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The Dead Summer Getaway Diaries

Published: 2003/06/19
by Dean Budnick

Mickey Hart on Virginia and Maryland 6/17 & 18

For our latest installment of the Dead Summer Getaway Diaries we’ve enlisted Mickey Hart. In addition to our brief Q and A, Mickey also has a detailed trip diary over at his site- check it out. BTW, Mickey’s latest book Songcatchers: Capturing the World’s Music, came out earlier this month and it is an engaging, enlightening read. As for the Dead, this weekend the band moves from Saratoga Springs to Great Woods to Hartford. See you there.
What was your musical highlight from the last two nights? Let’s start with Tuesday in Virginia Beach.
Steve Winwood, ‘Loose Lucy.’ I mean he just sang the shit out of ‘Loose Lucy.’ Steve Winwood is an old friend and he took control of that song and it was amazing. Then Joan sang soulful versions of ‘Built to Last’ and ‘It Must have Been The Roses.’ She has this little Janis Joplin snarl and she’s sweet as well. Her renditions and the way she phrased it were original. Then of course we did ‘Mason’s Children’ which is a real rare one, we’ve only played that four times I believe. Also ‘Rubin and Cherise,’ we haven’t played that much and the kids just loved it.
How did the ‘Loose Lucy’ collaboration come about? Did you work it out in advance?
We just thought it would be appropriate for him so we sent him tape and he learned it. Last night he did ‘Gimme Some Lovin’‘ and just tore the house down in Washington.
And can people expect additional contributions from him?
You bet. We’re working him into the set, it’s sort of an organic thing. I’m the only one that really knows him well. Steve is a very sensitive guy and the bands are communicating backstage. We’re talking to each other and we’re having dinner together and we’re becoming friends. He was a little tentative at first and now he’s putting the pedal down. That B-3 is screaming, and his new record is absolutely crystal clear.
What was the oddest moment on stage at the two preceding shows?
You know odd is not really the right word because things are real comfortable. I’d rather go the other other way and say the preceding two shows were smooth and oiled with great moments of exploration and adventure. But the oddest part may be that me and Billy are now connected to the lights in MIDI, so what we play directly triggers images on the screen. That’s really new and I don’t think anyone’s ever done that before. Soon you’ll see Kreutzmann art as well. He’s contributing some of his unpublished works of art to the light show, so that’s going to be major when the light show guys get all of that.
Who was the sweetest or most peculiar person you met yesterday and what they did to earn that title?
I met a Dead Head FBI agent last night who was dancing with the Librarian of Congress, James Billington. I wore an FBI shirt at a few shows over the last six months and she came backstage saying she has picture on her desk at the Bureau and people kid her because they know she’s a Dead Head. Then she told me, ‘That’s a bootleg you’re wearing,’ and I thought she was going to cuff me. But she gave me a real shirt and it made my day. It was all in good humor and she was a beautiful, wild thing. These are the kinds of agents you want to have.
What can you tell our readers about your new song ‘Self Defense’ which the band played last night in Maryland?
It’s a great Hunter song. I wrote it with him and Bob wrote the bridge. It’s one of those new powerful songs that have just cropped up and I have a few more of those in the side pocket. Last night was the first time we trotted it out and it was okay, I’m just getting used to it. The band’s just learning it, it’s a difficult song.
I read in your diary that you have started calling Jeff Chimenti ‘Sally’ after ‘Mustang Sally.’ Was there any particular event that precipitated that?
No it’s just that when I hear a B-3 organ it’s ‘Ride Sally Ride.’ So now everybody’s calling him Sally because he plays such a great B-3 that Sally is riding. Sometimes when I’m up there at the mike I’ll say ‘Ride Sally Ride…’ Sly Stone and Mitch Ryder used to do it so I stand on their shoulders. But it’s a great handle for him and it seems to fit him.
What song that the band hadn’t heretofore performed on this tour did you most look forward to playing?
‘Rubin and Cherise’ was an interesting song and we haven’t played it for many years. We played ‘Alligator’ last night and that’s always a great song. Also, ‘St. Stephen’ ‘the high green chilly winds,’ we’re pulling out that part of the song. I used to play a snare drum, sort of a Scottish tattoo and I love that part. Beyond that the best parts are all the parts in between the songs, the parts unknown.
Another new thing is the new array from John Meyer, the p.a. It is what they call the MILO. This is a new system that John has developed that allows us not to get washed over by the sound. There’s no blow-back as they say. The low end doesn’t wash over you. He’s erased that from our world and this is what I would call a sonic miracle. Virginia was our first time out with the MILO sound array and that’s big. People are going to hear sound like they’ve never heard it before. That and the MIDI lights were the big events besides the music.

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