I’ve been thinking about the Tahoe Tweezer from that improvisational group, The Phishes, and I want to see it as its own thing, to not compare, to not demand a referent, but it just happens: certain stars are binary. Peanut butter goes with jelly; Yankees with the Sox; toilet activities with shame. The Phishes will always be compared to the Dead, because like the Dead, they’re not special: White guys playing Stones covers in hockey arenas; iconic guitar-god frontman with a penchant for opiates; unpleasant-looking, half-Jewish rhythm section.
Getting back to this immense Tahoe Tweezer: the only thing I could compare it to was a ’72 Dark Star. When they got long, and deep, and mystical. In ’72, sometimes you can’t tell whether they’re going to make it back. Will they paint themselves into a corner while painting their masterpiece? Would they have to cheat and just SLAM another song up against some abstract doodlings? That was the Dead’s way of admitting defeat in a jam, that they had neglected to take a left turn in Albuquerque and each of them had subtly suggested a number of options for songs, but no one could agree, so Bobby (always the most quietly obstinate onstage) would just Leroy Jenkins them all into Sugar Magnolia.
After listening to a few Dark Stars, I realized why I’ll come back to the Dead. Why this music is good and should be shared and kept and treasured.
It was after Dark Star, actually: they had gone into Wharf Rat and I listened to these men (and Mrs. Donna Jean) sing a song about two men on opposite sides of a story, and I have been both of those men and that has been my story and that has not been my story.
It’s the songs, it was always the songs. I grew to love the men who sang them because of the songs that they sang. I’m a first-set guy. Tell me a story.
Tell me the one you told me last night: it’s the only way I’ll sleep.