Guest Post from Ted Birkhahn
The past Saturday night, the Dead (formerly known as the Grateful Dead) rolled into the Big Apple to play Madison Square Garden – sans Jerry Garcia, of course. For those of you who have a passion for the band and their music, the Garden is arguably the best venue to experience a show. Great things tend to happen at MSG and, as Jerry Garcia used to say, "the place is juiced."
One of the greatest parts of any Dead show is its spontaneity. There is nothing like a live performance featuring the Grateful Dead. No two shows are alike – despite playing nearly 3,000 live concerts over more than 40 years – prompting much anticipation among fans who dream of hearing set lists that will "steal your face right off your head." Their spontaneity and ability to improvise on stage is what the Dead built their brand on over the course of 40 years. It's what prompted so many fans to fall in love with not just the music but the whole experience, compelling them to come back night after night.
So there I was on Saturday night at MSG, with a flood of memories from past Garden shows racing through my mind, when the unthinkable happened. About midway through the first set, a friend of mine – who was busy checking his Blackberry – leaned over and fed me the next song before one first chord was played. Impressive. Then he did the same for the next song. Weird.
What gives? Given the amount of songs in the band's repertoire, there's simply no way he could have guessed right two times in a row. He didn't. Someone who had access to the set list that the band picked before going on stage was Twittering it during the show. Those who were following this person's tweets – like my friend – knew the songs before they were ever played. For non-Dead fans, this may not be a huge deal, but for me it was complete heresy. In one fell swoop, Web 2.0 practically wiped out one of the greatest assets and differentiators the band has to offer. It violated the sanctity that the band shares with its fans.
I believe Twitter to be a powerful medium that has only scratched the surface in enabling people to communicate in new and meaningful ways. But it can be misused and mistreated to the detriment of certain brands and endeavors. We've already started hearing rumblings from Tweeter nation about the misuse or overzealousness of corporations trying to Tweet their way into people's hearts and minds. Further, like any online medium, there's a plethora of meaningless content that clutters the Twitter landscape. Then, on Saturday night, this venerable rising star of Web 2.0 upstaged the Grateful Dead in what could be their final performance at the Garden.
As for the rest of the tour, I don’t have tickets for any other shows. But no worries, I will be getting the set lists via Twitter and streaming the shows via any number of Web sites. With this type of access, who needs a live show?