Do you remember as a child when the school year was coming to a close right at the crest of summer? The excitement, jubilation and anticipation was almost too much to remain focused. Those last couple of weeks or days just couldn’t come fast enough. You can insert the Alice Cooper song “School’s Out” as an anthem for that particular feeling. Conversely, after months of summer break I recall some boring and drab days and the desire to be around the stir of schoolmates and the energy that new tasks, projects and friendships brought. They refer to that feeling as the dog days of summer. As a child it was as though the summer could never end.
I was recently reflecting on how quickly time seems to go by now as an adult. It seems every year moves by quicker and you really have to be mindful of taking in all that is happening. As society rushes towards trying to push more into 24 hours than was possible in over a week just a generation ago, we can lose focus and it all becomes one big blur.
Summertime is still my favorite time of year and one of my favorite things to do during the Summer is seek out live music festivals. There are so many to choose from these days from TBD Fest here in Sacramento to the Treasure Island Music Festival, to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco, but finding the time to plug-in, is the biggest challenge to a busy lifestyle.
Recently however, I had an opportunity to attend the Fare Thee Well tour, the final five days of performances of the legendary Grateful Dead. Can you believe it has been 20 years since Jerry Garcia died and the remaining band members called it quits to only play music under different names and iterations? The Fare Thee Well tour had the band celebrating 50 years of music, and they played two shows in the Bay Area at Levi's Stadium, and finished the tour with three nights in Chicago's Soldier Field, a historic place, as it was the last place Jerry Garcia played before his passing. You may ask, how they can put on a show without Jerry? Well, if you are a fan you know that, although he is irreplaceable, the remaining members and others who collaborated and toured with them needed to do something to commemorate 50 years of the famous Jam band's iconic improvisational sound. Fans were certainly pleased they put on these performances and I am sure it was cathartic for the remaining band members and you could see the gratitude the players had for all the supporters who attended in droves. Needless to say the show was an amazing experience. I joined two of my college pals for a night we will not soon forget.
Trey Anastasio whose band Phish grew enormously popular in the wake and aftermath of the Dead's halt to touring in 1995, proudly played, and sang tribute to the vacancy on stage of Jerry Garcia. The remaining members Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann, and Mickey Hart, joined Bruce Hornsby (who toured with the Dead in years past), and Jeff Chimenti a Bay Area keyboardist who has collaborated with all of the aforementioned.
As the band played on I couldn’t help but let my mind wander to distant places, of days gone by and slow down just for a moment. The stage was a spectacle, the music familiar, and the crowd of friendly Deadheads swayed to the nostalgic rhythms of decades of hit tunes.
I am sure you can appreciate the feeling that a particular song provides for you, even if the Grateful Dead is not on your radar or in your playlists. Songs can take you away. A song can be nostalgic, and remind you of what is precious about life. A song can strike a cord of emotions or, if you are like me, make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. A song can slow you down from that hectic pace we all too often accept as the norm.
“Wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world, the heart has it's beaches, it's homeland and thoughts of it's own. Wake now, discover that you are the song that the mornin' brings, But the heart has it's seasons, it's evenin's and songs of it's own.” -Eyes of the World, Grateful Dead.
So if the dog days of summer have reached you somehow, I encourage you to go home, crank up your favorite album and take yourself away to another time, another moment or a reflection. Take a minute to slow down, enjoy a momentary dance party in your living room, alone or with family. Make sure the stereo is cranked loud enough to stir up your neighbors; they may need the pickup as well. Enjoy the remainder of your summer as the Doors put it, “Summers Almost Gone.”