RIFFS: NO FAVORS
I awoke this morning to a startling realization. Today does not exist. Well, maybe it does...but only by the good graces of yesterday. Get that straight. The free concert in Central Park created this Monday for me, lock-stock-and-barrel, for it is filled with images of all that was yesterday, and central to each image is the musical and physical beauty of the Grateful Dead. They came, they played for free, and they did so with a spirit that can only be liked to missionary or religous zeal.
I would imagine that the Dead have long felt a kindred spirit with the hip community in this city. Their previous visits, heavy with free concerts and the kind of good vibrations that characterized yesterday, bear me out. You might say that the Dead have a way of bringing out all that is good in a scene that sometimes appears to be overrun with bad. Yesterday they worked it, and they worked it with a quiet effectiveness that is born only of experience. They've been around a long time - something which critics often fail to take into consideration when examining their work. They consistently ignore a basic truth about the Dead which is perhaps beyond criticism. The Dead are masters of control and order in a scene which thrives on a freedom rooted in anarchy and chaos.
Yes, (shudder, gasp) the Grateful Dead are organization men. Inherent in the organizational aspects of the Dead, however, is their subtle approach to things. Realizing that a measure of order is necessary in even the freest of scenes - and being able to inject it without the slightest trace of rigidity - is an accomplishment of understanding and rationality that by its very nature must go unnoticed - but not, I hope, unappreciated. The forces of "law and order" in this city and elsewhere might do well to take note of the Dead's approach to and solution of the problem that plagues every large gathering of people.
It's a low-key approach with a sure-fire solution. Ask no favors of the crowd; rather, let the musical, physical, and spiritual presence of the Dead themselves fill the atmosphere with vibrations as directional as they are all-pervasive. Make good music, and make it move. These the Dead accomplish as no other group is able to. Kick out the jams, they sing in effect if not in so many words with their opening number, "Dancing in the Streets." (Please note that they see no need to announce the spirit behind the music.) Get together and stay together. Love your neighbor, read the country lyrics and happy musical style. Jerry Garcia's steel guitar fairly hums with the thought in the thickest of the Dead's excellent country playing. Look inside yourself; listen to yourself. Such were the vibrations that came from the stage at yesterday's concert. And at the end, with a politeness that was as much a part of the Dead's afternoon as anything else was, Rock Scully thanked the crowd. "You were beautiful," he yelled into the nearest mike. "The Grateful Dead thank YOU!"
(by Lucian Truscott, from the "Riffs" column, Village Voice, June 26 1969)