Monday, June 1, 2015

The Bus Came by and I Got On

I might have mentioned that I'm a fan of the Grateful Dead. Not a Deadhead, because I rarely went to more than one of their shows a year, even when they were playing just down the street from me. But I'm enough of a fan to know quite a bit about the band members - I've read bios or autobios about Jerry, Mickey and Phil. I used to tend to think of rhythm guitarist Bob Weir as a pretty boy without the musical depth of the rest of the band. If I hadn't gotten over that already, The Other One: The Long Strange Trip of Bob Weir (2015) would have set me straight.

The movie does a great visual on the Weir-meets-Garcia story: I knew they met when young Weir was wandering around Palo Alto early on New Year's Eve, looking for a club that would let him and a friend in. They were in the alley behind a music store when they heard a banjo playing. It turned out to be Jerry, waiting for his music students to show up, which wasn't happening because it was New Year's Eve - which he had overlooked. Weir acted this all out in the much-changed Palo Alto alley where it all started. I hadn't realized that he was 16 at the time.

It actually helps that I had already heard that story - he kind of skims over it. Same with how he wrote the line "The heat came round and busted me for smilin' on a cloudy day." It's a true story, but he kind of leaves out some details, like how the cop knew who threw the water balloon.

We get some fun stuff about how Bobby got all the girls, and how he settled down with his wife. We find out about the couple that adopted him, and how they reacted to him joining a psychedelic rock band at 17. We get some sad stuff about Jerry and smack, and how helpless the band was. But mostly, when he was with Jerry, they were laughing.

One thing, though. There is considerable discussion about Weir's unique style of rhythm guitar - the chord voicings and stuff. People like Sammy Hagar and Thurston Moore talk about this, but the movie doesn't really show it. they show Bobby playing solo or in a small group, but I really wanted them to show him playing  with the Dead, then isolate his channel and show you what he was doing.

Well, it just isn't that kind of a documentary. For one thing, it's more personal, not so musicological. For another, it's short - around 80 minutes. Also, it was co-produced by Justin Kreutzmann, son of Dead drummer Bill. So the connection goes deep. And, credit where due, Netflix funded this. I generally don't care for Netflix making original content - stick to making existing content available. In this case, Ill make an exception.

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