Archive for August, 2010

Hollywood comes to Holstein Park.

Monday, August 30th, 2010

Today, there were film crew trucks lined up all down Holstein Park as 20th Century Park were in our neighborhood filming a scene at the 16 inch softball field for an upcoming television show. I should have gotten a better picture of the actual filming, especially since you could walk right up to the scene. Instead, I got a photo of the sound mixer and these crew trucks:

Sox vs. Yankees – Attended Game #7 (8/28/10)

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

White Sox 9, Yankees 12

The last time I attended a ballgame, it was the love not lost match up between the two Chicago ball clubs. As a ranking of rivalry, I assumed when it came to the White Sox, the Cubs topped the list (with the Twins a close second). However, as I realized last night, the real hatred is reserved for the one and only New York Yankees. And let’s be honest, if you aren’t a fan of the Pinstripers, there is a good chance you take a certain joy in seeing them fail. When your ball club has won 27 World Series and 40 AL Pennants, you’re just showing off. And no one likes a show off.

Still, it is the Yankees. And I have never seen the Yankees. For one reason, tickets are prime for Yankee days, so it has usually been out of my price range for a ticket. But thanks to Steph and Adam, I used my Sox gift certificate from Christmas and bought a ticket just behind the right field wall, third row. A perfect spot for a souvenir homer run ball. Check out my view:

Pretty nice. You are so close to the field, you almost feel like you are a part of the game. Unfortunately, all seven home runs were hit to left field. Can you believe that? Oh well, it was a nice vantage point, and a seat that I will seek out in the future.

The game was also the first of the season that I decided to score myself. Every time I score, I seem to fascinate those around me. The guy behind made a point to show his wife what I was doing, as well as inquire me on what my plan was if in one inning, the lineup started over (which it almost did in the 5th, until Jeter flied out to center field). Another fan seemed obliged to tell me that I had bad handwriting when he was trying to figure out what had just happened on the field. Oh well, you could have just asked, and I would have been happy to translate my chicken scratch. You should be able to see, however, how Yankee pitching phenomenon C.C. Sabathia earned his keep as the highest paid pitcher in baseball history, collecting nine strikeouts:

The Sox did have a few bright moments, including the shortest home run that I have ever seen hit by Paul Konerko. Below, fireworks for Paulie:

Although the Sox made it interesting in the 9th, the Good Guys fail short to the Yankees. No shame. A lot of teams do. However, there seems to be a certain disappointment losing to a dynasty like the Yankees. Who wants to see Goliath win?

And oh, I forgot to mention how I saw three Yankees fans ejected from the game, including one right in front of me. A rough bunch, I tell you. As this fan’s shirt depicts, the Yankees are not a well liked ball club:


4th Anniversary!

Monday, August 16th, 2010

Check out photos from our trip this past weekend in Galena, Illinois and Dubuque, Iowa.

There is a light that never goes out.

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

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What was meant to be a day full of Grateful Dead posts celebrating the life of Jerry Garcia was suddenly brought to a halt yesterday (which is why half of them were posted today), when the power in our entire neighborhood went out for over 6 hours. Luckily, the power didn’t go out in Livermore, home of the longest running light bulb. Click here to see it shining brightly.

Future Deadheads? (last post)

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

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Join us! Join us!

It’s funny how many Deadheads I come across, now that I am a fan. Yesterday, I walked past a runner wearing a tie-dye shirt with the Grateful Dead lighting bolt logo. On a film shoot last week, the manly, gruff gaffer had the official logo tattooed on his leg. And recently, a producer I was working with was telling me about a nine hour road trip he had to make for work, but thankfully he had his Grateful Dead satellite radio to keep him company. Look around, there is bound to be a Deadhead approaching.

Finally, here are my Top 5 Picks for the casual listener looking to get into the Dead:

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5. Skeletons from the Closet – Sure, it’s a greatest hits album (and not even the most comprehensive greatest hits collection from the Dead) but it flows nicely. Among the favorites, it also contains selections like “Rosemary,” which was never a hit and was only played live twice. And yet, it works.

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4. The Arista Years – Another greatest hits collection. This one chronicles the band’s output from the 70’s through the 80’s, and was my first purchase from the Dead since I bought American Beauty 15 years ago. Everyone Deadhead has their favorite period, and I think my heart still belongs to the 70’s.

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3. Dick’s Picks Volume 4 – Dick Pick’s are personal selections of past Grateful Dead shows from the band’s tape archivist Dick Latvala. Dick’s fourth choice for the series is another one of those considered the Dead’s best shows. With three songs of lengths over 30 minutes, the entire concert won’t appeal to all, but for others this will probably the high point in the Dead collection. Also, contains an hilarious introduction from horror host, Zacherley

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2. American Beauty and Workingman’s Dead – Both of these albums are similar in vein. They are also highly regarded by critics as the Dead’s best recordings. In 1970, the Dead were mellowing their sound, bringing out the acoustic guitars to share with the world their idea of American music. Some of the Dead’s most popular songs are on these records, including “Truckin,” “Casey Jones,” “Friend of the Devil,” “Ripple,” and “Uncle John’s Band”. You also get to hear, “What a long strange trip it’s been…” Indeed.

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1. Grateful Dead aka Skull & Roses – This was the Dead’s second live album. The first one Live/Dead contained what many Deadheads claim has the best rendition of “Dark Star,” a song of mecca proportions that was celebrated every time it was played. The song is also over twenty minutes, and is more than likely not the best starting point. Unlike Live/Dead, the majority of the songs on Skull & Roses (as I prefer to call it) are relatively short (only two songs stretch pass the 6 minute mark). The album also relies heavily on covers such as Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried,” Kris Kirstofferson’s “Me and Bobbby McGee. It also captures the Dead at their most energetic, rolling through numbers like “Bertha” and “Big Railroad Blues” with such intensity and purpose that if the Dead were looking to capture the world, this album would serve as initiation purposes.

Okay, so there you have it. I’m not sure I’ve convinced a soul out there to truly give the Grateful Dead an honest listen. Perhaps, I have annoyed more than anything. Either way, I now return you to our regularly scheduled programming…

The Tapers World

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

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One of the most fascinating aspects of the Dead was their decision to allow fans to tape their shows. Doing so, the fan was able to leave the concert with a document of the event, and then share it as well as trade with other fans and their collections. It was musical blogs way before musical blogs were even dreamed of. Before long, the tapers helped create the an ever growing community of like minded individuals, building relationships over their common interest, the Grateful Dead. The real Deadheads are those that followed the band around the country, hanging out in venue parking lots, and taking in hundreds upon hundreds of shows.

Allowing taping proved to be the Dead’s smartest business move (and the Dead were great businessmen). It helped secure the band as relevant throughout the years after so many other similar acts were seen as pure nostalgic. Another smart move the Dead made was changing up their sets each night, which gave the taper the opportunity to capture rare performances that became quite valuable on the trading market. People wanted to be a part of the scene, and the taper gave them the opportunity to be in on the fun as well as relive old memories (some of which may have been hazy at the time). Recordings are often separated into two fields, soundboard and audience recordings. The soundboard copies are quickly being produced into CD’s while the audience recordings are free and up for grab to anyone who wants to download them. For many Deadheads, the only worthy Dead recording is a good audience recording.

As someone you loves to document life, I was instantly drawn to the tapers. Tapers feel the music belongs to the world and are happy to get it out there for all to enjoy. Today, tapers are still going strong on Live Music Archive, with over 80,000 recorded shows. My favorite taper of today is NYC Taper who updates his blog nearly daily with newly recorded shows from today’s best bands. And then, of course, there are the audience recordings from the Dead tapers, who have documented over 7,000 Dead shows throughout their career. Check out the full list here.

Here are some of my favorites:

Live at Haight Street (3/3/68)
An early, high energy show from the Haight-Ashbury ambassadors with the late Ron “Pigpen” Mckernan fronting the band.

Live at the Music Box (4/15/69)
Even poorly recorded shows have high merit if they document a good night.

Live at Hollywood Palladium (8/6/71)
It’s amazing how advanced the tapers had become in only two years. One of the best sounding audience recordings, perfectly blending the music with the scene.

Live at Cornell University (5/8/77)
Often considered the best Grateful Dead show ever! This is a matrix between the soundboard and audience recordings. A perfect marriage.

Live at The Centrum (11/5/85)
Proving the Dead were still going strong in the 80’s despite less than stellar harmonies. This is a fun show that includes the Dead Birthday wishes to one of the most famous Deadheads, NBA star Bill Walton.

Live at the Pyramid 4/2/95)
One of the Dead’s last show was in Memphis at the Pyramid. Here the boys excite the Southern crowd with numbers like Dylan’s “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” and the Dead classic “Tennessee Jed” with the lyrics “Tennessee, Tennessee no place I’d rather be.” Crowd pleasers to say the least.

The Fashion of the Dead

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

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I find it funny that the Dead were always associated with tie-dye, when in actuality, the band has gone on record as hating the look. Still, their fans continue to don the style with pride. While the Dead rarely displayed the hippie stereotype, they did have some interesting looks throughout the years:

What’s better, the Dead’s rendition of St. Stephen or Garcia’s outfit?

Check out Mr. Weir’s short, shorts! Scary.

Speaking of shorts, this might be only time Garcia wore half length pants on stage. The results are frightening.

More from the fashion conscience Weir who sports here a purple polo top and cut off blue jeans. Classic.

And clearly, the scariest of them all. Clown fashion! Be afraid. Be very afraid…

The Worst of the Grateful Dead

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

With the Dead producing hundreds of wonderful, timeless tunes, there were bound to be some real stinkers. Here are my votes for the worst offensives:

Sunrise – This song almost makes me mad it’s so bad. Horribly outdated, poorly orchestrated. And overly sung by Donna Godchaux. This number was only played live for a year before it was forever dropped from the live shows. One listen, and it is easy to see why.

France – The will be the last time I will pick on Godchaux. This is actually Godchaux at her best with the Dead. Unfortunately, her best is still the bottom of the barrel of Dead tunes. Check out if you dare.

What’s Become of the Baby – I suppose any psychedelic rock group from the 60’s had to have a song like this in their back catalog. Accompanied to old home movies it’s quite effectively creepy. Yet, I imagine most of us skip over this track on Aoxomoxoa.

Far From Me – This song makes me cringe. If you like 80’s ballads, then you will probably like this one. I’ll pass.

Just a Little Light – The Dead could actually use synthesizers quite effectively at times. This is not one of those times.

– If you know the reference of the title of this post, I will personally make you a Dead mix catered to your musical taste!

The Lighter Side of the Grateful Dead

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Here are some of my favorite comical moments of the Dead:

Here, Bob Weir and Jerry Garcia appear on David Letterman in 1982, quite possibly under the influence, yet entertaining with tales from their unconventional lifestyle and their unique philosophies. Garcia even asks Letterman if he has an ashtray.

Bob Weir and Jerry Garcia return to David Letterman in `87 after the release of In the Dark. The results are even funnier than last visit as Weir demonstrates a parlor trick where Weir, David, Paul, and Biff attempt to lift Garcia easily into the air with everyone’s fingers. My favorite line is from Garcia, “My mom didn’t raise me to be no benchwarmer.” Also, there is a hilarious part of the interview where Garcia admits that the Dead have bad nights and have blown some of the biggest concerts of their lives (Monterey, Woodstock, Egypt). Also, there are some funny details shared about their Woodstock performance where there was a short in the electrical system so every time the boys touched their instruments they would be shocked.

This is a hilarious Al Franken interview with keyboardist Brent Mydland from a Halloween night in 1980, as Mydland explains to Franklin how he doesn’t know how to play “St. Stephen”. Fair warning, language not suited for the young-ins.

Could there be a more clash of styles than when the Grateful Dead appeared on Playboy After Dark? What a different time it was…

My Top 5 Dead Studio Albums

Monday, August 9th, 2010

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It has often been said that the Dead were never able to capture the excitement of a live show in the studio environment. However, I think this sells the studio albums short. Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty are critics favorites, but here are my Top 5 excluding the before-mentioned:

5. In the Dark – I’m going to be very bold here and suggest an album from the 80’s is one of the Dead’s best studio albums. Well, In the Dark certainly was the group’s best selling album of their career thanks to the success of the radio hit, “Touch of Grey”. Okay, all you Dead haters out there. You can get over yourself, “Touch of Grey” is a great song with one heck of a memorable video. Other worthy tunes on the record include “Hell in a Bucket,” “West L.A. Freeway,” “Throwing Stones,” and “Black Muddy River”. Sure, they weren’t on the level as their work in the 60’s and 70’s, but they still held up and were performed throughout the 80’s and 90’s, proving that the Dead were more than a mere nostalgic act late in their career.

4. Shakedown StreetShakedown Street is probably the least favorite album of musical critics. However, I’m not quite sure why. Sure, it is the Dead taking on disco. But the end result is surprising effective. It’s funky, danceable, and has great lyrics like “Nothin’ shakin on Shakedown Street, used to be the heart of town. Don’t tell me this town ain’t got no heart, you just got to poke around”. I love it. Unfortunately, Shakedown also contains “France” one of the Dead’s worst songs, with lead vocals by the only female member of the band, Donna Jean Godchaux. Some Deadheads have a strong distaste for Godchaux participation in the band from `72 – `79. I never minded her live but she released some pretty bad tunes under the Grateful Dead moniker. Shakedown also contains the popular live number “Good Lovin’,” a cover from The Young Rascals. I never cared for either version. However, what I did care for on Shakedown were numbers like “Stagger Lee,” “I Need a Miracle,” and “Fire on the Mountain”. It also contains the under-appreciated Garcia lead “If I Had the World To Give”. When I was getting into the Dead, this was the album I was most afraid of hearing. It was also one the albums that surprised me the most. Worst Dead album? Not even close.

3. Blues for Allah – This was the Dead’s attempt at a jazz fusion record. But don’t let that scare you away. Blues for Allah starts off strong with the “Help on the Way/Slipnot>Franklin’s Tower” suite. This would be played multiple times in concert, but I never felt like they captured live what they were able to do in the studio with the opening riffs from “Help on the Way”. Those opening chords get me every time. We also get the “Crazy Fingers,” a lazily reggae influenced tune with a wonderful lead from Garcia. And then there is “The Music Never Stopped,” which could be the Dead’s ultimate anthem. Like most of the Dead studio albums, there are hiccups. The biggest misstep here is the title track, which is overly long and pretentious (something that the Dead weren’t often accused of) and frankly to trying of an affair for the audience. However, the song does fair better live on One from the Vault despite being twice as long. Go figure.

2. Anthem of the SunAnthem might be the Dead’s sophomore release, but it feels more like their true debut. While the Dead’s first album, The Grateful Dead or San Francisco’s Grateful Dead, did rely heavily on songs being played live at the time, the numbers were severely edited to short lengths uncommon for the band. On Anthem, the Dead took control of the studio and produced their most psychedelic album of their career. Songs stretch to their normal lengths (Alligator is over 11 minutes) as recordings are blended from studio and concert recordings. Most impressive is the mix which is engulfing with sound attacking from all directions. This is an album best heard on headphones to be truly appreciated.

1. Grateful Dead from the Mars HotelMars Hotel was the Dead’s seventh studio album, and their second under their own label. It is also probably the most enjoyable as a straight listen (minus the annoying “Money Money”). The album blasts off with the rousing U.S. Blues (which would be a favorite live) and continues with the odd, but captivating Phil Lesh number “Unbroken Chain” (later to be sampled by Animal Collective as the only authorized sample allowed by the Dead). Next up, Garcia’s fragile number “China Doll,” which is probably the Dead’s most lovely song. Other highlights are the rockin’ “Loose Lucy” and the ballad “Ship of Fools”. It also has “Scarlet Begonias” which is probably my favorite Grateful Dead song, especially when performed live when it melds into “Fire on the Mountain”. If you get one studio album from the 70’s Dead, this is the one.