Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Phil Lesh in Port Chester, part 1??

For many reasons too tedious to list (like we wanted to see him), the best solution for November 2nd was to go see Phil Lesh and Friends at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester NY.  It was a Saturday so Sarah and I got a leisurely start and had a beautiful drive on a sunny mid-Fall day down to Connecticut, along the Wilbur Cross and Merritt Parkways to Stamford, where Dave had gotten us a discount room at the Hampton Inn.  Dave showed up soon after we did and we yucked it up for a while in the room before taking off for the short and frenetic thruway drive towards the NY border, and then the long crawl through congested city sprawl over the Byram River into downtown Port Chester, where we parked in the theatre's lot.

We had a totally excellent Mexican dinner at the Kiosko Restaurant a few blocks away from the Capitol.  And I mean totally excellent: I got the quesadilla de la casa, Sarah got a camarones dish, and Dave got a salmón dish, all melt in your mouth.  If you're looking for "American" Mexican food and have no appreciation of just-baked corn tortillas and rojo sauce that'll peel off the paint and verde sauce that tastes so piquant it's sweet, then this is not the place for you.

Short detour to their mellow Shakedown Street, where Dave got an awesome sweater, and then we waited in line for General Admission.  We were the second group in line but some people had gamed it by talking their way into the box office inside and then waiting there at the nearer doors, but whatever.  We got in and moved right up to the stage, not quite in the Phil Zone, but basically dead center.  Can't complain about that.  A few beers, some talking with kindly security guys (we liked the Capitol a lot, they've got it together) and fellow spectators, and then American Jubilee came on.

American Jubilee is a product of Phil's Terrapin Crossroads incubator, and consists of his younger son Brian, the dynamic guitar player Ross James, and several others.  Phil had announced that each night on this tour would have a theme, oriented to a classic music album.  American Jubilee opened with a raunchy Cinnamon Girl and we were off (they did Young's Round and Round later)!  Here's a link to an aud of their show.  They're a rocking country band that seems like it could play anything and make it sound good.  We loved their music, as did the growing and growing crowd.

By the end of their set it was getting pretty packed in there, and the crowd kept growing through the rest of the night.  By the end we were pressed up against the stage pretty good, but it was ok and basically remained mellow.  There were several characters who were sure that Phil wanted them to be up front, but we talked them out of it, and there were several concert-goers who did *not* want to let us old people (mostly Deadicated types up front, like us) return to our "seats" after bathroom/beer breaks ... we and our stage-front neighbors had to take turns protecting our prime places, which worked out ok but was sometimes a hassle.  By the way, they had good local beer on tap, which was my choice of course.

Then Phil came on.  He had his son Grahame, the almost-famous Anders Osborne, and the pedigreed-at-a-young-age (North Mississippi All-Stars and Black Crowes) Luther Dickinson on guitar; Dickinson mostly played lead while the two others played the chords, but they alternated and were very democratic.  Tony Leone of Ollabelle(!) played drums, and Jason Crosby did the organ/piano/synth thing and also picked up the fiddle for a few numbers.  We were psyched to see these guys play!

And play they did.  Phil is a heck of a bandleader and he had them doing the right thing, following his lead, and then diving off the reservation with no hesitation when he asked them to.  There were lots of smiles all night from everybody in the band, this was a great example of talented musicians putting in a professional performance that rocked.

They continued the Neil Young theme (doing most of Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere, Young's 1969 record), and mixed in a bunch of ... well, here's the list and here's a link to one of three auds on IA:

Set 1
Ramblin' Man (Dickey Betts)
Down By the River (Neil Young)
Dire Wolf
The Losing End (Neil Young)
Cumberland Blues

Caution (Do Not Stop On Tracks)
Shake What Yo Mama Gave You (Lil John??)
Running Dry (Neil Young)
All Along the Watchtower (Bob Dylan)
Death Don't Have No Mercy (Gary Davis)
Going Down the Road Feeling Bad
Help On the Way
Franklin's Tower

Donor Rap
Cowgirl In the Sand (Neil Young)
I Ain't the One (Lynyrd Skynyrd)

We were close enough to see the setlists they had taped to the floor and I knew Ramblin' Man was going to be the opener ... this blew the crowd away!  I hope they do an Allman Brothers tribute sometime in the tour.  They also did a nod to Lynyrd Skynyrd, who's music they covered to a great extent the next night.  Here's some more notes:
  • Phil's singing was as good as I've ever heard it, I guess his throat was feeling good.  Of particular note was a beautiful cover of Peggy-O.
  • Great ensemble singing and playing all night, listen to Cumberland and the transition into Watchtower.
  • Dickinson was wailing on lead guitar, 6 feet in front of us and filling our eardrums with loud and clear sounds.
  • I've been following Leone for years and think he's great but after this performance had to re-evaluate ... he's better than great!  Phil was chuckling all night at some of the sly fills Tony would come up with and the way he'd anticipate what was coming next from the big guy.
  • Crosby is really an incredible keyboard player and had plenty of chances to show his nimbleness.  I've not been a fan of his on fiddle, but the pieces he did were very accomplished as well.  He also had some great face-English when pumping the B-3 and cranking the Leslie.
  • After shock 1 (Ramblin' Man), shock 2 was the second set opening with a short feedback segment into the roller-coaster of Caution.  This was what we came for and will come for again.
  • How many times can you say, "one of the best Sugarees?"  This is a classic song that was sweeter than sweet. 
  • Shock 3 (that I knew was coming from my peeks at the setlist) was the Help suite.  Everyone thought GDTRFB was the end, and then they struck that opening Help sequence in unison ... awesome.
This all was very satisfactory to say the least.  We hung around a bit at the end, but the crowd wasn't dispersing quickly at all on a Saturday night and we finally pushed our way out into the open air.  Made our way back to the car with our ears ringing, found our way back to the frantic thruway, and then pulled into the Hampton for a short wind-down and then a long night's sleep.

Phil has made some bomb-shell announcements lately.  Furthur announced a year-long hiatus and soon after that Phil said that he was done with the road for good ... we'll see what happens there.  And then right after the show we saw, Phil announced a contract with the promoter of the Capitol for 30 nights next year!  We may be haunting the Hampton in Stamford (and the Kiosko) again, sooner than you might expect.

1 comment:

  1. I was there! You could tell Phil was having a lot of fun, and liked having fun! Maybe there will be changes to Furthur when it returns just to keep it interesting. More webcasts!!!