Friday, July 22, 2016

Fenway Park Dead & Company - 2016-07-16

     You can read the previous night's review here.  All of these pictures are my mom's, and her full album is here.

     Woke up Saturday ready for another great show!  The Friday show's soundboard was already available for download when I got up, but I didn't check it out right away.  Saturday started out hotter than Friday, and at the time all I could do was just sit in front of fans and relax!  My friend Parker from work was coming to this show with us, so he met me at my place and we headed in to the city after some train shenanigans.  We met my parents for a late lunch/early dinner at the Yardhouse again after riding with trains full of hippies.  I thought it was crowded around the stadium on Friday, but that was nothing compared to the crowds on Saturday.  The show was sold out, and there were plenty of people looking for tickets.

     After we ate, we all kind of went our own ways, my parents to meet their friends, and Parker and I to meet our friend Andrew from work.  Neither Parker, nor Andrew had seen the Dead before, and Andrew only knew a few of their songs, so I was thinking this would be more of a novelty for them.  We hung out a bit, got some beers and they hit the merch tables, then we went our separate ways.  Parker and I wandered around the stadium for a bit; I had come to terms with the fact that we were in Fenway Park, but it was all new to Parker and he was pretty giddy.  After some pictures and exploring we headed to our seats, which were a little farther back and to the side than Friday's were, but the line of sight was about the same.


     As I mentioned, this was a sold out crowd, and there were people everywhere!  They even put up extra barriers and had extra staff to direct people towards inconvenient entrances, so once we got to the seats I decided to try and not go anywhere else until the show was over.  Having that many people in the stadium seemed to affect the sound quality for the worse, too.   I could still hear everything, but it sounded a bit boomier and echoed more than the previous night. Of course, having a larger crowd singing and clapping along was fun, but it also made it that much hotter having so much more biomass crammed into the stadium.

     The band came out on stage at about the same time as the previous night, and the final show of the East Coast Tour was underway!

First Set (* w/ Donna)
  • Jam >
    • Like with the previous night's opener, I knew immediately that this was going into "Truckin'."  It sounded a lot like the jams from 2011-03-29 and 2015-06-27 that both went into "Truckin'," so I was pretty sure.
    • Really good jam though, I'm not trying to say it was the same thing they had done those other times, this was definitely its own jam that just shared a similar theme.
  • Truckin' >
    • Could have been a little faster, but we were used to Bobby's tempos by this point, and they got that groove flowing.
    • Bobby got all the lyrics right, which sounds suspicious, but I think it really was Bob Weir - the heat must have confused him into getting the words right!
    • I was thinking we'd get this in the second set, but what a great way to open the show!
    • Like with Bobby's other bands, they put a lengthy jam in the middle of the song where the Grateful Dead never had one, and the outro jam was a little shorter.  They did what I think of as the "ball of lightning" riff (the build-up to the outro jam that comes after the last "get back truckin' home" verse) like usual and took off on the jam, then John lead the way into the next song.

  • Big River
    • While this is another song that I didn't think I really needed to see again, it was probably the best one I've seen live.
    • Parker has really only been to country concerts before this, so this was more or less up his alley.
    • Jeff once again stepped up to the plate (ha, a baseball reference, I did it!) to show that Mayer was not the only guy who can crank out unbelievable solos.

  • They Love Each Other* >
    • Another one I was hoping for from this band, and Donna came back out!  Everyone in the stadium was thrilled to see her.
    • This song grew into maturity with a slower lope in the post-hiatus days of the 70's, and Bobby's preferred tempo did the song many favors.  As I said about the previous night, the tempo allowed the band to stretch its muscles and really explore the intricacies of the song.
    • They broke the song into two different solo sections, instead of combining both solos into one part of the song, with John stepping up  first and absolutely killing it.  They also threw in the old lyrics from pre-hiatus "heard your news report, you know you're falling short," etc.
    • Jeff once again insisted on not being outdone, and blew everyone's minds with his turn at a solo.  He was probably the star of the night, never flagging even when the rest of the band would struggle.
    • Just when it looked like Jeff would walk away the victor in this song, the band decided to do a more extended closing jam, and John tore it up.  Another great arrangement of a classic song by this incredible band.


  • Deal* >
    • I actually made a quick bathroom run during this, figuring I had seen two versions from this band already and there were no lines at the time.  I was right about there being no lines, but I missed some parts of what turned into an incredible "Deal."
    • John just dug right into this one and didn't want to leave a single note unplayed.
    • I danced my way through the beer lines, around to the prescribed entrance, and back to my seat in time to hear the closing solos, and kept dancing once I got there!  The rest of the set I got a little too hot and mostly just swayed to the music.

  • Bird Song* >
    • They made a nice segue into "Bird Song" led by Bobby and Jeff while John played with a bit of feedback until he slipped into the song.
    • It wasn't a perfect version, as there were some miscues between Bobby and John when the different parts came in, but the band really took off in other spots.
    • The singing, when they all sang together, was truly beautiful, and it's the kind of song that is just so cathartic to hear and be a part of live.  My friend Andrew was talking about the concert on Monday and said the music really feels like medicine for the soul, and this is song is a perfect example of what he’s talking about.


  • Passenger* >
    • A surprising transition, but another song we had really been hoping to see them do with Donna!  Like "Bird Song," it had some definite rough edges, but it was fantastic anyway!
    • Bobby and Donna had some disagreements about the regular lyrics, but then they came to the new bridge that they put in the song with brand new lyrics, and almost agreed on all of them!  By "new," I mean some lyrics from when they originally wrote the song, that have been reworked.  The new lyrics go something like: "Jet plane shadows/ Under the Sky/ Just like an elephant/ Waiting-planning to die/ Ask me no questions/ Sing you no lies/ Give me-One more whiskey/ Or I guess it's goodbye."
    • They had done this with Donna earlier in the tour and it was pretty rough, but this one mostly went smoothly!  The final lyrics got a bit muddled between Bobby and Donna, but no real train wreck.
    • It's such a good song, and it was great to see it with the Rhythm Devils, and to see some new faces playing it.  I've seen Jeff and Bobby do it before, but Oteil and John brought their own touches to it.

    • Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad*
      • I'm kind of burnt out on this song, but this version was really good.  And I'd rather see it in the first set than the second, so lucky me!
      • Oteil has been singing the line "feed me on cornbread and beans" at a few shows on this tour, and he did it here, too.  I first saw Bobby sing that line at 11/11/11, so it was fun to see it again in a different context.  Donna also got a solo line, "goin' where those chilly winds don't blow," and she sang it beautifully!
    • Voter Rap
      • They brought the song to a rocking close, and Bobby encouraged us all to go register if we didn't have anything better to do, which he figured we didn't.

         The lights came on and we sat down.  I finally got over my bit of heat exhaustion, and Parker seemed to be having a great time, even if he didn't know what was going on.  We hung out for a bit and checked out the scene.  As I expected, the crowds going in every direction were huge and no one was really getting anywhere.  My dad somehow managed to make it to the bathroom and back, probably through some form of magic.  I explained some things about the Dead and their world to Parker while we waited, but I'm not sure how much he believed or how much sank in.  Eventually though, the big lights at Fenway went down and it was time for the second set!

    Second Set (* w/ Donna)
    • Playing in the Band* >
      • This was another that I was sure they were going to play leading up to these shows, and their tuning confirmed my suspicions.
      • They launched right into it, and got the structured part of the song exactly perfect.  Bobby got all the words in the right order, Donna provided nice harmonies, and the whole band made it through the different 10/4 riffs.  Donna did not do her trademark scream before the final verse, which was too bad, but she still killed it!
      • They drifted off into jam territory with John and Jeff leading the way and Oteil propelling them along.  Both of these concerts gave us a chance to see the spacier side of John's playing.  We hadn't really seen him do any of these formless songs before like "Bird Song" and "Dark Star," or this, and he proved that he could do more than just rock out over set chord progressions.
      • They drifted into a darker jam and John switched the tone of his guitar, and it should have been obvious where they were headed, but I didn't see it at the time.  They didn't go right into the next song, though, they kept the jam going down dark side streets and around blind corners.
      • John started to wind "Playing" up as if they were going to go into the reprise and finish the song, but Bobby had a different idea.

      • DSC03990
    • Estimated Prophet* >
      • Bobby kind of forced a rough transition into this one, but once they were in it, the machine went back to running smoothly.
      • This is maybe the best of the three of these I've seen them do.  There's one spot in the middle jam where John thinks they're coming back into the lyrics and no one else goes with him, but the rest is absolutely top-notch.  This also felt a little faster than the previous versions we saw this band do, and that's a good thing!
      • It's so cool to see and hear Donna sing on some of these older songs, especially ones like this that originally came into being while she was in the band.  You have to think she had at least some input on the way the song took shape.
      • While I feel John isn't too comfortable in "Terrapin," he seems like a little kid in a jungle gym for "Estimated!"  The weird chords and rhythms give John more things to jump off of instead of tripping him up.  Sometimes he'll stumble a little, but he just seems to be having so much fun crafting unique solos over the song.
      • If you haven't read this previous post this next bit won't make sense, and even if you did it might not, but John's guitar was full or roynks, and he tried to rankle them all out at once in this song.  I didn't think a guitar could be so rankled, but he had to roynk the whole thing out.  Don't even get me started on his shpollerangs...
    • He's Gone* >
      • Another slightly forced transition, this one from John, but they found their groove in the song immediately.
      • Bobby and John traded lyrics again on this one, and Donna's singing really stood out.
      • John nailed the big solo in the middle, really getting into the Big Guitar sound that's so reminiscent of Jerry's playing.  His playing suddenly filled the stadium.
      • No outro jam on this one, which was too bad, but a surprising transition...with another soon to follow!
    • Sugaree* >
      • I've seen plenty of "Sugaree"s in my day, and if John wasn't so goddam good at playing this song I would have complained.
      • Instead, however, this is another contender for probably the best version of the song I've seen.  John was determined to burn the stadium down with the power of electric guitar, and, while the stadium is still standing, I'm pretty sure you can still see scorch marks on the Green Monster.
      • I still think this should be a first set barn burner so we can leave room for something like "Eyes of the World" or, I don't know, "Scarlet Begonias" in the second set, but if they're going to play it this well I'm going to dance and have a good time!
      • They got to the end of the song, but instead of doing the typical finish, John suddenly started in on the MuTron with his guitar and...

      • DSC03993
    • Fire On The Mountain* >
      • They did "Sugaree > Fire On The Mountain?!"  Everyone was shocked, and there wasn't time to explain to Parker why this was so weird, or at least weirder than the rest of the night so far.  A non-Head will look at you like a crazy person if after "Playing > Estimated" you tell them that this is what's really weird.
      • It started a little rough as John set the tempo, but then the drummers locked in and Oteil kicked into the bass line, and we were off.
      • This version was shorter and kind of punchy, as opposed to the longer and more drawn out versions I like, but it was still a whole lot of fun.  John and Oteil really synced up for some incredible playing, and the drummers laid down an infectious beat that you had to dance to.
      • They have a new way of ending the song where they'll all just stop playing and sing one last "Fire," which is really different, but I think I like it!
    • Drums >
      • I had warned Parker that "Drums" was a thing, but I had not told him all that it entails.
      • A pretty short "Drums," and not a lot of shenanigans.  Oteil was up there on various srum and horns again, but I don't think Jeff did this time...maybe I just missed him?

      • DSC04015
    • Space >
      • Everyone ran off stage when Mickey started wailing on The Beam with the metal pipe he usually plays it with.
      • He normally has a strong attraction to those cords of metal, but tonight he took it to a whole new level, and did everything short of playing it with his dick.  He plucked it, he stroked it, and slid the pipe along it...and then he started licking it.  And I don't mean just a light licking, he went so far I hope he bought the thing dinner beforehand.  This is like fourth date kind of stuff.
      • The rest of the band came out and did some fairly typical "Space" noises for a while, but nothing quite as inspired as the first night.

      • DSC04023
    • Days Between >
      • The music mellowed down and Jeff started the telltale riff of this epic song.
      • I've said this about different songs in the past, but this was the "Days Between" I've been waiting for, and they totally killed it.
      • Jeff has always been the star of this song in post-Jerry bands, and tonight was no exception.  He taps into the dark, infested heart of the song and just lets the existential angst flow.
      • I love the way Bobby sings this, and the way the band rises and falls at his command while the song traverses the troughs and peaks it creates.
      • John and Jeff totally locked minds for the jam out of the song, building it higher and higher, flirting with the main chord but never quite hitting it dead center.

      • DSC04008
    • Not Fade Away*
      • Another slightly rough transition led by Bobby, but soon the whole stadium got clapping and dancing!
      • Of course, in a big stadium with sweaty, inebriated white people all at different distances from the origin of the sound, everyone was clapping on different beats.
      • Still, this song was a great way to close the set, and it was what I had predicted for the set closer, so it was ok by me!  Oteil really killed it with a little slap bass going on under his singing.
      • It wasn't as adventurous or lengthy as one would hope, but still a great rocker to close the set.
    • One More Saturday Night*
      • Donna did a Donna scream!  Still wish she did one during "Playing," but my life is now complete.
      • My only first of the night, and it was about time.  I've been to so many Saturday shows where they didn't do this song, so it was good to finally cross it off the list.
      • A great version of an incredible song, and the tempo felt just exactly perfect, especially once they built it up at the end of the song.

         We kept clapping and hollering for another encore, but it was already just about the alleged curfew time.  And besides, we were hot, tired, and sweaty already!  We hung out at our seats for a while while the crowd pressed round in all directions.  We eventually headed towards the exit and Parker and I split off from my parents to walk to the train.  It ended up being a nice walk, but the sweatiest train ride in Boston history.


         So that was the end of the tour!  All in all I think Friday was the better of the two nights, but this Saturday show was truly an awesome experience.  At times it seemed like it was more about the crowd than it was about the music, especially during "Not Fade Away," but the music was still of an excellent quality.  This band has grown so much in the months its been in existence, and I can only imagine how much it will continue to grow and improve as time goes on!  Hopefully they'll announce a Fall or Winter tour, and the party can go on!

    Thursday, July 21, 2016

    Fenway Park Dead & Company - 2016-07-15

         Well folks, Dead & Company have wrapped up the final leg of their East Coast tour, and are heading west to take their magic back home.  They left a smoking crater behind them at this little place called Fenway Park before they left, though, and some of us are still recovering from it!  My parents and I immediately jumped on tickets to both Fenway shows when they were announced (as well as Hartford, which seems so long ago...), and have been counting down the days ever since.  The weather tried to conspire against us by keeping the temperature in the low nineties all week, but we were not to be dissuaded!  As always, my mom took all the good pictures below, and you can view her entire album here.  The crappy cell picture is mine.

         I got out of work in downtown Boston a bit early on Friday, met my mom, and schlepped on down to the Green Line to head towards the show, where we were not the only Heads riding the train.  We met my dad, uncle, and some friends at this place called the Yardhouse right next to the stadium for some beers before the show, and I picked up the poster for both nights from a merch table.  Security was looking a little tight with metal detectors and attentive looking guards, but we got through without incident.  There was some policing and confiscating of joints going on during the show, but overall it was a pretty mellow vibe in the stadium.

         Small tangent: I grew up a Red Sox fan, but haven't really cared about baseball for a long time.  Even so, I know what a hallowed place Fenway Park is, and I was exhilarated to see my favorite touring band play there.  My dad was totally agog about the whole thing from the second we walked across the walkway over the bullpen; "We're in Fenway Park! I am on the field of Fenway Park."  If you want to read his account of which famous baseballers did what where on the field, and his review of the Friday show, then you should follow this link.  None of the names he mentioned really meant anything to me, but the wonder of the experience was not lost.  Some turf was sticking through the puzzle pieces we were standing on, so I can say, without lying, that I stood on the turf at Fenway; also, the Green Monster is made out of metal, not dreams like they taught me in school.


         Anyway, we found our seats, then realized most of the ones next to them were empty, and moved down maybe a dozen seats or so closer to center field.  We were in section B7 (left field), so we had a different perspective on the stage than we did in Hartford.  We could see pretty much everyone in the band this time, but were still at a bit of an oblique angle and a pretty fair distance away.  We made friends with our neighbors and found the closest beer stand, which only served the "domestic draft" known as Bud Light; our neighbors pointed the way to the good beer next time, through the underbelly of the stadium.  We got back to our seats well before 6:30 (appointed starting time), and to our shock the band came out at 6:40!  There are rumors (I can't find anything confirming this) that Fenway has a 10:30 curfew for concerts, so maybe the band was antsy to get their whole, incredible set in.

    First Set (* w/ Donna)
    • Jam >
      • Right off the bat, I called that this was going into "Jack Straw."  I definitely think it's a separate jam, but it's theme was so close to "Jack Straw" that I was sure it couldn't be anything else.
      • Leading up to the show I had worries that the sound in this stadium would be terrible, but those worries were immediately forgotten (tomorrow is another story).  Where I thought it would be all boom and echo, there was instead just crowd chatter and crystal clear sound!  Again, Jeff and Oteil should be a little louder, but we could still hear and feel them just fine.
      • I'll say this once, because it's been talked about and spoofed more than enough: John looked ridiculous in his outfit, but that just made his guitar playing all the more unbelievable!

      • DSC03874
    • Jack Straw >
      • This was huge on the list of songs I wanted to see this band do, and they blew past my expectations.
      • Like he did with Furthur, Bobby has opened the song up a lot more than the traditional Grateful Dead way of playing it, and these musicians filled every niche that the opening left.  John's guitar effortlessly glides across the song, more like an embodiment of the Tao than intentional soloing.  And the whole rest of the band was tighter than I've ever seen them.
      • Everyone has made note of the more laid-back tempo that this band has taken with most of their songs, but I think it's starting to really work for them.  They can lock into such a tight groove, and once they're locked in they can start changing the tempo and playing with the nuances of the song.  They did this all through the first part of the song, and once they got to the final jam they really took off!
    • Music Never Stopped*
      • Bobby started this one off and I immediately thought it was going to be too slow, but instead was more like a new take on the song.  We saw them do this in Worcester last Fall and it was pretty good, but now I feel like this is what they were trying to turn it into.  It's got a much more serious funk to it now, and Oteil is a huge factor in that.  He just gets into a relentless drive that infects the other band members to really get into it.
      • Suddenly I spotted a flash of white on stage, and knew that my prayers from the last week had been answered: Ms. Donna Jean Godchaux had arrived onstage!!  She had made a few other appearances this tour, and I was not alone in hoping she would grace us with her presence.
      • Again, this is a very different "Music Never Stopped" than the Dead were playing last time they had Donna with them, so her parts didn't fit in exactly like they used to, but they made it their own and worked with it!  I think they should maybe rehearse with her a little more so these parts fit in with the rest of the musical machine, but I really had no complaints.

      • DSC03896
    • Next Time You See Me
      • They debuted this old gem earlier in the month and I'm so glad we got one.  Another unexpected song to cross of my list!
      • Mayer has mostly (exclusively?) been playing two guitars this tour.  I don't know enough about guitars to name the brand, but one is gold and one is blue.  Strangely enough, he would typically switch to the blue one to play blues songs, like "Next Time You See Me."
      • This song is right in Mayer's wheelhouse and he tore it up.  Jeff, however, was determined to show his mastery of the organ and ripped off some terrific leads.

      • DSC03922
    • Loser*
      • Another song I really wanted to hear this band do, and, again, they did not disappoint!
      • The first time I saw this song was 11/11/11, and Bobby sang it.  Back then he totally flubbed the lyrics, but the playing was stellar.  Here, he absolutely killed the lyrics, and the band was playing spectacularly.  This may also have been Donna's best singing of the weekend.
      • This was another example of the band's seemingly slow pace working for the benefit of the song.  The drummers kept the beat perfectly, leaving the other members of the band free to flirt with other possibilities within the musical playground provided.  Oteil's playing sounds less like individual notes and more like a force of nature, and when he locks with those Rhythm Devils, they can really bring those forces around in a controlled way.
      • This song also provides a great example of what makes Mayer such a great fit for this band.  He so clearly knows the songs, and knows how they were played, but just sounds so very much like himself while still walking in Jerry's shoes when he needs to.  He and Bobby drew the solo section out longer and longer, climbing to new peaks from the troughs they dug into the music with Jeff hot on their heels.
    • Peggy-O
      • Bobby introduced this one as "one for the kids, and another slow song," and I was initially disappointed when they started playing "Peggy-O."  I don't mind the song, I've just seen it so many times, and I've always thought that the versions that Phil does with Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams are the peak of the song.  This version wasn't as good as that, but it was way better than I expected.
      • We saw them do this one in Worcester too, and it was...fine.  Bobby seemingly switched how many beats come after a verse on a whim, and the band would always follow, but never seemed quite with him.  This time, though, they all seemed a lot more together about it.  John and Jeff both had sparkling leads, and the tempo was surprisingly upbeat for a ballad.
      • Bobby has also been playing two guitars, as far as I can tell.  He has his...regular one that he's played for a while, I believe, that's kind of black and orange.  He also has a green guitar this tour that I don't think he's played before, and I absolutely love it.  He played it for a lot of this show, and it has a much cleaner and clearer sound to it.  As we all know, Bobby likes making funny noises, and his other guitar gets pretty squeaky and squawky, but this one always seems more melodic.

      • DSC03859
    • Help On The Way* >
      • I like to think that I have a pretty good ear for what the band is going to play, especially with this song, but they totally snuck this one in under the radar!  Just a couple taps on their pedals and a quick count, and suddenly we were in "Help On The Way!"  Bobby thought he had the first verse, but then realized John went first, and they had to go around the opening chords again, but it just gave them even more time to get everything just exactly perfect.
      • Always one of my favorite songs/ sequences, it is also worth noting that 4 years ago to the day, I was at a Furthur show in Bethel Woods where they ended the first set with "Help/Slip!/Frank."
      • I can't honestly rank this better/worse than the other "Help On The Way"s I've seen live, but I can say that this felt the most...Dead.  Phil, Furthur, and JRAD all do/did great versions, but this one seemed to check off the most boxes for what I picture the song to be.  John's solos skated and twirled fiercely across the musical plane as the rest of the band swirled behind him.  Oteil and Jeff both came out as leading forces, and it felt like every member of the band was firing on all cylinders.
    • Slipknot! >
      • God, I love it when they nail "Slipknot!"  It's such a tricky bit of music, with shifting riffs and timings that don't come easy, but the band didn't miss a single beat.
      • After the opening hooks, the band wasted no time getting into weird territory.  Jeff and John skimmed along the upper reaches of the song, dropping into unexplored parts of the jam, while Bobby and Oteil played with different rhythms underneath.
      • I could have stood another few minutes or so of the song, but you can't be greedy!  Suddenly they all jumped in on Bob's ascending riff that signals the close of "Slipknot!"  Normally Bob does a fairly obvious queue when they do this, but this time they all just slid into it without even looking up.  Once again, they nailed the riffs and we all knew what was coming next.
    • Franklin's Tower *
      • Billy got a little off on the first couple beats, but the band snapped right back together and went right back to relentlessly rocking out.
      • This is probably the best "Franklin's Tower" I've seen live.  I hesitate because the 2015-10-30 one I saw Phil do at the Capitol Theater was so special.  It was Phil's first show since he beat his encounter with cancer, and it was so great to see him playing and singing, happy and alive.  That having been said, I think this Fenway one still took off in every possible way.  The whole band was locked together as tightly as ever, and John was going to solo until his guitar caught fire or his hands fell off.  He was playing very much like himself, but his approach reminded me of Jerry in the way he just seemed so determined to play every possible note.
      • Bobby had been singing this earlier in the tour, but I think John's voice is better suited to it, and his memory of lyrics is much better, so it's probably for the best that he sang the whole thing.
      • The song had so much energy, but for the last lyrics they mellowed down and stretched the song out a little, and it felt like heaven in the stadium.  John's sweet notes gracefully falling after his sweeter singing, and the band rolling the dew away behind him.  They brought the energy back up and came to a spectacular close with the traditional "Slipknot!" ending.

      • DSC03910
    • Voter Rap
      • Bobby has been ending all the first sets this tour by telling people to register to vote at the Head Count tent on Participation Row, and usually mentions something about "voting the assholes out of office."  It's common enough now that I think we should all start labeling it on our setlists, so here we are!

         The band left the stage, the big lights came on, and we remembered we were on the field at Fenway Park!  Not only that, but we had just seen one of the best sets of music we had ever seen, in that same field!  My dad went to get some beers, but my mom and I just hung around our home base for a bit.  We lost some of our water bottles when we moved down the row, but we survived without them.  My friend Jimmy, who had been at the Hartford show, bought the fourth ticket we had left over when my other friend bailed on Friday night.  After sitting in the wrong section the first set, he found us during intermission and hung around for the rest of the show.  We chatted about the set and laughed with our neighbors about John's outfit, and then the lights came down and it was time for the second set!  The second set is, as I always say, where they bring out the dragons.

    Second Set (* w/ Donna)
    • St Stephen >
      • I had been thinking "Dark Star" for the opener, but didn't realize how close I came!  "St. Stephen" is always a great second set opener, though, especially for those Boston Heads like my dad who saw its return at the Boston Music Hall in 1976 at the beginning of a second set.
      • This was different from other versions I had seen in that it seemed a little more straight-forward and rock-and-roll than some of the other, more overtly psychedelic versions.  They trimmed some of the more baroque sections of the song down and kept the more basic structure of it.  Not to say this song didn't get far out, they definitely went off the reservation.
      • Bobby tried to blow some of the lyrics in the "lady finger" section, but managed to hold on.
      • The middle jam was fantastic, and it almost seemed like they were closing it early, but instead they just built the closing jam higher and higher.  At one point Bobby seemed to try to signal them to go back into the main riff and the final lyrics, but only Jeff seemed to notice.  Instead of faltering, they just took the hiccup as a chance to bring the jam a little farther out before bringing it back in.  The transition back into the main part of the song has been a little rough with this band, but no train wreck tonight!
      • They finished the lyrics, asking us "what would be the answer to the answer man?", and we weren't sure what it would be until John hit those four notes that can get any Dead Head to freeze in his tracks and grin.

      • DSC03917
    • Dark Star >
      • Yes indeed, folks, and what a "Dark Star" it was.  All in all, I think it might be the second best "Dark Star" I've seen, after the 11/11/11 one.  It's of course hard to say for sure, because all "Dark Star"s are so different from one another, and you can judge them based on an endless number of criteria.  I've seen spacier ones and more intense ones, but I think this one balanced the extremes of the song very well.
      • They never drifted too far from the theme, which isn't the most adventurous way to play "Dark Star," but they did it in such a cool way.  Jeff was playing the old TC line on the organ and Rhodes for a while, but he was teasing with it the whole time and never did it exactly straight.  John was doing the same thing with his playing, quoting the main riff but doing it backwards or upside down, and twirling it across the different rhythms the band was laying down.  In some ways it was like a jazzier version of a '68 "Dark Star."
      • Bobby sang all the verses on this one, instead of shifting the lyrics across the band members like other Dead bands have done, and he did a great job.  I kind of prefer the shifting vocals, but they should do whatever works for them!   They really nailed the music during the lyrics too; the dragons were out, and the band was playing with the Old Powers.
      • The jam turned towards kind of a poppy, bluegrass/jazz kind of feel, and we were ready for them to go into something like "Cumberland Blues," but they kept playing the theme of the song and staying with this new kind of shuffle they had developed. Then Bobby started singing the second verse while they kept playing this different jam!  I was cracking up, it was so funny and so right!  They snapped back into the regular "Dark Star" sound for the second half of vocals, and drifted off into Bobby's "nightfall of diamonds" outro, and developed into a new jam.
      • This new jam was a real barn-burner, and a real puzzler too.  At the time, I would have bet you a hundred dollars that they were doing the jam in 12/4 that drops into "The Eleven."  Each time they came around, I kept waiting for Mickey (once he got off The Beam) to hit his snare two time instead of three, but it never came.  Then Bobby and Oteil shifted it around, and I would have bet another hundred that they were going into "The Other One!"
    • Terrapin Station* >
      • Instead, the jam kind of petered out, and Bobby led the way beautifully into "Terrapin."  As they've been doing since last year, John sang the "Lady With a Fan" part and Bobby sang "Terrapin Station," and both of them killed the vocals.  Bobby threw in a few "ha's," but what else would you expect?
      • This was definitely better than the Worcester version, partially for a reason we'll get to later, but mostly because the band was just so tight this night.  I still think John needs to cut loose a little more from the basic notes of the song, but he's already playing better than he was (and way better than I ever could).  This is just one particular area where I think John Kadlecik still has a distinct advantage (more about that in a future post).
      • The moon had been slowly making its way across the sky all night, and, though it was not a crescent moon, it was just about dead center over the Fenway Park sign on the clubhouse during "Terrapin."
      • The closing jam was good, and longer than some versions I've heard them do, and while John wasn't stepping out too much, the rest of the band was playing their best, Jeff and Oteil especially coming to the forefront of the jam.

      • DSC03924
    • Drums >
      • John and Bobby stayed on stage for a bit and made some weird noises while the drummers got busy behind them.  As always, Oteil came back out on stage to play some drums, and Bobby and John hit the road.  Like he did in Hartford, Jeff came out on stage and he and Oteil went back to playing with some clown horns and having a grand old time!
      • As I've said in the past, I don't think they need to do "Drums" every night, but I still love it, and this one was a whole of of fun.  The light show was incredible all night, and it really shined (ha) at this point in the night.  They had a big video monitor behind the band that mostly just had videos of the band monitors, and then two screens on the sides of the stage showing band members and visual graphics.  The graphics could be annoying if you wanted to see what was happening, but since we could see the big screen the whole time, they were mostly fine.
    • Space >
      • Mickey started eyeing The Beam and the rest of the band took off -- they knew it was about to get really weird up in here.
      • I don't know why, but I never get tired of The Beam.  It's pretty much the same thing each time: first he plucks it, then he runs that metal slide over it, then he starts wailing on it, maybe gets out the bow, and eventually gets down to those bone shattering frequencies.  Every time he does it though, it just makes me so happy!  It's incredible the range of truly awesome sounds he can generate with that thing; and it makes him so happy too, how could I ever complain about it!
      • Jeff, John, and Bobby came back out on stage and the drummers left, and after toying with some typical "Space," they suddenly fell into one of the most beautiful jams I've ever heard.  It was somewhere between "The Wheel," Bobby's song "Heaven Help The Fool," and an Allman Brother's song.  After such a barrage of noise and low frequencies, hearing these three soaring across the sky together was such an uplifting moment.

      • DSC03926
    • Terrapin Station >
      • John started getting a different idea going and the other members of the band came back out, and before we knew what was happening they launched back into the "Terrapin" jam!  We couldn't believe it!
      • I almost thought they were going to do the rest of the "Terrapin" suite, but instead they just jammed on the outro until it had been pounded into the ground of the stadium.
      • DSC03918
    • Morning Dew >
      • Bobby counted this off as they were still rattling around the final chord of "Terrapin," but we knew what they were going into.
      • My dad's first Dead song was "Morning Dew" from 1973-11-30 in Boston (Dick's Picks 14), so this was very cool to get.
      • Like at Fare Thee Well, Bobby sang this song, and he once again killed it.  I bet John would sing it really well too, but if Bobby wants this one I say we let him have it; though I do wish he would sing "I can't walk you out in the morning dew today" before the solo section instead of "you didn't hear no young man moan today."
      • The band did the build-up to the solo section perfectly, and John took it from there.  I think he could have kept going until daybreak, but Bobby needed to sing the rest of the lyrics, so John eventually stepped back down.
      • Instead of starting the closing jam from a mellow place like they used to, Bobby built it up with the final lyrics and the jam started out already really hot.  They built up to climax after climax until Bobby finally closed it off, and then counted them into...
    • Casey Jones*
      • Unexpected, but always such a fun song!  Bobby and John traded vocals, and Donna came back out on stage.
      • Kind of like "Touch of Grey," this song doesn't differ too much from version to version, but it's still a great song.  John really helped build the tempo up to a frenzy at the end, and everyone stayed with him!
    • Black Muddy River
      • They came back on stage, and form their tuning I knew this was what they were going to play, and I was so grateful.  I had always passed this off as another 80's song, until I heard John sing it with this band recently on a recording.  Then I went back to find all the versions  could of it, because it is such a beautifully sad song.  It's Hunter at his best, and the structure of the song is so very Grateful Dead.
      • They totally crushed this version; John sang it perfectly and with so much emotion, and his solos pierced everyone's hearts in the stadium.
    • US Blues*
      • I didn't expect a double encore this night, but suddenly Bobby was counting off again!
      • I've had my fair share of this song already, especially as an encore, but these guys are so good at playing it and we were all having such a great time that I once again found myself with no complaints!
      • Bobby brought it to a close, then seemed to look at a clock to see how much time they had, then brought them back into the final bars of the song for one more go around.
         They rocked the show to a close, and took a bow with smiles on their faces.  Jeff practically tackled Billy off the stage, so I'm pretty sure they were having as good a time as we were!  We waited for the crowd to clear a bit and kept cheering, then headed back out towards the car.  Once again, there was no hope of us getting out any time soon, so we hung out in the lot for a bit.  I ended up walking back to the train to head down to Quincy with the rest of the Heads riding that train.  Got home not too late, but went to bed after not too long to preserve energy for the next day!

         It's hard to say for sure, but this could be the best show of the tour.  Of course being there makes it seem that much better than anything I may have streamed or listened to after the fact, but I think the facts are there.  The whole band was playing at their best, and the song selections were excellent.  Not only that, but they changed things up a bit: "St. Stephen > Dark Star," and reprising "Terrapin" after "Space?"  Unheard of!  I'm open to hearing about which shows were better, but I think this is at least in the top three of Best Shows this particular band has played.  It's definitely the best I've seen them!

         I should have Saturday night's review up in the next couple of days, so stay tuned!

    Thursday, July 14, 2016

    Final Guesses For Fenway

         Tomorrow's it, folks, the first Fenway Grateful Dead(ish) show in history!  Dead & Company is playing Friday and Saturday nights at historic Fenway Park to end the second and final leg of their Eastern Tour.  After this they're heading out to the West, where one of their shows is in the suspiciously named George, Washington....

         Anyway, after careful study, ritual, and bullshitting, I have come up with exactly what the band is going to play both nights.  There are also rumors circulating about Ms. Donna Jean and/or Paul McCartney (he's playing Fenway on Sunday) making appearances, but I'm only banking on Donna.

    Fenway Night One

    Set One
    Help On The Way > (JM)
    Slipknot! >
    Franklin's Tower (BW)
    Beat It On Down The Line (BW & DJG)
    Sugaree (JM)
    Passenger (BW & DJG)
    Althea (JM)
    The Music Never Stopped (BW & DJG)
    Set Two
    Samson & Delilah (BW & DJG)
    Playing in the Band > (BW & DJG)
    Dark Star > (BW)
    St. Stephen > (ALL)
    Drums >
    Space >
    Days Between > (BW)
    Playing in the Band (BW & DJG)
    Encore: Brokedown Palace

    Fenway Night Two (w/ Donna on backing vocals for most/all)
    Set One
    Feel Like a Stranger (BW)
    Loser (JM)
    Candyman (JM)
    Tennessee Jed (BW)
    Bird Song > (JM)
    Jack Straw > (BW & JM)
    One More Saturday Night (BW)
    Set Two
    Terrapin Station > (JM & BW)
    He's Gone > (BW & JM)
    Truckin' > (BW)
    Drums >
    Space >
    The Other One > (BW)
    Wharf Rat > (BW)
    Not Fade Away (ALL)
    Encore: Morning Dew (BW), Ripple (BW)
         Yes, revel in the light oof the Truth!  Ok, maybe they won't play exactly these songs, but I'm feeling at least 60% confident that the setlists will look a lot like these.  I'll be down in the left field for both nights with my parents and some friends, and I look just like me, so if you see me, say hi!
         Just one final note before we go.  I was watching the stream from PA last night and enjoying the show, when all of a sudden streamers started getting shut down.  According to most accounts I've heard, it was Dead staff in official shirts telling people they couldn't stream, and at least one guy got kicked out of the venue. There aren't many facts going around, but this is a troubling turn of events if the band has decided not to allow streaming.  Streaming is practically indistinuishable from taping, which is a traditional staple of the Dead Head community!  So I think if the band has a beef they should come out and say something official, and we can all talk about it like civilized people, instead of forcing us to spread conspiracy rumors on the internet.

    Tuesday, July 12, 2016

    Guest Appearances!

         Hey everyone, sorry I haven't had a new post up in a bit.  I've actually done a couple of guest spots in two different places, and you should check them out!  Tune in this Thursday for final predictions for Dead & Company at Fenway, and I should have some sort of review up either Sunday or Monday!

         A huge thanks to Strangers Stopping Strangers and Deadheadland for sharing the spotlight with me, and I hope you guys check out all their other cool stuff!

    Here is my appearance on the podcast Strangers Stopping Stangers.  We talk Furthur (11/11/11!), Dead & Company, and a bit about this blog and the Dead in general.  You can follow the host of the podcast on Twitter, and the podcast I'm on is here.

    Here is my guest post on Deadheadland, where I did a review of the Dead & Company Hartford show (2016-06-28) that I went to the other day!  Spoiler alert, it was a great show!  The post is here, and you can follow Deadheadland on Twitter.

    Thursday, July 7, 2016

    Met At a Dead Show 2

         Here it is, the return of our sometimes installment, Met At a Dead Show, telling tales of some of the fun and weird people we meet at intermission and more!  Sorry there was no Sunday post this week, but I've been doing a couple of guest appearances that I'll talk more about another time.  No post this Sunday either, I'll be away at the Green River Festival in Greenfield, MA.  Fenway shows next week, though, so you better believe I'll have reviews of those!

         My friend Ricky and I showed up for Dark Star Orchestra's 2000th show, which they played at the State Theater in Ithaca.  They were playing on November 19, 2011, which was the beginning of Thanksgiving break for us college kids.  We had seen Furthur just a little over a week before, and this was our first DSO show, so we were pretty psyched!  We showed up early and got ourselves into a State of Mind that was a little more overwhelming than we anticipated, so we were silently freaking out in the front of the theater.  All of a sudden a woman and her husband (I think?) showed up with electric smiles and bright orange stickers that said "Special Today," and she stuck them on our shirts!  I've seen people with similar stickers since (my dad got one in Hartford for Dead & Company), but this particular woman stands out as a real Saint of Circumstance; we were in a particular circumstance, and she came out of nowhere to help us get into a better frame of mind -- we were special that day!

         Have you seen this lady from New York?  Is she you?  Are you she?  Let me know, and share your own stories below!