The real problem with late-period Dead is the Uncanny Valley: it no longer sounds like physical music anymore. They were just playing with their toys (not including Billy’s Drawers of Sensual Toys which the band is not paying for, Billy! The tour pays for drumsticks, not dildos, Billy. It is NOT a tour-related expense: you get up to that weird shit at home. You get up to that weird shit in MY LIVING ROOM, BILLY. You’re a horrible sexual Boojum, Billy. Fuck this, I quit and by the way, I stole all of your money again. Yoinks!)
And I’m not even talking about the late-period hobby of rhythmically floating somewhere around the beat, which was the one thing that had absolutely nothing to do with Vince, that Ren Faire extra. Bands have leaders because bands are, at their essence, just groups of men, and groups of men have leaders in every culture in the entire world. For all of Garcia’s talk about “when Phil is on, we’re on,” he was the leader of the band. If the aliens landed outside a Dead show, only to make the usual clichéd demand (leaders, taking), you wouldn’t take them to fucking Phil. It was always Garcia’s band: to speak of anything else is to invite madness to stalk you and invade your fine homes and shave your fine servants. So, when the leader started wandering around the musical wilderness without a map and dressed like a salmon, the rest of them had to follow.
No, what I speak of is the molecular sound of the beast.It was raw and growly which made the sweetness that much more hard-won. (Please provide 350 words on why a show cannot be truly great unless it has earned its Jerry ballad. Begin.) Bobby’s guitar always sounded sprightly until he turned tinkly and shiny. Bobby was, sadly the worst of them at it. Phil generally sounded like himself except for space and other weirdo jams, when he liked to pretend he was a flute player with a wall of amplifiers. Garcia liked to pretend he was a trumpet player, but he would do those little triplet rolls down to the note thing and it would be okay, but Bobby? Bobby wanted to play the marimbas. Bobby loved that marimba setting so much, one speculates about the endearingly creepy island based dreams Bobby might have lurking below his placid exterior. he could be Mustache Bob, player of marimbas and layer of tourists. He works in the hotel bar at night, and in the hotel rooms during the day. He’s got it pretty sweet, to be honest about the whole thing.
You have come to my beautiful suite.
You let yourself into my room while I was showering.
My mustache is long, but my shorts are short: you have never seen a black man like me.
You are not a black man.
Bobby turns out the lights.
What about now?
What? No. Of course–listen, this is enough of this. Get going, you scamp.