Although Grateful Dead tribute bands abound at every level of the live music game – with the Dead themselves now well in on the action – we are all still waiting on the one that casts the players for likeness: embracing the cultural theater of the story, copping the band’s radically ordinary look and revolutionary indifference, tracking its fashion as it devolves from a certain amount of ill-fitting token psychedelic frillery in the earliest San Francisco years down to the shorts and tee-shirts and New Balance sneakers of the stadium-show commercial peak in the late ’80s.
Bobby, of course, stayed fit and came closest to embracing any kind of rockstarism. Our Weir may have to sit through one modest hairstyle change at intermission to signify exactly how few sh*ts this band gave about style. They gave precisely one sh*t about style: Bobby’s sh*t in the ’70s, around the time of Bobby and the Midnights. Jerry let his figure go early, of course, so we might require two Garcias, or at least some Spanx to do this right. Otherwise, indicating the passing of time and the accumulation of history on the windowpane will be as easy as a gradually increasing touch of grey across the board.
We’ll need to cast for at least the longest-running inhabitants of the exploding keyboard chair: Keith, who was the best foil Jerry ever had in that position, but who always evinced a ghostly, remote and peripheral quality (perhaps due to the marginalizing enormity of grand pianos), and Brent, who tinkled the DX7 longer than anyone in the band’s history and who wrote and sang, but who always seemed and felt like the New Guy just the same – a plotline that we intend to accentuate when, during, “Far from Me,” our Jerry will rotate 90 degrees to his right. Chills.
For some additional narrative enrichment, our set staple “He’s Gone” will include a low-lit scene in which Mickey’s dad, wearing a handlebar mustache, makes off with several white drawstring bags marked with dollar signs. Pigpen will return for the encore (“The Golden Road” into “Touch of Grey”), restored and glowing like the aged Anakin at the end of the original Return of the Jedi, for a cross-dimensional full family reunion. Why not even sprinkle a few waving Ewoks around for good effect? They all knew Lucas.
Mostly, we’ll need backers to help us acquire the mountains of gear necessary to trace the arc of each player’s mystic tone quest: Jerry and Bob and Phil moving from the standard Fenders, Gibsons and Guilds through the transitional Travis Beans and Alembics and Yamahas, and then finally into the expensive custom-built years, when each guitar looked like the antlers of a different Venusian elk.
This part of our game will need to be precise. We may stage a theatrical segment in which Mickey travels, at great personal danger, through African and South American jungles and Asian mountains collecting drums and fending off spectral tigers and snakes. When the final drum is acquired – a rare ceramic variant of the Egyptian doumbek – the puzzle of global rhythm is complete, and Mickey explodes back into the band just in time for Blues for Allah. It will be a hit!
Meantime, Alex Mazur’s excellent, regional Dead cover band Gratefully Yours returns to the Falcon Underground in Marlboro on Friday, January 20. This band comes with a twist – they play “ideal” sets submitted by fans online – and features a rotating cast of players, including many jam-scene luminaries. The music starts at 7 p.m. Per usual, there is no cover charge, but generous donation is encouraged. The Falcon is located at 1348 Route 9W in Marlboro. For information, visit www.liveatthefalcon.com.