Tag Archives: Grateful Dead

EQT 10-mile training – Week 5 9/22/15

Inspiration, move me brightly. light the song with sense and color;
Hold away despair, more than this I will not ask.
Faced with mysteries dark and vast, statements just seem vain at last.

Some rise,
Some fall,
Some climb,
To get to Terrapin.

Counting stars by candlelight, all are dim but one is bright;
The spiral light of Venus, rising first and shining best,
On, from the northwest corner, of a brand new crescent moon,
While crickets and cicadas sing, a rare and different tune,
Terrapin station.
In the shadow of the moon,
Terrapin station.
And I know we’ll get there soon,

(Terrapin! )
I can’t figure out,
(Terrapin! )
If it’s the end or beginning,
(Terrapin! )
But the train’s put it’s brakes on,
(Terrapin! )
And the whistle is screaming,
Terrapin!

Let my inspiration flow!

Let my inspiration flow!

Those words – written by Robert Hunter, sung sweetly and soulful by Jerry Garcia and performed by the Grateful Dead – are goose bump-inducing. “Terrapin Station” – an epic, multi-part anthem performed 302 times by the Dead beginning in early 1977 – produces a state of euphoria. Its lyrics inspire freedom, and, for me, it’s the perfect running song. When a run begins to flatline and “Terrapin” enters my headphones, my legs and lungs find something extra. It’s like Jerry’s voice is guiding me through the run. My lips mouth the words. Sometimes, my arms even raise in triumph. (Yep, if you’ve seen a short, headband-wearing dud running the streets of Greensburg while jamming out, it’s me.)

Sound stupid? Maybe to some, but, to me, the right music is as essential to running as stretching, the right shoes, hydration and determination.

Music is moving, and the right songs can shave seconds off the pace and help set personal bests.

Generally, I prefer running to the Dead. From “Bertha” to “Promised Land” to “China Cat Sunflower/I Know You Rider” to “Morning Dew” to “Touch of Grey,” the Dead’s expansive and easily accessible catalog provides ample choices for this runner, but it’s certainly not the only band worth a listen when pounding pavement or staring at the television screen on a treadmill. Glam/hard rock like KISS, Guns n’ Roses, Motley Crue and Tesla get the job done. So does rap, particularly the early 1990s gangsta sounds of Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Nate Dogg (R.I.P.) and company. Eminem usually works, too. I’m not likely to see Foo Fighters live, but no song makes me dig deeper than “Walk.” I’ve nearly pushed myself to tears while listening to that amazing call to action. Matthew Wilder’s “Break My Stride,” Katy Perry’s “Roar” and DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win” work perfectly.

It doesn’t matter what music moves you, but it is important to play the right music for you when breaking down barriers and going for goals.

Music played an integral role in a solid week of training for the EQT Pittsburgh 10-miler.

9/14/15 – Last week, I said on this blog that I didn’t mind missing Sunday’s long run because of illness. That’s only part true. Missing a run made me determined to make up for things, even if my sinuses weren’t cooperating.

After dropping Anna off at school and walking Ringo, I went to the basement for a programmed, 30-minute ride on a stationary bike. A couple moderate hills helped provide resistance and I covered 11.1 miles in 30 minutes. From there, me, myself and my tissues hit the streets for a 4.52-mile run in 34:39. My first mile was a 7:50 pace. The second mile was 7:12. Seven friggin’ 12! The third mile was 7:33.

Not going to fib, I surprised myself.

9/15/15 – Kicked the distance up to 5.38 and got it done in 43:58 – not as fast as Monday’s run but a solid pace.

9/16/15 – Erin had a rare Wednesday off, so we did spin class together. Great ride. Felt it for hours after completion.

9/17/15 – A couple of variables forced changes in schedule for the fifth week of training. 1. Erin was off Wednesday and Friday, and since I missed the long run in Week 4, doing two spin classes sounded like a good idea; and, 2. Erin was working in Pittsburgh Sunday. Anna needed to get to Sunday School and church, so that meant Sunday was not a good day for my long run.

So, with legs still tired from spin class, I stumbled onto the streets of Greensburg, where I completed a 7.03-mile run in 1:01.04. Given Greensburg’s terrain, hills were unavoidable, and I encountered four of them on this run. It was tiring, my pace wasn’t outstanding, but I conquered the distance.

9/18/15 – Second spin class of the week and, for the first time in 2-plus years of spinning, I didn’t enjoy the class. The music mix had too much pop. Only one song – Eminem’s “‘Till I Collapse” – moved me. About 50 minutes into class, I was wishing I lifted weights instead, but I finished anyway.

9/19/15 – I digested plenty of vegetables Friday, which made Saturday morning slightly uncomfortable, but I had to get out before Anna’s 11 a.m. soccer game. I covered 5.23 miles in 43:09 – another decent, but not great run.

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Ripple around the world

“If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine …”

And with that introduction begins the Grateful Dead classic, “Ripple” – a triumphant ode to Americana and one of the many highlights on the group’s best studio album (American Beauty). It’s filled with magic, bliss, power and myth. Its lyrics are a celebration, and the song helped make the Grateful Dead a religion to its fervent following, many of whom remain basking in the glory of the often-powerful Fare Thee Well shows.

Thanks to Facebook (yep, true story), the coolest piece of music I’ve witnessed since the Fare Thee Well shows – I took part in the couch tour – popped up in my time feed. It’s a tribute to Jerry Garcia and part of the charitable group Playing for Change’s Songs Around the World. Artists including David Crosby, Jimmy Buffett and David Hildago lent their talents to a stirring version of “Ripple.” It was released July 5 – the same day the Dead played their final show in Chicago – and honors the band for 50 years of changing the world through music and more. It’s pure magic.

“If I knew the way, I would take you home.”

Fare Thee Well Done

Take a bow, boys. You earned it.

Take a bow, boys. You earned it.

Beautiful. Liberating. Spiritual. Divine. Epic.

It all fits in describing the second, and final, Grateful Dead show at Levi’s Stadium Sunday in Santa Clara, Calif.

Surprising also fits.

Given the mixed reviews of the 1960s-leaning, jam-heavy Saturday show, the average age of the group’s core four, the idea Trey Anastasio – you know, that guy from Phish – was “filling in” for Jerry Garcia on lead guitar and the fact the seven main players hadn’t played on such a large stage in decades, there was no reason to expect greatness.

Yet, just like the Dead did so many nights during an often-magical and occasionally maddening 35-year run, magic happened. And by magic, we’re talking about the type of magic that can only happen at a Dead show. We’re talking a strike of lightning flashing above Three Rivers Stadium moments before the Dead opened the second set of a June 30, 1995 show with their Rain set – Rain, Box of Rain, Looks Like Rain and Samba in the Rain. That made an an otherwise snoozer of a show a special one. We’re talking a post-diabetic coma Jerry giving thumbs up during “Touch of Grey.”

Despite its warts, 6/28/15 was three-plus hours of cathartic bliss – and two sets with a heavy Jerry Garcia influence – for Deadheads.

Setlist – Set I: Feel Like a Stranger, New Minglewood Blues, Brown-Eyed Women, Loose Lucy, Loser, Row Jimmy, Alabama Getaway, Black Peter, Hell in Bucket; Set II: Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo, Wharf Rat, Eyes of the World, He’s Gone, Drum, Space, I Need a Miracle, Death Don’t Have No Mercy, Sugar Magnolia; Encore: Brokedown Palace.

While no Dead show is perfect, this setlist helped offer moments of pure inspiration, and it showed that, in its 50th year, the Grateful Dead are capable of achieving great heights, even during some slightly sloppy moments.

Bob Weir started strong and never relented. He was playful and inspired, hitting vocal high notes during “He’s Gone” and the beautiful “Brokedown Palace.”

Ace was strong Sunday in Santa Clara, Calif.

Ace was strong Sunday in Santa Clara, Calif.

Phil Lesh played a thunderous bass, working a wonderful back beat with the Rhythm Devils – the ever-steady Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart. On lead vocals, Lesh wasn’t strong during “Eyes of the World” but I didn’t mind it as much as many other Deadhead friends did. The moments when Lesh spoke to the 70,000 in attendance and countless others watching from home about the liver transplant he needed to stay alive. Again, just another moment to bond the Dead and those die-hard fans.

Bruce Hornsby and the piano and Jeff Chimenti on the keyboards, those two couldn’t get enough of each other. Their dynamic interplay showcased the joys the band experiences during a good show, which, make no mistake, this was.

And Trey. Well, he entered guitar royalty Sunday night. For those Deadhands who never got into Phish (my hand is raised), Anastasio’s inclusion was reason for slight concern. Would he Phish-up beloved Dead classics? Would he simply mimic Garcia? Would he lead on all Garcia songs?

Thankfully, the answers are no, no and no.

Trey worked wonders Sunday night. He played inspired, and, during “Wharf Rat,” it truly looked like he and Garcia were communicating. As one friend put it, “Trey was practically genuflecting. Heavy shit, man!”

The Grateful Dead conclude their all-too-brief Fare Thee Well tour with three shows in Chicago, starting tonight. That’s three more opportunities for magic moments.

Whether you’re in attendance like several of my friends or couch touring like myself, expect a miracle or two.

Mistaken for Melvin Seals

Melvin Seals, left, and Bradley Rhea of Terrapin Flyer get ready for Monday's gig in Cleveland.

Melvin Seals, left, and Bradley Rhea of Terrapin Flyer get ready for Monday’s gig in Cleveland.

“Excuse me, are you Melvin Seals?”

That was the question posed by a young tech in the downstairs green room at Beachland Ballroom Monday night. Oddly enough, the tech directed the question to me, as I sat on a couch talking to good friend and bassist extraordinaire Bradley Rhea and his uncle, Frank Rhea, before Terrapin Flyer took the stage for the final gig of a seven-day fall tour.

I immediately looked at Brad, eyes wide open in surprise.

Brad tried to hold in his laughter, but the odd hilarity of the moment couldn’t contain it.

Now, I was once told I looked like David Spade. A couple people approached me for autographs several years ago, thinking I was former Penguins fan favorite Colby Armstrong. A few others believe I bear a strong resemblance to Brian Hackett, one of the primary characters of the 1990s NBC comedy “Wings.” (That remains my favorite lookalike comparison.)

But this … this was different.

See, I’m 5-foot-8 on a good day, 5-7 most days. Not to brag, but I’m in good shape for a 40-year-old. I’m mostly known as a sports writer, which I no longer am,  in parts of Western Pennsylvania. I’m also white.

Melvin Seals is recognized by some as the best Hammond B-3 organ player on the planet, and he couldn’t differ more in terms of physical appearance. He’s tall. He’s large.

And he’s black.

The rest of Terrapin Flyer feeds off another signature jam by Hammond B-3 organist Melvin Seals.

The rest of Terrapin Flyer feeds off another signature jam by Hammond B-3 organist Melvin Seals.

Of course, Grateful Dead fans know Seals well. He joined Jerry Garcia Band in 1980 and remained with the popular side-project of the Dead’s frontman until Garcia’s death in 1995. After that, Seals played with JGB and many others. He’s beloved by many members of the community, and his name is the biggest of Terrapin Flyer, a top-notch Dead tribute band. which also includes Ratdog guitarist Mark Karan. My friend, Brad, is a bassist, vocalist and the main reason for my weekday road trip, as I was giving him a ride back to Westmoreland County after the show. (Later on that night, when Doug Hagman introduced Brad to the crowd, the fellas up front loudly let him know he was the man. A few even bowed. A few others sought out his autograph after the show. Yep, he’s that good, and parts of the country outside our neck of the woods are finding that out.)

Bradley Rhea, right, signs autographs after Monday's gig.

Bradley Rhea, right, signs autographs after Monday’s gig.

In the techie’s defense, he obviously doesn’t follow the Dead, and, I was the new guy in the green room at the time, though Seals was sitting on the other side of a coffee table, fresh off telling me about his fear of hitting deer when he drives in certain areas of the country at night. Seals didn’t look up when the tech asked me if I was him, he continued to sign his name to Terrapin Flyer prints, which would be sold at the merchandise table outside the ballroom at Beachland, located in Cleveland’s Collinwood neighborhood.

Seals simply said, “You ready for me?”

The techie answered affirmatively, and, a few minutes later, Terrapin Flyer was on its way upstairs to perform for the seventh time in seven days in a seventh different city, earning fans at every venue.

A print autographed by members of Terrapin Flyer.

A print autographed by members of Terrapin Flyer.

Terrapin Flyer soars into Pittsburgh

Terrapin Flyer opened a brief tour Tuesday in Pittsburgh at Rex Theater.

Terrapin Flyer opened a brief tour Tuesday in Pittsburgh at Rex Theater.

Need a quick way to lose three to five pounds? Get your dance on with Terrapin Flyer.

Terrapin Flyer hails itself as “Chicago’s premier Grateful Dead tribute band.” Given the outfit’s lineup, which includes Melvin Seals of the Jerry Garcia Band and Mark Karan of Ratdog, it’s safe to say Terrapin Flyer is a hot ticket outside the reaches of the Midwest.

Like Tuesday in Pittsburgh.

Deadheads packed Rex Theater on the South Side for the start of a brief Terrapin Flyer tour, which runs through Monday, when the band plays Cleveland’s Beachland Ballroom.

It marked Terrapin Flyer’s first Pittsburgh appearance, and it was a memorable one for fans and a pair of band members (bass player and founding member of Grinning Mob Bradley Rhea and vocalist Kara Cavanaugh) from Western Pennsylvania .

Terrapin Flyer lineup: Melvin Seals (Hammond B3 organ), Mark Karan (lead guitar, vocals), Doug Hagman (rhythm guitar, vocals), Bradley Rhea (bass, vocals), Jim Farmer (drums), Kara Cavanaugh (vocals). 

From left, Kara Cavanugh, Bradley Rhea and Doug Hagman doing work.

From left, Kara Cavanugh, Bradley Rhea and Doug Hagman doing work.

With the exception of a quick soundcheck, Terrapin Flyer did not rehearse before kicking off its fall tour. And Melvin Seals didn’t arrive until about 7:30 p.m., just 30 minutes before the scheduled start.

No rehearsal. No problem. Terrapin Flyer sounded tight through a sweaty, energetic first set, which quickly had the Pittsburgh crowd getting down. By the time the band kicked into “Mister Charlie,” there weren’t many sets of stationary feet. “China Cat Sunflower” paired with “I Know You Rider” hit the right spots, but the highlight of the opening set may have been the final song, “Deal.”

Pittsburgh setlist: (Set 1) The Harder They Come, Sugaree, Mister Charlie, They Love Each Other, Friend of the Devil, My Sisters and Brothers, Walking the Dog, Big River, China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Deal; (Set 2) How Sweet It Is, Don’t Let Go, I Second That Emotion, Good Morning Little Schoolgirl, Catfish John, Highway 61 Revisited, Tangled Up in Blue, That’s What Love Will Make You Do.

The second set opened with the James Taylor classic, “How Sweet It Is” and Terrapin Flyer added depth and power to the song. “I Second That Emotion” was the highlight of a show, a perfect showcase for Doug Hagman’s vocals and Seals’ electric playing. Seals was explosive, and his play erupted during the Bob Dylan classic “Highway 61 Revisited.” If the Pittsburgh show is any indication, Seals is at the top of his game. There’s a lot of ways to define badass. For some, it might mean The Undertaker’s unbeaten streak at WrestleMania. For others, it could signify former Steelers linebacker Greg Lloyd. To me, badass is Melvin Seals flailing away to the delight of the crowd and bandmates.

But for all the chops this band possesses, and those chops are extraordinary, the four-part harmonies may be more impressive. For confirmation, check out the recording at archive.org/details/TerrapinFlyer2014-10-21.

Go ahead, listen and dance. Drop a few pounds.

Top 10 Desert Island Go-to Albums

Facebook is chock full of challenges of late, and I finally was called out on one (with the exception of the ALS ice bucket challenge) by my great friend Bradley Rhea, one of the best bass players I’ve ever heard and a member of such incredible bands as Grinning Mob, Terrapin  Flyer and Flowerchild.

My boy BTR asked a handful of people to come up with the 10 albums they’d need if deserted on an island. For a music lover like me, it couldn’t be a more difficult decision. But I was able to come up with the following list.

Appetite for Destruction – Guns N’ Roses: Arguably the best debut album in rock history. Guns brought the heat and the melody, a rare combination in the latter half of the 1980s. “Rocket Queen” is a personal highlight and Guns’ best song in this blogger’s opinion.

Odelay – Beck: No album captures my time in college better than this. Every song hits just right, and proves Beck was the best thing happening in the mid 1990s. “Going back to Houston, to get me some pants.” All killer. No filler.

American Beauty – Grateful Dead: My favorite album, which also includes my favorite song, “Brokedown Palace.” Then there’s “Box of Rain,” “Candyman,” “Ripple.” Just ridiculous.

Europe 72 – Grateful Dead: My favorite album of live music, and it just happens to be a double album (Yes!!)

Thriller – Michael Jackson: It’s the first vinyl I owned, and still sounds as fresh today as it did when I was 10 years old.

Sticky Fingers – Rolling Stones: Can’t get enough of this album. “Sway” and “Dead Flowers” are strong enough on their own to make a great album.

Mechanical Resonance – Tesla: Another killer debut from a band I believe is as underrated as any in history. Check it out if you’ve never listened to it.

Who’s Next – The Who: The best album from my favorite British band (sorry Beatles and Led Zep). There’s no slacker among the tracks.

Blood on the Tracks – Bob Dylan: Gotta credit my mom, Mary Kovak, with getting me into Dylan at a relatively young age, and to me, there’s nothing better than this 1975 masterpiece. “Simple Twist of Fate,” “Shelter from the Storm” and “Buckets of Rain” enough said.

The Marshall Mathers LP – Eminem: My favorite rap album, just edging out Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle, and Paul’s Boutique or Check Your Head from the Beastie Boys. I defy you to jam to this on your headphones at the gym and not get in an incredible workout. It’s hilarious. It’s raw. It’s brutally honest. Incredible.

So, that’s my list. The crazy thing is there’s no Bob Marley, Prince, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Stevie Wonder, Willie Nelson, Led Zeppelin, KISS, Snoop and Dre, The Beatles, Red Hot Chili Peppers or Beastie Boys – all musical acts I hold near and dear to my heart. Is there anyway I can bump the number up to 100?