Long Strange Trip Leads to Clifton Commons’ Theater 12

Last night, just a stone’s throw from the old Capitol Theater in Passaic, where the Grateful Dead did a series of classic concerts in June of 1976 — one of which was broadcast live over the iconic NY rock station WNEW-FM, and thereafter became a favorite “bootleg” recording amongst Dead Heads — there was a celebration of Jerry Garcia’s 70th birthday at the Clifton Commons AMC Movie Theater. Fathom Events and Rhino Entertainment hosted the nation-wide simulcast screening of The Grateful Dead Movie, which documents a very trippy 1974 concert in San Francisco.

Considering the movie theater’s proximity to the legendary concert site, precious few old hippies turned out for the movie, and those Baby Boomers who did come, were mostly not in tie-dye and seemed not to be under the influence of non-perscription drugs. Instead, the audience consisted mostly of 2nd or 3rd generation Dead fans, whose parents had raised them on the music, or whose devotion to contemporary jam bands like Phish compelled them to pay homage to the genre’s founding fathers. For the 50 or so people who entered theater 12, it was like stepping into a time travel machine. Those of us who had been to that era before were transported back to a time of youth, experimentation and cultural transition. For those too young to remember first-hand, such as John Fraze and Diane Szulecki, whose respective fathers are vintage Dead Heads, it was another history lesson about our nation’s grooviest decade.

Thomas Mock, a 51 year old who lives in Secaucus, gladly shared his belief that certain music — including that of the Dead and jam bands in general — has a primal power that channels the elements through its rhythm and modulation. According to Mock, some believe that at 20 megawatts, women can experience highly pleasurable physical sensations, though he pointed out that this wasn’t anything he had first-hand knowledge about. He did, however, share this quintessential NJ Dead concert story:

At Rutgers University, back in 1981, the Dead played in the campus athletic center. It was the only time they played in that venue. There was bad weather predicted that evening, and while they went from Scarlet Begonias into Fire on the Mountain, a huge lightening storm broke out directly above the gym’s glass ceiling, giving everyone an intense light show.

Mock also said that on the day Garcia died, August 9, 1995, he (Mock) was inspired to play the lottery for the numbers corresponding to the time of the musician’s death, 4:23. Mock won $400. “I don’t normally gamble, but I just somehow felt like I should do that,” he explained. “When I won, I felt like Jerry was smiling down on me, but actually, I think he’s always smiling down on all of us.”

Happy birthday, Jerry. We miss you, and hope that somehow your “Long Strange Trip” continues on, somewhere, somehow.

For more Garcia love, check out this blog post and interview with Jerry by former WNEW-FM disc jockey Dennis Elsas (now heard on WFUV) and this video.

Top photo credit to The Grateful Dead Facebook page
Video from Rolling Stone

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