Because the asshole from the record company isn’t the hero. That guy isn’t the hero, no matter how macho you think he was, and guess what: in real life, the asshole from the record company wasn’t macho and wasn’t an anti-hero and wasn’t Bobby fuckin’ Cannavale in his outer-borough leather jacket and artfully maintained accent. The asshole from the record company was Seymour Stein. Or Neil Bogart. Clive Davis is not your hero; he’s just a guy who Iggy Pop let blow him for a record deal.
Not the musicians, either. How the light hits their hair. So few are allowed backstage; you must be so special to be here with us. Do you remember the man’s Rock Moves? We’ve taught them to an actor who vaguely resembles the man, but younger, and cheaper, and easier to work with, and that actor’s gonna do those Rock Moves for you.
The fans. Right? The show must be about the fans, man. Faaaaans, maaaaan. The Deadhead, Lysergicus Americanus, proud and strong and true and in need of a haircut. Fans. Fickle, feckless followers. We’re different, though. Deadheads are nothing like sports fans or EDM lovers or gamers or chronic masturbators. The thing we like is nothing at all like the thing they like. Everybody else’s love will fade away, but not ours.
The hero is the music. The hero is the show. The show is the atom; it is where the Dead becomes irreducibly complex; all labor and effort is towards its birth. The arguments and miles lead to the show. The drugs and sex flow from the show. Within the show is the band, the crew, the fans, and even the asshole from the record company, but they are all supporting players. The music gets the big dressing room and billing over the title.
There was fire in the music, and there was a joy in the show, no matter how miserable some of the contributors were. There was something about this music that forced people to assemble, from miles afield, and listen, just shut the fuck up and listen for once in their wretched, short lives.
Nostalgia’s lovely and profitable, but it doesn’t sell out football stadiums. A lot of things celebrated their 50th anniversary last year, and they did it in casino showrooms and shitty outdoor festivals. It wasn’t the band’s pretty faces filling up Soldier Field for three nights. It was the music. It was for the chance to wake up and say, “There’s a Dead show tonight,” again.
The Grateful Dead’s shows were about the Grateful Dead’s music. The Grateful Dead’s show should be about the music.
But, what the fuck do I know?