I always try to find at least one movie to attend at the annual Tribeca Film Festival in New York. This iconic NYC event (started in 2002 by Robert DeNiro and others) typically features a great program of movies, often coupled with interviews, panel discussions or post-film Q&A sessions. This year, it was pretty easy to pick a movie.
On Wednesday night, the Tribeca Film Fest premiered “The Other One: The Long, Strange Trip of Bob Weir,” a documentary about the founding member and ‘other’ guitarist of The Grateful Dead. The movie was followed by a live performance by “The Kid” himself.
Like most popular screenings at the festival, there was a line to get in. Unlike most, the line stretched around an entire city block, and felt more like a Grateful Dead show than art house cinema. This was a red carpet event, complete with velvet ropes, paparazzi and VIPs. They let the hippies in first to clear the way.
Inside the auditorium, smiles were everywhere, and everyone was excited. An anxious crowd clapped out the familiar “Not Fade Away” rhythm, as they waited for the show to begin. As I clapped along, Bobby waltzed in and sat just a few rows in front of me with his wife and daughters. The lights dimmed, the film began and the gentle opening tones of “Weather Report Suite” predicted an amazing evening ahead.
The Mike Fleiss directed documentary is well crafted, thorough and thought-provoking, while remaining fun and inspirational – very much like the music of the Grateful Dead itself. The film is packed with Bob Weir songs and Grateful Dead tunes, and features fantastic live performances, new and old. A wonderful selection is included, with classics like “On the Road Again,” “Truckin'” and “Touch of Grey” reflecting Bob’s influences, experiences and journey.
The film explores Bob’s early years with his adoptive family, and provides insight into his decision to “chase the muse,” leaving home and hitting the road with the Grateful Dead and his new “family.” Extensive interviews with Bob paint a vivid picture of the Acid Test years including his trips “on the bus” with Ken Kesey, Neil Cassady and the Merry Pranksters.
The film also follows Bob Weir’s progression as a musician and artist, from his role providing a rhythmic canvas for the Dead to the development of his unique style and impressive body of work. Numerous interviews provide first hand perspectives on Bob’s music, his influence on others and his desire to continually develop himself as an artist and a human being. Old friends like Peter Coyote and John Barlow share origin stories and war tales. Newer friends like Mike Gordon and The Nationals comment on Weir’s inspiration and legacy. And of course a few members of The Grateful Dead show up too, with Phil and Mickey giving an authentic glimpse into Bobby’s role in the band beyond description.
With a title like “The Other One” it seems clear the filmmakers want this to be all about Bob, but the film does a wonderful job of telling Jerry’s story too, from a perspective not seen before. It details how the band’s rise to fame affected Jerry and the entire “family,” and reminds us of the grave loss we all shared in 1995 when Jerry passed away. Some of the most emotional moments in the movie are Bob’s eulogy in Golden Gate Park, and the words Trixie Garcia has to say about her father and his relationship with Bobby.
Bob Weir’s journey carried on after Jerry’s death, “because the music demanded it,” as he says in the film. Life demanded Bobby carry on too, and we also get his thoughts on settling down and raising a family as well as his search for his biological parents. The cameras even take us along as Bob leads his wife and daughters on a tour of 710 Ashbury. Watching this movie was great, but watching Bobby and his family watching this movie was pure joy.
When the film ended, the crowd erupted with nearly as much fervor as an actual Dead concert. And if this amazing cinematic journey was not enough, we got a concert too. Within moments of the end credits rolling off the screen, Bobby was onstage, acoustic guitar in hand, going to “Hell in a Bucket.” The crowd enjoyed the ride, through a set that underscored Bobby’s journey, from past influences like Dylan (“Masterpiece”) and Elvis (“Jailhouse Rock”) to originals like “Corrina” and “Black Throated Wind.” A glimpse of what’s ahead was provided too, as Bob’s friend and bandmate Steve Kimock joined onstage for the Grateful Dead classic “Playing in The Band” and the Buddy Holly classic “Not Fade Away” to bring the evening full circle. Setlist Videos
The Tribeca Film Festival did not disappoint, once again providing a unique entertainment experience. “The Other One” is a wonderful and insightful documentary full of choice cuts for Deadheads but aimed at anyone interested in music, the creative process or the human experience. Bob Weir, as always, provides positivity, inspiration and tons of great music. As my friend put it after the show, “I’m feeling good.” My guess is that feeling that won’t fade away anytime soon.