Monday, July 27, 2015

Golden Gate Wingmen at BMH

It's been quite a year of Grateful Dead and related music, and the beat continued with Golden Gate Wingmen coming to Brighton Music Hall on Sunday the 26th of July.  This combo is fronted by John Kadlecik (who pronounced his name with a liquid "c"), and includes a few other guys, like Jeff Chimenti, Jay Lane, and Reed Mathis (Billy and the Kids most recently).  We and a full BMH were totally psyched to see them do their thing on a hot Sunday afternoon in a college-student-deserted Brighton.

Sarah and I got a nice table on the back patio at Deep Ellum in Union Square and a sunburned Dave joined us after getting off the Provincetown ferry.  After a few beers we toddled over to the hall about 15 minutes before doors opened and found a small but Deadicated line there already.  People were gushing about Chicago, Santa Clara, the GGW, and all things Dead-related, entertaining the gathering of Brighton street people who had joined the festivities.  Then the doors opened and Dave and I ensconced ourselves in front of the stage, just a little to the right.  Sarah had grabbed our "usual" place against the wall but got kicked out for handicapped accessibility, so she joined us in front of the stage, about three feet from where John picked his psychedelic guitar and about five feet from where [the much younger] Reed Mathis plunked his funky bass.

John and Jeff had pushed past us while on line, apparently going for some eats, and they mingled with the crowd when they got back.  The guys came out and started a bit past 8, and got right into it.  Here's what they played:

It Takes a Lot To Laugh It Takes a Train To Cry
Tin Roof Shack
If One Of Us Should Fall
Stagger Lee
What's Become Of Mary
Takes Two
Bird Song

John and Jeff need no encouragement to improvise, space out, and jam long and hard, and that's what this was.  The opening Dylan song turned into an excursion but then they brought it back with a vengeance and John wailed the last verse by the Bard.

All through the set John was just having a good time, free of any requirements, not being dominated by older band members (hint), past irrelevant expectations about living up to Garcia.  Jeff was being his creative, nimble self on organ and electric and synth, Jay Lane was flexing his muscles and tattoos and playing the skins with an incredible authority (we were close enough to see he was denting his cymbals), and Reed Mathis was playing a supple, effect-heavy, rattling bass.  Reed was the spectacle of the night for me, having never seen him live before.  He had a filter that he worked by sawing back and forth on a foot pedal that moved him up or down one or two octaves and made his bass seem like a whole string section itself.

And the vocals were great too.  John had written many of the songs and led the band and did most of the singing, but Reed stepped up a lot himself and showed a fine tenor voice, as well as incredible delight at the packed house raving on his every note and bass effect.

Highlights of the set were John's old song, What's Become Of Mary, which had the whole hall singing along, and a spacey Bird Song that I'd called soon into the long introduction.

Time for a long set break and we realized we'd have to protect our stage-front camp as the place was packed with frantic people, pushing (gently) toward the front.  That was no problem since it really was relatively mellow and there were three of us to take turns going for bathroom/beer/cider breaks.  We saw a friend from the last DSO show in Boston who was eager to hear about Santa Clara, as well as other friends from the line and the crowd.  The 18(?)-year-old next to me was anxiously writing down the setlist and enthralled by my and others' stories about seeing the Dead 40 years ago.

OK, the guys finally came back out and by now it was well after 10PM on a school night.  What the hell, it was the middle of Dead summer and the future was looking bright.  Here's what they played next:

Cleaning Windows
We Can Run
The Ladder
Sister Smiles
Crazy Fingers>
Reuben And Cerise>
Walking In Your Footsteps>

I was very happy that they opened with Cleaning Windows, the relatively obscure Van Morrison song covered excellently by Tom Russell and Barrence Whitfield, and done by the GGW a few times in this tour (we'd been looking at their setlists).

Nice to throw in a Brent song on the anniversary of his death.  They did a few songs (first set and this one) from the American Spring record that JohnK had done with Melvin Seals back in the naughties.

But then they went back to the GD canon with Crazy Fingers and Reuben & Cherise and the crowd was grooving along with a vengeance.  They did the Police's Walking In Your Footsteps and then closed with a grinding, grungy, far out, intense Ripple like the original guys never tried.

Though the hall was air conditioned we were a sweaty, tired mass by then and it was approaching midnight.  They came back out soon and sent us all on our way with Brokedown Palace.  Fare you well, my honey...

Wonderful set by everyone involved; this band is great and these guys played very well and we had a lot of fun!  I think it may be that years from now, after the original generation of GD is retired, that we'll be saying that we saw Golden Gate Wingmen when they first started.  Then again, maybe not!

Pictures here!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Green River Festival 2015, Sunday

That Saturday was wonderful, and we had another day to go!  Dragged myself out of bed as soon as I could on Sunday the 12th and was feeling more than psyched for another day after a quick shower.  Had some iced tea on the veranda and another peanut butter bagel and then packed up to go.  It's a good thing we're used to this and were able to dress/provision for the day, stow all extraneous stuff quickly, pack up computer/phone/iPod/speakers with a minimum of confusion, and throw it all into the car.  We put all our spent bottles, etc. in one empty cooler, consolidated the rest in another cooler, and had a third cooler ready to take in with us when we got to the festival.

By the time we were ready to leave the others were just getting up.  Paul and Diane were a little more delayed than we on Sunday morning, and so we told them we'd meet them there and took off.  Dave had brought the room key back to Rhianna and we were sorry to say goodbye to the Red Rose, which was so friendly a place.  They had had a bunch of concert-goers over for the night themselves and they were just straggling off when we were.

Hit the Trail TOC for another breakfast with plenty of jalapenos that couldn't be beat.  Novac Djokovic and Roger Federer were playing at Wimbledon for the championship of the world as we ate breakfast (Djokovic won), but we couldn't let that delay us and hit the road for GCC as soon as we could.  Gates were at 12 again, and we were a little later than we had been Saturday, but perhaps got a little better place in line.  When they let the crowds in we were able to grab a spot a few rows in front of the soundboard, left, and Paul and Diane soon joined us.

The Lonesome Brothers were on first, soon after we set up.  They're a couple of Pioneer Valley guys who've been around for years: guitar, bass, and a drummer doing original rock tunes and a few covers.  We were prepared to dig them for a bit and then move on to the other stages but ended up hanging around for a good deal of their set.  Their playing together was tight and nuanced and their songs were really good.  Another delightful musical surprise in a weekend of them!

From there I hurried down to the Four Rivers Stage for a large iced coffee and to see Joe Pug, who's had an interesting start to his career.  He's written some great songs and was a darling of Americana radio for a spell, then disappeared while he apparently tried to decide if he really wanted to do this.  He's come back and is still writing excellent songs and this time I hope he keeps at it.

Wandered around a bit after his set among the vendors downhill.  They really had a whole bazaar set up this year downhill where you could buy anything from wood carvings to quince jelly.  I found a silver ring that was a possibility but let it remain at that.  There were many things that made it a great weekend, and an indication of the preparation that had gone into the festival was this quaint selection of vendors, though truthfully this was a small detail for me.

Twisted Pine was up next on the Four Rivers Stage and I was up close.  They opened with a couple of Bill Monroe songs, but then did almost exactly the set they had done Friday night, including King Willy, Cassiopeia, and Lonestar.  All the repeats was a bit of a disappointment, but I'm sure they're struggling at this point with the sudden loss of their dominant sound, and they did these as well as they had Friday.  I had a great time being right up front and seeing how the singers cued each other, how Bui on bass could set the tempo (they listen to each other, those conservatory students!), and how they centered around Mier's banjo sound, the really important instrument to a great bluegrass band.

When Sumner was introducing King Willy she mentioned shortly how Scottish music had become Appalachian music, and one of several rowdies in the crowd (people were going strong, even at 2:00) shouted out, "How do you know that?"  She didn't miss a beat and responded, "Well, I learned it in college.  And as a matter of fact, there's my teacher, hi Dan!"  He was taking photos in the pit and was kind of embarrassed to be identified, especially when the others said, "What, Dan's here???"  That must be a proud teacher.

OK, enough of that and time to get back uphill for some hydration.  The day was already at least as hot as it had been Saturday and the temperature was climbing.  But first I stopped by the Flying High Frisbee Dogs! and saw a little border collie with a cute neckerchief not quite live up to his billing.  Oh well, it was fun.  Then I cruised by the Parlor Room Stage and there was Dave, grooving to Surly Temple.  I sidled up next to him and fell into their spell immediately.

This is Jim Henry's rock outfit ... guitar, bass, and drums (Guy DeVito and Doug Plavin) ... and they were fantastic themselves!  They played all cover tunes but Henry (whom we had seen often accompanying Tracy Grammer) gave his imprimatur to every song they played.  They did Coming Into Los Angeles, The Maker (Daniel Lanois), I Live On a Battlefield (by Nick Lowe, The Pine Hill Project had played it Friday night), Hey Joe (which Booker T. had done Saturday), and lots and lots of other hits.  The early afternoon crowd at the third stage was digging it and there were lots of smiles all around.  This was yet another unexpected and enchanting moment in the weekend.

After a short detour to the hidden field, Dave and I split up and I reassessed what was next for me.  OMG, no time to get back uphill, I had to return to the Four Rivers Stage for a bit of Parker Millsap!  We'd seen him at the HOB - Boston opening for Patty Griffin and been very impressed.  He was just as impressive at GRF and had a huge crowd watching him already.  He's got some very heartfelt songs that work about gayness and Christianity and life, and had everyone in the palm of his hand.  He's got a beautiful, piercing voice and had a pretty good band to back him up.  This guy is an amazing talent and with the right packaging could really take the world by storm.

BUT ... I was running out of fuel and had to get back up to the Main Stage after three or four songs.  I needed water and over the course of the next hour drank two and a half liters, judging by the empty bottles.  The afternoon sun was just blistering but I could barely move after I settled into my seat and started drinking water.

But (I say again), that was no problem!  The band that had just come on stage was arguably the best of the weekend and would have glued me to my seat anyway: the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.  I really can't describe how excellent they were.  Sarah and Dave were both up front for them and were just rocked by their togetherness, stage presence, and virtuosity.  They had a bass fiddle on a few tunes (and a melodica) but besides that stuck to tuba, trombone, trumpet, sax, electric piano, and drums, with some excellent vocals too.

To a fan of everyone-play-at-the-same-time music and the-bass-is-playing-the-melody music, they were a sinkhole of unbelievable sound.  I'm sure a casual fan would enjoy them too ... everyone who could stand up was dancing ... but to someone who listens to music they were simply awesome.  The trombone player (who sang as well, have to fill in their names here) was jaw-dropping, I've rarely heard a trombone played like that.  The trumpet player was awesome, how could you play such leads without slurring on one or two notes?  The tuba player was the band leader and played his big horn as easily as if it was a mandolin.  The drummer was worthy of a solo show himself, and the keys player made brilliance seem normal.  These guys were really good and I would have been jumping up and down and shouting if not for the heat.  Just an awesome set.

I should mention the √©minence grise here.  When we'd been waiting in line to get in a huge, blacked out bus with Tennessee plates, towing a trailer, passed us slowly and parked.  Steve Earle was on site and he took the opportunity to see as much as he could.  I spied him and Eleanor Whittemore watching Joe Pug, and he was a fixture in the wings watching Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the Punch Brothers.  Dave reported he was also watching Arc Iris that afternoon, and who knows what else?  He was no "star" sitting in his bus waiting to go on; he was out there in the sun digging on some fantastic music that might lend him a riff someday ... or that he might just enjoy.

Dave showed up at the end of Preservation Hall, and we booked down to the Parlor Room Stage to check out the Brothers Comatose, who had done an excellent cover of Brokedown Palace for the Songs Of Their Own project.  This was yet another unexpected treat!  They played with a full band  (banjo, mandolin, etc.) and were distinctly West Coast bluegrass, as opposed to the kind we get in the East.  Their songs were excellent, well sung, and unabashed, singing about tripping down the mountain, rolling a joint to forget your lover, and other ways your mind can be on a separate path from the reality you're faced with.  I particularly liked their fiddle player.

Back to the Main Stage and the Punch Brothers were up next.  This represented a great time for a dinner break.  I could go on with reasons why I don't enjoy this band, but won't.  Suffice it to say that they're excellent in their own way, but sound to me like bluegrass music played for and by people who don't really like bluegrass music.  There was just some great, technical stuff laid down by Chris Thile, Noam Pikelny, Gabe Witcher, Chris Eldridge (especially), et al.  But I'd try to listen and find my mind wandering.  Oh well, my feet wandered too and I got some beer and dinner.

Geez, where had the time gone?  It was that time of the weekend where the festival shrinks and all the people from the satellite stages return to their seats for the main act.  A bunch of people also pack up and leave at this time ... Monday morning is not far away.  You rarely see a closing act of a festival that's one of the best acts of the day.  Steve Earle and the Dukes did not blow us away, but they were a solid ending to a very, very good weekend of music.

A funny moment before their set was when the Mastersons had set up their rack of instruments, stage left, and then the festival organizers brought up all the volunteers for a bow on stage and they started encroaching on the bit of real estate that Eleanor and Chris held sacred.  They looked at each other and then decided wordlessly to stand guard and keep the hoi-polloi away from their most precious possessions.  Can't argue with that decision, but it was a human/humorous touch.

They opened with four songs from their latest, Terraplane, including Better Off Alone, Ain't Nobody's Daddy Now (the song I most wanted to hear live), and Steve's excellent duet with Eleanor Whittemore, Baby's Just As Mean As Me.  They did a quick nod to The Hits, covering Guitar Town and Copperhead Road.  Then they did a few from all over, including Earle's cover of Hey Joe (third time on the weekend)!  It was clear he'd been listening.

Earle still wasn't singing as well as he used to, but the playing by Whittemore on fiddle and tenor guitar, her husband Chris Masterson on ripping lead guitar, and Earle's long-time bassist and drummer was top-notch.  Earle even showed some emotion on Little Emperor, though he blew it right back to hackneyed by drawling the formulaic Go Go Boots Are Back.  Oh well, this was at least a very good set.

The festival was over, oh no!  I like to see a lot of music when I go to a festival, and I felt that I'd been pretty successful: my final count was 25 acts (including two twice).

I've been to the Green River Festival six times now and I have to say that this was my favorite.  I just had a great time from start to finish.  There were several things that made it stand out for me: the variety of musical styles, the quality of almost every band, some incredible band and individual performances, and the complete entertainment.  There wasn't a dead spot all weekend, from the bands playing their hearts out on all three stages, to the perfect weather for the balloons, the frisbee dogs, the circus tumblers, the dancing aliens, the food, and everything else.  There was also the delight shown by the performers, who time and time again seemed to have been expecting a zonked-out midday festival crowd and instead were adored by hundreds of dancing, cheering people. Yeah, the heat was ridiculous, but I survived.

We packed up for the final time and joined the long line of cars leaving the parking lot.  Soon made it to 91 North (with a little fancy footwork), and we were on our way home.  It only took us an hour and 45 minutes to get back, not bad at all for a summer Sunday.  We have to do this again next year!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Green River Festival 2015, Saturday

I'll have to admit that I wasn't at the top of my game on Saturday morning after a long day Friday and a late night.  But I was very psyched for Saturday at the GRF and got up in plenty of time to grab a refreshing shower, drink some iced tea from the cooler (I'd made a jug to bring), and eat a bagel with peanut butter on the veranda of the Red Rose.

Landlord Rhianna's dogs were cruising for affection, the cat next door gave a few plaintive meows when he saw people out being mellow, and our friends slowly woke up.  Gates were going to open at 12 and music was going to start at 12:45 or so.  So we targeted leaving at 10:30 for the Trail TOC Diner.  Paul and Diane were ready to go too by then (the others were in or about to visit the pool) and so we took off back East on route 2 and had a breakfast that couldn't be beat, a Western omelette with lots of jalapenos for me and plenty of coffee.

That was just the ticket and from there it wasn't far to the line of cars trying to get into the lots at Greenfield Community College.  I jumped out with a chair and a book when the line paused and tried to grab a good spot in the line of people waiting to get in.  I was alarmed to see that the line already had several hundred people in it and stretched almost all the way back to the academic buildings.  Whatever, we set up our chairs in line, waited and read, and Paul and Diane understood the urgency (well, by our aesthetic) and weren't far behind us.

Time to get in finally and the line started moving.  Several people had hung out by the entrance ("Oh we have to wait here in the shade!") and then cut in line to get in.  Sleazy, but this wasn't as urgent a stampede for closeness to the stage as in some concerts; in fact, most of the people dying to get in before everyone else were doing it so that they could grab a spot in the shade on the fringes of the main field.  A minority of us were doing it to grab a spot in front of the soundboard, and we were able to do so, planting our chairs about 30 feet behind where we had been the night before.  We saved space for Paul and Diane and they showed up soon after.

OK ... Saturday at GRF!  First thing for me was the CD tent and I bought more used CDs than you'd want to think about (they were 5 for $20).  Check out the food offerings, get a wristband from the beer tent to avoid later lines, watch the hordes of people filling up the pace, and soon it was time for music.

Note that this weekend was beautiful, sunny, early summer weather, but that both Saturday and Sunday were very, very hot.  The sun was blaring down on the main stage and even with outrageous amounts of sunscreen, more water than they could imagine in California, hats, hoods, sun panchos, and parasols, we suffered from the heat and the sun all weekend.  It was high 80s on Saturday and mid-90s on Sunday.  As Sarah says, it only *felt* like it was 140 degrees.

First up on the Main Stage was the Suitcase Junket.  I'd heard some tracks by this band on the radio and was intrigued, especially when I heard it was really just one person.  Matt Lorenz has played in several New England bands and recently has been trying to start his own act, with great success.  He plays a wicked guitar (regular acoustic or resonator ... both of which he sang into at times), and has an array of percussion instruments, including a high-hat hitting a bin full of forks and bones, a beater with a baby shoe on the end hitting a gas can, a cooking pot, a suitcase of course, etc.  He's also got some great original songs and was just a jaw-dropping opening act.  He, as with many artists throughout the weekend, was tickled pink by the number of people listening seriously to him and enjoying his music in the hot, hot sun.

The next act was perhaps the band I was most excited about seeing that weekend, the Stray Birds.  Charlie Muench buttonholed the sound guys while Oliver Craven tested all the mikes, and Maya de Vitry (in a sexy red dress and cowboy boots) made sure the instruments she shares with Oliver were arrayed just right.  They're perfectionists and can approach perfection in my mind; I just love them.

They didn't sing any of the "old" stuff (meaning a few years old at most) from their first album, but did a great number of originals and recent tunes.  Muench is just note-perfect on bass, Craven is the combination of soulful and laid-back that you want in a lead singer ... and he's not afraid to take the lead and to emote on his cowboy songs.  And de Vitry is not only a great fiddle and guitar player, but has written some funky, heartfelt, *original* tunes that they've arranged incredibly well.  She may actually look weirder than the early Gillian Welch when she sings :).  They arranged themselves around one mike, dipping in and out for instrumental and vocal solos, and then singing the piss out of those tunes all together, harmonizing to the hot, early-afternoon sun.  You have got to see these guys.

Dave left at that point for Polaris on the Four Rivers Stage, but I stuck around to see a bit of the next act, Langhorne Slim & The Law.  I'd checked out these guys on YouTube before the concert and was not that impressed, but they were really good live.  They played some swampy, blue-eyed soul with plenty of pop mixed in.  Your grandmother would probably have liked them, especially when Slim mixed it up with the crowd, crooning onto his remote mike, and kissing old ladies and babies.  They were fun!

... but I took off after 5 or 6 tunes (and after downing LOTS of water) and headed downhill for the other stages.  I missed Hayley Reardon on the Parlor Room Stage, so checked out a couple of songs from Polaris on the Four Rivers Stage.  Kind of formulaic Brit-rock with tortured bass leading up to showy guitar bits, but good if you like that kind of stuff.

Strolled among the vendors, ran into our friends on the field, and hobnobbed with them for a while ... it was much cooler walking around as opposed to sitting and broiling.

Then I got a good spot for the Milk Carton Kids on the Four Rivers Stage and they were as good or better than I expected!  Other people may have used this simile before, but they're like a cross between Simon & Garfunkle and Welch & David Rawlings.  Joey Ryan even plays a tenor(?) guitar that is shaped and sounds remarkably like Rawling's, though it has different sound holes and a handkerchief on the upper frets.  Kenneth Patengale is a spookily-great singer and guitar player, and has a deadpan sense of humor that had the crowd cracking up.  They were in suits on that hot day and he said that they had fired their staff for telling them that it was a "business-formal" occasion.  These guys may have played the most enjoyable set of the weekend for me.

BUT!  Had to take off before they were done because I needed to get back up the hill.  Stopped by the Parlor Rom Stage on the way and saw Arc Iris (particularly Jocie Adams, in glitter jumpsuit and fairy cape) for a tune.  Their keyboard player was going nuts and I could see Dave down front (as well as a bunch of other 20-somethings) digging the hell out of it.

Got back to my seat at the Main Stage in time to drink a bunch more water and to groove to J Mascis.  I knew he had a big name on the grunge rock scene (Dinosaur, Jr) and I really liked what I'd seen of him on YouTube.  His set was very good: aurally aggressive (your grandmother ran away screaming), laid back (when he broke a string he apologized and reached for another guitar, no drama), and catchy and tuneful at the same time.  This was a beautiful time to mellow out to weird sounds while the afternoon sun slowly turned a little bit less hot and more orange.  I got a chicken fajita from La Veracruzana with a bit of guacamole and some of their hottest sauce and was in love ... had a few more of those that weekend!

Time to take off again.  I wanted to catch a little of Lydia Loveless but wasn't sure of the timing.  I went by the Parlor Stage first and was just in time to pull up a patch of grass in front of the stage (my shorts got muddy from sitting on the ground, but who cares?) and see Charlie Parr, Kris Delmhorst, and Matt Lorenz (The Suitcase Junket) doing an "in the round" thing.

I've commented on Lorenz above, and he was perhaps even more entertaining than he'd been to open the afternoon, and I could see his setup better.  But the great part of this was Charlie Parr, a wizard on slide steel and way-blues songs about seeing the sun when you're far down, and Kris Delmhorst, whom I've seen several times before and am enthralled by.  She'd held back the emotion when I'd seen her perform before but shone in this setting, playing Bees, asking for percussion help from Lorenz on her second tune, and then just melting us all with Homeless.  These guys were an odd lot but were so much what you want in an "in the round," stepping up the ante all the time (though have I mentioned it was a hot, mellow day?) and causing each other to think, "That was great, oh I know how to top that!"  I stuck around for three songs from each of them, which was pretty near the whole set.

Tore myself away and realized I'd totally missed Loveless so went back up the hill for Booker T. Jones.  If you've never heard Booker T. and the MGs than I pity you.  His sweet spot is where R&B became soul music.  Dave was up front for this and grooving away, as he should be.  After the big-time intros, Booker T. came out and hammered the heck out of an electric piano/organ setup and sang some tunes from our collective memories.  He also had his son Ted on guitar and played some guitar himself.  One of the first songs he did was a cover of a tune by "a skinny guitar player who I met at the Monterey Folk Festival," Hey Joe (actually written by Billy Roberts) ... which was awesome.

BUT!!!  Stray Birds were playing again and after weighing the options I had to head back down to the Parlor Room Stage to hear them.  It also worked into the equation that even though the sun had started to go down it was still dang hot and I needed a break.  I sat down on the hillside and watched Charlie and Oliver do the same thing they had at the Main Stage, driving the sound guys crazy and getting the sound exactly perfect.  Then they went on and played another excellent set.   Sarah joined me for a bit for their set but then headed back uphill to catch more of Booker T. ... and more water.

At one point between songs Oliver said, "Wait ... are there balloons lifting into the air behind us??"  He had seen something in our eyes and when the answer was "Yes," he and Maya put down their instruments and ran off the stage to go look.  Charlie was at first dismayed by this lack of professionalism, then realized that it was a damn festival and we were all there to have fun, so he went and joined them for a quick look.

I'd thought that the crowd for Marco Benevento might already be filling in by the end of the preceding set, but the hillside at the Parlor Room stage remained pretty empty at that point.  There were an incredible number of people wearing Dead t-shirts and other gear this year, probably related to it being Dead50.  There was also an incredible amount of pot smoking!  I'd maybe seen one or two people in previous years sneaking off to adjoining fields, and had a good idea what they were doing.  But this year there were actually people passing joints and pipes in their seats at the Main Stage!?!  Had pot suddenly been legalized??  Even if so I thought it a little rude of people to smoke it in a crowd with likely a lot of non-smokers around, and lots of kids too.  Oh well.

Wandered a bit and saw a little of the last circus performance of the day and got some close-up looks at balloons being inflated and wafting away.  There was a bagpiper serenading them as they cut their ties with the ground.  I got some pictures of the aliens who'd suddenly appeared at the GRF and had marched in the Mardi Gras Parade uphill.  At the height of the afternoon there were seemingly more people on the GCC grounds than I'd ever seen before.  The whole set of fields were jam-packed with people, vendor stands, stages, balloons, circus performers, and aliens.

Then Dave joined me and is was time to smoosh up in front of the stage, standing with the late-arriving crowd.  Marco Benevento is twice-removed from the Grateful Dead.  That is, he's played in bands with people who've played with the Dead.  That's close enough!

And this was another finest set of the concert.  Scott joined us for what he first thought was just a quick look ... he was excited about seeing tUnE-yArDs on the Main Stage.  But he was amazed and after a few songs uphill he was back downhill for the rest of it.  Benevento was accompanied by an excellent drummer and by Dave Dreiwitz (whom we'd seen him with in JRAD) on bass, and those guys ... with the aid of lots of sampled tracks ... just blew us all away with songs, sounds, and jazzy, synthesized beats.  Benevento is an incredible keyboardist and knocked us over with some of his runs.

Marco was playing an old upright and had a really large number of filters and effects.  Not all of the switches he needed would fit onto the piano ... they were crammed in every free space.  Dreiwitz was holding down the funk and the drummer (after a stoned attendee insisted that his tom-toms weren't miked right and that they had to be fixed) was awesome.  In the crowd, dancing up in front with us, were the guitarist from And the Kids (who weren't playing the GRF this year) and Jocie Adams and her keyboardist from Arc Iris.  Marco invited the women up to sing with him.

And then the aliens invaded!  Scott was back for that and we were all pretty smooshed in already in front but dancing wildly, and then the whole crew of aliens bulled their way in and made it even more wild and crowded!  Marco asked some of them up on stage too and it was wonderful how many windows between performer and crowd and reality and dancers and life on Earth were being shattered!  This was incredible fun and I wish I had pictures of that, but I was dancing too hard.  The stage announcer actually had Marco come back up for an encore; there was a lot of love between the performers and the crowd in that set.

But it was finally over ... and then it was time to dash back up to the Main Stage for Rubblebucket!!!  This was one of the acts we most wanted to see.  When they'd announced the lineup back in April and we saw Rubblebucket would be back we just couldn't resist.  The crowd had thinned out a bit by then and there was room for our friends to all rush forward and join us in wild celebration.  I had told myself that I shouldn't feel obligated to jump up and down to Rubblebucket, but before I knew it I was doing that, and so was everyone else all around me.  Their sound is amazingly infectious.

And they put on a fantastic show.  This was the sixth time we'd seen them and we were amazed by how professionally they run their shows compared to the raw, explosive talent we'd seen when we first saw them.  They opened with Silly Fathers but only did a few of their early songs, Came Out Of a Lady among them.  They concentrated on their later stuff and did some great tunes I hadn't heard before, as well as the best tracks from their new record, Sound Of Erasing and Carousel Ride, as well as a weirded out mix of Save Charlie.

They had the core of Kalmia, Alex, Adam, and Ian as well as a keyboardist I think we've seen with them before, a great new bassist who joined in on all the dance moves, a drummer/percussionist, and a flugelhorn player who joined them for the last few tunes.  Of course they jumped off the stage and mingled with the crowd.  But then they got invaded by the aliens too!  The aliens were moving almost as well as the band while the crowd jumped up and down and roared in delight.

OK, we could have gone down hill for a little more music but we were spent by then and it was time to leave.  Gathered our stuff and headed back for the car after a long, long, hot, fun day.  Made it out of the parking lot (with a glimpse of Antibalas rocking the Four Rivers Stage) and through the traffic, and then headed West while everyone else turned East.  Got back to the Red Rose just before the others, but then joined Scott, Michelle, and Tristan for a long session of yucking it up as the night got later and later.  A train came by on the tracks on the other side of the Deerfield River and spooked us all.  Finally made it to bed by 1:30 or so.  One more hot day to go!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Green River Festival 2015, Friday

Sarah and I took the day off on Friday, July 10th to get ready for our trip out to Greenfield.  Dave had to work until 11 and we picked him up in a summer/tourist/truck/traffic/heat-clogged Boston at a bit after 11, then hit the road for the West.

Made very good time out to Greenfield, where we eased into the small city, found a great parking place, and walked over to the People's Pint on Federal Street for a fine lunch.  Tried their cask old ale and their Pilsner while Dave tried a couple of their pale ales and Sarah tried their ciders.  I had a peanut noodle salad with pulled pork, which was fantastic (and I didn't finish).

Back in the car soon and left the hot city for the slightly cooler Mohawk Trail, pulling into the Red Rose Motel around 2:30.  This is just a few hundred yards past the Ox Bow, which is closed for 2015 and may re-open soon under new ownership.  But we loved the Red Rose: met their staff, fit our stuff into the room, emailed the others that we'd arrived, and went for a swim in their pool.  By then it was time to leave for the concert (gates at 5) and none of the others had arrived yet, so we headed out.

Took the Old Greenfield Road into town over Charlemont Mountain and had no problem popping out on Coltrain Road right at the entrance to the Greenfield Community College.  Parked and grabbed a fine patch of grass for our chairs, halfway between the soundboard and stage just to the right of the electrical conduit.

First up was a band I'm really excited about, Twisted Pine.  We'd seen them at Freshgrass last Summer and then at the Academy of Music in Northampton for the Signature Sounds bash last Fall.  They came out and it was quite a shock that they were missing Adam Moore, their bassist, lead singer, and dominating personality.  He's listed in the program so I guess this was a *very* recent development.

So Dan Bui moved from mandolin to bass (he could barely reach the top of the fretboard), they had a new mandolinist (Jeff Lewis), and Rachel Sumner (guitar) and Kathleen Parks (fiddle) took over the vocals.  And believe it or not, they were debatably better than they had been with Moore!  I think the vocals were too crowded with Moore dominating and the incredible talents of Sumner and Parks not being used to their full extent.  Bui is a fantastic bluegrass player and was a fine fill-in on bass, and the new guy was pretty good himself.

They did a few classic bluegrass tunes to warm up, and then knocked us over with Kathleen Parks's new song, Lonestar, then Rachel Sumner channeling the 16th century with an excellent work-up of Child Ballad 6 (King Willy), and then Ricky Mier showing some slick composing and playing on his banjo-and-fiddle tune, Cassiopeia.  The interplay between him on banjo and Parks on fiddle is amazing and is one of the things I appreciate most in a neo-traditionalist bluegrass band.  OK, it's way too early to classify these Berklee products as neo-traditionalist or anything else, they have an amazing reservoir of raw talent and I'm looking forward to listening to them for years.

The balloon inflation was starting on a calm and pretty warm night down on the lower field, and I took a short detour down there to watch and stroll around.  Stopped by the Four Rivers Stage and got a quick glimpse of Jose Gonzalez and Banda Criolla, then popped back up the the main field and grabbed a vegetable wrap.

The balloons started taking off, and it was time for the next act, Heather Maloney.  We've seen Heather several times ... she played the GRF last year with the band Darlingside.  But I definitely thought this was the best performance I've heard from her.  She was accompanied by a drummer and another guitar player. and she really sounded fantastic.

Next up was the Pine Hill Project, Richard Shindell and Lucy Kaplansky's outfit.  We'd seen them in Cambridge recently, but this time they didn't have quite as good a band.  They were accompanied by a conga player/percussionist, and excellent guitarist Duke Levine.  I've loved Shindell's and Kaplansky's music for a long time, but I have to say I've been very underwhelmed the two times I've seen this outfit.  Shindell started trying to play an electric a few years ago and is not as brilliant on it as he was in his old style.  And they persist in playing covers, which they don't add as much to as you'd hope.  They did do an excellent Ten Year Night (Kaplansky's song) and Next Best Western (Shindell's song), and their cover of I Know You Rider (the only "Dead" song we heard all weekend) is fun.  But they could do better.  They're less than the sum of their parts.

And speaking of doing better, the Eilen Jewell band came out next and did one of the performances of the weekend.  Another bass surprise here: no Johnny Sciascia (I hope this isn't permanent), but the guy they had filling in was excellent himself and the rest of the band just knocked it out of the park.

They concentrated on songs from their new album and showcased Eilen's guitar playing, which has suddenly blossomed to my ear.  Of course, Jerry Miller is no slouch himself and Jason Beek was as good as ever on drums and backup vocals.  I've seen these guys many, many times, and may have enjoyed this set better than any of them (though sets they did in the Narrows Center and in Passim come to mind as soon as I type that ... oh well!).

The tide had come in on the GRF earlier in the evening, as people got out of work and frantically filled the place, buying food, watching the balloons while sprawled out on the hillside, and enjoying the fantastic music on two stages.  The tide had started to go out by the time Eilen ended though, as it was getting pretty late and the evening actually started to get a little chilly.  Scott and Michelle had arrived and stopped by our seats during the course of the evening.

We saddled up and headed back to the Red Rose, where we met the guys and ended up sitting and talking late into the night over at the picnic area, well away from the rooms.  I had a sweatshirt on by then but the temperature kept dropping and the wind picked up.  We went to bed with the windows open ... no need for air conditioning ... and had a fine night's sleep, though Dave got a little cold and crinkled on the pull-out couch.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Fare Thee Well Couch Tour, part 3

After another sunny, warm summer day, we settled down to watch the Dead again!  We'd discovered in the course of warming up with the last few Songs Of Their Own videos that one of my faithful ADS L400 speakers (probably @40 years old) was buzzing, and on inspection the foam surrond of the bass speaker had deteriorated.  Replaced it with a pair of smaller Bose speakers and it was ok, though not optimal.

Another note was that the US was in the final of the Woman's World Cup against Japan, starting at 7.  They romped, jumping out to a 4-0 lead and ending at 5-2.  There was some overlap with the concert, but we switched the game off as soon as it ended.

So ... on to the concert.  If yesterday had been a big deal, this was a humongous one with hot and cold running celebrities, a packed stadium, even more fireworks than there'd been on the 4th, and lots of pressure.  And the band just shone like you wouldn't believe!  They did a group hug and a bow to the audience before starting, and then played an awesome concert from start to finish.  Here's the first set:

China Cat Sunflower >
I Know You Rider
Estimated Prophet
Built To Last
Samson & Delilah
Mountains Of The Moon >
Throwing Stones

  • The China/Rider pairing of course was held back to the last night.  I knew it was coming but was stunned when they opened with it.  Trey had a little trouble with the twisting China Cat lyrics, but then the whole ensemble took over for I Know You Rider, and all participated in the iconic lines Garcia used to sing famously, like "I wish I was a headlight on a North-bound train."
  • Bobby has been singing excellently on the Fare Thee Well tour and we knew he was going to go over the top when they launched into Estimated (again we were surprised to hear this so early in the first set).  And he did, whispering and then shouting and then pointing at the crowd, and then trailing off, almost singing to himself, before shouting some more, with his eyes and veins bulging.
  • I was delighted again when they broke into Built To Last, one of my favorites.  Bruce sang it beautifully.
  • A last-minute prediction of mine was that they'd do Samson, but in the middle of the first set?!?  Still, this was a great version with the drummers thundering and Bob screaming.
  • Next was a long intro, and soon it was obvious to Phil fans what they were playing.  He stepped up to the mike and sang Mountains Of the Moon almost as perfectly as he'd sung Box Of Rain the other day.
  • They went right into Throwing Stones after that, again with Bobby preaching to the crowd, and getting the whole stadium to shout along with "ashes ashes."

In all, a fantastic first set.  More Neal Casal sound, more aerial shots, a full fireworks display, and then it was time for the last set.  Here's what they played:

Terrapin Station >
Drums >
Space >
Unbroken Chain
Days Between >
Not Fade Away

  • Understandable that they'd repeat Truckin', which had been the tour opener.  They had to give Chicago (and everybody around the world) one more opportunity to sing along, like we were all in Turlock.
  • And then another classic in Cassidy, but turned into a long jam vehicle which allowed all the musicians to excel.  Incredibly well-played.
  • Same with Althea, which is perhaps Sarah's favorite song.  It's like they'd been reading all our setlists!  Trey shone on vocals on this; this was the perfect song for his voice, just as Built To Last seemed almost written for Bruce's voice.
  • Of course, they had to do Terrapin on the last night.  We'd speculated that they might do the whole suite, but they stuck to the shorter version, Weir and Lesh sharing the vocals.
  • Drums and Space were again not as drawn out as they might have been, and then Space gradually coalesced into the beautiful Unbroken Chain.  We were again surprised and delighted.  Actually, the guys did Space > Unbroken at the last Chicago show, in 1995.
  • And then they had to do Days Between, Garcia and Hunter's ultimate tribute to the passage of time.  Weir's vocal tone on this was wonderful.  There was no shouting here, just beautiful singing.
  • And then they ended with one of their (actually, Buddy Holly's) seminal rockers.  The crowd wanted to sing along and this was their chance, a full stadium and lots of people at theaters and on their couches clapping and singing along.  Our love will not fade away.

Ack!  It was all over except for another Donor Rap and the encore.  Bob came out with a "Let Trey Sing" t-shirt, and they did, letting him and Bruce split the vocals on another song they just had to play, Touch Of Grey.

They left the stage after this and the crowd roared and roared until they finally came back, Bob again sporting an acoustic.  This time they closed with Attics Of My Life, with Trey and Phil joining in a capella.  "When there was no dream of mine, you dreamed of me."

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Fare Thee Well Couch Tour, part 2

Another day, another Dead concert in our living room!  We settled in to watch at the end of the day on our nation's birthday, with very high expectations based on their progression skyward over the first few nights.  As it tuned out, the July 4th concert was a bit spotty; no surprise given the Dead's tradition of blowing the big ones.

As might be expected, the ultimate iconic American band playing in the heart of the country on the 4th of July *was* a big one.  President Barack Obama issued a statement that day calling the Dead's music an expression of American "creativity, passion, and ability."  The owners of the Empire State Building in New York arranged to flash lights all over the building in time with the encore.  And I'm sure people all over the world were watching ... I'd like to see the numbers.

And a spotty Grateful Dead concert is still fantastic.  Actually, the first set was as good as the night before had been, though with a few oddities.  Here's the setlist:

Shakedown Street
Standing On The Moon
Me & My Uncle
Tennessee Jed
Cumberland Blues
Little Red Rooster
Friend Of The Devil

  • They opened with Shakedown Street!  Wonderful choice, but this was a very laid back version and didn't get as funky or go on for as long as one would have hoped.  There was a little lack of synch on the stage that first showed up during this tune.
  • We should have called Liberty as a song they'd play on the 4th!  I really like this possibly-last-great song from one of the best songwriting tandems ever, and they really did a fantastic version here, led by Weir on vocals.
  • Trey took over the great vocals for Standing On the Moon and sang this almost as perfectly as Phil had sung Box Of Rain the night before.  Fantastic stuff, and this also stood out as a song about America.
  • Then finally a cowboy song, the classic MAMU!  But this was a bit perfunctory and just as we were ready for it to kick into high gear and go into Big River, they brought it down and ended with a whimper.  Oh well.
  • But then they went right to the top again.  I've heard Tennessee Jed a million times, it was covered by Levon Helm with great success, and is a favorite song for Dead cover bands to do.  But this version of it was just electrifying.  On some songs the band has shown a lack of practice, but this was tight!!
  • But then it got weird again.  They started into an intro and we couldn't believe that they were about to repeat Cumberland.  This was a fine, more bluegrassy than folky, version of the song and I probably liked it better than the one last weekend.  But to repeat a song when there were so many they were trying to fit in??  We were puzzled.
  • And then Bobby got out his slide and they kicked into a blues groove.  Actually, Little Red Rooster was fantastic, and Bobby continued his great singing, along with some truly great keyboard playing from Jeff and Bruce.  But again, it was strange to us that they'd do this obscure cover song (though it's of course a classic from Illinois native Willie Dixon).  Jambase pointed out that it's the only song that they played at their first gig AND at their last, in Soldier Field in 1995.  So ok ... it was fitting.
  • And then finally a couple of "must plays" to end the first set in FOTD and Deal.  Phil sang FOTD in the original tempo (and with the missing last verse), and the musicianship in that and in Deal (especially Trey's guitar solos) were as good as they've been in this last tour.  Wonderful stuff!

We were totally psyched for the second set after that one.  The hour-long set break was lots of fun itself, with another great intermission soundtrack from Neal Casal, and breathtaking shots of the Chicago area from a blimp, including birds-eye views of the PACKED Stadium and environs, low shots of Soldiers Field with all of the huge city of Chicago spread out behind it, fireworks over the lake, and snarled traffic everywhere.  We were able to pick out where we would have been sitting if we had opted for the obstructed view tickets there.  Even that nose-bleed section was chock full of people (the Chicago shows were officially sold out of course) and would possibly have given us a bit of a view.  There was a little regret that we didn't do that, but not much.  Santa Clara had been such a great experience, and to do both may possibly have been too much for us.

The guys came back on stage for the second set finally, and proceeded to throw us ... maybe not a stinker ... but basically a set that didn't live up to expectations.  I say again, oh well!  Here's the list:

Bird Song
The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)
Lost Sailor >
Saint Of Circumstance
West L.A. Fadeaway
Foolish Heart
Drums >
Space >
Stella Blue >
One More Saturday Night

  • This was a great, wonderful Bird Song (which was vital for them to play in the Fare Thee Well concerts), and included Phil singing "him" rather than "her."  But a few weirdnesses started here.  We think there must have been some electronic difficulties on stage, as at times they acted like they really weren't hearing each other well.  And it was strange that their previous three second sets had all been seamless and then this was a lot more labored.
  • Trey tried to take off on The Golden Road (a song I considered a must play), but the band seemed out of synch.  The best part of this was Trey and Bruce sharing the main vocals and the whole band kicking in for "Hey Hey!  Come right away!"  Seminal 60s stuff.
  • But then to stop dead and then go into Sailor/Saint?!?  In Billy's recent book he had talked about him and Mickey disliking this pair of songs, and we thought they were only doing songs they all really liked!?!  Mickey did put on his white sailor hat for this, and that caused a bit of a chuckle.
  • And then West L.A. (sung excellently by Bruce)?!?  Another strange choice ... great song and perhaps another standard about America and the choices this country affords us, but unexpected.  The subsequent Foolish Heart was more like it and again Trey started off well, but the band got a little more and more disorganized as it went along.
  • Then one more strange thing, to go into Drums from a standing start?  Nice drum segment, but even the two drummers showed some lack of ability to hear, sometimes not agreeing on the beat unless they were right next to each other.
  • Nice space segment and then Bobby slayed us again with a Garcia ballad, singing one of my favorite Dead songs, Stella Blue.  Great vocals saved the day yet again, and Trey rose above the muddy sound for a couple of dominating guitar excursions here.
  • And then One More Saturday Night to close the ultimate Saturday night on the 4th of July!!!  Bob didn't sing about Barack putting on his dancing shoes (getting the meter right would have been tough), but all of America was up and dancing to this, shoes or not.  The light show was in high gear, the photography of the packed Stadium was fantastic, and everything was right in America.

OK, that second set was not great and had some strange song choices, but it had been incredible fun anyway.  And everyone knew what the encore was going to be.  How could Bob Weir not sing U.S. Blues on this incredibly meaningful night?  The crowd went crazy, the whole continent rocked, more fireworks were set off around Soldier Field, and the Empire State Building in New York flashed colors in time with the encore in Chicago.

Sorry to bad-mouth this concert (well, just the second set really), which featured some great individual performances.  I've mentioned the stellar vocals, but there were some truly transcendent/spacey/bluesy runs by Hornsby on his beautiful Steinway and by Chimenti on the B3 (that had previously belonged to Brent Mydland).  Anastasio also fascinatingly and successfully walked that fine and difficult line between playing the guitar parts that needed to be played and not sounding like a Jerry clone.  The core 4 of course showed their incredible talent, ranging between Lesh playing the bass like a banjo, Weir creating guitar sounds that had not been previously invented, and Kreutzmann and Hart making beautiful sounds by banging everything they could reach.

I'm really looking forward to the END tonight.  Hope they don't blow this one ... or maybe I do! :)

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Fare Thee Well Couch Tour, part 1

As discussed in earlier posts, we did not get tickets to the Fare Thee Well shows in Chicago.  If we'd persisted in the last month we might have, but possibly at a real expense and very probably involving complicated logistics to get there and have somewhere to stay.  We were incredibly glad to have had the experience we had in Santa Clara last weekend, perhaps above going to Chicago for the final shows, and we were more than psyched to settle down at home with a cranked stereo, and the excellent video feed they've been featuring on the web.

Had a bit of angst when we watched a replay of the shows in Santa Clara on that feed during the week and there were some glitches, but realized that if we: a) turned off wifi on my laptop (hooked up to the stereo/TV monitor), b) hooked up an ethernet cable instead, c) turned off other applications using bandwidth, we would probably be happy.  As it turns out, there were three(?) video drop-outs on the feed last night, but they only lasted for a few seconds each and the feed recovered to where it had dropped instead of jumping ahead.  Not bad.

Great news was that M&G could stop by, fresh off their idyll on the Cape.  I worked at home on Friday (7/3), they came by at the end of the afternoon, and we went out to Ixtapa's for yet another Mexican dinner before a Grateful Dead show.  Fidgeted around when we got back to make sure everything was set up right and we were in the right mind-set.  And then we lined up on the couch to watch.

The guys came on around 7:25 (local time) and immediately knocked the ball so far out of the park that they're still looking for it.  Here's the first set:

  • Box Of Rain
  • Jack Straw
  • Bertha >
  • Passenger
  • The Wheel >
  • Crazy Fingers >
  • The Music Never Stopped

I'll probably go to my death thinking this was the best live Box Of Rain I've ever heard.  That 75-year old guy tuned up, stepped up to the mike, and did a perfect vocal all the way through one of the greatest songs ever written.  Sure it was the first song and there were sonic adjustments going on.  But he just nailed us to the clouds with his enthusiasm, his tone, and his perfect rendering of the words.  There was next to no back-up, as opposed to some other excellent versions I've heard, but he didn't need any and that was one of the things that made this one so perfect.  This was awesome.

The band then stopped, and went into a jam that quickly evolved into a textbook intro to Jack Straw if you're a Furthur listener.  Bobby took the Jack Straw part and Phil sang Shannon.  It was clear from the start here that Trey was going to shine yet again tonight, possibly exceeding the magic he'd spun in Santa Clara.  And this is Bruce's Dead song after all.

One of my only complaints about the night (and it's a small one) was that Bruce was not loud enough in the mix.  They seem to have set up with more shielding between the drums, the piano, and the guitars to defeat leakage in the sound.  But I think this meant they had some other hurdles to overcome, and they never got the piano sounding right.  We think they must have a different mix on the live feed than they do for the audience (from comparing what we saw of Santa Clara to what we heard live), and we hope that when we get the DVD of the Chicago shows that this will be worked out.  Oh well, small complaint as I say.

Trey then took a turn at Bertha, and I for one was very glad to hear this, it was one of my top-desired tunes.  As I say, he was upping his game on guitar with every song, just excellent stuff.  But I think he was sometimes too psyched when he did a lead vocal(!).  An example was Bertha, where his body language shouted out, "Look guys, I'm singing Bertha with the fucking Grateful Dead!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"  Again, a small quibble, but when you're this close to the most excellent stuff ever, little things can be noticed.

And then they went into Passenger, a totally unexpected tune.  The ensemble playing reached a new peak here, especially with that wizard Chimenti contributing R&B organ in the finest Grateful Dead fusion-tradition.

They scratched their asses something serious next, Phil commenting that things were not absolutely perfect, which was a delightful return to his classic line about them fucking around.  This would have been a great time for Bobby's "hunter" joke, but perhaps another day.  And then what did they do?  They turned us on our heads again.  The Wheel is always done as the latter part of a segue, often from the deepest space.  But here they did it from a standing start and played it so perfectly that the crowd was (a little) hesitant to sing along.

The next two songs had been done in the sound check on Thursday.  They went into just a great cover of the supremely difficult Crazy Fingers.  Trey sang again and did not miss a beat, though again his vocal was not top-notch.  Whatever, his leads were on fire and the rest of the band made this classic song into a delight.  And from there they went into Music and the entire world melted and swirled together.  There's fireworks, calliopes, and clowns.  I have no idea what to say about this song because every bit of it was so excellent.

We'd speculated endlessly (as one might gather) about what songs they *had* to play, what songs they would play, and why they hadn't done this or that when the situation so obviously called for it.  But the Dead are idiosyncratic to say the least, and what they were trying to tell us was, "Stop stressing about our song selection and just listen.  THESE are the songs we want to play at our farewell concerts and that may give you a clue as to what we think are our best musical achievements."  We were listening.

Shifted around and re-fueled at the break.  This lasted almost an hour again, but we had no problem with that.  This had been just an epic first set (except for Bruce being too low in the mix), and we knew that the second set was going to take us to outer space.

And then the second set started and it sure did.  M&G had been off the grid and not experienced Santa Clara, and M was just gobbledy-smacked at the quality of the playing we'd heard so far; and then was even more so in the second set.  The production we had enjoyed so much in California was apparently translating well to the wider, more shallow Soldier Field stadium.  There were a lot of people on camera and at our house having a grand time!  Here's what we saw in the second set:

  • Mason's Children > 
  • Scarlet Begonias >
  • Fire On The Mountain >
  • Drums >
  • Space >
  • New Potato Caboose >
  • Playing In The Band >
  • Let It Grow >
  • Help On The Way >
  • Slipknot! >
  • Franklin's Tower  

Again, I have a hard time commenting on this; everyone was playing so well and the singing was so excellent that it's difficult to single anything out.  Here are a few notes:

  • Mason's didn't make the cut for Workingman's and then rarely appeared in the Dead's stage show.  But Furthur (and P&F) have done it often and we were glad to hear it, though it could have used a bit more practice.
  • Scarlet/Fire was just fantastic, but Trey's leads were cut off a bit by the others ... again, a few more times through this and they could just kill it.
  • I was surprised they went into Drums so early in the set.  Mickey got out the bows on The Beam again.
  • And then another joker: New Potato!  They'd done Cryptical, Born Cross-Eyed, and of course TOO, so this was a little unexpected.  But really we should have expected it.  As I say, they were playing their favorite songs and this is one of the great building blocks on which the Dead sound is piled high.
  • And this made three Phil-written songs in the set, two of them with lyrics by Peterson.  How often has that occurred?  Research required here...
  • Then PITB into Let It Grow!  The flawless musicianship was back.
  • And then Help, etc.  Just untie the one string still tethering us to the ground and let us float up above the stadium, above the crowd, above our minds and earthly concerns.  Why can't we listen to this band forever?

Sarah had been up dancing for a good deal of the show, but us guys remained seated and it was pretty exhausting anyway!  M and I actually nodded during some of the set, but it was riveting and the nods were just momentary.  We exploded at the end of that set, it was so exhilarating.

Phil came out for his donor rap and you could tell he was over-excited himself, almost forgetting what he had to say.  Then Bobby started strumming the acoustic he'd just brought out, and the two of them traded off the verses on Ripple.  A wonderful ending to a wonderful night.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Santa Clara Pix (Blakesberg)

These are all from Jay Blakesberg's pictures, taken on 6/27.

Bob Weir:

Phil Lesh:

Bill Kreutzmann:

Mickey Hart:

Bruce Hornsby:

Trey Anastasio:

Jeff Chimenti (this was taken by Sarah (6/28), Blakesberg didn't publish an individual shot of him, unfortunately!):



Crowd and us!  We're the red circle:

Rainbow at end of first set:

Scaffold setup with lights and visualizations:

The crowd:

The guys: