All Things Neal Casal: One of America's Most Intriguing Guitarists October 19, 2018 12:46
Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
Photos by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography
When I finally decided to put Live & Listen into motion four years ago, one of my many goals was to create a valuable platform for up-and-coming bands. Through this, I would attempt to line up a variety of artist interviews, in an attempt to learn more about the music that I love. Thanks to a tremendous amount of love and support, this outlet has grown into what it is today.
In July of 2015, I musically peaked at Soldier Field in Chicago. This would be the closest experience I would ever have to a weekend with the Grateful Dead. The core four members would join forces with my favorite current musician, Trey Anastasio, as well as Bruce Hornsby and Jeff Chimenti. Entering the weekend, there was a notable buzz about the music and archival Dead video footage being played. It had a strong Garcia sound to it, but no one knew exactly who was behind it.
The world then learned that the band would be called Circles Around The Sun, which was led by guitarist Neal Casal. The response to this music was so strong, that the band officially took form in the summer of 2016 and have been pushing musical boundaries ever since. Earlier this week, I caught up with Neal to discuss this whole experience, his previous solo work, touring with the likes of Ryan Adams, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Hard Working Americans, and much more.
Let's start off with some background info. How did you get started playing music? When did this become a reality as a career?
Neal: I started playing music when I was twelve. I started playing guitar and was inspired by The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Led Zeppelin, and all the great English blues/rock bands. I joined some bands in middle school and high school. I was just obsessed with music, you know? It just took over my mind at a very early age. I couldn't stop thinking about it. It became a real obsession.
I guess it was around by junior year in high school when it comes time to speak with your guidance counselor to start deciding what your future is going to be. While all the other kids were deciding on colleges, I was deciding that I was going to live this gypsy life and make a life in music somehow. I set out to do it, and I did.
I'd say that was a pretty good decision.
Neal: Well, it was a good decision in many ways. In other ways, it's a pretty scary, unstable decision. There are a lot of things that people have at my age that I don't. It can be a risky thing. If you don't get really successful in music, it can be a tough road. There's no guaranteed stability or security in it. Those things get important as you get older, so it's hard to navigate if you haven't set those things up.
I don't regret my life in music though. I've certainly accomplished a lot. I've made people happy through my music and made friends all over the world. I made a lot of the dreams I had come true, so that part is cool (laughs).
I think that's a common misconception among music fans. They start seeing their favorite bands playing bigger venues and festivals, and they just assume that you're living the "rock star life."
Neal: That's true. Mine hasn't really been a rock star life. Granted, I've gotten to travel the world and see a lot of things that other people haven't. Some of the other life building events that people go though...I haven't had some of those things. It gets harder as you get older. I've definitely had an amazing life in music. That's for sure. I've gotten to make so many records, tour, take photographs, write songs, meet new friends, and all of that.
That's great. I know you touched on this topic just now, and you've probably answered this one many times, but I can't help but ask about your influences. Your overall tone and style of play is amongst my favorites.
Neal: Oh it's just an amalgamation of all the guitar players that I love. Starting with all all four of the Rolling Stones' guitarists: Mick Taylor, Keith Richards, Ron Wood, and Brian Jones. Then you have Neil Young, Steven Stills, Buffalo Springfield, Spirit, The Byrds, and all the California country / psychedelic rock stuff. Ry Cooder is a great slide player. Peter Green is another guy. The Grateful Dead is certainly in there too.
I don't know. I guess just listening to so much music for so many years, and having it all kind of synthesize into hopefully my own. I think you can hear pretty clearly the different influences that I carry with me. Maybe the combination that I've put together is a little bit different than others. I haven't invented anything as a guitar player. I've definitely put together a kit of influences that is pretty user friendly.
As a lead player, Mick Taylor was probably my main influence. There are all the great rhythm players, even the AC/DC guitar players. There's all the weird stuff, like the experimental sonic youth style music. Glenn Branca and all of those avant garde players that I wouldn't compare myself with. I do take some of that on, as far as atmospherics and damaged / chaotic sounds. I could go on and on. It's a long list.
I can imagine. Correct me if I'm wrong on this, but you released six solo albums between 1994 and 2000, right?
Neal: Yeah. That sounds right.
I was wondering how this experience leading your own project early on prepare you for your future work with Ryan Adams, Chris Robinson, Hard Working Americans, and others?
Neal: Well those were years spent learning to be a songwriter, you know? At the end of that day, no matter what kind of player you are, every player needs a song to sing or play. Those were the years I was learning to sing, write songs, make records, and play guitar in a record making fashion. Not really as some type of virtuoso instrumentalist, which I'm not and never will be. Learning to use the guitar as a songwriting and record making tool, rather than a focus of instrumental prowess or experimentation.
At that time in the 90's, I wasn't jamming so much as I was really trying to make good records and write good, concise songs. Three to four minute songs. How to really write a tune. How to compose and make good sounding records with good ensemble playing. Yeah, singing as well. Harmony singing, lead singing, all of it.
Those are the foundation of all of my skills really. I took those, of course, into playing with Ryan (Adams), because Ryan is a songwriter first and foremost. That's really his thing. He's a great singer, great guitar player, but ultimately, he will be known for his songs. I stepped right in and had the ability to play his songs and sing harmonies with him. My record making experience prior to that all came in handy.
With Chris (Robinson), it was the same thing. He's a singer and a songwriter. That's what sets us apart from some of the other jam bands out there. We're really a song and harmony band. All that stuff from the 90's, it keeps informing me now. It informed everything I did with the Hardworking Americans as well. Same thing. Todd Snider is a songwriter. I know how to play with singer songwriters, because I learned to be one when I was younger.
It's strong foundations to work from. I've become sort of known as this guitar player over the last few years. Being a part of this scene with Phil (Lesh), CRB, and Circles Around The Sun, but I'm not a virtuoso guitar player. I never have been. I was never known as one. I can't compete or keep up with a lot of these people I've gotten to play with and come to know. Jimmy Herring, Scott Metzger, and all of these really great guitar players on this scene. I don't consider myself one of them really.
I'm a good guitar player for sure, but I come from a different background. More of a songwriting and singing background. Just being in a band, you know? Rock bands, really.
Well let's talk about Circles Around the Sun. I was lucky enough to attend Fare Thee Well in Chicago. There was already a buzz about the set break music by the time we got to Soldier Field. How did this all come together?
Neal: It came together over a series of events that took a few years to gestate. It came about through a guy named Justin Kreutzmann, who is Bill Kreutzmann's son. Bill is obviously the drummer for the Grateful Dead. Justin is a great filmmaker, and he was put in charge of the visuals for the "Fare Thee Well" shows. This meant that on each side of the stage there were those big screens. They showed archival Grateful Dead footage and psychedelic montages going down to keep the audience entertained while the band wasn't playing.
I was asked by Justin to create an instrumental soundtrack to go along with those images. The reason he asked me is because we first met back in 2012. There was a film project called Move Me Brightly. It was done for what would have been Jerry Garcia's 70th birthday. That was done at Bob Weir's TRI Studios. Justin and I became friends at that point, and a few years later, he asked me to score Bob Weir's film, The Other One.
That went well, so Justin and I had been building on this relationship for a few years. He asked me to step in and do the music for the Fare Thee Well Shows. So, I put a band together. I asked Adam (MacDougall) from CRB, as well as Dan Horne and Mark Levy. We had very little time to prepare. We had no time to prepare, actually. We didn't write anything ahead of time. We just stepped into the studio and did everything on the spot.
We just tried to imagine the kind of music that we would want to hear if we were at a Grateful Dead show and hanging out at intermission. So we just imagined it and made it up on the spot. Just improvising a bunch of music over the course of two days. We got very lucky in the fact that people liked it.
Amazing. From what I recall, that ultimately led to the band's formal announcement and first performance at LOCKN', right?
Neal: Our first performance was actually at LOCKN' the following year (2016). But yes, when we did the music, there was no band name or intention of releasing it. It was music made for the purpose of those shows. People got really into it, and then Rhino approached us about releasing it. It all took on a life of it's own, because people liked it so much. We had no idea that people would like it at all. We didn't know that it would ever get that type of reaction. It was a huge shock to us, as a matter of fact. I wasn't sure if anyone would like it or think it was any good at all. We weren't sure if it was good. The fact that people flipped out the way that they did was an amazing surprise and a great bit of serendipity, you know?
The band released it's second album, Let it Wander, back in August. I've read that you guys feel like it was more like your first release. Can you elaborate on that a little more?
Neal: When we formed the group for the project, we had no idea if it would work. Would we have any chemistry? There wasn't much thought of it going past that Fare Thee Well project. As it turned out, we really sounded and felt like a band. There was really no reason to let it end there. That first batch of recordings went so well. Then we started doing shows, and those felt good too. We started coming up with song ideas and sound checks, and it just seemed natural that we should try it again and make another record.
As good as the first record was, it was actually really rushed. We did it in two days, and we didn't really mix it properly. It felt like just the beginning of something, so we decided to see if we could take it further and make an even better record. We went back to the same studio, wrote a bunch of material, and did it.
Honestly, I think it is superior to the first record. I really do. I think we furthered our ideas, refined them, and honed them in a lot better. I think this is a much more focused record, and sonically, it's a lot better as well. The first one was really just introduction to what we could do. We want to take it as far as we can. Take expectations and smash them through the roof, you know?
Watch the music video for Circles Around The Sun's "One for Chuck" here:
Absolutely. So you've continued to be one of the busiest guitarists in the scene, leading this band while also touring with CRB and formerly Hard Working Americans. I know there are other projects in there as well. Where do you begin when balancing your schedule?
Neal: It's gotten a lot easier, because now it's just CRB and Circles. Hard Working Americans made it really hard for a few years. That made it tough, because CRB and HWA were both playing a lot of the same venues and touring all of the time. That was really difficult, but now that that has ended, at least for now, CRB and Circles are much easier to manage. Having that third band in there made it tough.
Two bands...I can handle that. I'm in another band called The Skiffle Players with Dan Horn, the bassist for Circles. Skiffle Players are an amazing group, but we don't play a whole lot, so it's not that hard to navigate.
Well, just to finish up, soon you'll be gearing up for a big January run with Greensky Bluegrass. How valuable will this exposure be for you guys? What else can we expect from CATS in 2019?
Neal: Well, we're going to have a very short set each night. 45-50 minutes each night, which will be interesting. Circles music, as you know, takes a long time to unfold, so it's going to be interesting to see how we can do our thing within a really condensed amount of time. We've never had to do that before, but we're very excited to play with that band and get in front of their audiences. Hopefully, it will be a good fit. We're honored that they're taking us out. Hopefully, we can make us some new fans and generate some momentum for more shows and recordings.
I'd like to get back in the studio and make another Circles record next year. I just want to keep pushing this thing as far as it can go. I think we have a lot of music in us, and I love the idea of being in an instrumental band that can just weave these sonic tapestries of people. After years of being just a singer songwriter, it's really interesting and challenging for me to push myself in this direction.
Mark, Dan, and Adam are such amazing players. It's just a great opportunity to make these interesting sounds for people. They either pay attention or forget about it. Use it as background or foreground music. Maybe go to sleep to it, or wake up to it. Whatever you feel like doing. It's cool music. I just find it to be an interesting concept. There is something very satisfying about our sound. It lets me play guitar that I never have before. Those guys support me in a way that I've never experienced, and I hope I do the same for them. It's a cool group. We're just gonna keep going until we've said all that we have to say, I guess.
I couldn't agree more. I loved everything from the first release, and I'm getting much more familiar with the new album. It's great to hear more about the band's vision, because there is a tremendous amount of potential.
Neal: Yeah, there is a lot potential. There's some Krautrock influences that we didn't really have at all the first time. Creating music for the specific purpose of getting people to dance is really cool. I like having a direction in that way. We're not out there to give people our message through lyrics. It's only a rhythmic and energetic message. I'm really into that. It's like sign language or something. It's a different way of communicating.
That's really interesting. I've never thought about it from that perspective.
Neal: It's a way of speaking. It's a different language. You're not doing it through singing or words. You're doing it through this other means. It's cool to see if you can get through to people in that way. I like it. At Circles shows, when things are really going right, everyone gets into this sway. I can look at the audience and see them moving back and forth. If we can sustain that motion for an entire show, then we have succeeded. There's just a feeling about it that when it's working, there's this particular motion that I notice in a crowd. It's a really positive feeling. It's something that I want to do more of.
I can imagine that's a pretty rewarding feeling.
Neal: It's cool, for sure.
Watch the music video for Circles Around The Sun's "Gilbert's Groove" here:
Grateful Dead's 'Meet-Up at the Movies' in Select Theaters Tonight August 1, 2018 00:12
Meet up with friends and fellow Dead Heads in cinemas nationwide for the 8th Annual Grateful Dead Meet-Up at the Movies on Wednesday, August 1st. This special one-night event features the complete concert recorded at John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia on July 7, 1989
The Philadelphia concert offers a snapshot of the Dead’s 1989 tour, where the band played to some of its biggest audiences ever. The band helped raze the aging stadium, thundering through “Hell In A Bucket,” “Little Red Rooster” and Bob Dylan’s “Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again.”
Many sitting at north end of the open-air stadium recall the concrete bleachers trembling during Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann’s drum duet in the second set. The show closed with another Dylan cover, “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door,” the last song ever performed at JFK.
Don’t miss your chance to be a part of this Grateful gathering in movie theatres. Get your front row seats now!
Watch the official preview here:
Dead & Company Confirms 2018 Summer Tour Dates January 18, 2018 09:25
6/1/18 – Camden, NJ @ BB&T Pavilion++
6/2/18 – Camden, NJ @ BB&T Pavilion++
6/4/18 – Cincinnati, OH @ Riverbend Music Center
6/6/18 – Noblesville, IN @ Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center++
6/8/18 – Atlanta, GA @ Cellairis Amphitheatre at Lakewood++
6/9/18 – Raleigh, NC @ Coast Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek
6/11/18 – Saratoga Springs, NY @ Saratoga Performing Arts Center
6/13/18 – Hartford, CT @ XFINITY Theatre
6/15/18 – New York, NY @ Citi Field**
6/16/18 – New York, NY @ Citi Field**
6/19/18 – Darien Center, NY @ Darien Lake Performing Arts Center
6/20/18 – Cuyahoga Falls, OH @ Blossom Music Center
6/22/18 – East Troy, WI @ Alpine Valley Music Theatre
6/23/18 – East Troy, WI @ Alpine Valley Music Theatre
6/29/18 – Quincy, WA @ Gorge Amphitheatre
6/30/18 – Eugene, OR @ Autzen Stadium
7/2/18 – Mountain View, CA @ Shoreline Amphitheatre++
7/3/18 – Mountain View, CA @ Shoreline Amphitheatre++
7/6/18 – Chula Vista, CA @ Mattress Firm Amphitheatre++
7/7/18 – Los Angeles, CA @ Dodger Stadium
7/11/18 – Albuquerque, NM @ Isleta Amphitheater++
7/13/18 – Boulder, CO @ Folsom Field**^
7/14/18 – Boulder, CO @ Folsom Field**^
**Tickets are not available through Ticketmaster for these concerts
++Tickets go on sale Saturday, January 27 at 10AM local time
^Verified Fan Presale not available for Boulder, CO performances
Dead & Company Announces Rescheduled NOLA + Florida Dates December 8, 2017 10:31
Well, that didn't take long. Just three days ago, Dead & Company lead guitarist John Mayer was rushed to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy, forcing the band to cancel the last three shows of its fall tour. This was tough news for those expecting to see the band that night in New Orleans, as well as this weekend in Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando. If there's one thing that's certain, this band will always do what's right for its fan, and the latest announcement this morning only proves that notion even further. See below for the band's official statement regarding rescheduled dates for New Orleans, Ft. Lauderdale, and Orlando. Forever grateful!
"“The Dead & Company concerts that were postponed due to John Mayer’s emergency appendectomy have been rescheduled for 2/24 in New Orleans, 2/26 in Ft. Lauderdale, and 2/27 in Orlando. Tickets for the original shows will be honored at these newly announced 2018 dates. Should ticketholders choose to seek a refund, they will be available at point of purchase.”
Head over to the band's official website for further details!
Phil Lesh & The Terrapin Family Band Add Fall Tour Dates October 4, 2017 11:11
Seeing Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh perform outside of California is a fairly rare opportunity these days, which makes yesterday's announcement that much more exciting. Lesh & The Terrapin Family Band have announced a 8-show fall tour, which kicks off on October 25th in Washington, DC, and concludes at Nashville's Exit/In on November 18th. These shows come on the heels of two headlining sets at LOCKN' Festival, including a full performance of The Dead's Terrapin Station. Tickets to all eight shows go on sale this Friday, October 6th. Stay tuned for further updates on this run of shows!
Dead & Company Announces 2017 Fall Tour Dates September 7, 2017 11:45
Feel Good Fridays: The Main Squeeze's "Eyes Of The World" August 11, 2017 13:31
Coming off their 2016 Red Rocks debut and a summer filled with festival plays (KAABOO, Summer Camp, and High Sierra) the Squeeze now prepare to release their most potent work to date, a brand new hard-hitting sound that transitions them from the indie scene to the majors. Many have likely heard the band's numerous singles, such as "Message To The Lonely," "Dr. Funk," and "Sweat," on SiriusXM JamOn, as well as other radio stations across the country.
Dead & Company Reveal Plans For 'Playing In The Sand' In Mexico July 25, 2017 14:08
Clear your calendar, Dead & Company is heading to Mexico! February 15-18, 2018 the Dead-themed supergroup will be Playing In The Sand. This event will be an all-inclusive Caribbean concert vacation in beautiful Riviera Maya. Want in early? Sign up for access to a special presale before packages are available to the public: playinginthesand.co/dc. Presale will begin August 1st, and packages will be available to the public on August 3rd. Stay tuned for further details on what is sure to be one of the most exciting events of the new year.
The Stolen Faces Will Play Montgomery's Capri Theatre July 21, 2017 09:59
Photo by Thomas Diasio
Live & Listen and Vintage Year are pleased to reveal the initial plans for on a brand new series of concerts coming to Montgomery's Capri Theatre. 'The Vintage Concert Series' will feature a variety of top tier performances at one of the city's favorite historic venues. Renowned Grateful Dead tribute act The Stolen Faces will kick things off on Thursday, September 21st at 7:30 PM. A very limited amount of tickets will be available to this intimate performance, so we encourage you to purchase yours in advance. Tickets to this show will go on sale on Friday, July 28th and can be purchased by clicking here.
The Grateful Dead continue to have one of the most rabid and loyal followings of any band in history, and deservedly so: They wrote great songs, and they were excellent musicians and terrific improvisers who never played a tune the same way twice.
Grateful Dead cover band The Stolen Faces deftly capture the spirit of the Dead, covering a wide variety of songs from the band’s expansive catalog and delivering them with the sort of energy and spontaneity that might have you thinking you’re standing in the Fillmore West in 1971. Led by bassist Christian Grizzard, the group features guitarist Jack Silverman, drummer Matt Martin, and a rotating cast of some of Nashville’s top session and touring musicians.
The members of The Stolen Faces all share a love for the Dead, and for the freeform jamming and good vibes that music entails. The group puts a high premium on nailing the vocal harmonies, and has the instrumental firepower to take the extended jams into some seriously trippy sonic territory. In a short time, touring through Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas, they’ve begun to establish a reputation as one of the Southeast’s most solid and rockin’ Dead bands!
Artwork by Cy Simonton
Watch several clips of The Stolen Faces performing here:
Watch Phil Lesh & The Terrapin Family Band on 'Jam In The Van' July 6, 2017 21:16
Last week, Jam in the Van stopped by Phil Lesh’s Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael, CA, to record a session with Lesh and The Terrapin Family Band. Lesh, the founding bassist of the Grateful Dead, was joined by longtime collaborator Jason Crosby (keys), as well as his son Grahame Lesh (guitar), Ross James (guitar), and drummer Alex Koford. The five-piece performed a total of three songs: “Galilee,” “The Wheel,” and “Uncle John’s Band.” Full video footage of each song can be found below.
Lesh and The Terrapin Family Band have had a busy year thus far, frequently playing Terrapin Crossroads, as well as venues such as Brooklyn Bowl and even Monterey Pop Festival. The band will end the summer by teaming up with Bob Weir to recreate the Dead’s Terrapin Station at this year’s LOCKN' Festival.
Watch "Galilee" here:
Watch "The Wheel" here:
Watch "Uncle John's Band" here:
Celebrating 30 Years Of The Grateful Dead's 'In The Dark' July 6, 2017 10:07
Grateful Dead 'Meet Up' Announced For Jerry Garcia's 75th Birthday June 29, 2017 18:35
The 7th annual “Gratfeful Dead Meet-Up at the Movies” will feature a 1989 Grateful Dead concert at Washington D.C.’s RFK Stadium at theaters nationwide on Tuesday, August 1st. The one-night-only screening, presented by Fathom Events and Rhino Entertainment, commemorates what would have been Jerry Garcia’s 75th birthday. Highlights of the July 12, 1989 RFK show include the set-one opener “Touch Of Grey,” two songs with Bruce Hornsby sitting in (“Sugaree,” and “Man Smart [Woman Smarter]”), and one of the only filmed versions of “Black Muddy River.” The “Meet-Up” follows a theatrical showing of “The Grateful Dead Movie” earlier this year. Fans can find participating cinemas on the Fathom Events website.
Watch a 30 second trailer for the movie here:
Dark Star Orchestra Announces Fall Tour Dates June 28, 2017 13:01
Photo by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography
Grateful Dead tribute act Dark Star Orchestra will wrap up its 20th anniversary celebration with a lengthy fall tour which kicks off on September 21st in San Antonio. This tour will see the band through Texas, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin. A full list of tour dates can be found below. Ticketing and details on VIP options can be found on the band's official website.
Dark Star Orchestra Tour Dates
September 21 San Antonio, TX – The Aztec Theatre
September 22 Austin, TX – Stubb’s Austin
September 23 Dallas, TX – House of Blues Dallas
September 26 Salina, KS – Stiefel Theatre for the Performing Arts
September 28 Boulder, CO – Boulder Theater
September 29 Boulder, CO – Boulder Theater
September 30 Boulder, CO – Boulder Theater
October 2 Omaha, NE – Slowdown
October 5 Cleveland, OH – House of Blues Cleveland
October 6 Cincinnati, OH – Taft Theatre
October 7 Columbus, OH – Express LIVE
October 10 Grand Rapids, MI – The Intersection
October 12 Detroit, MI – The Majestic
October 13 Chicago, IL – The Vic Theatre
October 14 Milwaukee, WI – Pabst / Riverside / Turner Hal
Watch Bob Weir Perform "Loose Lucy" At Relix Studios June 28, 2017 11:56
Watch Bob Weir perform "Loose Lucy" at Relix Studios here:
Bob Weir Officiates Backstage Wedding At Citi Field June 26, 2017 23:02
Bob Weir was a busy man this weekend, but that didn't stop him from officiating the wedding of a longtime friend backstage at Citi Field on Saturday night. Real estate investor William “Billy” Procida, who jumped on stage and performed with Weir seventeen years ago, confirmed that the two became great friends following that show. The ceremony, which was also attended by Dead & Company pianist Jeff Chimenti, lasted approximately 15 minutes, with Weir and Chimenti hanging around after to chat and take photos with the 50-60 guests in attendance.
Immediately following, the family and around 2,000 of their closest friends celebrated and occupied an entire section at Citi Field for Dead & Company's Saturday night show. “Seventeen years ago I jumped on stage and did an encore with [Weir] and we became great friends,” Procida told Page Six on Monday, adding he’s been in with the band ever since. Procida also noted that the ceremony was “beautiful and funny,” explaining that “at the end, [we] forgot to sign the marriage license. He was getting on a golf cart to go on stage and I had to chase him!” (via Page Six)
Watch footage of the wedding ceremony via Page Six here:
Celebrating 48 Years Of The Grateful Dead's 'Aoxomoxoa' June 20, 2017 10:24
The Grateful Dead began their career as the Warlocks, a group formed in early 1965 from the remnants of a Palo Alto, California jug band called Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions. The band's first show was at Magoo's Pizza located at 639 Santa Cruz Avenue in suburban Menlo Park, California, on May 5, 1965. Coincidentally, Velvet Underground was also performing under that name on the East Coast. After literally opening a dictionary and falling on 'Grateful Dead', the band would perform under its permanent name for the first time in San Jose, CA on December 4th, 1965 at one of Ken Kesey's 'Acid Tests'.
After signing with Warner Brothers Records, the band hit the studio hard over the next few years; releasing their debut self-titled album in 1967 and Anthem Of The in 1968. Just two months before the inaugural Woodstock in 1969, the Dead released its third studio album Aoxomoxoa. One of the first rock albums to be recorded using 16-track technology, fans and critics alike consider this era to be the band's experimental apex. This was the second studio album to feature second drummer Mickey Hart, who joined the band in 1967. The title is a meaningless palindrome created by cover artist Rick Griffin and lyricist Robert Hunter and is usually pronounced "ox-oh-mox-oh-ah."
When looking at Grateful Dead history, quite a few are connected with Aoxomoxoa. It is the first album the band recorded entirely in or near their original hometown of San Francisco. It is the only studio release to include pianist Tom Constanten as an official member. It was also the first to have lyricist Robert Hunter as a full-time contributor to the band, which cemented the Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter songwriting partnership that endured for the rest of the band's existence. It was also the first time the band would emphasize acoustic songs (such as "Mountains of the Moon" and "Dupree's Diamond Blues"), which would become the focus of the next two studio albums.
Some of the songs on Aoxomoxoa were played live briefly and then dropped. Only "China Cat Sunflower" became a set staple through the band's career, though "St. Stephen" was played until 1971, revived in 1976 and 1977 and played a handful of times after that. Likewise, "Cosmic Charlie" was played a few times again in 1976.
1. St Stephen
2. Dupree's Diamond Blues
4. Doin' That Rag
5. Mountains on the Moon
6. China Cat Sunflower
7. What's Become of the Baby
8. Cosmic Charlie
Listen to Aoxomoxoa in its entirety here:
Watch The Trailer For Grateful Dead Documentary 'Long Strange Trip' May 16, 2017 14:48
As we inch closer towards the official release of the long awaited Grateful Dead documentary, Long Strange Trip, anticipating and excitement amongst the Deadhead community continues to grow. We now have our first taste of the 241-minute film, as JamBase premiered its official trailer via Yahoo! Movies earlier today. The film, which will begin showings in select theaters on May 25th, is directed by Amir Bar-Lev and produced by Martin Scorsese. The film includes many never-before-seen interviews, footage and photos combined with a career-spanning soundtrack focusing of the Grateful Dead’s live performances. Long Strange Trip will be available for worldwide streaming on June 2nd via Amazon Prime.
Watch the official trailer for 'Long Strange Trip' here:
Grateful Dead's 'Meet-Up At The Movies' Returns To Theaters Tonight April 19, 2017 22:45
Tonight only, movie theaters across the country will host screenings of The Grateful Dead Movie in honor of the film's 40th anniversary. A short feature of the band's performance at Barton Hall (Cornell University) on May 8th, 1977 will also be shown prior to the film. The Grateful Dead Movie, released in 1977 and co-directed by Jerry Garcia and Leon Gast, is a film that captures the Dead during an five-night run at Winterland in San Francisco in October of 1974. The film features Dead classics such as “Dark Star,” “U.S. Blues,” “One More Saturday Night,” “Casey Jones,” “Playing In The Band” and “Sugar Magnolia." Click here to find your theater and purchase tickets in advance.
These concerts marked the beginning of a hiatus, with the October 20, 1974 show billed as "The Last One". The band would return to touring in 1976. The film features the "Wall of Sound" concert sound system that the Dead used for all of 1974. The movie also portrays the burgeoning Deadhead scene. Two albums have been released in conjunction with the film and the concert run: Steal Your Face and The Grateful Dead Movie Soundtrack.
Grateful Dead Meet-Up at the Movies is an annual event that began in 2011. At the Meet-Up, which occurs at multiple locations in the United States, concert videos and films of the rock band the Grateful Dead are shown in movie theaters. Each yearly screening occurs only one time. Fathom Events organizes and manages the presentations. The event provides a venue and opportunity for the band's fans, known as deadheads, to gather in celebration and camaraderie.
Check out the official trailer for the 40th anniversary screening here:
Dark Star Orchestra Announces Summer Tour Dates March 15, 2017 15:53
Renowned Grateful Dead tribute act Dark Star Orchestra has announced an extensive summer tour, which kicks off on June 24th in Aurora, Illinois and concludes with a two-night run at Pisgah Brewing Company in Black Mountain, North Carolina on August 18th-19th. Festival appearances include Highberry Music Festival in Arkansas and The Peach Music Festival in Scranton, PA. Tickets for most shows will go on sale this Friday, March 17th via DarkStarOrchestra.net. VIP packages are available for most shows via the band’s website. See below for a complete list of dates, and stay tuned, as the band plans to add more dates moving forward!
Dark Star Orchestra performs shows from among the nearly 2,500 performances of the Grateful Dead during their 30-year tenure as fathers of improvisational rock. On most, though not all of their performances, Dark Star Orchestra presents the complete original set list, song by song, and in order, while adapting their phrasing, voice arrangements and specific musical equipment for the various eras of the Grateful Dead shows in which they perform.
Members of the Grateful Dead themselves, including rhythm guitarist/singer Bob Weir, bassist Phil Lesh, drummer Bill Kreutzmann, vocalist Donna Jean Godchaux, and keyboardists Vince Welnick and Tom Constanten, have all appeared on stage and performed with Dark Star Orchestra. In November 2011, the group played its 2,000th show in Ithaca, NY.
Dark Star Orchestra: 2017 Summer Tour Dates
June 24 Aurora, IL—RiverEdge Park
June 25 Kalamazoo, MI—Bell’s Cafe
June 28 Indianapolis, IN—Egyptian Room at Old National Centre
June 30 Kansas City, MO—CrossroadsKC
July 1 Eureka Springs, AR—Highberry Music Festival
July 28 Hampton Beach, NH—Hampton Beach Casino
July 29 Hampton Beach, NH—Hampton Beach Casino
July 30 Hyannis, MA—Cape Cod Melody Tent
August 1 Utica, NY—Saranac Brewery
August 2 Buffalo, NY—Canalside Buffalo
August 4 Rochester, NY—Frontier Field
August 5 Jay, VT—Jay Peak Resort
August 6 Portland, ME—Maine State Pier
August 9 Washington, DC—The Hamilton
August 10 Pittsburgh, PA—Stage AE
August 11 Scranton, PA—Peach Music Festival
August 14 Dewey Beach, DE—Bottle & Cork
August 15 Dewey Beach, DE—Bottle & Cork
August 17 Glen Allen, VA—Innsbrook After Hours
August 18 Black Mountain, NC—Pisgah Brewing Company
August 19 Black Mountain, NC—Pisgah Brewing Company
Dead & Company's First 2017 Tour Date Has Surfaced December 1, 2016 09:13
Bob Weir Releases First Single "Only A River" From New Solo Album August 18, 2016 11:34
Blue Mountain Track List
1. "Only A River"
2. "Cottonwood Lullaby"
4. "Lay My Lily Down"
5. "Gallop On The Run"
6. "Whatever Happened To Rose"
7. "What The Ghost Towns Know"
8. "Darkest Hour"
9. "Ki-Yi Bossie"
10. "Storm Country"
11. "Blue Mountain"
12. "One More River To Cross"
Bob Weir & Rob Gronkowski Join Paul McCartney at Fenway Park July 18, 2016 09:14
One Year Ago: The Grateful Dead's Final Stand at Soldier Field July 5, 2016 18:09
Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
When I awoke and drove in to work on Friday, January 16th, I was already excited and knew that I was in for a long day. Several of us were heading to the Charleston Pour House for four rotating sets of Phish and Widespread Panic, courtesy of tribute bands Runaway Gin and Machine Funk. Sometime around noon, my phone started to light up with calls and text messages asking if I had heard the news. The rumors were officially true: The Grateful Dead were playing a three-night run at Soldier Field over the weekend of July 4th. To make things even sweeter, Trey Anastasio, Bruce Hornsby, and Jeff Chimenti were all set to round out the lineup. Any chance at the slightest bit of productivity that afternoon was officially shot, and a hotel reservation in Chicago was made immediately.
In order to honor their creative tradition, the initial ticket offer was made via mail order, in order to ensure that the band's total ticket allotment would be available only to those willing to make the extra effort. Elaborate, Dead-themed artwork was encouraged on each envelope. Over 500,000 ticket requests were received, leaving just a ten percent chance of "winning the lottery." The overwhelming response led promoters to adjust the seating arrangement to accommodate more guests. Peter Shapiro, the event's organizer and head promoter, gave his word that the level of production would provide all mail order ticket holders with an amazing experience.
On April 10th, more rumors were confirmed when the band announced that their final run would now consist of two additional shows at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, CA on June 27th and 28th. It only seemed right that the band make a return to the Bay Area, where it all officially started 50 years prior. Much debate surrounded the band's selection of Anastasio on lead guitar, as past Dead lineups have included many other amazing guitarists such as Warren Haynes, Steve Kimock, Jimmy Herring, and John Kadlecick in that role.
Tremendous progression was made over the course of the initial Santa Clara shows, with countless highlights that easily outweighed a handful of rusty moments. As expected, momentum was established, and it was time for the final three shows in Chicago. After a brief tease from Lesh and Anastasio, all seven members took the stage and were met with an eruption from 70,000+ at Soldier Field. "Box of Rain," the final song played at Jerry Garcia's last show (June 9th, 1995 - Soldier Field) allowed Bobby, Phil, Mickey, and Billy to pick up right where they left off. Next came "Jack Straw," and Bobby could barely be heard when it came time for the line "Leaving Texas, fourth day of July!" This was just the first of many moments that you could truly feel 70,000+ singing in unison.
"Bertha" made for three consecutive classics from the early 70's, just before a rocking take on "Passenger," an original which was debuted in 1978 at Memorial Coliseum in Tuscaloosa. Weir handled lead vocals, while Hornsby put a touch of Brent Mydland on harmony vocals. The late, great Mydland was also honored this weekend as Chimenti played the fallen organist’s Hammond B-3 all three nights. In an interview in Dupree's Diamond News, Lesh once said of "Passenger": "What's weird about that song is I sort of did it as a joke. It's a take on a Fleetwood Mac tune called "Station Man." I just sort of sped it up and put some different chord changes in there..." We were pleasantly surprised with "The Wheel," which has often come out of a "Drums" or "Space" since its debut in 1976. "Crazy Fingers," a tune named after jazz pianist Claude Hopkins, opened up a nice challenge for Anastasio, as the song features a vast array of chords and key changes, as its title suggests. The opening bass line of "The Music Never Stopped" sent the stadium into an all out frenzy. This song embodied the occasion; celebrating "a band beyond description" that would play all night long and never let the party slow down. Anastasio took his game to another level when it came time for the solo, and just like that, the weekend's first set came to a close in just 60 minutes, ending with two consecutive tunes from Blues for Allah, which later proved to be the theme of the night.
One of the biggest surprises of the weekend came as the second set opened with “Mason’s Children,” an outtake from Workingman’s Dead. Chimenti, who was absolutely brilliant all weekend, delivered one of his more memorable solos of the night as this rare gem winded down. As Anastasio hit the opening notes of “Scarlet Begonias,” I honestly thought I felt the stadium shake. We were well into the thick of the evening, and Scarlet seemed as perfect as any tune for Anastasio to sing. We all knew what was next, as Chimenti took to a heavy synth effect with the transition into “Fire on the Mountain.” Anastasio was absolutely nailing that signature Garcia sound before Hornsby jumped on the vocals just a little early. The rare mishap by Bruce was quickly forgotten as he delivered in beautiful fashion. What had become one of the best jams of the night was abruptly ended with “Drums > Space,” which required a moment of mental transition. Another rare gem came in “New Potato Caboose,” a tune named for an old Irish jig, which appeared on the 1968 release, Anthem of the Sun. Caboose made for a memorable series of exchanges between Hornsby and Anastasio.
Video via LazyLightning55a
The Grateful Dead – Setlist – 07.03.15
SET ONE: Box of Rain > Jack Straw, Bertha > Passenger, The Wheel > Crazy Fingers > The Music Never Stopped
SET TWO: 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
Another beautiful day was in store for July 4th, allowing those who were traveling much of the day Friday to get to Soldier Field in time to enjoy the best parking lot atmosphere I’ve ever been a part of. With three out of five Fare Thee Well shows in the books without one song repeated, the speculation and predictions were coming in from all directions. Those wishing for a “Shakedown” opener got just that, and night two was off and running. Weir took the lead vocals in stride, while Anastasio nailed the signature Garcia “multron” effects that we all know so well. “Liberty,” another Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia original was a fitting choice to follow. “Liberty” first appeared as the title track of Hunter’s 1988 studio album, and was debuted by The Dead on February 21st, 1993 at Oakland Coliseum Arena. Anastasio was next on the mic for “Standing on the Moon,” another late 80’s Hunter/Garcia product. This was one of Garcia’s well-known ballads and undoubtedly a humbling moment for Anastasio. “Me & My Uncle” then picked up the pace and pumped some much needed energy into the stadium after things had slowed down a bit.
The energy in the stadium took a surge upon the opening notes of “Tennessee Jed,” one which Anastasio was given the nod on lead vocals, much to the crowd’s delight. The first repeat of the Fare Thee Well run turned out to be “Cumberland Blues,” one which was as common as any in the late 60’s through the mid 70’s. “Friend of the Devil” felt perfectly placed for this rootsy, bluegrass-friendly stretch of the first set. Weir took the lead next on Willie Dixon’s “Little Red Rooster,” one of very few covers over the final five shows. This made for quite the entertaining bluesy, slide guitar dual between Weir and Anastasio. Another early 70s sing-a-long was due before this set could end, and “Deal” provided just that. The crowd reaction when it came time for the line, “If I told you ‘bout all that went down, it would burn off both of your ears,” was one I have been waiting to hear for as long as I can remember. The sun had started to set, the lights were in full effect, and “Deal” most certainly left a fire burning at Soldier Field as we reached the set break.
A stellar version "Bird Song," a Garcia/Hunter tune born upon the death of Janis Joplin, kicked off the second set. Lesh handled lead vocals, while Hornsby seemed to truly drive the rhythm and keep the entire stadium's attention. "The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)" turned into one hell of a party, as expected. Being the opening track on my first Dead album (Skeletons from the Closet), I'd been waiting for this one for an extremely long time, and hearing Anastasio and Hornsby trade off on vocals was an absolute treat.
There was no question as to how much fun the band was having at this point, each of them grinning from ear to ear. "Lost Sailor," a song that lost its place for many years in the Dead rotation, couldn't have been executed better, and the transition into "Saint of Circumstance" was beautiful. I have to say that this one truly caught me off guard. While I was very familiar with the In the Dark album at a young age, "Saint of Circumstance" somehow fell out of my personal rotation, and I had certainly never heard it performed live. I couldn't stop singing "Sure don't know what I'm goin' for, but I'm gonna go for it for sure" until well after I returned to Alabama on Monday. Hornsby was up next for vocals on "West L.A. Fadeaway," while Chimenti added a heavy dose of funk on the Hammond. The set jumped back to the late 80's with "Foolish Heart," just before the nightly dose of "Drums" > "Space."
While Weir couldn't seem to get everyone on the same page, he led the charge into "Stella Blue" and displayed some of the most powerful emotion of the weekend. There was no doubt this one was personal, and he was determined to make Jerry proud. While we all knew it was coming, the build up throughout the night that led into "One More Saturday Night" was a sight to see. Scanning across Soldier Field and seeing that many people dance so wildly to such a classic party tune created a memory that will never fade. As the band left the stage, it was a safe assumption that "U.S. Blues" would bring this party to an end. As the patriotic anthem reached its peak, a massive display of fireworks spread across the sky, leaving the entire stadium mesmerized.
The Grateful Dead – Setlist – 07.04.15
SET ONE: Shakedown Street, Liberty, Standing on the Moon, Me and My Uncle, Tennessee Jed, Cumberland Blues, Little Red Rooster, Friend of the Devil, Deal
SET TWO: 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
The buzz was in full force Sunday afternoon, with someone "needing a miracle" to get into the show everywhere you looked, and no one in sight selling extras. As of about 3:00 PM, the cheapest ticket for the final Sunday show was listed at $530. With only one repeat over the previous four nights, there were a handful of classics that had to be played. "China Cat Sunflower" > "I Know You Rider" knocked two of those off the list immediately. While "Estimated Prophet" didn't spur quite the level of improvisation as it could have, it most definitely had the natural, empowering effect that I have always associated with it. "Built to Last," the title track from the Dead's final studio album, came as a major surprise, as it only made a handful of live appearances in 1989 and 1990.
The party turned up a notch with an aggressive, foot-stomping rendition of "Samson and Delilah." You could hear the echo of the entire stadium every time the chorus came around. "Mountains of the Moon" took us back to the earliest days of The Dead. Each night, the first set would end just as the sun had fully set, and the song selection was so strong for each these moments, as the lights would take full force. Sunday night it was "Throwing Stones," one of my favorites off of In the Dark, and a testament to the early 80's vibe of The Dead.
The final set of the Fare Thee Well run was now upon us, and with it came "Truckin'," just the second of two total repeats played over the course of five total shows. It wouldn't have been right had the band not sung, "What a long, strange trip it's been" at their final performance. Another swift, well-executed transition led into "Cassidy," which of course includes the words "fare thee well," adding a little extra nostalgia. Anastasio's attention to detail was proven yet again, as nailed the signature sound of "Althea" on every note. It was finally time to buckle up for "Terrapin Station," easily one of the most anticipated moments of the entire weekend. Lesh led the way on vocals, and while that tends to be a rocky ride, it was a powerful, resounding moment.
Video via LazyLightning55a
Billy and Mickey's final take on "Drums" > "Space" reached its peak when Mickey brought out a train horn and nearly deafened the entire stadium. "Unbroken Chain" came next and provided one last moment for Lesh to shine center stage. In a touching tribute to Garcia, the band kept the slow pace for "Days Between," which has served as an anthem for honoring Jerry's life, and is often referred to the days between his birthday (August 1st) and his day of passing (August 9th).
With just enough time to close out the second set, the all-too-familiar beat of "Not Fade Away" began. The positive nature and uplifting message of this song couldn't have been a more perfect way to close out the final set. "You know our love will not fade away," paired with the series of five claps, carried on for nearly three minutes amongst the stadium after the band had left the stage. Of all the truly special moments throughout the weekend, it is difficult to imagine being a part of such a powerful moment ever again. After Lesh's final speech, "Touch of Grey" brought that magic and energy back into the air. As they ended, the "Not Fade Away" chant/clap picked back up in full force, and the band returned one last time for "Attics of My Life," as a touching slideshow honored those like Jerry, Ron "Pig Pen" McKernon, Keith Godchaux, and Brent Mydland, who were unfortunately lost far too soon.
While this weekend garnered as much anticipation as any I can recall, I could not have possibly prepared myself for what was in store. The overall experience surrounding this music scene that we love so much goes so far beyond the music, and I can’t even imagine where the world of live music would be without the Grateful Dead. This is the band that took elements of country, folk, bluegrass, jazz, blues, reggae, and rock, and fused them into one. You look at the hype that has surrounded this event since January, the absurd ticket demand, and even the polarizing views on Trey sitting in Jerry’s seat, and it all speaks very clearly to the testament of this band’s impact on the world. I cannot do justice to the energy and vibe that was in the air in Chicago this weekend. Deadheads were everywhere, and I have never seen a bigger collection of open-minded, compassionate people. Anywhere you looked in Soldier Field, fans were thanking the security staff, vendors, and even the police for working so hard so that we could enjoy this experience. As we left the stadium Sunday night, thousands of fans continued to sing “you know our love will not fade away” as they walked through Grant Park. The impact of the Grateful Dead truly made this world a better place, and we should all be grateful for the music, love, and positive energy this band has created over the past fifty years.
The Grateful Dead - Setlist - 07.05.15
SET ONE: China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Estimated Prophet , Built To Last, Samson and Delilah, Mountains of the Moon > Throwing Stones
SET TWO: Truckin' > Cassidy, Althea, Terrapin Station > Drums > Space > Unbroken Chain > Days Between > Not Fade Away
Encore One: Touch of Grey
Encore Two: Attics of my Life
One Year Ago: The Dead Shines in Santa Clara, Rolls on to Chicago June 28, 2016 13:11
Fifty years after The Grateful Dead was born in Palo Alto, California, “The Core Four” (Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, and Bill Kreutzmann) returned to Santa Clara County to bid farewell to a sold out Levi’s Stadium on Saturday and Sunday night. Joining the core four members of The Dead for the 50th Anniversary “Fare Thee Well” run are Phish front man Trey Anastasio (lead guitar/vocals), Bruce Hornsby (piano/vocals), and Jeff Chimenti (organ/keys). The two Santa Clara shows were added shortly after the initial announcement of this coming weekend’s three-night run at Soldier Field Chicago (July 3rd – July 5th). For those unable to attend these final five shows, live hi-definition webcasts have been offered ($20-$30 per night), making it entirely too easy to watch the star-studded lineup from the comfort of your own couch. While the anticipation and reality of attending in Chicago sets in, I couldn’t resist tuning in for both nights in Santa Clara.
Due to conflicting plans, I was unable to tune in live for Saturday night’s show, but fortunately each show has been made available for 30 days once purchased. This meant a Sunday afternoon Dead show on the couch, only to be followed by a live Sunday evening Dead show…on the couch. While I couldn’t resist checking Saturday’s set list, sitting and watching it in its entirety was still the top priority. The celebration began with “Truckin’” and “Uncle John’s Band,” two of the band’s biggest hits. Phil Lesh then took over lead vocals as the band dug even deeper into the Dead archive with “Alligator.” The folksy sound of The Dead shined in “Cumberland Blues,” making way for “Born Cross Eyed.” Anastasio took on his first round of lead vocals with “Cream Puff War,” one which always seems to pump some adrenaline into the band and crowd alike. The set rounded out with “Viola Lee Blues,” originally a country/blues tune that was transformed into a psychedelic powerhouse in their earliest days. A spectacular rainbow stretched over the stadium, sparking the notion from many that Jerry was smiling down on Levi’s Stadium.
Watch "Truckin'" from Santa Clara here:
The old-school, early Dead theme continued immediately in set two with “Cryptical Envelopment,” the first of four sections of the “That’s It For The Other One” suite on Anthem Of The Sun (1968). The “Dark Star” that would follow will undoubtedly serve as one of the more special moments of the Fare Thee Well run. “Dark Star” was the first lyric that Robert Hunter wrote with the Dead and was first performed, without lyrics, by the Grateful Dead in September 1967. The first version with lyrics was in the December of that year. The song was a major focus for improvisation and was played regularly through the 1960's and up to 1973. “St. Stephen” made way for “The Eleven,” which led directly into “Turn On Your Love Light.” Kreutzmann and Hart took over on “Drums,” only to be followed by “What’s Become Of The Baby,” a tune off of Aoxomoxoa (1969) which wasn’t actually played live until being busted out by Furthur in 2010. The set’s early hints made “The Other One” no surprise, beautifully placed late into the night. Weir’s vocal delivery on “Morning Dew” was as powerful as expected and gave an emphatic ending to the second set. The band didn’t take long to return to the stage for “Casey Jones,” ending the night with the entire stadium singing along.
Night two kicked off in ferocious style, as “Feel Like A Stranger” set the tone and left no doubt that the guys had shaken any cobwebs loose. Weir roared through “New Minglewood Blues” and opened things up for an amazing delivery from Hornsby on “Brown Eyed Women.” The bluesier rendition of “Loose Lucy” came next, giving the band and crowd a chance to say “Thank you, for a real good time.” “Loser” and “Row Jimmy” slowed the pace a bit, just before Anastasio really seemed to find his groove on “Alabama Getaway,” one of his few lead vocal rolls thus far. “Black Peter” and “Hell In A Bucket” would round out set one of night two. Anastasio took “Hell In A Bucket” to another level, letting it rip, much to Lesh’s pleasure.
One of my favorites, “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodleoo,” kicked off what developed into my favorite set of the weekend. So many Dead tunes send that fuzzy feeling through you as you sing along, and this one is up there with the best. There’s something about the line “Farewell to you old Southern skies, I’m on my way” that has always hit home for me. Next came “Wharf Rat,” the self told saga of a down and out dockside wino, another gem from Hunter and Garcia made famous in the early 70’s. They led beautifully into “Eyes of the World,” one which Lesh took lead vocals on, rather than Anastasio or Hornsby, both of which could have been a perfect fit.
It’s to be expected that there will be a few rusty moments over these final five shows, and that seemed to be the case with “He’s Gone.” Weir had some difficulty with the lyrics in multiple verses, which Anastasio and Hornsby attempted to help with. The chorus even seemed off rhythm, especially when it came time for “Nothin’ left to do but smile, smile, smile.” No one lost their composure, and the tune was still finished in respectful fashion. Round two with “Drums” seemed to go even longer, with Hart and Kreutzmann taking us all into another realm. I can relate with those who just don’t care for “Drums” every night, but they had me locked in and blown away with it on Sunday night. The stadium lit up as the opening notes of “I Need A Miracle” hit, and Weir stepped up, ready to redeem himself. This one has always given one of the most notable, resounding vocal performances from Weir, and I was immediately reminded why.
Things slowed down once more for “Death Don’t Have No Mercy,” first played by The Dead in 1966, and often credited to Rev. Gary Davis. Anastasio stepped up to the plate yet again on “Sugar Magnolia,” which sounded as on-point as any song throughout the weekend. The “Sunshine Daydream” medley seemed entirely too perfect for the second set closer, and those watching in Santa Clara, as well as around the world, had every reason to rejoice. “Brokedown Palace,” which includes the line of words “fare thee well”, for which this entire run of shows is named, brought the two-night run in Santa Clara to a close.
There was an expected progression seen from the entire band over the weekend, and Anastasio was no exception. Being an enthusiastic fan of both The Dead and Phish, it’s been interesting to watch the progression of Trey in this highly scrutinized role. He was apparently given 90 songs to master and has spent at least five hours each day doing so. He has shown the ultimate composure and poise, focusing on hitting every note just as Jerry would. Some might say that he is holding back, or that the guys need to cut him loose, but let’s be honest, he knows his role in this band. His selection for these shows has been a hot topic, and he is proving the doubters and naysayers wrong. Bobby, Phil, Mickey, and Billy knew that this was his role to play, and he’s validating their notions with every tune. Will there be moments where Trey is delegated to play rhythm and might have made more sense on lead vocals? Of course. “Eyes of the World” was a perfect example. No one should expect to see the same demeanor from Trey as they are accustomed to with Phish. This role is about paying homage to Jerry Garcia and The Grateful Dead, not being the front man of one of the greatest bands since Jerry paved the path. He is clearly ecstatic to be on stage, as that big smile we have seen suggests.
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