Dear Jerry: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Dear Jerry: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly


All Videos by Youtube User DC Ranger Fan.

With an incredible lineup of musicians, last night had the potential to be one of the best concerts of the year. Unfortunately for all in attendance, it came up well short.

Was the show fun? Yes. Could it have been much better. Absolutely.

Several bands and artists didn’t get to perform due to time constraints; and the ones that did were cut short. It’s almost paradoxical. Greensky Bluegrass was scheduled to perform “Eyes of the World” and Railroad Earth was supposed to play “Terrapin Station.” Both bands were cut due to time constraints despite being booked and advertised as performing on the bill.

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“Eric Church got to do Tennessee Jed while Todd Schaffer sat on the sidelines. Jerry is rolling over in the grave”, said live music fan Will Fuller.

Bruce Hornsby was conspicuously absent from the entire engagement.

See the initial schedule that was not adhered to below. (PanicStream)

Last night no band was given a platform to truly improvise and explore uncharted territories: the very reason why we celebrate Jerry Garcia as a musician and the Grateful Dead as a band. Bill Graham called Jerry Garcia “The Charles Atlas of The Psychedelic Set.” We got none of that at Dear Jerry.

Improvisation is what has and always will set the Dead apart from every other rock and roll band. Trying to cram as many musicians as possible in such a short time frame on a Thursday night was not conducive to a creative environment and even lead to some of the bigger names and acts getting cut from the show. As a result, Dear Jerry felt more like a gimmicky money grab than an authentic musical celebration.

I feel the need to be honest with our loyal readers because it’s not hard to please me with any lineup of folks performing Dead tunes. But the entire charade felt forced. However, there were some parts that I would like to highlight. Some musicians really did the music justice and I thoroughly enjoyed these moments along with 18,000 other friends at Merriweather Post Pavilion.

Phil Lesh’s “Wheel>Uncle John’s Band” was a pretty strong opener. The “Standing on the Moon” was a very good song choice, a sentimental nod to Jerry as the lyrics glistened: “A lovely view of heaven, but I’d rather be with you.”

David Grisman & Sam Bush performed “Shady Grove,” recalling Jerry’s avid love for bluegrass while a beautiful sunset caste its glow upon a packed MPP lawn. Given their histories and backgrounds with Jerry it definitely had some emotional feel to it more than some of the other songs throughout the night.

Jimmy Cliff singing “The Harder They Come” was a highlight for me. Anytime you get to see him perform is a treat. This song was a staple go-to in the JGB catalog so having Billy & Mickey on this one was a cool touch on things.

Billy & the Kids played a jaw dropping Help>Slip>Frank (Maybe I’m still buzzing from their show two nights ago). I was also pretty impressed with the Disco Biscuits. They definitely got the wheels turning for the crowd. They were a great follow up from Billy & the Kids. Bill even stayed onstage to join Bisco for a “Scarlet Begonias > I Know Your Rider”. That definitely ranked towards the top of the list for last night, no doubt.

moe. paid its tribute with sing-a-long “Loser.” It sounded great but this is where I found myself frustrated again: How about moe. gets the time to play both a slow and upbeat Dead song? I would have loved to see their take on “Cryptical Envelopment > That’s It for the Other One > Cryptical.” Time simply wouldn’t allow it.

Next up was O.A.R. for a “St. Stephen”. It started off okay, but the slow part somehow found itself transformed into some half-baked reggae interlude. They even tried to get the crowd to clap along. Their presence was very out of place.

We knew it was coming at some point: “Not Fade Away.” How could you have a Dear Jerry show without one? Bob Weir & Los Lobos played a good, yet not notable, rendition before picking up the pace for a good ole fashioned “Bertha”.

A turning point of the night was when Trampled by Turtles hit the stage. The group performed a beautiful bluegrass take on “Brown Eyed Women.” Dave led the way on lead vocals in a mature manner Jerry would have been proud of. The banjo, mandolin, and fiddle are what put this one over the top for me.

For all the logistics frustrations and artists being denied their allocated slot, you can’t tell me this town out got no heart. Yonder reassured me that  it certainly was worth coming out for the show. Allie Kral’s fiddle pushed “Shakedown Street” in ways a guitar simply can not, which made for a very unique approach to a song frequently covered from the Dead catalog.

“Friend of the Devil” with Grace Potter was strong. Potter is so good at sitting in on songs, always. Last night was no exception to this.

Widespread Panic’s “Morning Dew” was most likely the highlight of the evening. Jimmy’s history with The Dead, Phil and Friends, and Jazz is Dead really shined last night. He nailed it and JB handled the vocals with great care . This song will likely get shelved back in the Panic catalog for a big bust-out at a much later date. Last night marked the first time the band has performed the song since 11/22/2009. Panic was supposed to play “Ramble on Rose” (and even sound checked to it). That obviously didn’t happen.

Three of the core four gathered together for “Touch of Grey”. This was the theme of the night. Despite logistical complications I had to remember every silver lining has a Touch of Grey. Spirits were elevated on this one and it felt inspired.

To close the night, pretty much everyone gathered to the stage for a nice “Ripple”. Phil was not present for the occasion. Still, this was a moment of reflection on things and just how tight knit the live music community really is. This left me with a smile on my face going out.

I didn’t find much pleasure in writing this review. However, I feel that writing it any other way would compromise the integrity of the music that we love. Writing anything but the truth at such a notable event would be a disservice to Jerry, the Grateful Dead, and our entire live music community.

This whole event, in my opinion, seemed to be focused on selling a DVD, not celebrating the music of a legend. It was setup for video footage, not for the live fan in attendance. Dear Jerry was allegedly about celebrating Jerry’s life, but after last night the motivations became obvious. I don’t think it was in any way nefarious. But it wasn’t entirely authentic either.

In all, I appreciated the range of musicians and loved the variety that the whole show provided. But the flow of the show was clunky at best and I was particularly upset that Greensky and RRE were cut.

Take it for what it’s worth folks. I am glad I went, but it was just not what it was hyped up to be.

Bid you Goodnight. See you in Chicago.

Complete Setlist: (Panic Stream)

Communion (Phil’s band) – The Wheel > Uncle John’s Band, Standing on the Moon, Liberty

Allen Toussaint – Get Out My Life Woman

David Grisman & Sam Bush – Shady Grove

Peter Frampton – (I’m A) Roadrunner

Buddy Miller – Deal

Jorma Kaukonen – Sugaree

Jimmy Cliff – The Harder They Come (w/ Billy & Mickey on drums)

Mickey, Bob, and Jimmy Cliff – Attics of my Life > Fire On The Mountain

Billy & The Kids – Help On The Way > Slipknot > Franklin’s Tower

Disco Biscuits w/ Bill Kreutzmann – Scarlet Begonias > I Know You Rider

moe. – Loser

O.A.R. – St Stephen

Bob Weir & Los Lobos – Not Fade Away > Bertha

Trampled By Turtles – Brown Eyed Women

Yonder Mountain String Band – Shakedown Street

Bob Weir – Days Between

Bob Weir & Grace Potter – Friend of the Devil

Eric Church – Tennessee Jed

Widespread Panic – Morning Dew (LTP 11/22/09)

Bob, Bill & Mickey – Touch of Grey

Everyone on Stage – Ripple

13 thoughts on “Dear Jerry: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

  1. I’d say yours is an accurate and fair assessment of the event. This series of Celebrations kind of feels like walking up on someone shooting up in the lot. The dirty (moneygrubbing) underbelly you knew was there but didn’t necessarily want to see. The disappointment continued today with the Fare the Well folks announcing the webcast bundle goes up $50 tomorrow. Fare the Well or Feed the Wallet?

  2. It really wasn’t any different than the Allman, Skynyrd, Dr John, Staples, Nevill’s tributes. Not sure why anyone would expect anything different, as it was Don Was and the exact same group putting it on

    Aside from GSBG and RRE getting cut for time, it was exactly what people should have expected it to be

    They probably should have done it at a venue without such a strict curfew though, as something like this is always gonna run way long

  3. Did anyone catch what Bobby said at the end after Mickey thanked the audience and said something about it being a dream? It sounded like Bobby was pissed.

  4. I have seen the Dead close to 100times….I really miss the old days….but the bands gave their thanks to Jerry for the music and played with what they were allowed to in a short time…..All in all I’m grateful for the experience……I traveled from Florida and would do it again in a minute to dance with the tribe and feel the vibe!

  5. Sounds like production staff dropped the ball. As a former stage manager and mix engineer I can say that bands don’t usually get cut from lineups unless the production staff is not getting the stage switched over in time between bands and it literally throws a snowball effect of time loss into the evenings plans. Before you point fingers at the promoters and their motives I’d ask some of the performers how well they felt the production staff did their jobs.
    I’m not pointing a finger at them but speaking from experience, that’s what it sounds like you are describing to me.

  6. I loved it. I knew there wouldn’t be any extended jams, and I’m actually glad of that. No one does it like Jerry. Eric Church should be shot and buried in unconsecrated ground. He sucked. WHY did they allow that travesty to happen, and then end up cutting bands?? Frampton was fine, but I would rather him not be added and gotten the other two in. Jimmy Cliff KILLED it. Highlight of the night. I agree with about everything said about the rest of the bands. It was a night full of laughter and tears. Not getting everyone in sucked. I’m HORRIBLY disappointed that Phil can’t get over whatever it is that is his problem. That’s the ONLY thing I can think of that would stop him from being there at the end.

  7. Excellent review of the event. Terrible pity that Greensky and RRE got the hook. There were some stellar performances, but it was not a unified concert. Should have grouped the genres of musicians/groups with better forethought around transitions and stage management logistics.

  8. Your review above took the words right out of my mouth. I walked away having enjoyed the wonderful music, but that special something was missing.

  9. The Dear Jerry concert was billed as a celebration of the music of Jerry Garcia & it was a grand celebration at that! Your assertion that Dear Jerry “fell short for ALL in attendance” is grossly overstated. It didn’t fall short for me or those I attended with or any of the others dancing & smiling around me. It didn’t fall short on anything but time (Merriweather is a strict 11pm & they took it close to midnight). Then you continue with, “felt like a gimmicky money grab”…that is terribly erroneous. If you think dozens of musicians playing tribute to Jerry for one concert in an amphitheater that seats 15,000 is a money grab, you obviously don’t know very much about the cost of producing a show like this & didn’t hear Phil’s statement when he opened the show, “this is for charity”. This was never billed to be a Grateful Dead reunion show with your wish set list & improvisations included. It was billed as a celebration & musical tribute to Jerry. Loved every minute of it & couldn’t happier that all of these bands & musicians got together to pay TRIBUTE to Jerry. Albeit unfortunate that Greensky Bluegrass & Railroad Earth got cut & who knows what happened to Hornsby, I think they did a mighty fine job with the production, from ticket sales to the TRIBUTE itself & so grateful that I got to attend. Thanks ALL & thanks Jerry! 🙂

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