YOUR LORE Chapter 1: JULIE FiELD
I have a rich social life with a host of varied personalities from drummers to suburban dads, band managers to bankers. I love that variety. Many of my friends look at the fact that I play music the same as they would someone who plays Frisbee golf : “That's kinda left of center but its nice that you have a passion. Can you pass the mash potatoes”. There is a finite group of people with whom I share a deep personal friendship and a deep musical relationship. The nature of those friendships, the breadth and depth are as unique as snowflakes. I thought it would be interesting to play the role of interviewer by way of sharing some of these shining personalities with the you. When the notion struck me one of the first people that came to mind is Julie Field (though she prefers rainbows to snowflakes) I met Julie (along with her sister Glitter Girl Wren London) at the High Sierra Music Festival in NoCal in the late 90s and we have been fast friends ever since. To this day my mom will ask how the show was and I'll kind of rifle through my mind for a response that she will be satisfied with and one that knocks it out of the park every time as the mark of a good show is "well...the Glitter Girls where there" Julie has spent 20 years cheering me and my bandmates on as a friend and a fan and its about f*cking time we did some cheering on her behalf. With that said please make welcome “on the lead glitter hippy swirl…. Julie Field.”
RG: I know that music has played a huge role in your life - and more specifically The Grateful Dead. Do you remember when you first heard them?
Julie: I was introduced to the Grateful Dead’s scene before I had the opportunity to hear their music, I had just turned 17 and was wide open to new experiences, My friend Jennifer and I were hanging out with this group of guys one night and they suggested we go check out the scene at the Long Beach Arena, this band called the Grateful Dead was playing. These friends were more of the mosh pit variety than the drum circle variety so when we arrived, I was in total shock. The happenings in that parking lot were the most Un-L.A. thing I had ever witnessed. Everyone was smiling and happy and there was a sense of freedom, lawlessness and reckless abandon that immediately drew me in. We didn’t go into the show that night, but what I had experienced left me wanting more.
The next day, I drove to the local music store and purchased From The Mars Hotel and Aoxomoxoa on cassette. I popped in the Mars Hotel and U.S. Blues filled my ears. I listened to those albums nonstop for weeks. I eventually met a guy lovingly named “Taper Tom” who turned me on to live shows and over the course of a few months, my Casio tape collection quadrupled in size.
RG: What was it specifically that caught your attention?
Julie: Aside from my initial experience in the parking lot, what got my attention and forever made me a GD fan with a penchant for Phil and Jerry was the studio version of Unbroken Chain. There is this part of the jam between minutes 3:30 and 4:30 that is equal parts chaotic and melodic and completely blew my mind. Jerry winds up the jam, pushing it harder, taking it farther and then when it feels like the escalation is never going to end, he offers the release and settles into this amazing groove. I would rewind that segment of the song over and over. To this day, that song gives me the chills every time it comes on and I still rewind that part of the jam. Sometimes five times in a row…
Reid: What was your "adoption curve" like was it a slow burn or were you just like - I'm in?
Julie: I was totally in from day one but lacked the know-how to actually be all in. At that time, I didn’t realize people could leave the L.A. basin to attend concerts so I collected albums and live shows and patiently awaited the band’s return to my area. One year to the day of that parking lot experience, I attended my first Grateful Dead concert. It was unreal…to hear these songs I had come to love being played live and to see the effect on the audience as the music hit was incredible. The anticipation of what was going to happen next, the exhilaration of them playing a coveted song and the sense of community through this shared musical experience sealed the deal, I had found my tribe. Over the next few years, I went from seeing all local shows to catching all California and Las Vegas shows to seeing every show on the west coast with a fast forward to 1995- catching the entire summer tour concluding in Chicago just one month before Jerry’s passing. The music and the memories have shaped the person that I am today and still impact my internal navigation system.
Reid: How many shows did you go to prior to Jerry's passing
Julie: Between 1989 and 1995, I caught about 100 shows. Also sprinkled in there are quite a few Jerry Garcia Band and Weir and Wasserman shows. JGB brought me a new appreciation for Jerry and I found those shows to be sweet and satisfying and somewhat of a reprieve from the full Grateful Dead experience which could be taxing at times given the traveling, dealings on the lot and time spent rocking it out in the venue only to do it all again the next day and then the next.
Reid: In 3 sentences or less why do you think The Dead were so emotionally and spiritually vibrant?
Julie: The Grateful Dead were a band of storytellers both lyrically and musically and while I could often correctly guess at which songs they might play on a given night I knew that the result would be something new and fresh that would keep us fans talking late into the night and coming back for more. Each song was structurally sound yet the band was at their best during their improvisational jams. They would soar and at times stumble but each player seemed to listen and in turn, respond which created a space for musical transcendence. And I think that's really it they set out to find musical transcendence and so did the audience. Its quite an experience to find the thing you set out looking if just for fleeting moments.
Reid: Why do you think some people are "of music" and others can take it or leave it?
Julie: During my college years, I was a preschool teacher and during that time, I never met a child that didn’t respond in a positive way to music. This leads me to believe that everyone has the propensity to be a music lover, they just haven’t figured out how to tie it into their world in a way that makes sense to them. I experienced the power of music at a very young age but what I also learned at that time was that if I wanted music in my everyday existence, it was up to me to make it happen. My family had this gigantic cabinet in our dining room that had a record player and speakers built into it. It seemed to be used more as a dinner party staging surface than a source for entertainment. My parents did not have a large record collection and I went through every one until I had it down to two albums that every time that needle dropped, I was filled with energy and exhilarating joy. I played those records over and over and over again. Looking back, it wasn’t the songs themselves, it was the emotions that I experienced while listening that kept me coming back for more. If you don’t tie music to emotions or experiences, it may not totally take shape for you.
Reid: Besides The Dead and jambands are there other musicians or genre's that you really dig?
Julie: I’m a country girl at heart. I grew up listening to Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Glenn Campbell, Willie Nelson, Kenny Rogers and watching tons of Hee Haw. These days if you were to look at the Sirius channels that I have programmed in my car, you would realize that I am all over the place musically and love it all… Hip Hop, Rock, Country, Pop, Reggae, whatever…bring it. Yesterday my playlist was Robert Palmer, Lyle Lovett, the Wood Brothers, Jason Isbell, Motorhead and the Mother Hips. Today it is Earth Wind and Fire, Aretha Franklin, the Devil Makes Three and Brother’s Comatose. The band that I am crazy about right now, is the Tedeschi Trucks band. They hit every single one of my musical love buttons and leave me singing, smiling and dancing.
Reid: Dolly Parton or Bonnie Raitt and why?
Julie: That is like asking me which color in a sunset brings the most beauty. My cop out answer is I love them both. I grew up on Dolly and her cheeky country grace and epic song repertoire have kept me intrigued and inspired across every decade of my life. She is a woman who exudes strength and grace. Even when she bares it all in a song such as Jolene, exposing the depths of vulnerability and insecurity, you still feel the strength and resolve of one tough woman.
Bonnie Raitt- she is all soul and badassery. Where Dolly is the embodiment of woman power, Bonnie has the soul of a Mississippi Blues man and her command of grace through song is awe inspiring. Her cover of “Baby, I Love You” with B.B. King is one of best things my ears and heart have ever taken in.