The Grateful Dead and the old, weird America

La-et-jc-the-grateful-dead-and-the-old-weird-a-001David L. Ulin at The Los Angeles Times:

For about 10 minutes on Sunday morning, I regretted not going to Santa Clara to hear the Grateful Dead. This was after I saw the set list from the first of the five “Fare Thee Well” shows scheduled to conclude July 3, 4 and 5 at Chicago’s Soldier Field.

“Alligator,” “Cream Puff War,” “What’s Become of the Baby?” — these were songs they hadn’t played live, if at all, in close to five decades. And yet, there was no Jerry Garcia. How could it be the Dead without Jerry Garcia, who died in 1995? This was a key reason I’d dismissed these goodbye shows; how could you say goodbye to something that was already gone?

My last Dead show was at the Spectrum in Philadelphia on April 6, 1982. Even then, my relationship with the band was ambivalent; I was an admirer of the intent if not always the execution of the music, the ideal of improvisation, making mistakes in public, but wary of nostalgia, then and now.

more here.