Thanks to Fathom Events and Rhino Records, The Grateful Dead were brought back on the silver screen for this one night event. Fathom Events are known for putting on epic programs and did not fail to disappoint here. The film was shown on the big screen for two and a half hours of unedited Grateful Dead concert bliss. It was like stepping into a time machine. There were two very interesting factors about this event, the crowd and the actual movie. Both contributed to the movie watching experience in a way I have never before experienced.
From the moment I walked into the theater I knew the crowd I was about to experience this event with was going to be unlike anything I had ever seen. The crowd was a mix, from business men to fathers with their daughter, to complete deadheads. Some of the crowd seemed to be in a catatonic state while others were ready for the music to alter their minds. I was surprised by the lack of what some would call “hipsters” in the theater, but then again, The Grateful Dead are not “underrated” yet. Two men sitting next to me had absolutely no volume control on their words and began yelling their conversation at one another. I managed to block them out and began smelling something in the air. I could not tell for sure but it certainly smelled like an illegal substance. As the concert started, people began dancing in the isle, people started to clap as well as sing along to all the songs. It felt like I was actually at a Grateful Dead concerts, except for one major factor.
The film itself was not re-mastered in any way from the 1989 filming. This was both a positive and a negative in watching the film. The film was low definition, below average color, and sub-par filming equipment. Granted, it was the last 80’s but still, it could easily be re-mastered. However, part of the charm of watching this concert was that it was not re-mastered, just like the Grateful Dead, it does not need the “auto tune of movies” to make it good.
The concert itself was a marvelous spectacle of music, performance, and an all-in-one jam band experience. A Dave Matthews Band expert recently told me that while Dave Matthews has many similarities to the Grateful Dead, the Grateful Dead is more of a true jam band, in a sense a grandpa to Phish, Dave Matthews Band, and Dispatch. The concert was awe inspiring with Jerry Garcia striking a cord in my heart with every pick of his guitar. He struck me as the Santa Clause of jam bands, a fat man with a tiny guitar. While he comes off disproportional, the music he makes is perfectly harmonious. His five minute solos, the incredible crescendos of music working perfectly between the band, the two drummers, and the slap keyboardist (looked like a crazier version of Bon Iver) all amazed me. The music was a bit erratic, with random stops and starts without any announcements. They just came out to start the concert, did not announce their names, and just started warming up. It was odd to see musicians’ warming up their own instruments but then again, it was a Grateful Dead concert. They continued the trend of no frills, just playing but not really talking at all to the crowd, very limited interaction except the actual music.
The experience of watching the Grateful Dead live in a theater was something that may be dying with the ages. “The Second Annual Grateful Dead Meet Up” was started in the midst of the social network age. The people who came to the show tonight were not invited on Facebook or Twitter; they were there because they follow every move the Grateful Dead make. The only other film I have seen that I can compare this movie to was “Give Me Shelter” staring the Rolling Stones. While that was a more engaging movie, with dialog and multiple concerts, this movie did have a unique and organic feel to it. With the invention of the musical artist hologram (take a look at Tupac at Coachella (RIP) http://nextooze.com/article/tupac-virtual-hologram-may-bring-tupac-back-on-tour-and-back-to-the-fans), it may only be a matter of time before the Grateful Dead are reunited. One of the most beautiful moments of the concert for me was when the Dead began playing Hey Jude, by the Beatles, in the middle of their set. I was moved by this because it showed their admiration for the Beatles.
I must say Fathom Events created something here that was unmistakable in its stamp as a Grateful Dead Meet Up. It was not a movie, it was not a concert, it was an event. A combination of movie, concert, and social scene that allowed for people from all walks of life to come together and enjoy the music that makes them all tick.
As a film I give “The Grateful Dead Second Annual Meet Up” 2.5 stars, not because of anything film related. Those starts are earned by the band from their stellar performance.