Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

It Was Just A Disguise

bobby disguise jpb ventura

Here’s the irony of being in the Grateful Dead: you never got to go to a Grateful Dead show. There were 20,000 people in the arena dancing, but there were five or six guys (and Mrs. Donna Jean) who were at their jobs. For us to play, they had to work. Think about it: the Dead were the only people in the building that had to be doing a specific thing. You could dance, or lie down, or get tackled by Parish; hell, you could walk out and go get ice cream if you wanted to. Our temporary autonomy was a direct result of their contractual obligation.

It’s the gilded cage scenario, sure, but a locked door is a floater in your eye: once you know it’s there, you’re always going to notice it. There’s backstage, but that’s friends and hangers-on and drug dealers and record company assholes and stone-cold teen foxes; sometime you just have to dive into a crowd of strangers and wade around, maybe buy a t-shirt or a corn dog.

But how? A Grateful Dead would draw a crowd, especially in a Grateful Dead crowd, and that’s not the point of the parking lot: you want to see and be seen, not be gawked at. The Deadheads would mean well, and they would say lovely things and offer lovely drugs, but on a clear and hot summer day, you just want to glide down Shakedown, nice and smooth, and leave no wake.

Trickery was to be employed.

That photo is from the parking lot of Ventura in ’87; look at the skeleton’s eyes: that’s our Bobber. He thought the best way to remain inconspicuous was dressing up in a skeleton costume while standing next to a man dressed like a riverboat gambler. I’d like to think that everyone knew it was Bobby and was just polite about it, and pretended that they were fooled.

Bobby has picked his band members well, because several years ago Young John Mayer did this exact routine, except he filmed it and put it on his MTV show. (You forgot he had an MTV show, didn’t you?)

jm bear suit

That’s John in the grizzly bear suit. Later on, he made love to that woman and recorded it. You must never, ever listen to that recording.

On the other hand:

bill shakedown cincinnti

“Hey, fuckers! It’s me! Who wants to tell me how great I am!?”

“I do!”

“Me, too!”

“All right, you’ll all get a chance. Line up, line up.”

“Billy, I love you. You’re the best.”

“I am! Here’s some rolling papers. Next!”

“I named my dog after you, Billy.”

“That’s great, kid. Here’s some rolling papers. Next!”

And so on.

(Photo stolen from a Reddit–and that place has become an unwashed asshole except for some of the smaller and more specific subs–user named Sirsnackpack, who I don’t believe is actually a knight. I think he’s just Mistersnackpack, and he’s trying to sound fancy.)


  1. is that bobby? for real?

  2. That riverboat gambler looks a lot like JP Barlow

  3. mickey literally ran into me outside one of those new years shows at the s.f. civic. ’83 i think. he was disguised, but poorly. he wore a wig made from a mop.

  4. Mike Gordon(disguised as a security guard) was cruising the parking lot scene in a golf cart at a Toronto Phish show in 99. My wife noticed him and he winked at her.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.