Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Steal Your Face Right Off Your Head

Today's post is for Scott Sellwood. Scott is one of my best friends in the world. We've played music together for the past five years, traveled the world, spent hours and hours together in conversation, lived together in vans and basements, narrowly escaped horrible situations repeatedly and celebrated every second of the way. I have no idea where I would be without him, but I'm sure it wouldn't be as wonderful of a place as I've ended up. Not the least of the amazing developments of my friendship with Sellwood is that he fully got me into the Grateful Dead.

I met Scott in 2003 when he moved from San Fran to Ann Arbor because his sweetheart started grad school. The keyboard player in my band at the time had, oddly enough, just left Ann Arbor for a job in San Fransisco, and Scott got in touch to audition and join. At our first meeting he was telling me about his musical background, and mentioned the wide variety of musical avenues he'd been down, including all the touring and different kinds of bands he'd been with or been into. "I've always been really big into jam bands, too." he said, "I followed Phish and the Dead for many years." I can't remember if I had any external response at the time, but in my mind, the years of punk rock ethos said "Uh yeah. I don't think this is gonna work out."

But it did, and how. Two dozen tours later, with most of the music in the van radiating between mellow indie rock, baroque 60's pop and occasional experimental noise or free jazz stuff (Tu Pac if Juan was in the front seat) we're driving down the 5 from Portland to California. Sellwood stealthily puts on some digitized iPod versions of Dead songs he taped at shows himself, and the entire 9 hour drive becomes a transcendent experience of rolling, foresty hills, fresh spring air through the windows and beautiful, lilting free sounds. That was just about a year ago and the disease has just worsened since. All successive tours have been full of Dead drives, mostly through the night with some intensely rare Dick's Picks shit or Sellwood's own recordings. Once someone asked me "Why do you like this music?" and I couldn't articulate any sort of answer or cohesive explanation, cause really there's none. I think the Grateful Dead is, at it's best, the least self-conscious music ever created, with only wide-open doors and zero hang-ups or fears. At it's worst it's still remarkably interesting, if only how ridiculous a lot of the bad choices they make are, and wondering how a single entity can be so many different things, in a full spectrum from golden glittering sound to utter shit.

This is a cover of "Box Of Rain", the first song on their album American Beauty, and a song they rarely played live if not as part of their acoustic sets. Dedicated with love to Scott.

City Center "Box Of Rain"


Scott said...

Through my tears of joy and bursting heart, I can say without a doubt that this is the best cover of any Dead song ever.

Once my worlds collided when I saw Phish cover Pavement. But that can't hold a birthday candle to my favorite song-writer interpreting my favorite band.

Doldrums evaporated. I love you, Fred.

it would be nice if i could find a vintage ladies gun, complete with pearl overlay, and perhaps some rhinestones. said...

i feel odd commenting after that.

one marker of my all time fav musicians is that they turn me onto so much more than just their music. the dead were my first musical love and i fell hard. the first bootleg i was given was the halloween show from 1991. phil busts out into an e.e. cumming poem, "buffalo bill" that just melted my heart. turned me onto my fav poet too. i have since lost that show, but miss it terribly.

for me now, listening to the dead is like visiting with an old lover. strangely familiar, but feels so much like yesterday and what once was. i did hear "i know you rider" on NPR the other day and sang until i cried.

ryan said...

Yes, yes, yes! So much love for Scott! The chillest person in the universe! So many good memories!

Sometimes I try to imagine what tour would be like without Scott, and images of a flaming 500 car pileup, sleeping in the snow, and the total collapse of the world economic system flash through my head.

Dead and Diet Pepsi for everyone!


Shelley said...

who knew scott used to be a deadhead and taper? i didn't! scott rules, and so does this cover