Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

Silly Symphony

I never understood–to the point of immediate dismissal–the rock band/orchestra mash-up. And remember, my musical tastes matured during the period when you simply weren’t a super-group unless you had been backed up by a bunch of unemployed Julliard grads conducted by Michael Kamen. (It was always Michael Kamen.)

The Dead only did this sort of thing once: first and poorly as usual. They jammed or something with the Buffalo Symphony Orchestra in 1970, but as far as I can tell (there is neither recording nor set list,) the extent of the thing was the Dead getting oboists stoned and hitting on flautists and Mickey inviting the timpanists up; the whole thing smells like Phil’s idea, quite frankly. It was the kind of half-crazed, semi-professional bullshit you were allowed to get up to in 1970 in Buffalo in March.

The problem, of course, being that of chalk and cheese, or the Dead and cash, or Bobby and clowns: symphonies and rock music just don’t go together, proven by the fact that every single time it has ever been attempted, it sounds like shit. It is bananas upon bananas; it goes not to eleven, but to seventeen; it is the soundtrack of a fifteen-year old boy who’s really into gaming playing with himself.

The whole thing is so overwrought, always, because: dammit, we paid for a brass section, so let’s hear the trumpets. The arrangements are always these MASSIVE sub-Wagner heavy metal classical German stuff with every possible note involved. (This was a popular style called UndDerKitchenSinken.) 

Perhaps the worst stench emanating from the symphony jam was the inferiority complex wafting off the band. There were always jokes about being the savages, etc., but they were never jokes.  It was like watching the comic actor try his hand at drama, or that year Sting thought he could play the lute.

So I might have been guilty of viewing the whole symphony thing with Warren Haynes with a bit of a jaundiced eye.

Now, TotD can understand why everyone involved was involved: for the audience, it sounded like a fun evening out; for the orchestra, it was a nice chunk of cash to fund their season of playing music no one actually enjoys; and for Warren, it was some place to go.

(I honestly believe that Warren Haynes is homeless.)

I just hope all protocols are being followed with Wolf. Warren plays one of Garcia’s old guitars, Wolf, at these shows; the people get to see the object that Garcia actually sweated on.

Are the rituals followed? Are the proper chickens and voles sacrificed  in the proper order and facing the correct direction? Does the man keeping watch over Wolf handle her with the prescribed gloves? After the show, is he sacrificed facing the correct direction? Are menstruating women not allowed in its presence?

If you’re gonna write a liturgy and worship a relic, go all the way: put some pomp in your circumstance.


  1. I’ve seen it twice, thanks to a well-meaning ladyfriend who doesn’t understand a.) what’s wrong with it or b.) that this season’s show is gonna be exactly the same thing as last season’s show.

    If you think Mickey’s restrictive, try the BSO.

  2. Interesting. Has it ever worked? I’ve seen various performers add the orchestration element (John Cage comes immediately to mind) and I’ve always been disappointed. But I can’t think of an album of, say, ‘Band X with the LSO’, that is a must own. Did any of the prog bands get away with it?

    I feel like Lagin, maybe, could have done it.

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