Sunday, September 30, 2007

a weekend of Phil Lesh and Friends

Let me preface this whole thing by saying I am not familiar w/ almost any of the Dead's work. I just recently got into them, and their work is still kind of touch and go for me. I bought the ticket to see Larry, since I was not a fan of Dylan when he was w/ him.
This whole experience for me started on Thursday, sitting in my last class of the day when I heard that there was a rumor Phil was playing a free show in the park that night at 5pm. My class gets out at 3 and I run down to the park, thinking a million folks are going to already be there. (Its a pretty small park). To my surprise, there is no crowd; there is no one to speak of. I ask a few kids milling about. Nope, they weren't planning on going, but everyone'd been asking them about it. I called the Parks and Rec. number on the side of the stage. They told me "no, it isnt happening" (in a rather harsh tone). I start to leave, but think to myself ,"You know, its only an hour and a half until 5 and if I find out they did play, and I wasnt there.........." so I stuck around.
A small crowd began to build around 4 or so. It was really awesome, like what I'd imagine being around this area (Boulder, CO) in the 60s and 70s was like. Everyone had a different story to tell, who told them what, what "authority figure" had said yes, which had said no, who was going to what shows this weekend, etc, etc. Even what sparked the rumor was up for debate.
At 6, they still hadn't showed (they never did, but I dont think anyone REALLY expected they would), and I was getting pretty hungry, so I left, but not disappointed; it was a cool experience, one whose days I though would have been long gone by now.

This is the show I had a ticket for. It was the place where I first saw Dylan, and I hadnt been to a show there since, so I was really looking forward to the show. I got there at around 1, again expecting a huge crowd...........
There were two people, and 3 empty chairs.
The one big issue I have w/ The Fillmore is that they do not make any attempt to actually enforce a line. When they open the doors, they just allow a massive blob to come squeezing through thier security checkpoint. As a result, I was smashed, and I mean smashed between two very tall, very fat, large men. Picture that Sprite commercial in which the two sumo wrestlers crash into each other, and put me in the middle.
Get checked, get in, and run to the front. I think out of pure instinct, I ran to directly in front of, and a little to the left of, a Casio keyboard. Alright! Rail spot right in front of........ (I stop to take in the entire stage)...."Wait, this isnt Bob. Damnit, the pedal steel is over there!"(No one in line had seen Lesh w/ Larry before, so they couldnt tell me where he'd be, so I had to guess on where to run to.) I am in no means a bad spot, and I do have a clear view of Larry so I'm not going to complain.
They started off w/ Friend of the Devil, one of my all-time favorite songs, so immediately I know this is going to be a good show. Jackie Greene, the other guitarist, does most of the lead singing. He looks about 19 or 20 (apparently he's like 27) and truly an excellent guitarist and vocalist. Third song is a powerful Wheel's On Fire w/ Larry on lead vocals. The rest of the first set was a couple of jams leading into many songs that, while very enjoyable, I didnt recognize in the least. (During the break, I learned one was Mean Mr. Mustard.)
The Fillmore is a notoriously warm venue, and by the time of the second set, people are going down right and left, which gives you a bit of breathing room. The second set is far more energetic, w/ Larry getting in some very nice lead breaks. Larry played pedal on only one song that night, which might have been Brokedown Palace, but I dont really remember. Other then that, he was on Strat the entire night, only playing a Tele for a song or 2. Again, dont really recognize any songs, but they're all pretty damn good. The end w/ an encore of Box of Rain. Even though Phil and Jackie were directly in front of me the entire night, it took until band intros for me to even notice that Phil was wearing glasses. I walk out of the place w/ a big grin on my face, and realize that I gotta get a ticket and do it again the next night, at Red Rocks.

I had planned to be up at RR that weekend regardless, as my film class's assignment is an avant-garde, experimental-bullshit, "cinematic essay" on a person, place or thing, me electing an essay on the experience of waiting for a show. I hadn't bought a ticket to this show because if Larry was good but the rest of the band got on my nerves, I didnt want to spend money on two nights. The show wasnt sold out (never did) so I figured if I had a good time the previous night, I'd just make a trip to the box office.
I plan to get up there at 8 or so, figuring there would already be enough of a crowd to start shooting, and I wasnt aiming for a "prime" front and center seat. I get to the top of the stairs at 8 sharp, only to find that I am number 7. Wow. It appears that all the DeadHeads have all died or left, either by choice, or at the court's decision. The line did grow steadily thought the day, but hell, the Dylan line this summer was way more "Dead-ish" then this one ever got.
The crowd is totally cool w/ being filmed, and I hike around inside the amphitheatre for 3 hours or so getting footage. W/i an hour of being there, I'm able to get a ticket for face, alleviating any stress.
I now know how the non-hardcores we drag to Dylan shows must feel listening to us G-d, is it ever intimidating haha. It was a great crowd though, saw some folks I met this summer, got my filming done, everything works out. The best thing about the Dead crowd (both here and last night) is that they are all old, and fat, and drunk, and stoned, so the mad dash up the stairs becomes a relaxing jaunt 8) I easily secure a spot in front of Larry's pedal.
The first set was again very enjoyable. I only recognized a couple songs, Larry sang lead on one (forget what it was), all in all very good. Larry was on Strat the whole first set, and already playing more solos then last night.
The second set was the apex; an acoustic set. It opened w/ Friend, Larry on fiddle. They played a really great version of some blues song (I'm sorry, but w/ the shape of the amphitheatre, and when 99 out of 99.1 people never stop smoking, I cant be expected to remember everything haha) in which Jackie totally owned. I swear, he was channeling the spirit of one of those old black blues masters. :shock: Incredible! Larry played fiddle on 2 or 3 more, mandolin on a great Ripple and one other, and guitar and lead vocals on Deep Elum Blues, which was, by far, the best song of any of the two shows I was at. Murphys law: the two behind me decide that this is the perfect opportunity to catch up. :evil:
Third set, again electric, kicks off w/ almost an RTR Hard Rain. This leads into an (at least) 2 hour jam, in which Larry owns in every sense of the word, from the beginning to the end. (He even played the cittern for awhile before going back to Strat) I dont know if they were playing any actual songs, or just cruising, but man, having been born too late to see any of the "masters", this was above and beyond the best electric playing I have EVER seen!!!! The wind was blowing hard all night, and w/ some of the poses he was striking, just really getting into his playing.......I wish I'd have had a camera; it was the most iconic blues guitarist imagery, just ineffably beautiful. People were taking pics all night and I'm hoping somebody happened to capture that, but it was the only time I've ever really wished I owned a camera.
Once the jam had concluded, they might have played one other song before I Know You Rider, which was a song I was really hoping to hear, Larry on lead vocals. Their encore tonight was a scorching Not Fade Away, a fitting end to an unbelievable night.

If you ever get a chance to see Lesh when Larry's w/ him, do! Dont ask questions, just go. Check into Jackie Greene as well, incredibly talented guy.

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