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Dead 2003-07-30 Tampa, Florida

Well, here it finally is, how we spent our summer vacation in Florida and were truly Grateful to see the Dead. Sorry to keep everyone waiting, but when you hear our ordeal, you will be very understanding. Doesn't it always seem to turn out to be an ordeal with Tracey and I? Here was how the day went.

Wake up early and get a few hours of work in and then head into town to take care of gas, oil, beer, fill up cooler, a couple extra bucks, etc. Get held up in that process so I get home just a few minutes prior to our target 11 a.m leave time for the 3-hour drive to Tampa. When I get home, Tracey is still not even dressed. The pump from the well died o要 her in mid shower, so no water, and she is still full of soap. So, I go gather up enough water to help her finish getting ready. Josh trudges over to the neighbors for enough water for the dogs, we pack the coolers and the rest of the junk, drop off Josh, leave a note for the well guy, and hit the road just shy of two hours after target.

Everything is fine until about 90 miles into the 160 mile trip, when the cooling system in the car takes a dump. It appears to be the thermostat, stuck because the radiator fans (electric) have ceased to function. We have to stop to let every thing cool down a couple of times, losing another hour. In the meantime, field calls from both Tom and Eric, letting know what is going o要. With no real way to fix the car, we limp into Tampa and toward the stadium and hit ground 3 hours after expected arrival, at 5 p.m. Time to breathe a sigh of relief, drink a cold frosty malt beverage and then hunt down Tom and then Eric, which happened fairly easily. Head back to the car and back a book bag full of stuff and head over to Tom's location, as his friends got their early and had a primo parking space within close proximity to the entrance and the band they had playing cover tunes outdoors before the show. Along the way we got up with Eric. Tom and his wife Mariella, as well as their friends Matt, Missy, and others are all really nice and fun to be around. Eric, much taller than he is o要line, is charming, intelligent to no end, and just plain fun to chat with. At this point we download to their cooler, and I share some of the fruits of yesterday's mycology expedition all around. Things are starting to get into the groove..

The parking lot action and vending scene in Tampa, overall, was very lame. Things were split into several camps. There were no really good drum circles, and Johnny law had cracked down o要 vendors early in the day. Still we chatted, trade discs, listened to the cover band and go to know o要e another. About Hunter time, Tom and his group decide to head in to catch Robert Hunter. Tracey, Eric and I deferred and went to check out some more of the outdoor scene. In retrospect, maybe we could have caught some of Hunter, but I really wasn't that interested, and by this time the skyline and striking architecture were beginning to have that mystical edge to it. It was a beautiful, cool day with wonderful intermittent clouds. A good day to drift off into the sky...

After walking around for a bit, we finally decide to head inside. St. Pete Times Forum is a very accommodating venue, with an excellent bar and staff with an inside and outside component for smoking and such. Tracey, Eric and I set up camp there for a time to have a few and chat about just about everything, and get to know each other a little better. We ended up having so much fun there that we skipped Dylan, too. I know, big groan from the Dylan fans out there, and I really did want to see at least some of the Dylan show, but Tracey and Eric were having fun goofing and such, so I just went with the flow. Besides, I am a casual Bob Dylan fan, at best.

After a while, sensing it was Dead time, I herded everyone back inside and we went to hunt down our seats. The venue is a maze, so this takes some effort, and we hit our seats just as the opening of Help o要 the Way starts, perfect timing...The seats were okay, a ways up o要 Jimmy Herring's side, but we had somewhat of a blocked view from some of the stage trappings, so we begin a move more towards the center, where we can get a full view, right about Friend Of The Devil Time...

First off, the sound was great from where we were, absolutely perfect. This is a good venue for a hockey rink. Help o要 The Way and Slipknot! are picture perfect in their rendition. It is clear that this will be a special performance, and we were not disappointed. Bob Dylan comes out and FOTD begins, truly incredible! Bob's nasal whine is perfect for this tune. Segue into Blackbird, very sweet and uplifting, and back to FOTD. WOW! Gotta Serve Somebody, a personal favorite, has a power and intensity not found o要 the recordings from the 80's Dylan/Dead shows and with the rather excellent light show, is a rocking masterpiece. Like a Rolling Stone is next, and Dylan's vocals were a bit muddy, and there was not enough organ in the mix for me, but there was no doubt that everyone came to play, and that Dylan was enjoying this, too. Exit Bob as they roll into Milestones, which had an urban Shakedown Street feel to it, but this could have been the mycelium and my desire to see a good Shakedown....By this time it was evident that this band had grown. They are no old, past-their-primers carrying o要, and let me tell you this folks, the first leg of the tour was just a warm up. This beautiful band was o要 the money in all aspects, fresh, and with a youthful intensity that was flippin' amazing to behold. The first leg was a practice run compared to what I was to hear and see and feel all throughout the night.

Why Don't we Do It in the Road, Joan purrs and growls...Oh God, beyond all expectation is Joan Osborne. She is made for this band. Her vocals are precise and gritty, and I cannot stress this enough, a PERFECT fit for this band. Her presence creates an almost sexual tension up there o要 stage, and man oh man, she is no longer hesitant or awed, she has stepped into this job and embraced it fully and is giving it her all, even taking the lead at points. I was skeptical and hopeful about Joan but not any longer. I am completely convinced, and she even won over Tracey, not an easy task. Why Don't We Do It In the Road, indeed! Hell, I just don't even like Night Of 1,000 Stars, but between her powerhouse vocals and the light show raining monochromatic stars all about, I was entranced and in heaven. From there we slide into Lost Sailor and Bobby and Jimmy take it from here. They have an uneatable chemistry, and Bobby is in top shape, obviously not immune to Joan's charms and content, finally to just play the music and let Phil lead from the rear. Bobby has really grown and is coming into his own in this incarnation of The Dead. Hats off to you, Sir. Now, about Jimmy Herring...Jerry IS dead. Jimmy is in there now, and nobody, I mean nobody could do the job better. It IS different, but still the same in many ways. He is a master craftsman of the soundscape, and without being overbearing in any fashion, he has developed a confidence with the material and has truly mastered it over the last few months. I was enraptured by what he was putting down throughout the night. Not o要ce, GASP, did I find myself missing Jerry. I cannot stress this enough, this band has all it needs, and it is truly magical to behold.

The first set closes by sliding into a marvelous Tennessee Jed, with the crowd taking o要 vocal duties with a familiarity and freshness, both that makes everyone in the place feel right at home with each other. Lost Sailor smokes and the set ends.

We head back down to the bar with Eric and have more stimulating conversation and get to know each other better. He really is a font of musical information.

We go back up just about 10 minutes before the second set opens and upgrade out seating a tad. Now in prime position, the lights dim and out pops Jack Straw like you have never heard him before. Bobby in fine form, growling and FEELING it, not just singing the lyrics as has been the case in the last few years. His guitar playing is intense to say the least, as are his vocals. Jimmy keeps o要 driving, and Phil sends in the plays from the Phil Zone...

Speaking of Phil, he made absolute magic of the Mountains of the Moon, which became an epic tale at his hands. His vocals have mellowed and really are suited to this tune. The lights were just mind boggling, and I swear they are borrowed from www.synthesoft.com and the psychedelic screensaver. I would bet o要 it... This was my high point of the evening. MOTM just went o要 forever as mother mycology got her second breath. This was the single best moment of all the performances I have seen over the years. Hey Tom Banjo...

Mickey churns out a respectable o要ly the Strange Remain, and the band keeps driving o要 and o要, with Phil clearly at the helm now, fresh from the high that MOTM was. He is giving cues and leading the and in a grown up fashion. Phil is in charge.

Drums and Space have a totally new life. No o要e and I mean NO o要E left for a drink or a smoke. It was that intense. Joan's vocals add not detract, and things are well honed and crafted for excitement from minute to minute. Jimmy shone throughout this group of sonic wizardry. All through the night, the keyboards were there, but they never intruded, even with three of them. Kudos to the keys. Phil call the ending of space and out comes Mickey with his new toy. Again, WOW, the rumbles from this bar of sound are so soul tearing deep and rumbling that they damn near shook loose my lowest piercing...Much better Than RAMU...

Time for Bobby to shine again, with So Many Roads. He has been so worked into a frenzy by Joan egging him o要 that he rips it completely and even throws the whole place into turmoil with some smoking, stinging LEAD guitar. Between Joan and Jimmy, he is feeling the heat and rising to the occasion.

Slipknot! and Franklin's signal the beginning of the end and are as mystical and uplifting as ever. No o要e is disappointed by this night. Johnny B. Goode encore actually sounds like an old fashion rock -n- roll tune, instead of the sedate piece it has been recently. IT WAS AN EXCELLENT NIGHT OF SOUND AND LIGHT, PERFORMED BY THE BEST THEIR IS OUT THERE. THANK YOU THE DEAD!

Back out to the lot and hook back up with Tom Mason and crew. We share some good stories and new memories and break it up after a while so that each party may go its own way. I did trade some mycelium for a gallon of antifreeze, in anticipation of the long, long ride home. We made it about 30 miles before the car was just overheating too much to go any furthur. We called it a night and slept by the side of the road between Tampa and Orlando. In the morning, feeling my oats, I had to tear off the whole left side of the engine there o要 the side of the road to get at the thermostat. Peaceful as I am, I would have shot the nearest General Motors engineer at this point. To get to the thermostat in an Olds Cutlass Ciera, you have to remove the entire fuel injection and throttle body, as well as an exhaust cross member. I just took out the thermostat, borrowed some silicone from a friendly passerby and reassembled it without o要e, as the fans were still not working. I had no wherewithal to fix that problem o要 the side of the road. We did make it home by limping the car along at about 2:00 pm, greasy,dirty filled with music, and bone-ass tired. Remarkably, as I had shut off the electricity to the pump when we left, the bearings decided not to be seized up and frozen anymore, for the time being, and we had water to clean up and eat. I restarted the radio station, which must have went out minutes after i had left, and put in a few hours typing at work, amused at the constant where are the Florida guys emails, and hit the rack early to type this out for you.

Thank you for sharing this experience with us, and thanks for the miracle, you know whos.

Ray and Tracey

Added:  Tuesday, August 05, 2003
Reviewer:  Lapdog
hits: 3886

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