Themed box sets are the wave of the future, mark my words. Enough with these pedestrian groupings, lumping together shows merely because they appeared consecutively in the timestream.
One could argue that the shows have become free from temporality now, so far away from the piss-and-shit smell of the actual reality of “a show.” An Event, a thing to be done, gone to, waited on, hoped for, remembered fondly and dearly and well. Strip away the context, and we’re left with just the text–only the music remains.
So why, then, are our box sets still chained–enthralled!–by the simian processes and demands of time? We need to see the Dead’s career from above and follow the threads that link performances from across the years, even decades. Here are a few that the band have been working on:
TC: Secret Hero? It barely filled a CD, so this project was shelved and the money diverted to fund a cobbling program to help inner-city youths overcome the lures of drugs, gangs, and chickenheads by learning how to make TC’s fancy little booties. The project was a failure and resulted in multiple deaths.
Billy’s Got His Dick Out Randomly, but regularly, Billy would play the show with his dick out. You could look, you could not look.Billy didn’t care: it was muggy or something, his hog wanted some air, and Billy was a fucking American–what are you gonna do about it? This 25-CD package was to include the infamous 1973 show in St. Louis when Billy’s dick took his own dick out, and everybody freaked right the fuck out, because, honestly: what the fuck, Billy? We will not have your forays into infinite masculine regression up in this muhfuh, if you please.
January ’78: It’s Bobby Time! Those three or four shows in wich Garcia lost his voice, Bobby lost his mind, and we lost our patience. There’s only so many Mexicali Blues in a row a man can bear.
The Complete Wagner’s Ring Cycle by Phil and Ned 12 discs of atonal, non-synchronous, apathetirythmic (that’s when you know where the beat is, but you don’t care) musiqúe concrete loosely alluding to, obliquely referencing, and distinctly ignoring the text of Wagner’s multi-evening magnum opus. Sometime in August of ’73, Phil and Ned shot way too much crystal meth and did all 16 hours at once and the fall-off from beginning to end is rather severe. At one point, Phil audibly wanders out of the studio and has to be lured back in with candy.
GD: The Tahoe Tweezer by the Grateful Dead Like, nine or ten discs of the Tahoe Tweezer on repeat. The packaging is a plain cardboard box containing a poorly Xeroxed photo of Phish with Garcia’s head taped over all four of theirs’. It’s both disconcerting and telling how far through the decision-making process this idea got before falling by the wayside.
Having Fun Onstage With Bobby The yellow dog joke! The deer poaching joke! The clever asides, wisecracks, and japes! That weird Okie accent he does for no reason sometimes! Two full discs of him ending songs with ‘THANK you!’ in that high-pitched voice. It was scheduled to be released last July, but Bobby locked himself in to TRI Studios for three days and immediately upon getting free, locked himself out. Then he soured on the whole project, which is a shame because the gold lame suit he had ordered from Nudie Cohen had cost $45,000.
Egypt ’79, ’83, ’84! During the Heineken Years, Phil would occasionally just refuse to believe they weren’t back in the Land of the Pharaohs and mostly people just rolled with it, except for when, at one of the ’83 shows, Phil saw a swarthy guy backstage and screamed, “GET DOWN, ANWAR SADAT!’ and tackled the poor hairy bastard. Covering five mostly-well played shows that take place mostly in desert cities, although the ’84 was in Maine, which worried people, but amused Billy because he’s awful.