With today being the 16th anniversary of Grateful Dead leader Jerry Garcia’s passing, we thought we’d let noted hippie metalhead (and frontman of Shadows Fall and Death Ray Vision) Brian Fair pay tribute to the Dead’s legacy and explain how he came to embrace the band.
Hi. My name is Brian Fair and I am a Deadhead. Now I know that can be considered a criminal act in the metal world but I can’t deny it. As a band, The Grateful Dead and their leader Jerry Garcia expanded the boundaries of rock and roll and changed the way the music business worked by doing whatever the fuck they wanted.
When I was a young little skate punk going to hardcore shows in Boston, I was as anti-hippie as anyone else in the scene. It didn’t matter that I never bothered to listen to them, I just chalked them up as “old guy rock.” Then something changed. I discovered weed. Now being high didn’t make me suddenly “get” the Dead’s music, but it did set up the events that lead me onto “the lot” and into the world of The Dead. In the early 90’s, hardcore shows were not the best place to party. I loved the music but never got into the PC, Straight Edge lifestyle that came with it. In my search for better herb, I stumbled across this magical world of high quality drugs and beautiful dready girls that is a Dead show. This was a HUGE step up from sweaty guys in long sleeve Morbid Angel shirts or overly aggressive straight dudes at hardcore shows as far as partying was concerned. Great drugs, hot chicks down with free love and no one preaching at me from the stage!! Sign me up.
At this time, my musical tastes were expanding to include other genres such as jazz, reggae, bluegrass and progressive rock. As my ears became more in tune, I began to notice just how much depth, experimentation and emotion that the music of the Grateful Dead had. The guitar playing of Jerry Garcia was like nothing I had ever heard. His improv skills and lyrical approach to solos resonated with me in a way I never expected. I became hooked, hopped “on the bus” and dove headfirst into the touring world of the Grateful Dead.
There is nothing like and never will be anything like a Dead Tour. It is a traveling city of hard-partying gypsies following a band that has carte blanche to do whatever the fuck they want. Feeling ripping out some bluegrass covers? Go for it. 30 minute jazz improv? Check. Rolling Stones cover as an encore? Sign me up. There were no rules or limitations to what the band could or would do and the fans embraced it in a way I’ve never seen before.
For over 30 years, Jerry and the boys traveled the world nonstop, creating magical music that was almost a subconscious conversation between band members, and carried the audience right along with them. It has been 16 years since my last show in 1995. I still relive those moments listening to the hundreds of shows I own and miss those days on tour tremendously. RIP Jerry. Thanks for sharing the ride.