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    When Mercury goes retrograde like it did the last week of December, I retreat into my shell for three weeks. Communication is futile. I withdraw into other unfinished projects. I did pop out for two nights when the band Furthur played the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. There’s something great about a concert in this place. It’s a comfortable setting, with great acoustics and speed bumps on the hallway floor. There is no running in these halls. Drinks are poured in cups. There is a spirit of cooperation and rhythm of movement. Someone interprets for the deaf who dance to the vibrations while the signing of the language is a dance in itself. The deaf and dead listen in. It’s New Year’s eve,  and I have been listening to some of the Dead’s early tapes recently,  and some of the songs tonight, like “Mama Tried” and “Candyman”,  sound just like those live recordings from early 70’s. Close our eyes and it sounds like we’re listening to  twenty year olds. The guy playing lead guitar, John Kadlecik, sounds just like Jerry, like his spirit is so present,  Bob Weir and Phil Lesh perfectly complement this orchestra  on this unusual night. It’s the very rare blue moon, the second full moon this month on the night of a lunar eclipse. During their second set, a girl walks up to me looks me in the eyes and says “Your eyes look from your mother’s face” and I see my mom in spirit and recall the many midnights I spent with her on the phone or at her home. We are edging to midnight tonight. There are bells, like ringing phones, rhythmic acoustics. They bring the unexpected with a cover of an old Pink Floyd song “Time”, segued into “Uncle John’s Band”, and closing with J.J. Cale’s “After Midnight“, a song Garcia loved, full of mystery and the unexpected. The band takes a break onstage.

    There is a long pause that  continues to the slow moving countdown toward midnight. It is like a genuine selah, a reflection of time, exploration of space, innovation of sound, for good of the human race and the spirit of the times. Conversation of anticipation is all around me and folks are asking what song are they going to open the new year with. I reply, “Well it’s about 45 years in a row of ‘Sugar Magnolia’”. “No, that’s not true” someone interjects. “The year I had money on ‘Sugar Magnolia’, they opened with Aiko Aiko. Anything is possible with this group.  Back when before the Grateful Dead is birthed, when it is just a dream or word in a book, it is the simple passionate spirit of the songs by the Beatles and the folk poetry of Bob Dylan emerging from a womb of rhyme that sparks a creative inspiration of energy that becomes what the Grateful Dead  create, a sound, and it’s that sound this band Furthur performs so perfect and well. Bands like Dark Star Orchestra and Zen Tricksters have replicated this sound. The voice of Jerry Garcia is a heavenly sound heard through this music. New Year’s eve has always been a very special occasion for these musicians. It is the anniversary of the day Jerry and Bob Weir cross paths for the first time. It is the night of “Auld Lang Syne” the song by Robert Burns, the poet and lyricist from the eighteenth century, Scotland’s favourite son, and author of “A Red, Red Rose”,who left us this legacy, “Auld Lang Syne”,  playing every hour in every time zone in the world ushering in a New Year!  Somewhere on the east coast, David Nelson, and the New Riders of the Purple Sage are humming and hard singing this olde tune to mark the new decade, and the descendant of this poet,  also born Robert Burns, later changing his name to Robert Hunter, sent some lyrics to this new band back then called The Grateful Dead and became Jerry Garcia’s lifelong lyricist. The musicians, Jerry , Bob, and Phil, Billy, and Ron “Pigpen” McKernan would gather to play cover songs they mutually loved and had fun doing, and got it together and wrote their first song “The Golden Road (to Unlimited Devotion)” for their first album, and lyrics from this song came pouring out right after countdown midnight. It is a strange new year and my oh my what a long strange trip it’s been! Prelude to the countdown: The hall is lit with anticipation and the magical chords resonating through the speakers to the sounds of “All You Need Is Love”. What a simple message to the heart.  It is the beginning of something new, something better, precious and true. Look up!

    The long night rolls to an end with the sounds of love that won’t fade away. Phil brings us a special message and everyone is standing in anticipation of an encore. Almost in unison around me people are chanting “Sugar Magnolia” and the band launches into this favorite song written by Bob Weir and Robert Hunter. The new year finally is here “Sunshine Daydream …”!


    January 2010
    M T W T F S S