Friday, September 02, 2005

'Grateful Dead' party bittersweet

From Daily Texan:

Birthday party for Jerry Garcia, funeral march for the Pier
By Adam H. Covici

Fred, a paranoid, middle-aged man selling shirts at the Jerry Garcia Birthday Bash, seemed to be the resident expert on tie-dying. One customer after another abandoned the booths where they were browsing the superiority of Fred's designs."The tie-dye trend is coming back," Fred said. "In 2000, when Bush got elected, it started dying off because everyone got scared of looking different."His arms and hands are covered in a multicolored tattoo of bled color from 15 years spent turning clothes into rainbows. His legs and feet a blue-green swirl that reaches all the way to his toe-nails.Last Saturday, as the sunlight reflected off the cool water, a slight breeze carried wafts of patchouli and Nag Champa incense over a burgeoning crowd.The sandy beach, now a dance floor for the day, was ideal for young heads to practice cartwheels and somersaults, while local bands paid tribute through song.The vast majority of songs played were Grateful Dead covers. Flounders with Eyes pulled off an amazingly accurate cover of "St. Stephen," while Mikado's attempt at "Dark Star" morphing into "Wharf Rat" then back into "Dark Star" was admirable.But Texas singer-songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard did a set comprised of mostly originals. Heavily influenced by Bob Dylan, Hubbard's style relied heavily on storytelling and short anecdotes between songs."For all you out there that are into hip hop and what not, just remember, Bill Monroe killed more people than Ice Cube ever did," Hubbard told the audience.He spoke of a time when a "long-haired, hippie, cosmic cowboy type" out in West Texas might run into dangerous times just because of the length of his hair, and thanked Willie Nelson for bridging the gap between "hippies and rednecks."Garcia started his musical career on the piano, but quickly moved on to master the guitar and many other string instruments, despite losing his middle finger down to the knuckle while chopping wood at the age of four.He is best known as the frontman for the Grateful Dead from their inception in 1965 until Garcia's death in 1995.Garcia's life-long message of peace and understanding could be felt at the Pier on Saturday.No police presence was required, and no violence occurred.An Austin institution since 1958, the Pier will close its doors Oct. 2 because the landowners are unwilling to allow the Pier to renew its lease.Plans for a new location have not materialized, and Saturday may have been the last time the amplifiers at the Pier vibrate the shores of Lake Austin.While the night moved on, more and more boats crowded into the cove just beyond the edge of the beach where the music was still easily audible. The smell of burning gas mixed with the incense already in the air as the evening slowly twirled away.

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