Friday, July 10, 2015

Enthusiasm makes the difference: My thoughts on the Grateful Dead's swan song and Trey Anastasio, my new fave guitarist

The Grateful Dead at their last show.

Before I Squawk about the Yankees/Red Sox series this weekend, I wanted to talk about something else really important: how awesome it was to see the big-screen simulcast of the Grateful Dead's last concert Sunday night. It was glorious! I really enjoyed watching and listening to the concert, and dancing in the aisles (literally!) during the show, doing those awkward twirling moves Dead fans are known for! (Don't judge.)

As my Facebook friends know, I had a busy day that Sunday. First, I went to see "On the Town" on Broadway with Squawker Jon (it was a good show, but interestingly, the female characters were much more compelling than the interchangeable male sailors.) 

Then we went to dinner at City Kitchen NYC -- it is an new upscale food court in Times Square, across the street from Shake Shack. Lots of good food and drink options, and the second-floor location makes for great Times Square people-watching.

After dinner, I was off to the simulcast of the Grateful Dead's "Fare Thee Well" farewell at Soldier Field at the AMC Theater in Times Square. (There was no way in the world Jon was going to go to this show -- he is already sick of the Dead, thanks to me talking about them all of the time!)  There was a wide range of ages of people there, I was smack dab in the middle of the ages of people watching the show. 

There was also the couple who brought a toddler to the screening. Predictably, the boy squirmed and ran around the whole time. Shocker! Why somebody would bring a three-year-old kid to a screening of a very loud, long concert with lots of pot smoking going on is beyond me. But I digress.

Me in tie-dye before the show. I have had this t-shirt
since college, and can finally fit in it again! 
Here is the Grateful Dead's setlist. If you must know, I furiously chair-danced for the first two songs, while I waited to see if others were going to dance in the aisles. Then I started dancing later, as others did (I did not want to be the outlier!) And yes, I was sober! 

Set One: China Cat Sunflower, I Know You Rider, Estimated Prophet, Built To Last, Samson and Delilah, Mountains Of The Moon, Throwing Stones

Set Two: Truckin', Cassidy, Althea, Terrapin Station, Drums, Space,  Unbroken Chain, Days Between, Not Fade Away

Encore: Touch Of Grey

Encore2: Attics Of My Life

My favorite songs were Truckin' and Touch of Grey (best two performances of the show, IMHO!), Not Fade Away, China Cat Sunflower, I Know You Rider, Althea, and Throwing Stones. I could have done without the whole Drums Space thing -- that navel-gazing stuff bores me (I literally fell asleep during that part of the show!) But others seem to like it.

Overall, though, the show was fantastic. When it was over, there was nothing left to do but smile, smile, smile: and wait for the 2:30 a.m. ferry home! (I got only 2 1/2 hours sleep that night!)

But as great as it was to see and hear the Grateful Dead together (by most accounts, this was the best perfromance of their five-show tour) my MVP of the show was not an original band member. Phish singer/guitarist Trey Anastasio is 50 years old -- the exact same age as the Grateful Dead. And he had the toughest role of all -- trying to fill the shoes of the late great Jerry Garcia.

Lots of Dead fans were suspicious of the kind of job he would do. They needn't have worried. Trey was fantastic! His able singing and great guitar playing evoked Jerry without being a slavish imitation, and added something new to these classic songs. Trey ended up winning over most of the naysayers.

What impressed me most about Trey though, besides his talent, was his enthusiasm. Norman Vincent Peale, author of "The Power of Positive Thinking" and founder of Guideposts magazine, the publication that ran my Spartan Race story, also wrote a book entitled "Enthusiasm Makes the Difference." I thought of that title when watching Trey. He was soooo happy to be there, to be performing with the Grateful Dead. Instead of a too-cool-for-school rock attitude, Trey was ebullient and smiling and as enthusiastic as I have ever seen a musician. He really made the show for me. (I also loved when Bob Weir wore a "Let Trey Sing" show for the encores, which referenced him only singing a few songs during the Santa Clara concerts; he sang much more in Chicago.)

I remember when I saw The Police, one of my all-time favorite bands, reunite at Giants Stadium in 2007. The highlight of the show for me was seeing drummer Stewart Copeland, and how happy and smiling and enthusiastic he was to be playing that music again. Trey had even more enthusiasm, if that is possible! shows what I am talking about. They have a page featuring clips from a videographer named LazyLightning55, who filmed a "Trey Cam" during the shows, aiming a camera on Anastasio the whole time. (Check out the clip from "Althea" below.)

Something I have noticed in our world is that people are sometimes too afraid to be enthusiastic, to show how much they like something. Some people think enthusiasm is somehow uncool. I know I sometimes come across a little strong when I show my own passions and interests. But hey, if you can't enjoy things in life, it makes for a pretty miserable existence, don't you think?

A sports cliche is to "act like you've been there before." But it is one thing to not show up the opposition. It is another thing to be all jaded all the time. There is something to be said for saying and showing how much you enjoy something! I really appreciate how Trey Anastasio didn't act like performing with the Dead was no big deal, and was unafraid to have that goofy, happy smile. Very endearing.

One other thing I appreciated about the concert. Drummer Mickey Hart said something poignant at the end of the show: "The feeling we have here -- remember it, take it home and do some good with it. I'll leave you with this: Please, be kind." Really great moment.

Tying these two things together: let's not be afraid to show our enthusiasm. And let's not be afraid to tell others kind things, and to praise them. You never know when saying something kind to somebody else could give them the encouragement they need to soar.


Taylor said...

nice article! Trey is my hero and favorite musician on the planet. If you want any recommendations let me know! I suggest watching the Phish movie (where he talks about the Dead). Although the movie is dated (Trey is now sober and way less brash as he is in the movie) it shows them at their creative peak of 1997. But good news...Phish are playing some of their best music these days. go see them!

One last note - funny you should mention Stewart Copeland. Trey, Stweart and Les Claypool played in a band called Oysterhead back in 2001. Short lived but pretty rad...

Subway Squawkers said...

Please do, Taylor! I don't know where to begin when it comes to Phish! Thanks, Lisa

Kathy Mandell - Traveling Dog Lady said...

I'm watching show number 3 right now -- took me a week to watch all three via On Demand.
I have to say I agree about Trey, and love the way he was having such a genuinely good time.
I did not know he is just 50 years old (in fact, I thought he was younger). My favorite song from
this show (so far) is Throwing Stones. Holy wow. Epic! I had the good fortune to see Jerry and the
Dead many times "back in the day", and I have to say this whole thing brought a huge smile to my
face. Thanks for the great blog post :) Rock on.

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