Before you see a new site or visit a new place, there is usually a mystical vision of what “it is” summoned in a conglomerate in the imagination. For the west, it is usually adjourned with flying eagles, cowboys, and desert plains. For Detroit, I had a vision of desolation. What I got was desolation, bright smiles, and even brighter tie-dye.
On Friday, Dead and Company took their tour wheels to Detroit Rock City and greeted the Motor City with one of the greatest Dead and Company shows played to date. I
myself was in attendance, and having nearly 30 phenomenal Company shows under my belt I hesitate to make this bold claim but it is one I will stand by.. take a look at the magic that unfolded during the Dead’s first set last Friday at Little Caesar’s arena.
Dancing in The Streets
Brown Eyed Women
Ramble On Rose
Deep Elem Blues
Beat it Down the Line
Let us return to the point of the mystical vision that greets a traveler before he reaches his destination. The West: Eagles. Cowboys. Desert plains. Shootouts. When you reach the west coast is it really so? Not necessarily. Not at all, really. However, the crux remains. The songs and works of art that mold those creative presumptions remain immortal. For me, my old presumptions of the west were summoned in a flurry of chromatic guitar runs, Bobby howls, and the massive psychedelic folk-country-esque tunes the boys brought to Detroit in the first set. After electrifying the audience to the point of no return with a “Dancin in The Streets” opener, which featured a particularly enthusiastic audience screaming, “Can’t forget that Motor City!” the sextet launched into six songs that, to me, sound like western visions.
“Sun so hot, the clouds so low, the eagles fill the sky”.
The western picture had been painted with clear ink, with Jack Straw, and it would only get more vivid as the set progressed.
As the music continued to create vivid western pictures in the mind the landscape became a bit more populated with characters. Mysterious characters. Women with no names. Only their alcohol kissed breathe and Brown Eyes. A short march down the unforgiving county line led us to a sweetheart named Rose. A woman simultaneously of the past and of the future. The lessons she taught beneath the western horizon were unforgiving but truthful, the grass ain’t greener, the wine ain’t sweeter on either side of the hill.
Rose had left my western life at this point in the night. I still think about her time to time. I wish her the best in her road ramblings. After more strenuous travel under the western night, we arrived at the outskirts of a Texas town called, “Deep Elem”. I heard about this town somewhere before, in a cigarette hazed barroom, it was where blues legends like Leadbelly and Blind Willie Johnson hailed from.
This is also perhaps one of the reasons Dead and Company decided to debut this gem for the first time this cold Detroit night.
Deep Elem was a solemn place. I made sure to follow my friend Oteil’s advice when he said to “keep my money in my pants, for the women in Deep Elem don’t give a man a chance”. Deeper in the western night I grew reckless and tired. The mysterious women of the night and the blues had finally taken a toll on me. It was then I said goodbye to the western dream and “Beat It On Down the Line”. So there it was, I packed up my bags and I left it all. The eagles, the grenadine, all of it. But I wasn’t going down without one final hoorah. Before I packed by bags back east, and the cosmic journey of the second set, I met up with an old rider, “Sugaree”. I suspect I’ll visit her once again for another jubilee one day.
And the picture had been painted. A clear western picture only the Dead could present in a proper manner. The boys juxtaposed this painting with a wide harem of Dead classics in their second set.
New Speedway Boogie
Fire on the Mountain
A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall
Not Fade Away
Now, you tell me, what picture does that paint for you? Certainly, one that does not mirror the west, if I do say so myself. To me, it is a picture of nearly all that, “is”. That is the magic of the Dead, my friends. To define the undefinable. As we continue to accompany each other on this Deadhead adventure together I hope to visit the places that they bring everyone and I will continue to share my destinations.