Sunday June 28, 2016 -- Santa Clara, CA -- Fare Thee Well
Woke up feeling pretty bleary but made it down to what turned out to be a decent hotel breakfast. We spent most of the day looking for recordings and reviews of the show online and looking for hints as to what would be played the next night. I remember there was rumor of them playing “Fire On The Mountain” and some others, so I was expecting that the whole night, but it obviously never came. Also, since the first night was entirely songs from no later than 1970, we were filled with all sorts of speculation about the “theme” of the second night. I was convinced they would do up to ‘77 or so, do “Help On The Way > Slipknot!> Franklin’s Tower,” “Terrapin Station,” and “Blues For Allah” as the “What’s Become of the Baby” of the second night, but I guess you can’t predict them all! Ricky and Holly left sometime around noon, having a 18+ hour drive back to Denver to get back for work. We were real sad to see them go and bummed they wouldn’t get to see the second night, but it was great having them there!
We stopped at a different Mexican place for a late lunch/dinner, and then headed to the stadium. The show was taking place an hour earlier than the previous night (starting at 6, I believe), so we were sure to get there in plenty of time. We made a small effort to find some of my parents’ friends and/or Shakedown Street, but we gave up on both efforts. My parents ended up meeting their friends in the stadium at their seats anyway, which were right behind the stage, so that all worked out. I got myself into another State of Mind but took it easier than the night before. I didn’t want to find myself too vulnerable in the midst of two days in the California sun with a lot of expectations and pressure floating in the air.
We had the same seats for both nights with the same neighbors. We’re pretty sure our section was for all the people who got the same travel package as us. There were no roses being handed out this night, but we didn’t mind; we had enough memorabilia to bring back already! The band came on the stage, and we were ready for night two of Fare Thee Well.
- Feel Like a Stranger (BW)
- My dad’s friend Phil (not at these shows) is of the opinion that if the Dead are doing a run of shows, the night they open with “Feel Like a Stranger” is going to be the hot night of that run. So we were pretty psyched to hear this as the opener!
- They gave this one the Furthur treatment, where the big jam is in the middle of the song where the Grateful Dead never had one, and the closing jam is a little shorter. The jam in the middle was another highlight of the weekend for me, showing the crystalline potential of this band and the music.
- Trey really owned this one, and the band seemed to be a lot tighter overall than the previous night. These funkier psychedelic songs really seem to be in his wheelhouse. I don’t know much about Phish, but if I had to try to sum them up I would say funky psychedelic jam band.
- New Minglewood Blues > (BW)
- I had read an interview with Trey leading up to the shows where he specifically mentioned this song, and how instead of going to the V chord like most blues songs do, Bobby told him they went back to the I chord instead to add a different dynamic. I don’t know if Bobby was pranking him or what, but there seemed to be some disagreement about what chord was being played at the end of the verses.
- Besides that, all the solos were fantastic. There were points in this and other songs where I think Trey’s and Bruce’s egos did clash a bit, though.
- Brown-Eyed Women (BH)
- This was kind of a rough transition, but still they kicked off a great version of one of the Dead’s best songs!
- Bruce’s singing is a little too poppy for me, with a few too many croons and inflections, but at least it shows he cares enough about the music to try to make it his own.
- I could have used at least one more round in the solo section, but who am I to complain? Like I said, the band was flexing its muscles and showing how tight they could play, and it was a totally different show from the first night. The first night was all jammed-out songs with a much smaller emphasis on vocals and well-defined solo sections compared to the second night.
- Loose Lucy (BW)
- Didn’t see this one coming but was so glad to cross it off my list!
- A couple of rough spots, but overall a fantastic version of the song that was way better than I had expected.
- Loser (BH)
- Bruce killed this one vocally, and at the time it was one of the high points of the show. Upon subsequent listenings though, I don’t find that same je ne sais quoi that it had at the time.
- Still another excellent performance from the band’s early 70’s repertoire.
- Row Jimmy (BW)
- For this, Bobby picked up a guitar signed by the entire band that was being auctioned off for charity. It’s a really nice guitar, and sounded great, but it seemed a bit gimmicky.
- This one could have used a little rehearsal. I had been wanting to get one of these for a long while though, so I was glad to get even a version with some warts on it.
- Alabama Getaway > (TA)
- Trey was clearly having a lot of fun on this one, time to rock and roll!
- Black Peter (BW)
- To be clear, our family is not a family of Bobby haters; however, my dad hates Bobby singing this song, and I’m not crazy about it myself.
- I did appreciate the different arrangement of this song though. Instead of a barn burning second set ballad, it was more of a hazy, feverish, drawn-out blues song. Bobby was striding across the stage, kind of conducting where the solos went next. It seemed like it could have used a little more rehearsal, but I ultimately enjoyed it.
- Hell in a Bucket (BW)
- This was another huge highlight of the night, what a rocker!
- This was another example of Bobby and Phil thinking they’re going to end the jam, and Trey just smiles, turns up his guitar and keeps rocking out.
- This song took a little bit to grow on me, but is now one of my favorites from the 80’s. It really encapsulates the feeling of what was good about 80’s Dead, especially in the later part of the 80’s when the band was really tight again.
The set ended, it was still really light outside, and we were all having a great time. It obviously wasn’t the monster of psychedelia that the last night was, but the band was showing us they really deserved the Grateful Dead name. They could play a half hour of “Dark Star,” or they could play “Loose Lucy;” they can do the trippy nonsense of “What’s Become of the Baby” or a Chuck Berry-esque rocker. My parents went off to hang with their friends who had seats right behind the stage and I hung out at the seats making new friends. The intermission went on a little longer than the first night; I think to try to let it get darker. For both nights, there was music playing when we entered the stadium and during the intermissions that sounded a lot like the Grateful Dead. This was the Circles Around the Sun project that Neal Casal and others put together. It was created to evoke a Grateful Dead-esque feeling, and was completely successful. It was so successful that they ended up releasing the whole project with the Fare Thee Well box set, and they’ve played some live shows since! My parents returned and we took in the scene for a while until the band came on stage and the stadium lights went down for the last second set of the Santa Clara Fare Thee Well shows.
- Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo > (PL)
- This is such an underrated song, even I forget to give it credit sometimes, and they nailed it.
- The outro jam was going along like usual, but new elements kept getting added to it, until eventually...
- Jam >
- Long time readers will know how iffy I can be about proclaiming something a “Jam,” when it comes out of a song that inherently has an outro jam. I think this instance is justified, because this jam really departs from the usual “Half-Step” territory and explores new musical landscapes.
- Wharf Rat > (BW)
- I was SO glad to finally get a “Wharf Rat!” It’s always been my favorite second set ballad, and while it didn’t come out of “The Other One” or even post-drums, I had finally crossed one of my top five off the list.
- A spectacular version of the song as well, Trey was killing the leads and Bobby nailed the vocals. I was a little nervous when he stepped to the mic, but this is a Jerry song I could listen to him sing over and over.
- Seriously, Trey just soared in the solo section and outro jam, one ofthe most fantastic things I’ve seen in the Dead world.
- Space >
- Alright, I know, I know. Calling a jam “Space” is something I typically don’t condone, AND “Wharf Rat” already has an outro jam, so should anything be listed? I think yes, for two reasons:
- The music totally departs from the “Wharf Rat” realm of influence, and as such distinguishes itself from the typical outro.
- Mickey gets on the Beam and starts some of his loops and sound effects going, all of which are definitively “Space” sounds.
- The light show and video monitors were going wild for this segment too, skulls and roses and fractal Stealies galore!
- Eyes of the World > (PL)
- Phil led the way into “Eyes,” which unfortunately was not as expansive as I had hoped.
- I like the way Phil sings this song, but a lot of people have problems with it. But that’s their problem, man.
- Trey’s solo was way too short. “Eyes” is supposed to be a revolving sphere of music, keeping itself aloft by its own revolutions, and Trey did not contribute his fair share of revolutions.
- Bruce’s solo was great! He was killing it and getting ready for another round...when Phil cut him off to do the final verse! I’m not sure if Phil couldn’t hear him very well (Bruce is very low in the soundboard) or what, but it was kind of awkward for a bit.
- Very cool outro jam with a sublime transition into...
- He’s Gone > (BW & BH)
- Bobby clearly had it in his head that he and Bruce were going to trade lyrics within the verses, but it’s not clear whether or not he told Bruce about this beforehand. Cool idea, not the best execution.
- It did lead to Bobby singing “Like I told ya,” and Bruce responding, “What he said,” which cracked a few of us up. One of those classic Grateful Dead moments where an initial mistake led to something new and fun.
- They didn’t do an outro jam on this, instead opting for “Drums,” but overall a great “He’s Gone,” especially Trey’s solo in the middle.
- Drums >
- Mickey’s friend Sikiru Adepoju came out for this part of the show, playing a talking drum.
- Not as expansive as the first night, this night’s “Drums” was still very good. It had a more organic feel than the previous night, even though they both had their fair share of synthetic sounds.
- Space >
- It was clear almost right off the bat that they were going into “Miracle,” but they kept it nice and spacey right up until Bobby counted them in.
- I Need a Miracle > (BW)
- Another first for me.
- Pretty standard, meaning it was hard rocking and a whole lot of fun.
- Death Don’t Have No Mercy > (BW)
- No as good as his performance of “Morning Dew,” but another moving song from Bobby. He knows a lot about who and what Death will take from a person.
- Sugar Magnolia (BW)
- Like with “Miracle,” this was a pretty standard version of the song, so it was a real good time!
- Nothing gets Dead Heads dancing quite like a good “Sugar Magnolia.”
- Phil during Donor Rap: “All you wonderful people...who knew?!” We knew, Phil. We knew.
- Brokedown Palace (BW)
- I can barely even think of this without tearing up a little.
- Bobby asked for a moment of silence in memory of the guys that couldn’t be there that night, and there was actually one singular moment where everyone in the stadium was silent. Then everyone started cheering, but to get thousands of people to be silent at once is quite the feat.
- This was one of the most beautiful moments of my life, and I was so happy to share it with the thousands of other people in the stadium, including the band.
- Bobby just sang this so well and captured so much emotion and soul and gave it right back to us.
The show ended, and that was it. We staggered through the crowd with the rest of the shell shocked people on the way back to the hotel. Had that really all just happened? Was this really the last time the Core Four would be together as the Grateful Dead? Were they ever here at all?? We made it to the hotel and hung out outside for a bit, but we ended up going to bed not too long after; it had been a very long day and weekend.
I could tell you about killing time the next day (we saw Inside Out!) and the flight back, but it’s all kind of superfluous; the Grateful Dead had played their final California shows and we were there for the whole thing. It’s still kind of hard to believe a year later that we went all the way out there and saw these monster shows. They pretty much lived up to our expectations musically (fun and awesome, but a little sloppy), but far surpassed them in other ways. The feeling inside the stadium was one of total communion between us and all the other Heads. We were all there to witness a celebration, the beginning of an end, and the dawning of a new Dead World, all wrapped up into two concerts. Some of our song predictions were even met, but the setlists themselves were complete surprises, and welcome ones at that!
While Dead & Company is gaining more and more popularity, Phil still does his Friends shows, and bands like JRAD and DSO are still playing, everything in the Dead World from here on out has Fare Thee Well as a backdrop for the second half-century of Grateful Dead music. Fifty years prior the Dead were barely a band playing jug band music and blues songs in pizza parlors, and in 2015 they were selling out NFL stadiums for their “farewell” shows. Fifty years from now, there will still be bands playing this music; Johns Mayer and Kadlecik will hopefully still be around to bring new generations into the family.
So that’s my piece on Santa Clara Fare Thee Well. What do you think? Did you go to these shows and/or Chicago? What was your favorite night and song? What didn’t they play that you wanted them to? Leave your comments and questions in the comments sections below, or follow me on Twitter and Facebook @2stCenturyDead and let me know there!