Take me to church

by Jon Sullivan - 2024-01-02 - Stories

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NYE concert with the Garcia Birthday Band, and 300 of my closest friends. Again.

One of the new things in my life since moving to Oregon is regular concert going. And one of the groups I end up seeing rather often is a Grateful Dead tribute band called GBB. Though I listened to plenty of such music as a child of the 60s raised by Deadheads, it was rarely something I would listen to in the 50 years since then and now. It doesn't matter. GBB is a band that kills it whether you like the Dead or not. And the secret sauce for the band is the family that has grown together around them. They are incredible people. Loving, brilliant, beautiful, open, powerful. Family. And when I moved to Oregon they were the people who pulled me in and hugged me and showed me how peace, light, love, joy all worked here. And last year's NYE concert is where they all welcomed me in a way I've never been welcomed, anywhere ever.

To put it simply - A GBB concert is where I fill up on loving energy and joy.

So heading into this year's NYE concert I was VERY EXCITED. The anticipation of wading into that crowd, that family, that energy...... Let's just say I set my expectations pretty high, maybe too high. If you expect to wander into a building and find powerful tribal magic just manifesting in the air around you, you may set yourself up for disappointment. Of course, of course, it did not disappoint.

A few friends had shared an Airbnb with me for the three night concert. After dropping off bags and getting caught up, we took an Uber to the Mission and waited out in the rain for the doors to open. We were early in line so we could get our special seats. We talked about food. The baked brie and mushrooms I would cook for the after party, along with the other stuff I brought for the weekend - a Thai salad with peanut sauce and salmon, the Greek orzo salad with barrel aged feta, the handmade poblano pork tamales. We talked about AI tech certifications. We talked about the weather. And then the doors opened and we headed in. Into the magic place. Into the church. Into family.

I've met and chatted with many of these folks, but I still have family I've never met before wandering up to me to chat. Conversations this year while waiting for the band to come out - The optical properties of human hair, the virtues and vices specific to American style democracy, contemporary uses of machine language programming, Portland's best burger places. So...... Good luck being bored waiting for the band with GBB family folks.

And then it started. Rock and roll. The usual suspects were all there - Rob in his magic pants channeling energy from the core of the sun, Rosie in her special spot, rocking out to the music, John Potts leading the planet in it's dance around the sun. On and on. Family. Magic. Rock and roll. A special birthday.

And the band was fucking ON. GBB is the sort of "tribute band" that is more about honoring the vibe than copying the songs. My parents, 60s deadheads, would love this band. And their playing takes me back to that time. Very often while listening to the band I feel my folks with me, which is something I never really feel that strongly. This concert they played the Dylan song "Mighty Quinn" which was a favorite of mine when I was a hippy child. It took me back, and I couldn't help but sing out through the happy tears. It doesn't hurt that they'll also surprise us with things like a full set of Led Zeppelin covers.

I. Was. Blown. AWAY. Expectations of tribal magic and beautiful energy fulfilled. Beat driven joy. Love. So much love.

I needed this. As swimming in Oregon wonder transitioned to just normal life, I needed some magic. Some unfettered joy. Some family. Mission accomplished.

Today's photo : This isn't the concert described above. But I was too selfishly enjoying myself to lug in a camera. This was from the GBB Fest concert I've blogged about before. One of the things that ate at me for years was that my photo portfolio had zero music/concert captures. But as a card carrying hermit, concerts just didn't exist. And the GBB Fest weekend produced so many "keepers" for a subject I literally had no idea how to photograph. Easily one of my favorite photo sessions. For this one I used a tripod to take some slow shutter speed shots, turning the dancers into fiery ghosts. Four seconds of rock n roll compressed into an instant.

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