There are so many experiences and memories I’ve made from ‘getting on the bus,’ and traveling with Dead & Company across the United States. From the people I’ve met, to the marvelous skylines of America’s cities, to the bountiful views I was offered at every twist and turn. Every city brought forth new ideas, new means, and ways, new approaches to the common life I had been living. A single summer produced so many memories that I often do not remember until triggered by the fruits of conversation, but one, in particular, stands out, and it truly ushered in a new meaning of magic for me that was only possible by the Dead’s music.
It was 6/20/2017, at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) up in the countryside of New York. We had spent some time recently up in Maine to visit some family and were headed down now to our next endeavor. The grounds were beautiful, being of former bathhouses, and seemed more like we were on a university campus than a venue. We spent some time throughout the day, roasting bones and walking around shakedown. But that’s not what I want to highlight in this piece. That’s for another day.
The whole day, it had been raining on and off. But it was that odd tolerable rain, where it didn’t come pouring down, but only intermittent drizzles here and there. It was cool, refreshing, and a welcome treat as we had just come from the west coast where rain is an afterthought and a rarity. It was nice to be blessed by mother nature’s gifts as we made our way into the show.
We had all been anticipating it. We all knew it was going to happen. There it was. A ‘Looks Like Rain,’ fifth song into the set. It had stopped raining for a bit, but as soon as Bobby broke into this number, the skies also broke with rain, with shouts and yells of the odd magic Bobby was conjuring upon us. You know how they say Bob Weir controls the weather? It was happening right before our eyes. As they continued through the song, it didn't stop. The rain kept coming down and down, but it was so pleasant. The music provided shelter from the rain, his voice shielding us from the common malpresence that we often associate with rain. It was cool, wonderful, and for me, a magical moment that I had not been blessed with in a long time at a show. Sure enough, as soon as Bobby stopped singing, as soon as they turned into the next song, the rain stopped. Was he controlling the weather? How did he know when to stop? It was so natural, so odd, and yet, so enthralling. I could care less that I was getting soaked. The moment had come before the experience. But the moment was only beginning, and I had no clue how Bobby really controlled the weather.
We danced our way through the rest of the set, with the rain coming down here and there, but only in sprinkles as opposed to the small little pour we got during ‘Looks Like Rain.’ We danced through the ‘Dire Wolf’ that came shortly after, but we were in for a real treat now. ‘Lost Sailor > Saint’ is usually a second set song, but they busted it out, right here and then. At the end of ‘Looks Like Rain,’ a beautiful double rainbow graced the skies above us, producing a fairytale-esque landscape around us. The rain was still coming down, but the clouds were beginning to break, and have mercy on us. The boys blew past ‘Lost Sailor,’ and into ‘Saint of Circumstance’ quickly. Sure enough, the rain was fallin’ down now, but in the next verse, when Bobby sings ‘Got to be heaven, cause this is where the rainbow ends,’ we looked up, and the rainbow was gone. Could Bobby see the rainbow? The pavilion at SPAC prevents a lot of view from the inside out, so there was no way he could. How did he know the rainbow was gone at that moment? It was so odd. The rainbow had disappeared just as ‘Saint’ was starting up, and this line up of events was so odd. I could only really describe it as magic. There was no other word for it. He really did control the weather.
There are so many stories I could write about the things I saw in my travels, but this one stuck out. I’ve been to a variety of concerts, whether they were metal, folk, bluegrass, rap, rock, and so on. I’ve experienced love, I’ve experienced boogying, I’ve experienced a newfound respect for musicians at all these shows, but never have I experienced the magic. This show really stood out for that moment. Magic; it’s something that you’ll only find at a Dead show.