It was the Grateful Dead that got me hooked on photographing concerts. That seems like a very long time ago, and yet here I am more than 36 years after first seeing the Grateful Dead, photographing Dead and Company at North Island Credit Union Amphitheatre in Chula Vista on their swing through Southern California. I have photographed Bob Weir more than any other single artist, from the handful of Grateful Dead shows to the many post Garcia iterations, but this was my first time actually photographing Dead and Company. It was both really fun and really frustrating.
The rules for the photographers on this tour were pretty simple, the first 15 minutes of both sets from the soundboard. The issues on Wednesday night were that they couldn’t figure out where at the soundboard to put us, so for the first set we were placed at the back of the GA pit which was in front of the soundboard making it difficult to shoot over the heads of the fans, and the for the second set we were placed in the walkway behind the soundboard which was much further from the stage. I thought this was great as it gave me two different angles on the stage and wider variety of photos. If you have never seen a Grateful Dead or Dead and Company show, these are not your regular shows where the lighting and stage show is set to illuminate the band members, but instead the lighting is used to create an environment. The means that there is more indirect lighting and not a lot of spotlights on the band.
The frustration came from the second set shooting where due to the songs being played (and for the record, St Stephen > William Tell > The Eleven is one of my favorites) meant low moody lighting with very little actual illumination on the band members. Good thing the stage lighting was so interesting. After the 15 min shooting time, I checked my gear in with the venue and enjoyed the rest of the both sets with my wife and friends. There were a few real highlights in this show for me personally, the “Cassidy” towards the end of the first set mirrored the “Cassidy” that was played at my first Grateful Dead show so many years ago. The drums with Mickey, Billy, and Oteil was very enjoyable, as was the “He’s Gone” with Bob sounding very strong on lead vocals. But the highlight for me was the 2nd set closer, “Good Lovin’.” That has always been one of my favorite tunes and to see it live one more time was a real treat.