The Other One: The Long, Strange Trip of Bob Weir (2014) Directed by Mike Fleiss
Grateful Dead has always passed me by without me really noticing or trying. I have not been too interested in their music, nothing has pulled me towards them. Of course, I have been aware of them for a long time, but that's all. They've been a part of the clichés I've learned about hippies, the 1960s and 70s California and drug culture in the USA. My distance and intentional ignorance is partly due to my preconceptions of their music. Funnily enough, The Other One offered me enough musical examples of the Grateful Dead to confirm that I don't need to dig any deeper. Musically speaking, not my thing. Not my kind of flower power bus.
Still, The Other One was a very interesting and entertaining documentary with a genuine warm heart.
Bob Weir came across as intelligent, endearing, wild and strangely mundane. What was really impressive was the way Weir has held on to his core values even through mega-stardom and the excessive touring, the fan culture and the general crazy ride that has been his personal life from the get-go as an adopted child. Weir seems to be a level-headed dreamer with endless resources and a love for unnecessarily complicated chord progressions mixed with hilariously 'arty' vocal style. It appears to me that there is a juxtaposition between the Grateful Dead attitude towards popularity ("fame is boring" says Weir) or success, and the diehard fan culture associated with the band.
|Bob Weir as an older man|
I think it's important to get this off my chest straight away: I think the Grateful Dead are a bit useless. I mean, awful, unlistenable, proggy, hippie nonsense. I know people that love this band and really rate their stuff, especially the two albums Workingman's Dead & American Beauty. To be fair, I know both albums but haven't lived with them long enough to form much of a critical opinion. Yes, I know Jerry Garcia is revered. They also feature in Tom Wolfe's fun and trippy new journalism/LSD exploration The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. They also contributed to the worst Dylan album (hey, worst album period), yep, Dylan & The Dead. There's also internet rights influence and the first band (probably) to build a massive audience outside the recognized mainstream (i.e.underground). They are counter-culture heavyweights, anti-establishment and more. I should love them, but to me they sound like a bunch of musos just jamming on their instruments. I started to play music to destroy this kind of self-indulgent navel gazing (not punk rock). Yet, having watched this documentary on GT's guitarist/vocalist Bob Weir, a grudging respect for some of their values stay with me.
|The early Dead look almost cool, Weir is second from left|
|Garcia and Weir were as close as brothers|