It was a summer New England weekend at the site of the Marshfield Fairgrounds in Marshfield, MA. The 7th Levitate Music & Arts Festival was underway with some big names in rock, reggae, blues, and jam music. Not only does it bring great music, but it also brings great philanthropy and a homegrown vibe.
What is fair to say and what is hyperbole? Is it overstating things to say the Grateful Dead have become so much more than just their music? They define pieces of us. Times with friends. Discovery. They have become an institution reaching further than just recordings of their shows. But no matter what, for all of us, it still starts there; with the music. The music was and is a driving force in us. But since it has ended, and it has ended, what we are left with are new branches growing from roots sewn in the 60’s.
“Tennessee Jed” was a raucous riot, as it indubitably should be. The instrumental breaks showcased JRAD’s proclivity for shaking fresh ideas out of well-worn material. Benevento dropped a stanky, Dr. John crossed with Dave Brubeck piano piece. Metzger and Dreiwitz slipped into a parallel, Bizarro “Jed.” The entire unit tilted and started to spin ecstatically. It was like putting a Ferris wheel on top of a roller coaster. JRAD increasingly infused the Dead’s material with their own creative energy. They weren’t out to simply play these cherished songs; they sought to possess them and make them their own.
Last weekend, the historic Warfield in San Francisco hosted a special two nights in honor of the life and legacy of Jerry Garcia. It is fitting, as the storied 86-year old theater hosted Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia Band dozens of times and continued to book acts that bring an adventurous music spirit. One of the beloved guitarist and bandleader’s closest collaborators outside of Grateful Dead was organist Melvin Seals.