Dead & Company: And The Music Never Stopped

By Stephanie Holstein ’18

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John Mayer and Bob Weir shredding in Columbus, OH, at the Nationwide Arena on Nov. 13. (credit: Stephanie Holstein)

This weekend, my sister, Katie, and I saw Dead & Company and were sent to another dimension. As every music outlet has covered the resurgence of the Grateful Dead in this new group and configuration–primarily made up former Dead members Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, and stand-in, John Mayer–we were wary of how this change of line-up would sound. Given that most of the Dead have now retired from music or passed away–most notably, patron saint of jam bands, Jerry Garcia–it was definitely a different show than the concerts Katie and I have watched videos of, from the prime of the Grateful Dead’s career. And yet, Friday night they put on an unbelievably amazing show.

While the Grateful Dead have had, and most likely will always have, a massive following, since John Mayer is subbing in as the Garcia figure, I felt that there would be a sizable group of younger concert-goers wanting to see Mayer. While my sister loves both Mayer and the Dead, I am not a huge fan of Mayer based upon the fact that he is a jerk IRL (but man, can he shred!!). To my relief, the serious Dead fans–the ones who have been following the band for decades–filled the arena, with overwhelming love, gratitude, and weed. It’s nice to know that even in this new arrangement, some of the oldest, most genuine fans of this band are still down to jam and appreciate those good ol’ seven-minute guitar solos as if it were 1972.

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Weir involved in a face-melting jam. (credit: Stephanie Holstein)

While many of the songs they played felt more like rarities as opposed to their more major hits, Mayer and Weir treated us to “Touch of Grey” and “Eyes of the World,” the latter being my favorite Grateful Dead song. However, as there’s a comfortable similarity among their songs, each track felt easy to mentally and spiritually relate to, eliminating any anxiety about not personally knowing the words or the bass line of every song. Despite my personal opinion of Mayer, I believe he is the most appropriate–and okay, the most perfect–stand-in for Garcia as, like the late rockstar, he is very much an old soul, capable of free-jamming, and playing off of other equally talented musicians, such as Weir.

There was a tremendous feeling of camaraderie in the arena, fans–mostly old, and some new–swaying in imperfect harmony, feeling themselves in their own unique way. On the floor of the arena, where we stood, you could feel a mellow electricity as hippie folk, as well as 9 to 5 business men and women, danced erratically, along to their own beat. In an age where our generation tries so hard to achieve a perfect level of cool, I think we could learn a lesson from the Dead and the jamming generation who loves them–the coolest thing you can possibly do is unapologetically be your wonderful own self.

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