Thoughts On The Dead

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

Tag: long strange trip (page 1 of 2)

As The Boy Sings Round The Fire

Phil, tell that kid his marshmallow’s done.

“I’m not the boss.”

Yes, you are. You own the place.

“I just don’t want to.”

Okay. You saw Long Strange Trip?

“You mean Long Strange Crap?”

Oh, boy. Didn’t like it?

“Not even ten percent of the story. Really missed a lot of stuff.”

Like what?

“Well, you know the old saying: no Ned, no Dead.”

That is not a saying.

“Did you know that the Dead had an incredible softball team?”

I didn’t.

“Course not! Wasn’t in that so-called ‘movie.'”

It’s a movie, Phil.

“Fake documentary. What’s that jackass’ name?”

Which one?

“Mister director man.”

Amir Bar-Lev.

“Suspicious name.”

Please concentrate. You used to be so much easier to talk to.

“Anal Bear-Claws comes to the restaurant–”

Amir Bar-Lev.

“–and interviews me for like nine hours. I’m in the damn movie for a minute. And he didn’t even show the specials!”

The what?

“The specials. I got 200 pounds of short ribs I gotta get rid of.”

Well, that would have been a bit off-topic.

“Mm, yeah. Might have distracted from Franken pontificating about West L.A. Fadeaway.”


“They’re the same song. Listen: you got a four-hour movie, and there’s not a spare ten minutes to detail what an asshole Billy is?”

Again: off-topic.

“There’s ten minutes of Bobby looking at stuff. I gave Amal Clooney–”

Amir Bar-Lev.

“–a monologue of at least 90 minutes on the topic of Billy. I went over how he was an asshole, when he was an asshole, and to what extent he was an asshole. And evidence, too! I brought receipts.”

Why are you merely passive-aggressive with the other reporters, but just aggressive with me?

“Why would I give a shit about you? Pitchfork won’t even hire you.”



Marshmallow fall into the fire?


Told ya.

Career Opportunities, The Other Ones That Never Knock


Out in the water, a Mexican man with a beard drowns.


A man wearing an Army officer’s dress uniform sits at the bar. LITTLE JERRY GARCIA (6 years old, beard, smoking) sits next to him.

Hello, little man. I sure heard a lot about you. You see, I was a friend of your
dad’s. We were in Bataan together, we walked side-by-side. Lot of time to talk,
and I got to know him real well. If things had worked out different, then he’d be
talking to my boy. But this is how things are. And so I have something for you.

The man pulls out a guitar.

This guitar was purchased in Nashville by your great-grandfather for eight
dollars and two chickens. These were the old days, you understand. You
could buy a guitar with a chicken. Your great-grandfather, well, he jammed
all over the country with it. Your grandfather, when it was his turn to jam? He
did it on this guitar, but wasn’t so lucky. Wound up in a Disco Biscuits tribute

The man takes a drink.

Before he took his own life out of shame, he gave the guitar to the keyboardist.
Keyboardist died, though. They do that. The bass player, though, he got this guitar
to your grandma. She gave it to your father, and he used it to jam in the lounge at
the Luzon Holiday Inn. When the Japs came, he thought that was it for the guitar.
They got a glimpse of it, and it would be gone.

Another drink.

So he hid it. He hid it in the one place that he knew it would be safe. For five
years, your father hid this guitar up his ass. And when he died, I put
the guitar up my ass.

Excuse me, please.

You absolutely cannot be here right now. This is a screenplay.

I see that.

Look at the formatting.

Very professional. Stop doing this.

I’m auditioning.

This is why you’re not allowed to contribute to Pitchfork articles about the Dead.

I’m sure I don’t know what you’re referring to.

Sure, champ. Please stop this.

What if I told you that Garcia was going to be played by one of the kids from Stranger Things?

Which one?

The black one.

We’re done here.

Bar (Lev) Mitzvah

Hey, Amir Bar-Lev. Whatcha doing?

“Premieres, my man. Schmoozing. Going to parties sponsored by start-up vodka-delivery apps.”

We’re coming up on another tech bubble, aren’t we?

“Big time.”

Is this how white men dress now?

“We seem to have reached a consensus, yeah.”

I’m trying to decide which is more rebellious: the sweater on the sweaty guy, or the blue sneaks on beardface.

“Well spotted. Those two are the wild men of the group.”

Amir, I gotta say that you sound a more…how do I put this?


That’s how I would put it. Sane, yes.

“It’s done. I’m done. The movie’s out there and there’s nothing left to edit and there’s no one left to kidnap. When it first screened, my mind just…you know how you’re going around the turn on a roller coaster and your stomach isn’t where it’s supposed to be, and then the car straightens out and your guts slap back into place?”


“Like that. But instead of my stomach, it was my sanity.”


“I got a little out there.”

It was worrisome.

“Can’t go back to the library.”


“I had this idea that certain ideas were ‘hot’ and other ideas were ‘cold,’ and I started really thinking about that, and then I was awake for four days straight, and I went to the library and doused all the books with the ‘hot’ ideas with a fire extinguisher.”

Ooh, that’s not good.

“And several patrons.”

Did you think they were “hot?”

“No, I just wanted to spray old people with a fire extinguisher.”

That’s the first non-crazy part of this story.

“Right? You must be tempted to.”

Constantly. Or a potato gun to the chest.

“Sure. Oh, and then because there ‘cold’ books in the library–”

You set it on fire.

“–I set it on fire. How’d you know?”

Intimately familiar with insanity’s florid logic.

“But I’m all better now. Little vacation with the family. Seeing old friends on the publicity tour. Bought myself a blue shirt.”

It’s a nice shirt.

“Thank you. Listen, I’m glad we’re talking. You’re an incredibly gifted man, and I want you to write the screenplay for my next film.”

What? Really? Sure, I’d like to do that. Let me just–

Am I talking to the real Amir Bar-Lev or the semi-fictional one?

“Second guy.”

Dammit. No, I do not want to collaborate with a documentarian that doesn’t technically exist.

“We’ll do great things together. And I can pay you.”

With what?


Real money?


Knock it off. Who are these bozos?

“Tall guy on the left is Giovanni Thant. Owns all the Burger Kings in Düsseldorf.”


“Next is the third Weinstein brother, Marvin.”

I didn’t know there was a third one of those.

“He’s usually not allowed out. Weird case of sleep-induced Tourette’s. Just the filthiest stuff imaginable.”

What’s the problem? He’s not anywhere near asleep.



“Marvin’s conditions react in a sort of amplifying wave. Very unfortunate combination.”

I’ll say.

“Marvin is also a biter.”

He sounds great.

“Solid citizen. On my left is Cassius Hammersmith, a 18th-century sea-captain with many problems.”

That’s Justin Kreutzmann.

“No. Troubled sea-captain.”


“How do explain the shanties?”


“He means to make for the Horn, but the weather bedevils his e’ery move.”

“It could also be Justin.”

Who’s rocking the sweater?

“Eric Eisner.”

The fashion designer’s husband?


Cool. The other three?


Dude! You got your own randos?

“Past three or four weeks? Boom: randos everywhere.”

You deserve it, man. You’re a Grateful Dead now.

“Yeah, uh-huh, but: I don’t like it.”

No one told you to make the monster, Doc.

“You turned my shit around on me.”

I did.


This was nice. I’m glad you’re not crazy any more.

“My lawyers aren’t. Gave them a lot of work.”

Fuck lawyers.


DVD Special Features For Long Strange Trip


  • Director Amir Bar-Lev (informative).
  • Bobby (digressive).
  • Mickey dozed off halfway through, then woke up suddenly and sucker-punched the sound guy.
  • Billy smuggled skank into the recording booth and you can hear them humping on-and-off for four hours, plus Billy polished off the better part of a case of Löwenbräu and if we’re honest the entire last hour is nothing but slapping flesh and Billy yelling terrible things about Koreans.
  • There is also a commentary from legend of stage and screen Tim Curry. He’s recovered from a bad stroke, mostly, but you can still hear it in his voice, and he isn’t affiliated with the Dead in any way. Not even a fan, really. I don’t know why this was included.
  • Ramdomly-chosen Deadhead who bitches and complains the entire movie.


Bobby’s line is “These rosary beads?” But he says “These rosary bleeds?” and Natasha Monster can’t stop laughing.

Behind-the-scenes featurettes

  • Billy broke into Amir Bar-Lev’s house one night; his pal Big Fritzy taped the whole thing.
  • Bobby explains his guitars while eating a peanut butter sandwich.
  • Rucka Rucka by moonlight.
  • Tour of Sam Cutler’s house/van. (Also available as a virtual reality file.)
  • TXR busboy talent show.
  • Nick Paumgarten demonstrates his award-winning Eggs Benedict; he uses an ingredient that might surprise you. Halfway through making the eggs, Lilian Monster drop kicks him and starts whacking him in the head with a placard that reads SAVE THE EGGS.
  • Screen tests. (Kurt Russell read for Bobby. Shaq read for Bill Walton.)

Gag reel

Amir Bar-Lev snaps Steve Silberman’s suspenders, and Steve says, “Why did you do that? to which Amir replies “We’re doing a gag reel,” and Steve says “Oh I can’t wait to see it. Don’t do that,” and Amir was like, ‘Okay, amigo.”

Plus twenty minutes of Billy showing a hotel lobby his fruit salad. (Fruit salad is not potato salad, though they are made of the same substance. Fruit salad is produced via tucking your genitals in between your legs and bending over, slightly, to reveal your magnificence to the world, or the hotel lobby. The tip of your cock and balls jibble back and forth, juicy and spherical, much like berries in a fruit salad: hence, the name.)


Alternate endings: Garcia lives.

Short Strange Trailer

Not enough BWAAAAAH , nor did it start with a pop song played really slowly on the high notes of a piano.

On the other hand: contains Natasha Monster.

Grade: 10/10, would pet. (Warning: do not pet Parish.)

Ladies And Gentlemen, The Beatles

If there is a camera within 100 feet of him, Bobby can sense it. And glare at it.


An incomplete list of Parish’s strengths:

  • Roadie strength.
  • Big guy strength.
  • Old guy strength.
  • Crazy guy strength.

If Parish grabs you, you’re grabbed.


The fellow in the blue is Steve Silberman. He wrote the indispensable Skeleton Key: A Dictionary For Deadheads, which was a bit of a tangible shibboleth of Deadheadedness in the 90’s: every single Deadhead owned this book. (Of course, there were fewer books about the Dead back then, as opposed to the shelves’ worth you see today.) And he’s in Long Strange Trip, where he does a wonderful thing by discussing the Deafheads, who should be brought up often and loudly.

“Who’s your favorite band?”

“Oh, they’re cool. My favorite band is so good that even Deaf people listen to them. Checkmate.”


Nice pants, Bobby.

“They were sold to me as a ‘clingy slack.'”

Is there spandex in there?

“They got a lot of give.”


That’s Bobby’s wife, Natasha Monster, and she’s in Long Strange Trip, too; everything she says is eminently reasonable to the point where you wonder how she got involved with a Grateful Dead.

Deleted Scenes From Long Strange Trip

  • Billy/Healy orgy.
  • Twenty minutes of Bobby blowdrying his hair from 1982
  • Twenty minutes of Bobby blowdrying his beard from 2012.
  • Garcia getting powdered up to fit into his wetsuit.
  • BMW bumper cars with the Godchauxes.
  • Billy/Parish orgy.
  • Garcia failing to stop a burglar who later goes on to kill his Uncle Ben.
  • Bruce Hornsby teaches proper layup form.
  • All of Mickey’s first interview. (Mickey, for reasons known only to him and God, insisted on being interviewed in a Chuck E. Cheese; he got into fights with two children, five parents, the manager, and an animatronic bear he insisted called him a “Jew bastard.”)
  • Phil struggles to read the menu at Terrapin Crossroads; yells for Jill to bring him his glasses; she brings the wrong ones; he yells at her; later, Jill poops on bocce courts as revenge.*
  • Billy/Vince orgy.
  • Amir Bar-Lev champions the 7/19/89 Althea as the best, and Al Franken hit him with Mitch McConnell’s shell.
  • Solid half-hour of John Mayer talking about his penis while online shopping.
  • Ten minute animated sequence that cost two million dollars.
  • Hamza El-Din and his family being deported.
  • Billy/Amir Bar-Lev orgy.

*It was always Jill. Every single time. Phil gets on her nerves? She drops one on the bocce courts, and watches him blow a gasket. Marriage takes work.

Twenty Thoughts About Long Strange Trip


Let’s get this out of the way: this is one of the best music documentaries ever made. Take away the films about a show–Woodstock, Stop Making Sense, Last Waltz–and it’s mostly dreck and filler cluttering up the bottom rungs of your Netflix queue: white guys recounting stories about arguing with the record company; hagiographies that blip by all the corpses; tedious chronologies. Some are fun, in a background kind of way, half your ear listening for an interesting story and tootling around on your computer.

Not Long Strange Trip. Might be art. I think it’s art, but we’ll have to wait to see if they hang it in a museum.


If I were a suicidal guy named Art, I would hang myself in a museum.


Possible Television Spin-Offs Of Long Strange Trip I Would Watch Religiously

Glabba Humb? with Sam Cutler Sam Cutler drives around in a van–which he may or may not live in–yelling at traffic and telling stories. (Sam Cutler will be sub-titled, as he’s almost incomprehensible.)

Al Franken Brooks No Shit About His Althea Choice Each week, a new Deadhead enters Senator Franken’s office and makes a case for an Althea that is not the Althea from 5/8/81; Senator Franken refuses to listen to their argument and has the Capitol Police throw them out of the building. Then, he draws America freehand.


Frankenstein is about hubris. It’s Greek, and Greek stories were about hubris. Greek plays had dick jokes and sword fights, but the stories were about hubris. The gods have always reserved certain rights for themselves, and when poly became mono, Yahweh continued the practice. Vengeance is mine saith the Lord. Shoplifters will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, or maybe chained to a rock and eaten by an eagle.

But that’s the book. Movie’s different, because while the themes and philosophies in the novel are lasting and fascinating, the plot is dippy and turgid–too much chitty-chat and not enough pitchfork-wielding townsfolk–and it’s got the wrong ending, by which I mean the right ending: monster lives, doctor dies. Hollywood has never given a shit about whether an ending was wrong or right, just as long as it was happy, and so the doctor ends the film toasting his pregnant wife, and poor old Boris burns to death in a fake castle. Even more than the original novel, the movie should have been called Prometheus Unbound. Hubris goes unpunished, and man is free to do whatever he wants.

And with this freedom, he makes monsters.


Alternate title for the film: Four Hours of Garcia Smoking.


There is an almost-complete lack of hippy-dippitude to the presentation that I find refreshing, welcome, and pleasing. Don’t get me wrong: Mickey’s still yammering about magic, and Bobby spends the entire film in either the lotus position or a Tesla; I mean the aesthetic choices of the visuals. The film’s split into chapters, and the font looks like this:

Amir Bar-Lev could have easily gone with that scribbly poster shit where you can barely read the words; he did not. Good work, Amir Bar-Lev.

Why do you insist on using the man’s full name?

It’s a good name. “Amir Bar-Lev” sounds like a minor Egyptian deity.

The god of laundry baskets.

Something like that.


John Perry Barlow is an old man, so it is not fair when he stands over the grave of his friend, who was a young man, but it doesn’t make it less true. I saw it on my teevee, so it must be true.


There’s at least a dozen bits of footage in here that are jaw-dropping: Garcia in pigtails wandering around Egypt (in color), and the Acid Tests (also in color), and Keith chopping out lines on a dinner plate while Mrs. Donna Jean drinks angrily at him, and the entire band being subtly terrorized by a Hells Angel in some random dressing room.


But, you know: they let the Hells Angel in, so it’s tough to muster up too much sympathy, and good for the film in letting JPB call out Garcia’s bullshit re: the Angels. Militantly passive-aggressive to the end, Garcia floats some bullshit about “the good needing the evil to exist,” to which JPB quite reasonably points out that, while good might require evil, good doesn’t have to give evil a backstage pass.


I won’t spoil it, but the person you would least expect to be in the film gets the biggest laugh.


Doctor Frankenstein knew what he was doing. He didn’t have to make the monster so big; he didn’t have to make him so strong. He could have walked away.


Englishtown isn’t mentioned, nor Cornell. Bill Graham is seen in passing, but not discussed. You do not hear the names Winterland, or Fillmore, or Woodstock. Tom Constanten is not in the film, and neither is Vince or Bruce Hornsby, but TC casts a shadow.

“The Grateful Dead is Jerry Garcia’s backup band,” the abstemious keyboardist once said, and according to Long Strange Trip, he was right. I saw it on my teevee, so it must be true.


Fuck gatecrashers and bumrushers. Bill Graham was right: dig a moat, fill it with gasoline, and burn baby burn. After two or three minutes of entitled behavior from smirking Deadheads, there’s a shot of a cop punching a kid in the jaw and you almost root for the cop.

You need to stop reading books about Nixon.

These smelly children cannot just decide which laws to follow and which to disregard.

Quit it.

The Silent Majority is on my side.

Please concentrate.

The Dead!


I forget this blog is about the Dead sometimes.

It’s in the title, champ.

Might be about Joyce’s lesser work.

The Dead was not Joyce’s lesser work. You’re just saying that because you understood it when you read it, as opposed to everything else the man ever drunkenly dictated.

Can you concentrate, please?

Just write “14.”



The movie’s about Garcia, but he’s not the hero.


Long Strange Trip is not a comedy, obviously, but there are some deeply funny moments which I won’t ruin but just congratulate Amir Bar-Lev on the best hard cut I’ve seen in a while. Parish is on one side of it, Sam Cutler the other. Trust me.

That laugh is a universal one, but there are also Enthusiast-specific giggles. For example, Bobby has not quite mastered seatbelts yet. Again: trust me.


Not to toot my own tooter, but I write Pigpen well. At one point in the Acid Test footage, you can hear him yell at the soundman, “Skip all that babblin’ and give us our power!” and I thought maybe I had written that line.


Kerouac gets mentioned multiple times. On The Road. (You were expecting Phil to start waxing critical about The Town and the City?) The rolls of typing paper, taped into an infinite scroll, bennies and coffee and three weeks of sweat and double-blinking eyes and WHAMMO a masterpiece. Garcia mentioned this as an influence.

And Jack really did that, honest, sat there and birthed On The Road in less than a month, but only after writing at least eight drafts of the novel over the course of the previous decade.

Spontaneity is much easier when you practice it.


At a certain point, neutrality becomes cowardice.


Go see the damn movie.


There is a shot at the end. Garcia has died and Bobby, present-day Bobby, drives through the mist: it is nighttime and foggy and the cabin is illuminated by a massive touchscreen glowing expensive blue; the car has been named after a mad scientist and conditions on the ground make it impossible to see whether there are dangers ahead. An old man, alive, with young friends, dead, and that does not seem fair, but I saw it on my teevee so it must be true.

The fog is so thick that anything could be right around the corner.

VIP Coming Through, Step Aside

Let this be a lesson to the Younger Enthusiasts: whining works.

Fun future fact of the day: Hollywood doesn’t do screeners anymore, apparently. You send out a DVD, and the sucker’s getting bootlegged and ripped and stolen; what they do now are private websites with passwords that only work for a set time, plus–as you can see–a big ol’ personalized watermark right in the middle of the picture.

Creepy future fact of the day: I had trouble getting the movie to run–it turns out I was using the wrong browser–and I sent an email to the support team. They quickly sent back a note that made it very clear they could see what was going on in my computer.

Wait. Am I watching Long Strange Trip, or is Long Strange Trip watching me? Maaaaaan?

Another Open Letter To Amir Bar-Lev

Dear Amir Bar-Lev,

Hi. How are you? I am fine, except for my body, which hurts. Are you a fan of Harry Styles? That young man is just everywhere. Justin Timberlake, watch your back! Maybe your next film could be about his hair.

I write for several reasons, Amir Bar-Lev. I am happy that Long Strange Trip, the long-awaited documentary about the Dead, is coming out and even being shown in theaters across the country for one night. I can’t recall any other Amazon-produced features getting a theatrical release, and certainly no four-hour documentaries about semi-defunct choogly-type bands, so congratulations are in order. On a related note, I am glad you are no longer being driven slowly insane by the never-ending production of the film. Making movies about the Grateful Dead has been known to bring about madness and a permanent wobble, but you seem to have avoided this curse. Good job.

Sadly, I cannot be as sanguine when it comes to the press strategy you’ve chosen. Yes, I’ve seen reviews–uproariously positive ones, at that–in glossy magazines and websites with fancy layouts; impressive people with impressive Twitter bios have been impressed; David Lemieuxnovermiami has been dispatched to the CBC bearing Stealie-emblazoned toques. These are all smart moves.

And yet I have not been wooed.

Thoughts on the Dead is a thought-leader, Amir Bar-Lev. An influencer. And, I’ll add, a popular one: this is the #1 most-visited Grateful Dead-related site on the internet. (Honest. I could show you my stats page, but I’m under IRS audit. Just trust me on this: #1.) One word from me makes or breaks your movie, buddy. I don’t mean to toot my own horn here, but HONK HONK, motherfucker.

Please don’t call Amir Bar-Lev a motherfucker.

How many times have I asked you not to interrupt the open letters?

Many. Stop being impolite.

Fine. I reiterate my position: my opinion is important and I’m entitled to special treatment. Also: Amir Bar-Lev, you cannot possibly conceive of the ball-lappingly effusive review I’ll give Long Strange Trip. On the website for the theatrical showing, you quote Kenneth Turan of The Los Angeles Times. “Fascinating,” he writes. Dude, “fascinating” is going to be the least positive word in my review. Shit, I’ll invent words just to praise you:

Long Strange Trip shines like a nebulation of frangeant gold.”

Not good enough? Try this shit:

“And once the movie ended I sat there, just sat, and felt a pressure on my shoulder: a small female jay, not as plumed as the males, she leaned into my ear. ‘Remember that you are loved.’ She flew off, and I tried not to think of her words as a warning. Go see Long Strange Trip.”

See? I’m awesome at this.

Send me a screener, Amir Bar-Lev. All the theaters that the film’s playing at on the 25th are too far away from me. Send me a screener. Is there a computer person in the office? Tell the computer person to put the movie on a disc. Then tell the intern to mail it to me. On the way to the post office, have the intern buy some of those gummy bears with weed in them and put them in the package. This is not so much to ask. Send me a screener and drug candy. Don’t make me issue unenforceable, half-assed threats, because I will! Send me a screener and some drug candy and also maybe put some cash in the package as a bribe. I will absolutely take a bribe. Now that I think about it: if you’d like to write the review yourself, you could do that. Just slip it in the package with the screener and the drug candy and the cash.

Let’s sum up: Long Strange Trip is going to be in theaters for one night, and you’re going to send me a screener you’re going to send me a screener you’re going to send me a screener–

Stop trying to hypnotize Amir Bar-Lev.


Ah, blow me.

I look forward to your response, and also the drug candy.

Love and Other Indoor Sports,
Thoughts on the Dead

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