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)
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