Thoughts On The Dead

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

Tag: dead50 (page 1 of 7)

Something Sweet

You know Annabelle and Trixie, but those are Trey’s daughters, Kay and Fay, on the outside.

Looking Down Opon Us


What happened to the bottom of your shirt?

“Tussle with a fancy puma.”

Who won?


Tell me of your dreams.

“A staircase with a too-low overhang, and then I run too slowly, so I drop to all fours like an animal, grabbing at the grass in front of me to gain traction and build speed. Sometimes dirty stuff.”

Can a man pull off pigtails?

“No, but a rock star can get away with them.”

How soon is now?

“To a hummingbird or a boulder?”

Boulder-sized hummingbird.

“Not possible.”

Hummingbird-sized boulder.

“That’s just a rock.”

Who wrote the book of love?

“The girl with a window for a face. She carved her own pencil out of a crying jag, and gave the world boners.”

Like in The Natural.

“Just like that, yeah.”

Wait, are those aviators on the top of your head?


I love you.

“You have a thing about aviator shades.”

I do.

“I think you might just want to fuck the sunglasses.”

I might.

“Gross. And if you’re hitting on me, I’m married with a baby.”

Are they with you?

“Right over there.”


You’ve got to be fucking kidding me, dipshit.




I don’t know what I did to deserve this.

Green, Lantern


This is about where we were sitting, Chris and Martin and I, for the second show; in real life, the stadium didn’t get this blurry until later in the evening. They were better seats than we’d had for the first night, as we did not have any seats at all for the first show and therefore any seats would be better: overturned paint bucket, half-deflated beanbag, one of those chairs that looks like hands and is excruciating to sit in. Seats: the promise of America! You could ignore them, stand up and boogie and get real loose with it, but you could also take a load off; just having the option was a balm to the frazzled mind and aching calves.

Seats are nice, but a view is worth something and ours was vantageous: the stage, and the crowd, and Chicago’s skyline over Trey’s shoulder. There may or may not have been a moon, but there was definitely a blimp. The mass on the floor was tight in the middle and scraggly around the edges like penguins huddling against the cold, but with fewer eggs and more Jewish guys.

We invented a game–it was one of those games you need to be in the right frame of mind to find interesting–called Colors. (It wasn’t called that at the time, but I just decided to, and if Martin or Chris disagree with the name, they can start their own blogs.) One of us would say “red” and all the Enthusiasts on the floor in red t-shirts would leap from the background into HD focus, and for a second they would really mean something, maaaan. And then “green,” and ZZHWOP out would bounce the groovy guys and gleeful gals in emerald. It was a good game.

It was during the second set–perhaps–that we fully appreciated our perch. At the back of the floor, right around where that scrum at the bottom left of the picture is taking place, two Deadheads tried to kill all of us. Maybe “try” is the wrong word; their intent was almost certainly not sinister: let’s say that two Deadheads attempted to create a situation in which all of us would die. Much better.

The two had a sky lantern, which the Chinese invented, because it is a thing and the Chinese invented all the things. They look like this:


You’ll notice the open flame, and I cannot remember which of my friends said, “Oh, that’s a bad idea,” but I do remember the quiet fatalism he said it with. The only thing worse than an open flame in a football stadium full of people surely must be an airborne open flame in a football stadium full of people, and the worst thing of all must be an airborne open flame in a football stadium full of people on acid.

But in our doom lies our salvation. That which would have killed us all (being incapacitatingly high) instead saved us. Here I paraphrase Shakespeare: acid maketh you to think that launching a firebomb in an enclosed crowd would be a good idea, but it also removeth the ability to get the sucker in the air. The candle-thingy wouldn’t stay lit, and then one of them stepped on the whole rig, and then the other one tried hurling it into the air, and there might have been some running with the contraption held aloft like a kite: it was a mess. A good analogy would be North Korea or Trump: were it not for the possibility of everyone dying, it would have been hilarious.

Even at a Dead show, you can only play volleyball with a flaming laundry bag for so long; an authority figure came and confiscated the lantern, but it seemed like he was cool about it.

We were a little sad for the for the loss of our secondary show, but the Dead (kinda) was playing, so no one dwelled on it. Later on, we discussed the forethought and planning that must have gone into Operation: Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow. The security wasn’t strict, but they did check bags and pat people down; they must have hidden the fire balloon on their person. Before that, they had remembered to pack it and bring it to Chicago, and first they had to buy the damn thing at all, which I would expect was not an impulse buy: you make a special trip for a sky lantern. You don’t buy a dozen eggs, some milk, a lottery ticket, and a Chinese sky lantern.

There was a process, is my point.

And nowhere along that magical ride from idea to confiscation, did the question “Will my actions turn Soldier Field into a Michael Bay movie?” come up.

I don’t know why I remembered that; memories pass me by like joggers in the rain.

An Arch-Enemy Returned, Kinda

hottie shoreline shades

Hello, my name is Thoughts on the Dead. You can call me TotD. I like your sunglasses, and your eyeballs.

“You almost got to the end of your statement without being weird.”

The word “necklace” is half lie: it’s around your neck, but there’s no lace involved.

“Do you talk to actual women like this?”

I don’t talk to actual women.

“You totally should.”

Well, thank you for encouraging me.

“Not me, though.”

Your hair reminds me of a warm, safe place.

“Where as a child you roamed?”

I didn’t do a ton of roaming as a kid. Liked staying inside then, too.

“Will you go buy me ice cream?”

You want ice cream?

“I didn’t say that.”

Was “go” the key word in that sentence?

“Little bit.”


Did you just shush me?

“That wasn’t me.”

“SHHHHH! Shhh! Shhh.”

Oh, you gotta be kidding me.

sailor hat shoreline


NEMESIS! You’re the guy who shushed me and Martin in Chicago!

“No, I’m not.”

“But I am doing his job now.”



Fuck you, Shushface.

“That’s Commodore Shushface to you.”

You know Captain Fuck?

“Answers to me. Man’s a disgrace to the uniform.”

He wasn’t wearing a uniform.

“That’s because he lost it, which is the disgrace.”



Follow The Money Money

Go check out this site, Enthusiasts: Grateful Seconds. There’s a neat new post about the Dead’s financials, and it’s worth reading. If you’re wondering why I didn’t link to it, it is because I must first warn you that there is Auto-Play. And, it’s Money Money, the Dead song about a lady who Bobby isn’t saying is a gold digger, but she ain’t messing with no broke hippie, either. Now that you are aware, I can let you venture over.

(Very occasionally, when one is in the right mood, and the moon is in the right sign, Auto-Play combines with what you’d been listening to in a serendipitous synchronicity, and it is so confusing as to become psychedelic and entrancing .)

And look at this, from the great site:

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 7.22.23 PM

The Farewell Shoes made almost as much money as the decade from 1975-1985. If Billy had known, he would have murdered Garcia long before 1995.

Also: this is ticket revenue. No streams, t-shirts, posters, high-quality hoodies with a lightning bolt embroidered in the inside of the hood, VIP bullshit, band access; nor is there the profits from after the show, namely the DVD, CD set, and coffee-table book. (I have decided that they put out a coffee-table book.)

And Let’s Hear No More Of It

trey phil bobby

As you know, TotD has eyes, ears, and genitals everywhere, especially the Foot Locker. (It’s been a while since I recommended taking your dick out at the Foot Locker, and that’s a sad oversight: you totally should. You feel better afterwards.) Pictures, gossip, popular opinion: all of these flow inwards and flood Fillmore South in a sad, weird, and lonely Grateful Dead juice.

And it is one of these popular opinions that I must refute, this idea that Young John Mayer is more suited to the Dead’s music than Tralfamadore Abilene. I have seen more than one person say that they were “gay for Trey, but gayer for Mayer.” And while all things that rhyme are true, this one is also false, and for one reason.

The last three Dead (Or What’s Left Of ‘Em) shows that TotD attended, Tripoli Ardennes was the guitarist. Therefore, he is better. Now, if Josh Meyers wants to swing down here on the way to Colorado and pick me up (I will not chip in for gas) and make me his tour buddy for the rest of the summer, then he would be better than Tr@y.

I hope that settles things.

(Also: in the background of the photo is longtime Dead photog Jay Blakesberg, and now I can’t get the image of him and Jeff Kravitz doing an Enemy at the Gates thing with each other.)

Doobie, But Don’t Be A Moron


In any room, there’s a dumbest person there. If the room’s large enough, there might even be three dumbest people there. Here are the three from Chicago.

The only explanation I can think of boils down to: it was their fault. I am not blaming the cops on this one. Sure, doobie should be legal and prohibition doesn’t work and yarble yarble yarble, but I can say from direct observation that the cops assigned to Soldier Field that weekend were not being all that aggressive; most seemed bemused, and all of them looked happy to have an easy shift babysitting the white people. We’ve all read stories about (or been present for) cops using Dead shows as hunting grounds for revenue, and being violent louts. This was not the case at the Farewell Shoes.

Cops do what they’re told (in public), and they had been told to welcome all the visitors and their money into the city and not bother anyone; Deadheads are mostly clever (yay, us) and we all figured out the score quickly. But 64,997 of us remembered: cops are still cops, no matter how pleasant they’ve been ordered to be, and certain rules still applied. Basic rules that have their roots in not the law, but primal primate bullshit.

Yes, the grounds of the stadium and the park have been de-facto declared a free-for-all, but no, you cannot smoke your doobie right in front of the cop. Like I said: 64,997 of us knew enough to–when walking past a police officer–cup the joint in our palm. Or slip the bowl in your pocket. You didn’t even have to do a good job: the point was to let the cop see you making the effort to hide the contraband. It’s a respect thing; cops are into that bullshit, and it doesn’t matter if you aren’t: when the cops play status games, participation is mandatory.

These three idiots, I’m sure, were dabbing up while making eye contact with one of Chicago’s Finest. There can be no other explanation; quite frankly, I have no sympathy for these rebels.

Come Back To Me, Fare Thee Well



Sunday night, the last night, we were in Section 331 or maybe 313: the top section on the right, maybe an inch in from the right border of the picture. Second row in the middle. The Captain was in front of us, and Hobbit was to the right.

These are not cruel nicknames; one is not a nickname at all: Hobbit introduced herself to me as “Hobbit. (Right, right: Hobbit was technically a nickname, but what I’m saying is that I’m not calling her “Hobbit” to be a dick and comment on her appearance. Although, she did get that nickname because she looks like a hobbit.)

The Captain was a Jew in his 30’s in a captain’s hat; he shushed Martin and I because we were having a giggling fit naming all of our favorite Phil songs. (Terrapin, Stella Blue, Deal, etc.) In the Captain’s defense: we were being boisterous. On the other hand, when I say that he shushed us, I do not speak euphemistically: he pouted his lips and exhaled forcefully, resulting in a sound we onomatopoetically refer to as a “shush.”

It wasn’t a “Hey. Guys?” You’d expect one of those. You trail off on the “guys” a little. People are being too loud? You turn around and go, “Hey. Guys?” and everyone knows what has transpired.



I am uncertain as to whether or not the Captain put his index finger to his lips to underscore the shush.


I managed to fuck up a grocery run.

Martin is a chef and prepared the three of us breakfast in the morning at around 1 in the afternoon. Left to my own devices, I would have stopped at the taco truck before and after the show and called it a day, but Martin is not just a chef, but an adult, so he made breakfast.

Nothing fancy. Eggs and bacon. The kind of breakfast Charles Bronson would approve of.

Supplies had run low and I, wanting to be a good guest, volunteered to shop. It was a short list; I had cash and a credit card; the store was two blocks away.

Sadly, there was a Ukranian grocery next door to the regular grocery, which I entered. Now: did I walk back out on to the street and check to see if there was another place to buy food where all the labels weren’t in Cyrillic? Of course not: I circled and re-circled the aisles as if that were the way to learn the language.

Not only was all the writing in gobbledygook, I’m pretty sure Ukrainians have a different definition of “food” than we do: I did not recognize some of the animals hanging behind the butcher case. I think they eat a lot of elk.

On my fifth or sixth circumambulation of the store, the babushkas were giving me the eye; I got eggs and orange juice, then tried to hide my failure with a shitload of fruit. (I regret not buying the Latvian version of Fanta, which is called Blug.)

I got back to the apartment and explained what had happened; neither Martin nor Chris brought up the fact that the store I was supposed to go to was right next door, which is polite of them.


Chicago made me realize that we need autonomous cars, and we need them quickly.

I checked my phone during a Dead show. (Kinda. Not I kinda checked my phone; I mean they were kinda the Dead.) Not obsessively–less than normal–but I did. I would never throw friends under the bus, but Chris and Martin totally did, too. And all the people in our general area the first night, and all the people in our rows the following nights.

Everyone in that stadium who had a phone played with it at one point, and not just to take pictures: they would get a text and take their phones out of their pocket to see who it was, and then notice they had a notification on Twitter, and so on.

Please understand that I am not just talking about the sober and the dragged-there: people on acid who had not been on acid in a very long time played with their phones. A headful of LSD and the Grateful Dead (kinda) onstage, and all of us chose at least briefly to fuck around with our magic toys.

And you expect people to stop using their phones while they drive? Bring on the robot chauffeurs; we have made our choice.


You don’t make eye contact in the Men’s Room: it’s a rule. It’s an impersonal room for a personal act. However, laws supersede rules, so when someone shreds the fabric of the social contract by walking into the Men’s Room barefoot, you are allowed to make eye contact with the guy next to you.

I don’t remember what the barefoot guy looked like, but my fellow witness was tall and had a brown beard; we both saw him–naked heels and toes squishing and semi-sliding on the slick, sickly tile–at the same time.

We looked at each other.

And then back down.

How often do you know the totality of a complete stranger’s mind? And have him know yours? We shared the kind of instant communion that only onlookers to terrorist attacks or natural disasters are privy to. (Pun semi-intended.)

I couldn’t tell you the set list of any of the shows I attended; I will never forget that moment in the Men’s Room.


If there had been no show, no music at all, and was just a crowd of happy people in the summer, then that might have been okay, too.

Soldier Field was not built to be wandered around. The outside, I mean: unlike most stadia plunked in the middle of ten-acre parking lots, Soldier Field is on a little strip of land in between the highway and Lake Michigan; there are natural choke points for movement, plus there are hills and multiple levels so you can’t ever get a vantage point on where the hell you are.

(Grant Park, which is right next to the stadium, was built to be wandered around in. It is a park.)

You had to show your ticket twice: first to get in to what you could call the front yard of the joint, and then again to get in the building proper. Once you got inside the wire, there was open space, flat, on three sides of the stadium; space and grass and sun and opportunities to buy anything you could ever want, as long as the only things you ever wanted were Dead merch and RC Cola.

People were in wheelchairs: the unlucky, with their legs in casts; and the really unlucky, with nothing obviously wrong. Hobbit’s left leg was in a massive brace, the canvas one that wraps around your entire leg from the back like a tortilla, and the velcro straps in front.


Soldier Field was refitted around the turn of the century (the most recent one, not the old-timey one) and it was necessarily a bit of a kludge: there’s at least one part where changing levels on the concourse involves going both up and down. They had a certain amount of space, and they fit a football stadium into it. It’s a little discombobulating on the best day.

But during a Dead show, the place becomes completely uncombobulatable.

“Chris,” I said. “Can you combobulate?”

And he said nothing, because that conversation did not actually occur. (The fictionality of that anecdote takes nothing away from the fact that I will now be using the word “combobulate” to mean “finding your way with purpose and efficiency.”)

We were not so confused as to disregard the cardinal rule of show-wanderin’: follow the tall guy and you’ll get there eventually. If you try following the short guy and getting there soon, you will fail.

While we were walking, we talked loudly about the soon-to-be-announced shows at CitiField in two weeks. We were hoping, perhaps, to return to our seats and have the people around us buzzing like extras in a screwball comedy.

“Didja hear, Marge? They’re taking the show to Queens!”

“Queens! This bunch of jokers?”

“Why I oughtta…”

This did not happen. That people who heard us did not believe us.


RC Cola should use the marketing strategy that they employ in Soldier Field in more places: I would buy RC Cola much more if it were the only product available. People have brand loyalty when it comes to soda–I’ll admit to preferring Pepsi to Coke–but it’s all the same poison; I have one every two weeks or so. In Chicago, I had one every two songs or so. The trick is to get the soda/sweating ratio just right; this limits both bathroom runs and the chance of sunstroke.

Chris and Martin, who I have mentioned previously are adults, had beer.

After the show, back at the house, we watched Ferris Bueller in honor of the city. There was whiskey or whisky or scotch or whatever that brown stuff is officially called. Martin and Chris relaxed with their drinks; again: like adults.

I asked for a glass, pounded the shot like I were in a biker bar, and then made this noise MANACXHblech HOO nHOO and I also made a face like a six-year-old forced to finish her broccoli.

They judged me a little.


The stadium was protected by being a stadium: they build them to be defensible, and while most of the security was “security,” there were also the requisite number of enormous private guards and bemused cops. There was also a fence, and nothing can get through a fence.

In the corner of the stadium, by the taco truck, someone managed to crack the fence code: he climbed it.

“I never would have thought of that,” Chris, whose book Paradise Now is garnering rave reviews and you should really buy, said.

“So that’s how you do it,” Martin said.

“You use your hands and feet. Right,” I said.

He was a little wiry guy with a massive backpack; it didn’t slow him down as he scampered up the chain-link, over, around a cop, and into the crowd.

We were mild. “This is why we can’t have nice things,” was our first thought and then we remembered it was 2016 and that backpack was enormous; we talked about something else until nothing blew up, and then we talked about the kid with the backpack a little.

Don’t Cross The Revenue Streams

You’ll excuse me, Enthusiasts, if I repeat myself, but this question has been fingering my mind’s butthole all evening.


Shut up, you. Anyway, to recap:

billboard money

WHAT THE FUCK DOES “FAN DEMAND” MEAN? That phrase refers–and this is the closest I can get to a precise definition–to an assumption based on an aggregate sample of emotions. You send up a publicity trial balloon and then read the response: this gives you an idea of what “fan demand” is. It’s not an actual financial metric.

It’s like McDonald’s reporting their earnings as being higher because of “customer demand” (“Those folks were really hungry, so we figured that was worth a few hundred million dollars.”)

It makes no sense: I thought at first that “fan demand” referred to the projected earnings (the estimated profit) and that the Dead had shattered those projections, but that can’t be right: the Dead knew how much they’d make just as anyone with the ability to do basic math did. (Number of seats x price of ticket) + (Number of seats x average merch purchase) + non-attendee merch + sale of access to the band + webcasts. Hell, I did the math. Peter Shapiro sure as shit did the math.

So: what can it mean? Was there some sort of Kickstarter I wasn’t aware of that raised the initial funds necessary just to get everyone in the same room? A petition written down on $10 million in small, non-sequential bills? I don’t know, and the article does not explain it.

I am genuinely stymied and would like someone to tell me what is happening, please.

There are also many missing revenue sources in this graph, some more legitimate than others. Spies in the Dead’s accountant’s office have slipped me the full story; TotD can now present Additional Incomes From The Farewell Shoes:

  • Since around ’89, Billy has employed a team of orphans as pickpockets; they made a bundle in Chicago.
  • Kickbacks from the taco truck.
  • Ad deal with DirecTV for the blimp.
  • Bribes from Creepy Ernie to wear his clothes.
  • Several thoroughly-insured guitars got “stolen.”
  • Mickey’s mallet endorsement.
  • Payment from artificial rainbow company to advertise their product (Santa Clara only).
  • 20% cut of all sanctioned Three Card Monty games in the stadium. (There were a suspicious amount of Three card Monty games going on in Chicago. Ask anyone who was there. Martin and I had figured out the game and were about to win us some money when Chris–whose brilliant book Paradise Now can be purchased by clicking here–stopped us, as he was raised in New York City, and is therefore street-smart. A very nice street, but still: very smart.)
  • If you gave Peter Shapiro five grand in cash, he would let you watch the spy cams he had installed in the band’s dressing room for a couple minutes.
  • Jeff Chimenti and Bruce Hornsby broke into the 49ers locker room and stole a bunch of shit.
  • Jeff Chimenti and Bruce Hornsby broke into the Field Museum and stole the T-Rex skull and sold it on Ebay.
  • Trey made Mike Gordon pay for his ticket.

Two From The Comment Section

 In response to the Bonnaroo lineup, we get this from Swaggie Maggie:

I treat my bands like uninformed liberal parents treat the ingredients in their children’s food and medicine: if I can’t pronounce it/have never heard of it, I ain’t fuckin with it.

And, in response to the doughnut-related note from Chicago I found the other day, Leap Year sends in this:

homer stealie idoughnutMost site’s comment sections are full of racism and poor spelling and various -ghazis and people making thousands working from home; not the Comment Section.

I’m glad of it, though I don’t say it enough.

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