Category Archives: Phil and Friends

It was a gorgeous Wednesday in New York City as Phil and his family brought the band to Central Park by way of Peter Shapiro. I have to thank Shapiro for his endless kindness towards my family and me, as well as his interest in always going the extra mile to provide fans with the best experience possible, always trying to exceed expectations. Both Phil and Shapiro were coming off of a legendary weekend at Lockn and it can be hard to carry over that kind of energy a couple of days later. The day was even more special for me since I was taking my 5-year-old son, Jovanni, to his first show. The scrapbook in my mind recalled many moments from my years on the road when Phil’s kids were the same age as Jovanni. Here we were with one of Phil’s kids up there playing with him. The kid with kids of his own now… I don’t feel nearly as old as my memories prove I may be getting.

Some of the greatest memories of my life took place in The Warfield Theatre. At the time, it was as close to a trip to Amsterdam as one could take while being in the USA. We would wait in line for the second rail, right in front of Garcia. You had a counter to rest your drink and were eye to eye with Garcia who seemed close enough to touch. The red curtains would swing open and it seemed like the entire veil of any and all blind spots or barriers in life would swing wide open at the same time. The sound was so loud, crisp and clean that it created an internal shuffling of the soul and could shake fillings out of your teeth. Jaclyn and Gloria in sequinned dresses dancing and clapping, John Kahn next to Kemper’s drum riser thumping away and Melvin with the Spinning Leslie Speaker of Life pumping the place so full of his sound that it seemed like it made the place expand and contract like a balloon. I spent dozens of nights in that Temple calibrating my internal compass and making adjustments to my required trajectory in life. For me, a night that included every song being sung by Garcia was guaranteed to be a great night regardless of the choices. Those nights live forever on the highlight reels of my existence. I remember the Rodney King Riots blazing right past the Warfield and the show that night on April 30, 1992. The Warfield was one of the only venues in San Francisco that remained open that night and Garcia delivered a masterpiece of a performance! The show seemed to cover in song every aspect of the state of the union at that precise moment in time. There were plenty of moments that took us completely out of that vibe and into the stratosphere of hard rockin JGB. Throw Out The Life Line… Reuben And Cherise, which was played much less frequently than most JGB tunes… What a night! If any of The Garcia team come across this blog, I believe this night would be an exceptional release in the future. The emotion both in and outside of The Warfield that night was as intense and unique as I have ever experienced. It created an atmosphere where verses came completely alive and hit us in ways that were new, different, deep, profound and completely beyond description. Check out Garcia’s slide solo during Gomorrah. We were in a room filled with people from all different backgrounds, all different colors, in a state of unbiased Love and Unity while the rest of the country was up in flames. It always seemed like the hotter the emotional temperature of the world outside, the hotter the music became on the inside. That night was a great example of external emotional tension creating internally creative excellence.

Phil and The Family Band took on the JGB catalog to open the night in Central Park with help from Melvin on keys and Nicki Bluhm helping with the singing. Nicki seemed much more comfortable than she did during the Terrapin set at Lockn. She looked at Weir like she was a vampire and he was made of garlic. I don’t know if anyone else caught that but I sure did. Regardless, her vocals were outstanding throughout the night at Summer Stage and she seemed comfortable as could be. When I heard there would be a set of JGB music, I was inclined to set the bar low but I was Dead wrong. Phil and his Terrapin Family Band tore through the tunes with passion and executed brilliantly. The only blatant fumble was Phil completely missing the bass lick that starts the crank turning on Mission In The Rain. Dude totally whiffed on that one… If I was Phil, I’d end the whole “Friends” thing and stick to the Family Band. Grahame Lesh, Ross James, Jason Crosby, and Alex Koford sound as good as Phil’s bands have sounded since The Q. I’m sure there’s plenty of people that might not agree with me but that’s definitely my take. The music was tight, hot and inspired. I personally dig Grahame Lesh much more than most of the folks that have held that spot. Watching him grow with music and as a musician is a great experience. Watching him grow from a baby to a brother that’s in the running for “Beard Of The Year” is just as cool I suppose. Ross James is a party waiting to happen as well. Brother was bringing it all night long. Having Melvin on keys really made the night. There were sounds and energy coming out of his keys that kinda made everybody make that WOW face!

The joy of having your kid with you at their first show overcomes a lot of the challenges associated with having your kid with you at their first show. As much as I hate people talking during the show, my kid was slow to learn the whole, STFU when the band is playing thing. He would dance for a minute then say, “Can we go fishing tomorrow?” Dance for a minute and say, “Are we in New York City?” Dance for 30 seconds and say, “Is this the last song?” Dance for a minute, “Can we get Ice Cream?” Dance for a minute, “I gotta go potty!” Dance for a minute, “Is this the last song?” Dance for 30 seconds, “Can I play with Lucas this week?” Dance for a minute, “You think anyone has lollipops?” 2 minutes later, “Is this the last song?” Mama Mia, it never ended. His joy was certainly dwarfed by my joy just watching him. Many thanks to all of the beautiful folks around us that helped tremendously and added to his experience as well as mine in more ways than you know. Love y’all forever! Thank you for helping Jovanni have such an amazing experience! I write about this mostly so he can read it when he’s Grahame’s age…

I’m running out of time here so I’ll just say that the second set was played as good as the first! From Shakedown to Lovelight the music was wrapped in the love and magic that playing in a place like Central Park is bound to bring about. I think the original, Galilee, was great and had a sound that was congruent with the lineage of music that has given life to our community for over half a decade. The chemistry last night was as good on the stage as it was on our side of it! Watching Phil will always make me happy. I don’t know if I’ll live to see 77 but if I do, I hope I’m as cool of a fucker as Phil. In typical Phil band fashion, we got a toddler running out on stage to celebrate the moments that we all live for. It’s amazing that they always seem to give Phil the space that’s required to play while being out there. They totally get it. It wasn’t too long ago that Grahame was that toddler. Far out man…

One thing Shapiro should be known for is going the extra mile to provide fans with more than their money’s worth. Whether it’s thousands of roses and security in tie dyed shirts at FTW or having more stages, performances and hours than is required during a weekend at Lockn, he consistently goes above and beyond what’s necessary. In typical Shapiro fashion, everybody gets a free poster on the way out! It matches the signs that mark the way around the park. Another signature move that costs thousands of dollars to provide, with the sole intention of blessing everyone in attendance! Brother doesn’t have to do shit like that but he insists that shit like that is done.

Once again, a big thanks to all of the folks up front that were so kind to my son! You made it so much more enjoyable for Jovanni and I. I never want to feel like I could be interfering with the experience of others while I’m at shows or infringe on anyone’s peace or space. You all helped make it a night Jovanni and I will never forget! Love you forever!

Dead & Company news is definitely coming in a hurry! Keep refreshing that page! Sometimes, when people wanna bury news so it’s not seen too much, they run it on Friday. You think Dead & Co management think that way or will they just open the floodgates tomorrow? Will they wait until next Tuesday? I don’t know much but I know we’re getting some fantastic news!

Dead To The Core,
Dean Sottile (pronounced So Tilly)

@gd50th on Twitter

Grateful Dean on Facebook

Grateful_Dean on fans.com

20160317_210806

After a break from the scene and writing, that included a week of Senoircize water aerobics in Sarasota with Bill Walton, Agnes and Pearl, it was great to be at The Cap Center last night for the finest of Friends that Phil has. For anyone that missed the coverage of my vacation, it was definitely highlighted by everyone’s favorite Deadhead, Bill Walton, joining myself and some golden oldies training for Summer Tour in a pool on Lido Beach.

Superimposed1456249046395

There’s no better way to get immersed in the scene again than spending a night at the Cap with The Q. I walked into the Cap about the same time the band walked onto the stage and the vibration inside the building could be felt for miles outside of it. If you haven’t been to The Cap, you should really get there at some point. The Staff is friendly and helpful and the place is covered in all things Dead. Shapiro has done a great job revitalizing a historic venue and preserving its overall character while infusing the place with the latest and greatest audio and visual accoutrements available. House sound and lighting is fantastic as is the overall emotional volume of the environment. Not only has The Cap been revitalized but its presence has revitalized Port Chester since it reopened as a live music venue in 2012.

I got a text from Peter to see Liz at The Box Office. We were heading to the Shap Cave beneath the Cap. In a scene right out of Spinal Tap, Liz and I walked up and down stairways, knocked on several different doors and continued walking in circles trying to find the hidden lair. After a couple of trips we ultimately made our way to the bunker that sits somewhere beneath the earth and below the stage equipped with a big ass fish tank and everything else you’d expect from the Ultimate Man Cave. The night kicked off with plenty of laughs and had all the makings for a great time with some of our favorite musicians.

On with the show! Phil’s 54th show at The Cap started just like the prior 53 with a jam that kinda beats the dust out of the carpet and helps us older folks in the crowd limber up a little. There’s always the handful of folks that are so high they do rigorous and unorthodox stretching routines for 30 minutes prior to the lights going out, but most of us need a few minutes to get a little loose. Like the other 53 the jam went essentially nowhere but Mr. Fantasy arose from it. From that point forward it was a night that was dominated by Warren. Personally, I think Warren is the most soulful artist of his generation. His voice is rich and seems to come from a well that’s much deeper than most. He’s able to sit back in a tune and never gets caught too far behind it and sure as hell wont get too far out in front of it. That’s one of my favorite qualities that Garcia completely owned and that Warren delivers naturally as well. I can’t understand for the life of me why anybody that loves music and artistry wouldn’t love Warren. His talent is like few that came out of his generation. The minute he hits a note or sings a single word there’s no doubt it’s Warren. I would encourage everybody to get to the Jerry Symphonic this Summer. I assure you that Warren as well as the entire experience will FAR exceed your expectations. It certainly did mine. See y’all in Central Park on the 8th! One thing about Warren, he doesn’t smile much up there… Looks like he’s fixin to kick an ass most of the time.

It made me happy to see Phil looking tremendous. Everyone is aware of his recent challenges, but he definitely seems to be strong, healthy and exuded joy. I hope I can be that cool at 76. There’s something about most musicians that just keep them a little cooler than everybody else regardless of their years. The biggest gift one can have in life is to spend it expressing your gifts while being fortunate enough to make an incredible living doing so. Ahhhhh if we could all be Rock Stars…

Chinacat was up next and Chinacat without Rider is like Help->Slipknot without Franklin’s to me. They’re always better together than not. The only exception I can think of was Help->Slip->Fire in Boston ’91. I always wished they would’ve done Scarlet->Franklin’s the last night in Boston. Incredible to be talking about all that 25 years later. Regardless, the music rolled on and sounded tight and inspired.

Passenger was one my favorite unexpected tunes at Soldier Field and I Loved hearing it last night. Cosmic Charlie is a long time favorite and was among the highlights of the night for me. Songs with lyrics like “Dum de dum de do da lee do” and “Calliope wail like a seaside zoo” are destined for greatness. The first set succeeded in providing an ideal environment for intermission. The energy was high and filled with hope, love and great expectations of what was to come.

Any time Mason’s Children opens up a set, people’s Happy Meters are gonna be in the red zone. We were all there for sure. Mountains of The Moon gave everybody a chance to catch their breath. That’s all I’m gonna say about that. There was a Mountain Jam that found its way in there at some point that was great. Well worth a listen. Night of 1000 Stars got us all moving again and The Other One began the musical haul to an outstanding finish. I absolutely love Jimmy Herring and he shredded through the Other One in ferocious fashion. It was one of those moments that my mind became so completely filled with sound and notes that there was almost no room left for any more unless it was able to expand. Those are the moments that our minds truly begin to expand accordingly.

Rob Barraco has to be the happiest musician I’ve ever seen. I’ve been watching him since ’89 or ’90 in different Dead related bands and that brother just brings happiness with him every single night. Truly an exceptional quality that matches his talent and contributions. Molo was beating the shit out of his kit and started getting that menacing look about him. He can go full alien sometimes. I’ve actually seen the shape of his head change while he’s playing and I don’t use drugs. That shit really happens. He can go full alien cranium when he gets deep into it.

The Other One jam was full of Dark Star sounds and I imagine those were like labor pains that will be satisfied by the birth of the Dark Star tonight. Cryptical is always a great way to exit The Other One. Immediately following Cryptical, Warren fired the first 2 notes of St Stephen. It seemed like nobody else was ready for take off. After a pause and some discussion among the band, St Stephen eventually took flight. For those that may have wondered why people in the boxes are never really dancing, there’s a “No standing” rule in them. When one sees a rule like that, one has to wonder how many people ended up falling over the low rail before the law was put into place. It’s a lot like those street signs in the mountains that warn you of a sharp turn. You have to wonder what prompted the posting of that sign. Anyway, I danced as hard as a person can dance while sitting. The wave continued to build as we all rose on the incredible surge that continued to build upon itself. Neurons in the brain started going off in groups of a thousand moment by moment. The Stephen was great and fell comfortably into a raging Midnight Hour led by Warren to top off the second set.

When the world’s most grateful organ recipient came out to honor Cody and do the donor rap, he received one of the most gratitude filled ovations I’ve heard. Having him with us is more and more precious as time moves on. Every night his bass passes through our souls is one show closer to the last one we’ll see. That could be said even of the first Warlocks show but as we all see the years piling up, the meaning inherent in each and very show gets deeper and deeper. I’m endlessly blessed to have been born in a time and place where I was able to participate in the last 30+ years of the greatest musical journey that history will ever hold. I believe we still have many more to come but I sincerely treasure every single minute that’s spent in a room with Bob, Bill, Mickey and Phil more now than ever. As I contemplated those thoughts, The Days Between encore made perfect sense. The journey… The climb… The Rise… The Fall… The Rebirth… The Reflection… Like most of what Hunter has written, its meaning becomes increasingly more profound daily.

For me, The Q is by far my favorite collaboration that Phil has ever put together. Those guys when playing together don’t require Phil to orchestrate changes in direction or in parts of a song. They all read each other innately and, without looking at one another, continue moving down the path. The connection doesn’t require anybody directing traffic as all parts come together as expected regardless of the route that’s taken to get there. When the Q is firing on all cylinders it’s one of the finer experiences available within the realm of GD offshoots. I hope there’s more of them in the future! See y’all on The Golden Road!

Love You Forever!!!

Dead To The Core,
Dean Sottile (pronounced So Tilly)

@gd50th on Twitter
The Official Home of Unofficial Grateful Dead News and Grateful Dead on Facebook