket Stub 1996-12-29
Sunday, 12/29/1996
CoreStates Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA

Set 1: Poor Heart > Caravan > Cavern > Taste, GuelahGuelah Papyrus, Train Song, Rift > Free, CoilThe Squirming Coil[1], La Grange

Set 2: BowieDavid Bowie, ADITLA Day in the Life, GinBathtub Gin -> LizardsThe Lizards, YEMYou Enjoy Myself -> Rotation Jam > Sixteen Candles[2] > YEMYou Enjoy Myself[3], Harpua[4] -> Champagne Supernova[5] -> Harpua

Encore: Rocky Top

[1] Sesame Street theme tease from Page.
[2] Phish debut; performed solo by Mike on piano.
[3] Vocal jam.
[4] Harpua, Poster, and Jimmy were cconfronted by the “Über Demon” and the “evil sound of hell.”
[5] Phish debut; Tom Marshall on vocals.

Notes: Squirming Coil contained a Sesame Street theme tease from Page. Mike performed the Phish debut of Sixteen Candles solo on piano. Tom Marshall contributed the vocals to the Phish debut of Champagne Supernova as Harpua, Poster, and Jimmy were confronted by the “Über Demon” and the “evil sound of hell.” This show featured the breakout of Caravan, which had been shelved since December 2, 1994 (160 shows).

Phish Ticket Stub 1996-12-30m
Monday, 12/30/1996
FleetCenter, Boston, MA

Set 1: Ya Mar, SlothThe Sloth, Llama, Gumbo, Reba[1], Talk[2], Funky Bitch[3], ThemeTheme From the Bottom > GTBTGood Times Bad Times

Set 2: TimberTimber (Jerry) > Uncle Pen, BagAC/DC Bag, Guyute, Tweezer -> Lifeboy > SOAMuleScent of a Mule[4], SlaveSlave to the Traffic Light

Encore: Possum

[1] No whistling.
[2] Trey on acoustic guitar.
[3] P.A. cut out.
[4] Page/Mike Mule Duel and Steven Wright ringing a desk bell three times.

Notes: Reba did not have the whistling ending. Talk featured Trey on acoustic guitar. The P.A. cut out during Funky Bitch, during which Fishman took an “air drum” solo, Trey performed Townsend-style windmills, and the entire band engaged in random silliness while still “playing” the song. Scent featured a Page/Mike Mule Duel and a guest appearance from comedian Steven Wright, who came out and rang a desk bell three times.

Phish Ticket Stub 1996-12-31
Tuesday, 12/31/1996
FleetCenter, Boston, MA

Set 1: Axilla > PeachesPeaches en Regalia > PYITEPunch You In the Eye[1], CTBCars Trucks Buses, Stash, HorseThe Horse > SilentSilent in the Morning > DividedDivided Sky, SampleSample in a Jar > TweepriseTweezer Reprise

Set 2: CDTChalk Dust Torture > Wilson > Sparkle > Simple -> Swept Away > Steep > HoodHarry Hood -> CaspianPrince Caspian > Character Zero

Set 3: 2001Also Sprach Zarathustra > Auld Lang Syne -> DwDDown with Disease > SuzySuzy Greenberg, AntelopeRun Like an Antelope, Bohemian Rhapsody[2], Julius[3]

Encore: Amazing Grace[3]

[1] Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough teases from Page.
[2] Phish debut; Boston Community Choir.
[3] Boston Community Choir.

Notes: As the traditional Auld Lang Syne rang in the New Year, tens of thousands of balloons (reportedly a world record) fell from the rafters. This show marked the first Phish performance of Bohemian Rhapsody which, along with Julius and Amazing Grace, featured the Boston Community Choir. PYITE included Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough teases from Page.

All setlists courtesy of

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Remastered Phish Harpua Champagne Supernova 12.29.96 Philly Spectrum

January 10th, 2012 No comments

This was one of the first shows that really got me into Phish. I found the video clip on youtube and resynced the audio with a better source off of etree. There may be a few sync glitches as the original video has some stutters. I also cleaned up the video a little and cropped the edges. Features Tom Marshall as the Uber Demon singing Champagne Supernova. Enjoy!

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Occupy Wall Street Moral Dilemma

November 29th, 2011 No comments

Occupy Wall Street Humor | ThinkProgress

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Phish Vegas 03 Crowd Shot during DWD

September 7th, 2011 No comments

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Letter from Robert Hunter To Jerry Garcia after his death

August 9th, 2011 3 comments

Dear JG,

it’s been a year since you shuffled off the mortal coil and a lot has happened. It might surprise you to know you made every front page in the world. The press is still having fun, mostly over lawsuits challenging your somewhat …umm… patchwork Last Will and Testament. Annabelle didn’t get the EC horror comic collection, which I think would piss you off as much as anything. Nor could Dough Irwin accept the legacy of the guitars he built for you because the tax-assessment on them, icon-enriched as they are, is more than he can afford short of selling them off. The upside of the craziness is: your image is selling briskly enough that your estate should manage something to keep various wolves from various familial doors, even after the lawyers are paid. How it’s to be divided will probably fall in the hands of the judge. An expert on celebrity wills said in the news that yours was a blueprint on how not to make a will.

The band decided to call it quits. I think it’s a move that had to be made. You weren’t exactly a sideman. But nothing’s for certain. Some need at least the pretense of retirement after all these years. Can they sustain it? We’ll see.

I’m writing this from England, by the way. Much clarity of perspective to be had from stepping out of the scene for a couple of months. What isn’t so clear is my own role, but it’s really no more problematic than it has been for the last decade. As long as I get words on paper and can lead myself to believe it’s not bullshit, I’m roughly content. I’m not exactly Mr. Business.

I decided to get a personal archive together to stick on that stagnating computer site we had. Really started pouring the mustard on. I’m writing, for crying out loud, my diary on it! Besides running my ego full tilt (what’s new?) I’m trying to give folks some skinny on what’s going down. I don’t mean I’m busting the usual suspects left and right, but am giving a somewhat less than cautious overview and soapboxing more than a little. They appointed me webmaster, and I hope they don’t regret it.

There are those in the entourage who quietly believe we’re washed up without you. Even should time and circumstance prove it to be so, we need to believe otherwise long enough to get some self sustaining operations going, or we’ll never know for sure. It’s matter of self respect. Maybe it’s a long shot, but this whole fucking trip was a longshot from the start, so what else is new?

Your funeral service was one hell of a scene. Maureen and I took Barbara and Sara in and sat with them. MG waited over at our place. Manasha and Keelan were also absent. None by choice. Everybody from the band said some words and Steve, especially, did you proud, speaking with great love and candor. Annabelle got up and said you were a genius, a great guy, a wonderful friend, and a shitty father – which shocked part of the contingent and amused the rest. After awhile the minister said that that was enough talking, but I called out, from the back of the church, “Wait, I’ve got something!” and charged up the aisle and read this piece I wrote for you, my voice and hands shaking like a leaf. Man, it was weird looking over and seeing you dead!

A slew of books have come out about you and more to follow. Perspective is lacking. It’s way too soon. You’d be amazed at the number of people with whom you’ve had a nodding acquaintance who are suddenly experts on your psychology and motivations. Your music still speaks louder than all the BS: who you were, not the messes you got yourself into. Only a very great star is afforded that much inspection and that much forgiveness.

There was so much confusion on who should be allowed to attend the scattering of your ashes that they sat around for four months. It was way too weird for this cowboy who was neither invited nor desirous of going. I said good-bye with my poem at the funeral service. It was cathartic and I didn’t need an anti-climax.

A surreal sidelight: Weir went to India and scattered a handful of your ashes in the Ganges as a token of your worldwide stature. He took a lot of flak from the fans for it, which must have hurt. A bunch of them decided to scapegoat him, presumably needing someplace to misdirect their anger over the loss of you. In retrospect, I think Weir was hardest hit of the old crowd by your death. I take these things in my stride, though I admit to a rough patch here and there. But Bob took it right on the chin. Shock was written all over his face for a long time, for any with eyes to see.

Some of the guys have got bands together and are doing a tour. The fans complain it’s not the same without you, and of course it isn’t, but a reasonable number show up and have a pretty good time. The insane crush of the latter day GD shows is gone and that’s all for the best. From the show I saw, and reports on the rest, the crowd is discovering that the sense of community is still present, matured through mutual grief over losing you. This will evolve in more joyous directions over time, but no one’s looking to fill your shoes. No one has the presumption.

Been remembering some of the key talks we had in the old days, trying to suss what kind of a tiger we were riding, where it was going, and how to direct it, if possible. Driving to the city once, you admitted you didn’t have a clue what to do beyond composing and playing the best you could. I agreed – put the weight on the music, stay out of politics, and everything else should follow. I trusted your musical sense and you were good enough to trust my words. Trust was the whole enchilada, looking back.

Walking down Madrone Canyon in Larkspur in 1969, you said some pretty mindblowing stuff, how we were creating a universe and I was responsible for the verbal half of it. I said maybe, but it was your way with music and a guitar that was pulling it off. You said “That’s for now. This is your time in the shadow, but it won’t always be that way. I’m not going to live a long time, it’s not in the cards. Then it’ll be your turn.” I may be alive and kicking, but no pencil pusher is going to inherit the stratosphere that so gladly opened to you. Recalling your statement, though, often helped keep me oriented as my own star murked below the horizon while you streaked across the sky of our generation like a goddamned comet!

Though my will to achieve great things is moderated by seeing what comes of them, I’ve assigned myself the task of trying to honor the original vision. I’m not answerable to anybody but my conscience, which, if less than spotless, doesn’t keep me awake at night. Maybe it’s best, personally speaking, that the power to make contracts and deal the remains of what was built through the decades rests in other hands. I wave the flag and rock the boat from time to time, since I believe much depends on it, but will accept the outcome with equanimity.

Just thought it should be said that I no longer hold your years of self inflicted decline against you. I did for awhile, felt ripped off, but have come to understand that you were troubled and compromised by your position in the public eye far beyond anyone’s powers to deal with. Star shit. Who can you really trust? Is it you or your image they love? No one can understand those dilemmas in depth except those who have no choice but to live them. You whistled up the whirlwind and it blew you away. Your substance of choice made you more malleable to forces you would have brushed off with a characteristic sneer in earlier days. Well, you know it to be so. Let those who pick your bones note that it was not always so.

So here I am, writing a letter to a dead man, because it’s hard to find a context to say things like this other than to imagine I have your ear, which of course I don’t. Only to say that what you were is more startlingly apparent in your absence than ever it was in the last decade. I remember sitting in the waiting room of the hospital through the days of your first coma. Not being related, I wasn’t allowed into the intensive care unit to see you until you came to and requested to see me. And there you were – more open and vulnerable than I’d ever seen you. You grasped my hand and began telling me your visions, the crazy densely packed phantasmagoria way beyond any acid trip, the demons and mechanical monsters that taunted and derided, telling you endless bad jokes and making horrible puns of everything – and then you asked, point blank, “Have I gone insane?” I said “No, you’ve been very sick. You’ve been in a coma for days, right at death’s door. They’re only hallucinations, they’ll go away. You survived.” “Thanks,” you said. “I needed to hear that.”

Your biographers aren’t pleased that I don’t talk to them, but how am I to say stuff like this to an interviewer with an agenda? I sometimes report things that occur to me about you in my journal, as the moment releases it, in my own way, in my own time, and they can take what they want of that.

Obviously, faith in the underlying vision which spawned the Grateful Dead might be hard to muster for those who weren’t part of the all night rap sessions circa 1960-61 … sessions that picked up the next morning at Kepler’s bookstore then headed over to the Stanford cellar or St. Mike’s to continue over coffee and guitars. There were no hippies in those days and the beats had bellied up. There was only us vs. 50’s consciousness. There no jobs to be had if we wanted them. Just folk music and tremendous dreams. Yeah, we dreamed our way here. I trust it. So did you. Not so long ago we wrote a song about all that, and you sang it like a prayer. The Days Between. Last song we ever wrote.

Context is lost, even now. The sixties were a long time ago and getting longer. A cartoon version of our times satisfies public perception. Our continuity is misunderstood as some sort of strange persistence of an outmoded style. Beads, bell bottoms and peace signs. But no amount of pop cynicism can erase the suspicion, in the minds of the present generation, that something was going on once that was better than what’s going on now. And I sense that they’re digging for “what it is” and only need the proper catalyst to find it for themselves. Your guitar is like a compass needle pointing the strange way there. I’m wandering far afield from the intention of this letter, a year’s report, but this year wasn’t made up only of events following your death in some roughly chronological manner. It reached down to the roots of everything, shook the earth off, and inspected them. The only constant is the fact that you remain silent. Various dances are done around that fact.

Don’t misconstrue me, I don’t waste much time in grief. Insofar as you were able, you were an exponent of a dream in the continual act of being defined into a reality. You had a massive personality and talent to present it to the world. That dream is the crux of the matter, and somehow concerns beauty, consciousness and community. We were, and are, worthy insofar as we serve it. When that dream is dead, there’ll be time enough for true and endless grief.

John Kahn died in May, same day Leary did. Linda called 911 and they came over and searched the house, found a tiny bit of coke and carted her off to jail in shock. If the devil himself isn’t active in this world, there’s sure something every bit as mean: institutional righteousness without an iota of fellow feeling. But, as I figure, that’s the very reason the dream is so important – it’s whatever is the diametric opposite of that. Human kindness.

Trust me that I don’t walk around saying “this was what Jerry would have wanted” to drive my points home. What you wanted is a secret known but to yourself. You said ‘yes’ to what sounded like a good idea at the time, ‘no’ to what sounded like a bad one. I see more of what leadership is about, in the absence of it. It’s an instinct for good ideas. An aversion to bad ones. Compromise on indifferent ones. Power is another matter. Power is not leadership but coercion. People follow leaders because they want to.

I know you were often sick and tired of the conflicting demands made on you by contentious forces you invited into your life and couldn’t as easily dismiss. You once said to me, in 1960, “just say yes to everybody and do what you damn well want.” Maybe, but when every ‘yes’ becomes an IOU payable in full, who’s coffer is big enough to pay up? “Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke!” would be a characteristic reply. Unfortunately, you’re not around to explain what was a joke and what wasn’t. It all boils down to signed pieces of paper with no punch lines appended.

I know what I’m saying in this letter can be taken a hundred ways. As always, I just say what occurs to me to say and can’t say what doesn’t. Could I write a book about you? No. Didn’t know you well enough. Let those who knew you even less write them. You were canny enough to keep your own self to yourself and let your fingers do the talking. Speaking of ‘personal matters’ was never your shtick.

Our friendship was testy. I challenged you rather more than you liked, having a caustic tongue. In later years you preferred the company of those capable of keeping it light and non-judgmental. I think it must always be that way with prominent and powerfully gifted persons. I don’t say that, for the most part, your inner circle weren’t good and true. They’d have laid down their lives for you. I’d have had to think about it. I mean, a star is a star is a star. There’s no reality check. If the truth were known, you were too well loved for your own good, but that smacks of psychologizing and I drop the subject forthwith

All our songs are acquiring new meanings. I don’t deny writing with an eye to the future at times, but our mutual folk, blues and country background gave us a mutual liking for songs that dealt with sorrow and the dark issues of life. Neither of us gave a fuck for candy coated shit, psychedelic or otherwise. I never even thought of us as a “pop band.” You had to say to me one day, after I’d handed over the Eagle Mall suite, “Look, Hunter – we’re a goddamn dance band, for Christ’s sake! At least write something with a beat!” Okay. I handed over Truckin’ next. How was I to know? I thought we were silver and gold; something new on this Earth. But the next time I tried to slip you the heavy stuff, you actually went for it. Seems like you’d had the vision of the music about the same time I had the vision of the words, independently. Terrapin. Shame about the record, but the concert piece, the first night it was played, took me about as close as I ever expect to get to feeling certain we were doing what we were put here to do. One of my few regrets is that you never wanted to finish it, though you approved of the final version I eked out many years later. You said, apologetically, “I love it, but I’ll never get the time to do it justice.” I realized that was true. Time was the one thing you never had in the last decade and a half. Supporting the Grateful Dead plus your own trip took all there was of that. The rest was crashing time. Besides, as you once said, “I’d rather toss cards in a hat than compose.” But man, when you finally got down on it, you sure knew how.

The pressure of making regular records was a creative spur for a long time, but poor sales put the economic weight on live concerts where new material wasn’t really required, so my role in the group waned. A difficult time for me, being at my absolute peak and all. I had to go on the road myself to make a living. It was good for me. I developed a sense of self direction that didn’t depend on the Dead at all. This served well for the songs we were still to write together. You sure weren’t interested in flooding the market. You knew one decent song was worth a dozen cobbled together pieces of shit, saved only by arrangement. I guess we have a few of those too, but the percentage is respect ably low. Pop songs come and go, blossom and wither, but we scored a piece of Americana, my friend. Sooner or later, they’ll notice what we did doesn’t die the way we do. I’ve always believed that and so did you. Once in awhile we’d even call each other “Mister” and exchange congratulations. Other people are starting to record those songs now, and they stand on their own.

For some reason it seems worthwhile to maintain the Grateful Dead structures: Rex, the website, GDP, the deadhead office, the studio … even with the band out of commission. I don’t know if this is some sort of denial that the game is finished, or if the intuitive impulse is a sound one. I feel it’s better to have it than not, just in case, because once it’s gone there’s no bringing it back. The forces will disperse and settle elsewhere. A business that can’t support itself is, of course, no business at all, just a locus of dissension, so the reality factor will rule. Diminished as we are without you, there is still some of the quick, bright spirit around. I mean, you wouldn’t have thrown in your lot with a bunch of belly floppers, would you?

Let me see – is there anything I’ve missed? Plenty, but this seems like a pretty fat report. You’ve been gone a year now and the boat is still afloat. Can we make it another year? What forms will it assume? It’s all kind of exciting. They say a thousand years are only a twinkle in God’s eye. Is that so?

Missing you in a longtime way.


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Clownfish in a Sea of Green

April 26th, 2011 No comments

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