The So Many Roads conference at San Jose State has been generating many interesting storylines this week at San Jose State. If you are off work today, you might want to attend the last day of panels and events.
So far, the vibe has been friendly and inclusive, with academics, artists, chefs, fans, family and friends of the Grateful Dead probing the past, present and future of the many interconnected threads uniting the world of the Deadheads. More details will follow later here and elsewhere, but here are a few snippets from the past few days:
Billy Kreutzman, affable as ever, demonstrated his love for the pocket vape, his enthusiasm for the music and those who play and enjoy it, and his sense of wonder at a world that has carried him to a place of intense joy time and again. Thursday’s audience was treated to an advance peek at some of the tales in his forthcoming memoir, as told to Rolling Stone writer Benjy Eisen. Ever wonder who was “the first Deadhead”? Billy says it was him: He saw Jerry Garcia play with Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions in Palo Alto, where Jerry “had the whole place in the palm of his hand. I said to myself, `Man, I am gonna follow that guy forever!” Three weeks, later, he got a call from Jerry inviting him to play in a band. That turned out OK.
How many such fateful encounters have been taking place upstairs at the SJSU student center remains unknown, but the elbow rubbing has been going strong, with numerous collaborations unfolding at every turn. One such joining, Roger McNamee and Jason Crosby’s new duo, The Doobie Decibel System, got its first full 90-minute run Friday at the Martin Luther King Jr. library, lending some actual music to all the talking about the Dead’s music and scene. There were other, more fragmented, interludes of aural epiphany studding the proceedings, too, as serious students of music took in analysis of the growing and mutating jams in “Playing in the Band” circa 1972, while elsewhere a stage full of Dead-related chefs came to agreement that a kitchen team ideally operates like a band, sharing a groove to transcend mere ingredients. A claim was made as to the origins of the Kind Veggie Burrito. The contemporary art world was called out on its shallow aloofness and urged to adopt the inclusive and craft-based approach of the Grateful Dead and its related artists. The intersection of parking lot commerce, burgeoning popularity, and copyright enforcement generated some spirited debate about the business side of the scene. Dead journalists conducted a lively forum on the ways it has all been interpreted by various media (Spoiler: Not always so well, but much better over time).
More later on all of the foregoing. In the meantime, if you are driving range, consider sampling for yourself whatever mix of presentations floats your boat today. And/or shake it to the excellent Santa Cruz-based Dead tribute band The China Cats afterward at First Street Billiards, happily located at #420. Leading up to that tasty treat, eat your (organic, homegrown) Grateful Dead vegetables: Deep forays into “space”, and the Dead’s connections to religion and spirituality, the psychedelic diaspora, philanthropy, experimentation, counterculture and American democracy, among other foci, will get full airings, with plenty of opportunity for audience input and questions, so bring your curiosity and an open mind and let it all sink in. Study aids optional (BYOD).