Shortlist: Dead & Company - New England, September 2021

Save Your Face makes its first foray into Dead & Company mixtape territory with the help of Josh Landes (@JoshLandesWAMC). Josh has been sharing choice D&C material with me for a while, and in this case, he served up a pre-curated, four-hour road-trip from the three September 2021 New England shows played in Mansfield, Massachusetts (9/2 - 9/3) and Hartford, Connecticut (9/5). 

I’m a fan without being anything remotely like an expert, so I limited my interventions to listening happily and fiddling with the sequence, based on gentle segue opportunities and some mood considerations. (I did nix one song – "Saint of Circumstance" - resulting in a jump cut out of "Lost Sailor.") My personal thoughts on Dead & Co. are below the track list.

Thank you, Josh!

4-hour mp3 mix zipped up here (song dates included in file titles)

  • Jack Straw
  • Playin’ in the Band >
  • The Wheel
  • Playin’ in the Band
  • Sugaree
  • Lost Sailor
  • Deal >
  • Dark Star >
  • El Paso
  • He’s Gone
  • Truckin’ >
  • Dark Star
  • St. Stephen >
  • William Tell Bridge >
  • The Eleven
  • Terrapin Station
  • Drums >
  • Space >
  • The Other One >
  • Morning Dew

Cover art by Johnny Gruelle.

John’s Comments:

I don’t know why people get so worked up - in a negative way - about this band. Ain’t no time to hate.

I never spent any time with post-1995, Dead-member-involved bands while they were active, though I’ve checked them all out subsequently. I remain pretty ignorant, based on total hours logged, but all those bands have paid off for me in greater and lesser degrees. Or maybe the better way to say it is that there’s always an arrangement or a jam that’s going to turn my head. Good musicians who are familiar with each other are always going to make some delightful, distinctive music.

One of my limitations is that I’m not that into Grateful Dead covers, and the ones that please me most are the ones that are farthest from what Garcia Dead played. Dead member legacy and Dead tribute bands are therefore not a big draw for me. 

However, I feel nothing but respect for every human who has experienced transcendence at any Dead-related live show since 1995. I had multiple ecstatic events and massive amounts of overall scene delight when I saw the Dead 1988-1993, and that was very late in the game by anyone’s measure. 

Now it’s 30 years later, and the kids still dance and shake their bones. Ain’t no time to hate.

What I like best about Dead & Company are the jammy spaces, where fidelity to the traditional song gives way to the band being itself, doing what comes naturally in the improvisational zones. This mix has plenty of those zones, sometimes cropping up in places you wouldn’t expect, if the track list were from a Grateful Dead run.

I am not immune to the “Dead and Slow” complaint, but I’d also say that I don’t have a problem with the tempo of any given song. A tempo change is a great way to explore a song, if it works. Nonetheless, I understand why people struggle with this aspect of the band.

Which is all the more reason to slant a Dead & Company mix in the way Josh Landes has here, ensuring a good balance of song-parts and improvisational zones – tempo being irrelevant to improvisational zones. I've endeavored to use the lead-off sequencing to recalibrate your Grateful Dead tempos to Dead & Co.'s vibe, in the hope that you can ride that vibe happily.