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Grateful Dead - Scarlet Begonias > Fire on the Mountain, 5/17/77

I was reading about the UCSB shooting when the Scarlet>Fire from the Mosque (5/25/77)* came on. And I remembered my first national Rainbow Gathering, Wyoming 1993. There was an older guy there who had an eagle’s claw necklace, cast in bronze or something, and I always remembered him explaining it - to whoever was around, and I happened to be - I remember him talking about “the violence and beauty of life”, which may be obvious, maybe a given, but for some reason that phrase hit home at that time and I’ve always remembered it. Scarlet is beautiful, obviously, about as joyous as music can be, which means it’s about as joyous as anything can be … and yet there’s the mournful sadness in there too, which gives it its gravity and its meaning - “I had to learn the hard way, to let her pass by, let her pass by.” All (good) music, no matter how joyous, is still rooted in the blues, and the blues is tragic music. The blues is, more than anything else, about that very phrase, “the violence and beauty of life.” And as I was reading about the shooting the song got to the transition between Scarlet and Fire, which for that Mosque show to me has always been very beautiful indeed, but this time it felt chaotic, confused, panicked. Notes rushing forward, not sure where they’re going until they get to the next one, cascading and falling all over each other in a frightening mass. And then Fire, which to me has always felt like slow-motion panic, insistent stone-deep slow-motion desperation. And that’s how it feels these days. I mean, I’m rooting for the world. Solar roadways? Hell yes! Organic food movement? Fuck yeah! But, West Antarctica. UCSB. The anti-small-farm law that Michigan is trying to pass. The corporations that own the place. Oil greed. The anti-protest laws. Nothing left to do but smile, smile, smile. 

The violence won’t ever stop, I’m not that green. But neither will the beauty. 

*(By the way, this video is not that Mosque Scarlet>Fire - you can find that here. But this one from the U of Alabama is a comparable beauty.)

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