By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Now, having dispensed accolades, it must be said that the set does occasionally point to the Dead’s weaknesses. The late keyboardist Brent Mydland always sounded like the Lost Doobie Brother to me. His version of the Neville Brothers’ “Hey Pocky Way” is a good example of why many people thought poor Brent had landed in the wrong band: overwrought vocals, too many synth fills, nothing you couldn’t hear at the Holiday Inn lounge on a Saturday night (even so, “Gentlemen, Start Your Engines,” Mydland and John Perry Barlow’s ’88 homage to alcoholism, is a damn good song). In general, the band started to lumber and lose spunk in the ’80s and, especially, the ’90s. While the producers have found generally first-rate performances, one can still hear the band getting older, losing interest or both. I sometimes think it was the uncritical adulation of the Deadheads that drove Jerry to Persian heroin. The latter-day Dead too often took a rote road, which just might have bored a genius like Garcia to death.
The last few tracks on Disc 5, most destined for a never-to-materialize studio album, are truly first-rate. “Lazy River Road,” “Days Between” and “So Many Roads” are classic Garcia, at work with his longtime lyricist Robert Hunter, touching on failed dreams and wistful memories, and steeped in Americana. The ability to write and perform new songs that sounded a hundred years old was one of the great legacies of the Dead, and one reason why they are so revered by the likes of Bob Dylan and Patti Smith.
As with the Dead, Phish are insanely eclectic, have about 8 million songs in their repertoire, play for hours, improvise, and share much of the same tie-dyed, peripatetic and rabid fan base. Hampton Comes Alive is a six-CD box set that documents two evenings of performances by Phish at the Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, Virginia, in November 1998. Phish don’t have the emotional depth of the Dead or the uncanny ability to re-create Dead-on lysergic imagery, but they’re excellent musicians, funny as hell, and wonderful songwriters (“The Divided Sky” and “Wilson,” among others, are fabulous tunes). Most importantly, like the Dead, they have that sense of awe and joy and wow that the punk-rock poseurs lack.
. . . I apologize for that remark about shoving petunias down anyone’s throat. It’s the 21st century, dear readers. The black-leathered violence of punk rock is as old as James Dean’s bones in a graveyard in Indiana. It’s time as a species to stop acting like perpetually pissed-off teenagers in arrested development and allow ourselves to revel in states of wide-eyed, childlike wonder. It may be the only thing that will save us.THE GRATEFUL DEAD | So Many Roads (1965–1995) | Grateful Dead/Arista PHISH | Hampton Comes Alive | Elektra