by Russell S. Glowatz
There ain’t nothing like a Phil show at Central Park. When the weather is airy and light, the scene is right, and the music is tight. All sources of serene sonic sorcery combine to manifest a sublime state of serendipity. The bucolic surroundings alone are a rare respite in a city of steel and smut. Add a heaping spoonful of Deadheads, a dollop of Phil Lesh, a sprinkling of The Terrapin Family Band, a dash of Melvin Seals, and a pinch of Nicki Bluhm, you have yourself a recipe for psychedelic communion at the Church of Grateful Dead.
Traversing what could be termed as “Shakedown Rock,” a geologic grouping of boulders outside SummerStage central, Deadheads’ can be found cavorting, carousing, communing, and commercing. A handful of vendors are selling heady handmade goods. Others are reuniting with old cohorts, and mingling with new friends alike. Some folks are sipping on craft brews, or eating homemade sandwiches before the main event commences. There is no lot, nor a typical shakedown, but Central Park makes for a pregame of perfection. One with nature, attune with the chime of the leaves in the breeze, there’s not many better places to take in the show before the show than the placid pastures outside Rumsey Playfield.
Such an enchanting encampment, loosens the soul from the grime of the daily grind. So once entering the venue, many Deadheads find themselves appropriately apart from the maddening melancholia of modern day materialism. We find ourselves removed from our ragged runarounds, primed and ready to escape inside the symphony set before us.
As was advertised, we are met with a set of Jerry Garcia Band tunes to open the evening. We are no longer “Tangled Up In Blue” as this euphonious ensemble tears through the Bob Dylan original, and JGB staple. “How Sweet It Is” to dance in the setting summer sun, as Nicki Bluhm soars through this peppy rendition on vocal lead. Soon we find ourselves half passed 7:00pm, but it’s “After Midnight” in the daylight as Ross James & Grahame Lesh trade licks on J.J. Cale’s classic with vigor and grit. Throughout the entirety of the JGB segment, Melvin Seals serves as our rock, channeling the soul of Jerry and his old side project, tenaciously with his trigger finger on his Hammond B-3 organ. Jason Crosby serves as his worthy counterpart on the keys with effortless execution.
As set one moves us brightly, set two lights the fire under our ass. From Phil’s opening bass bomb, love is shakin’ on “Shakedown Street;” a simple poke around proves it to be true. “The Music Never Stopped,” and while singing and romancing, it’s evident we’re all “Playing In The Band.” On drums, Alex Koford is our engine, driving this collective train, as we’re “bound to cover just a little more ground.” We traverse through the “transitive nightfall of diamonds,” before walking out in that sweet sweet “Morning Dew.” Not a single soul around fails to “Turn On [Their] Lovelight” as the music plays the band, and the band plays us. Wrapping up our psychedelic parkscapade, shakin’ like “Sugaree” at a jaunty jubilee, one cannot help but exude profound gratitude and incalculable thankfulness.
At 77 years young, Philip Chapman Lesh continues to defy expectations and boundaries with a musical troupe that’s currently playing some of the best live Grateful Dead music out there. It seems he’s relying more heavily on The Terrapin Family Band as of late, as this group’s congruous chops shine brightly wherever they choose to throw down. There is something to be said about a band, a true band of brothers (and sometimes sister) that regularly plays together. The camaraderie of this company of players is palpable at every single performance, and it reflects in the harmonious, out of the box, mind fuck music they create. This is not a cover band, nor a nostalgia act. These cats are the real deal, and if you have yet had the opportunity to catch them live, get on that shit. Stat!
“Second That Emotion”
Tangled Up in Blue
They Love Each Other
How Sweet It Is
Mission In The Rain
Reuben & Cherise
Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power)
Second That Emotion
Music Never Stopped
Playing in the Band