Justin Kreutzmann on Move Me Brightly, Bobby, Pete, Eddie and Jerry
Since Jerry Garcia’s passing in 1995, bands and fans have paid tribute to the music icon on his Aug. 1st birthday, and with each passing year a growing number of events have celebrated the influential creative artist.
On Aug. 3, 2012 Bob Weir honored his former Grateful Dead bandmate’s 70th by performing as part of a musical collective made up of two generations at his technologically-advanced TRI Studios. The four-and-a-half hour livestreamed show was called “Move Me Brightly” after a line in “Terrapin Station.”
Among the nearly 20 musicians joining Weir were ex-Dead members Phil Lesh and Donna Jean Godchaux, Mike Gordon, Furthur’s Jeff Chimenti and Joe Russo, Jim Lauderdale, Neal Casal and Jonathan Graboff (The Cardinals), Jonathan Wilson, Cass McCombs, Adam MacDougall (The Black Crowes), Chris Tomson (Vampire Weekend), Craig Finn (The Hold Steady), Lukas Nelson, Harper Simon and Sam Cohen.
The set included unique interpretations of Garcia-led numbers including “Terrapin Station,” “Shakedown Street,” “Cumberland Blues,” “New Speedway Boogie,“ “Friend Of The Devil,” “Going Down the Road Feelin’ Bad,” “Mission in the Rain,” “He’s Gone,” “Eyes Of The World,” “Days Between,” “Franklin’s Tower” and “U.S. Blues.”
After directing that online event Justin Kreutzmann edited the concert footage along with interviews with Bill Kreutzmann, Mickey Hart and Godchaux along with Garcia family members, Carlos Santana, Mike Campbell, Perry Farrell and Stephen Perkins (Jane’s Addiction) and historical background into Move Me Brightly: A Documentary Concert Film Celebrating Jerry Garcia’s 70th Birthday that’s now available on DVD and Blu-ray.
As the son of Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann, Justin has always had a close association with the band. Following a different artistic path than his dad, he developed an obsession with filmmaking by his eighth birthday. This led to shooting Super 8 film, some of which occasionally makes it into Dead-related video projects. Previously, he’s produced The Making of Touch of Grey behind-the-scenes video as well as Backstage Pass.
He’s also worked on projects for the VH-1 network and with Pearl Jam, U2, Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon, completed a web documentary series with Mike Campbell (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers) and directed multiple livestream events at TRI Studios featuring Weir and his collaborators including the National, Dave Schools and Keller Williams as well as concerts by Simon Townshend and Slightly Stoopid. As a major fan of The Who, some of his most gratifying moments have involved working with the band and Pete Townshend.
What made the following conversation such a pleasure is that Kreutzmann is very self-aware yet down to earth in regards to his upbringing and career. As we discuss Move Me Brightly – the event and the documentary – talk easily segues to how Jerry Garcia influenced his work, a Bob Weir documentary he’s working on now, and, with two fellow Who fans on the phone, a discussion of the British rockers.
JPG: Let’s start at the beginning. Move Me Brightly – the event itself, the birthday celebration, the musicians involved, the songs played – how did that come about and how did you get involved?
JK: I’m the Creative Director at TRI, so I was involved with the concept from day one. It started like a lot of things in Grateful Dead. It was this really simple idea. Every year around Jerry’s birthday there’s a lot of tributes, the SF Giants have Jerry Day at the stadium, fans around the country do really cool events, all varying levels of size and participation.
We were sitting around TRI and were like, “We should do something. This would be perfect. This is Bob’s studio. So, if we do something, it’s gotta be cool. It can’t just be, “Oh, that was neat.” With that humble idea we were like, “Why don’t we call some people…?” Well first, Bob was into it, so we’re great. Once we nailed him down to a date ‘cause if I remember Furthur had just been on the road right before then. We had to do a little juggling, which is why it didn’t actually fall on August 1st.
We called a few people and it wasn’t a hard sell. “Do you want to come to TRI and play Grateful Dead songs with Bob Weir?” The biggest [problem] we had was people’s schedules ‘cause this idea came about eight weeks before the show. This all happened, and it was very Grateful Dead, it fell into place and it could have been a complete trainwreck and been a disaster but somehow it magically worked and the music was really good. Everybody was there just because it was a cool trip. We got great people. The people who couldn’t make it I went out and filmed them. So, we got interviews from a lot of folks. The movie is very inclusive.
JPG: The people that were involved was one of the cool things about it. Nothing against Jerry’s peers such as Jorma Kaukonen and…
JK: …the obvious choices is what you’re trying to say.
JPG: Yeah. I thought it was great that Move Me Brightly brought up the next generation of musicians, many I didn’t expect, who are fans or influenced by Jerry and the Grateful Dead. It showed how that spirit goes forward in a number of different ways.
JK: The idea was we wanted anybody that we thought would be appropriate we asked to participate, and that was people like Jorma and my dad, who had another gig, who were obvious choices. We wanted it to be a mixture. We wanted it to be peers, bandmates and people who only knew Jerry through his music and had never had been in a Grateful Dead cover band or never jammed, you know what I mean?
A lot of it was people that we knew. I knew Jane’s Addiction from them doing “Ripple” on Deadicated and [Jane’s drummer] Stephen Perkins had toured with the Rhythm Devils. We didn’t try to get people just to get some names in there. Everybody had some connection. The great thing was when I was interviewing the Jane’s Addiction guys I found this whole back story to Stephen Perkins’ brother and his growing up a Deadhead that I had no idea about.
So, all these great connections came up that just blew my mind. It was neat.
A lot of the musicians came from one our producers, Laurence Freedman, he’s one of Tom Petty’s managers. He’s very involved in the up-and-coming music scene, had a lot of connections to these people and knew some of these people such as Chris Tomson from Vampire Weekend; people that I had no connection personally but I would never connect the dots. That was a real treat.
Neal Casal and Jon Graboff I knew only because my wife is a massive Ryan Adams & the Cardinals fan. So, when their names got brought up I already knew so much of their music and I hear it every day at the house and I enjoy it. I was just like, “Yeah, cool. Those guy are consummate musicians and if they’re into doing it…” I think Jon was in town to play over with Phil. So, he was just around. So, we grabbed him and said, “Bring your instrument and sit in on some tunes.” And it was just like that. People wanted to participate.
When I asked people to play, “What’s a song you’ve always wanted to play? What do you want to play with Bob?” we got this great wish list. Since the Grateful Dead aren’t, shall we say, a hits band, there was no consideration of whether this would be commercial…whatever tunes were great. That’s why an hour-and-a-half show ballooned into a four-and-a-half-hour epic because, as you know, Grateful Dead songs aren’t always the shortest.
JPG: Oh yeah, I know. I’m a veteran but I was also running around to see all kinds of other bands as well, especially alternative rock.
JK: Oh, man. You wear the scars. That’s great, man. Isn’t that what music’s all about? Isn’t it about a little bit of everything and this and that? That’s the fun of it. Are you ever going to run into a blind alley with music and not be able to find some new trip to check out? You might not devote your life to it and follow it around in a VW van but music is an endless source of turn-ons, as they would probably say in Grateful Dead world.
JPG: Back to the concert, I remember watching the livestream that night and you just mentioned how it ended up becoming four-and-a-half hours. The version on the DVD is over two hours and…
JK: The full movie is about two-fifteen to two-twenty. I’ve lost track. And the DVD has a half hour of extra music, and the Blu-ray has an hour of extra music. Math not being my strong point but you get 75 per cent of the four-and-a-half hours.
JPG: After watching the livestream and then hearing that there would be a DVD release, I thought that it would probably be just the concert with bonus extras of interviews. Did you have a vision for the DVD that interspersed performances with background and interviews before the event took place or did it all come together afterwards when you had a chance to look at all that was available?
JK: Doing these live webcasts that we do from TRI when we have the time, and eight weeks is definitely not a lot of time to put a show like this together, some of the shows we do there, Bob invites somebody in on Wednesday and then next Tuesday…we just try to get the live music out as well as we can and don’t have a lot of time to piece together interviews and stuff around it.
Because it was a birthday celebration and a lot of people couldn’t be there in person, I knew that I wanted to start off the live broadcast with a half hour of interviews and Jerry history and family members. To me a live broadcast is at its best when you go behind the curtain, see some b-roll documentary element of how the show got together or the person that’s the focus of the show and then you see the music live. It’s like the best of both worlds. I went into it like that. In my mind I’m always making a movie. In my mind if we could have pulled it off I would have tried to make the live event like this, where you see some songs then you get some interviews. It was all coming together so fast there was no way that was going to happen. In my mind I was always anticipating making this. It just took a year to do it, but I always wanted to get in there. My perfectionist tendencies go in and fix that shot here…fix my own work and also just make it…
When I was a kid I loved The Grateful Dead Movie. I used to watch that thing over and over on our old Betamax. It probably drove my dad crazy. The great part was then when Jerry and I would be in an airport killing time – back when the band flew commercial and you’re sitting in an airport for hours and hours and hours – I would ask him about the movie with that little kid enthusiasm. “Why’d you do that? What was up with that?” He’d always explain that when they shot the Dead movie he had a choice, “I’m gonna make a concert film and it’s just gonna be the movie starts and the Grateful Dead comes on. Two hours later the Grateful Dead goes offstage or I’m gonna make a documentary.” And he’s like, “You know what? I’m gonna make a documentary. I want to throw in Deadheads. I want to see what’s going on here. I want to go back in the past. Have tons of music and all that stuff but give it something.”
So, that’s what I approached this with. I wanted to balance out this great music and these great stories, these firsthand accounts of Jerry, and keep you going through the whole thing so that maybe if a 20-minute “Terrapin Station” doesn’t quite hold your interest you know that there’s going to be something coming up that could be some cool documentary footage. It’s the kind of thing I enjoy watching from other bands.