We received an unexpected taste of summer last week here in New York City – with temperatures soaring into the high 80s it created a bit of a perfect storm as The Dead rolled into the Northeast for a string of shows in and around the New York City area. After scheduled dates in Long Island, Manhattan and Hartford the band pulled into East Rutherford, NJ for the first of a two night run at one of their old stomping grounds: the venue formerly known as the Brendan Byrne Arena – now the corporate named Izod Center.
Despite my misstep of commuting out to New Jersey, my bus finally pulled into the lot as the denizens of Deadheads populated Shakedown basking in the warm weather and hawking the usual sundries we’ve become accustomed to finding. While some of things may have changed over the last few years – micro-brews, are now called craft beer and bootleg tapes have been replaced by a guy selling vintage vinyl records – it seemed as no one had missed a beat. With the jam-scene in a bit of hibernation over the last few years, I wondered what all these people have been doing since we last saw the likes of Phish and The Dead play large scale arena shows? It sure felt good to be roaming the isles of vendors enjoying one of the best pre-show rituals around, serving as a good kick-start to what we’re calling around these parts The Summer Of Jam.
For a band that was once known for their 1960s hippie ideology, The Dead have fully embraced 21st century technology announcing via their Twitter account and official band text alerts that their old friend, sax-whiz Branford Marsalis would be joining them over the course of their two night stand. While it may have took the element of surprise away from an unexpected sit-in, those going into these shows knew the boys would be peppering their sets with some of the band’s more jazz-infused numbers from their catalog.
READ ON for more on Jeff’s experience seeing The Dead…