Still Dead.

grateful_deadAs the early SNL joke went, “Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead”. But the Grateful Dead are still alive, or at least the most recent incarnation is.

After the hoopla surrounding their Fare The Well shows this summer, it didn’t take long for the band to resurface, this time as Dead & Company. A major addition to the “company” is John Mayer who plays lead guitar in the band on this tour. Mayer was nothing short of phenominal. I thought his inclusion was strange, but realized quickly he has enormous talent.

Alas, bassist Phil Lesh who has bladder cancer is not with the band, though ironically his band is playing shows at Port Chester, NY at the same time Dead & Company played Madison Square Garden. Strange.

deadThe Dead & Company shows are sell outs and the tour, which began in Albany last Thursday Oct 29, made its way to the Garden on Halloween and Sunday November 1. I was at the Sunday show at the Garden with our daughter Carolyn, also a big fan. Great show—more on that later.

As a marketer I continue to be impressed with the brilliance of the marketing behind the various incarnations of the Dead. Beyond the music itself, the reason it works, and always has, is that the Dead have understood the principles of “social media” long before it existed. They had a “share” button built into the band’s psyche. Their brilliance is that they don’t try too hard to push their music and ideas. They merely provide endless opportunities over the years for us to appreciate their music and more importantly, be part of their community. And I have been.

I’ve seen the band and its spinoffs–Kingfish, Garcia Band, Bobby & the Midnites, Ratdog, Furthur, Dead, Other Ones etc.– more than 50 times. That puts me in the low end of serious Deadheads. I’ve seen the band in venues from DC to NY but have not travelled beyond the East, and I’ve seen them play in roughly 15 different venues, large and small, in those cities. I’m a avid fan, though again I pale in comparison to others who’ve followed them throughout the world.

I’m fortunate to have been a fan from my Rutgers days in the early 70s, so my original exposure was through the early, late 60s albums Anthem of the Sun and Live Dead, and “new” studio albums American Beauty and Workingman’s Dead (their two best in my opinion). Though I’ve seen the group in 5 decades, the vast majority of shows I’ve attended were in the 70s, so I’ve probably heard Bertha and Me & My Uncle played more than any other songs. And I yearn to hear Sugar Magnolia in every show.

As for the November 1 Garden show, it was terrific. There’s a special vibe to the arena and the Dead didn’t disappoint. Mayer as lead guitarist was a little strange, though he was a major asset. This was in no way a John Mayer show. He was an important cog in the Dead machine, but truly channeled his inner Jerry. His energy contributed to the show’s success.

The show’s set list was a vintage one, heavy on late 60s/early 70s, with lots of personal favorites as follows:

First Set

Samson and Delilah
New Minglewood Blues
Friend of the Devil
Crazy Fingers
Uncle John’s Band

Second Set

Scarlet Begonias
Fire on the Mountain
Shakedown Street
Dark Star
Wharf Rat
Playing in the Band
Going Down the Road Feeling Bad



I walked out happy wanting more, and as I had done for more than 50 shows yearning for the great songs they didn’t play, but grateful as always for the 4 hours of musical bliss. I hope it never ends.

More Strumings


  1. Rich H says:

    Great Strumming. Motivated to go Thursday Night in DC. Keep on Truckin!

  2. Loved the show recap! Watched the 11/7 simulcast from the Garden, thought this is the best configuration yet. Mayer added much needed soul both vocally and musically — wish they were coming here to Chicago.

    Ramble On Lon —

    Jim “Da Coach”

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