Last Tuesday while I was sitting at my desk at work, I felt this irresistible urge to hear Grateful Dead music -- not just throw on a recording, but see it. And by the weekend I was traveling four hours to see Furthur -- the latest band put together by Bob Weir and Phil Lesh -- for the first time. Nothing could scratch this itch except seeing members of the greatest American band ever over the July 4th weekend.
Despite it being a shit show getting in with hours of traffic, the Gelston Castle Estate is a beautiful venue -- the land itself creates a natural amphitheater and from the top the view of the horizon is gorgeous. This certainly could become one of the premiere summer venues in the northeast once they figure out a better infrastructure to deal with traffic. As the band worked their way through "Alligator" and "New Potato Caboose," the sunset was stunning. It was a perfect summer night and the band sounded on.
I had a few moments during the show that I feel compelled to share. First, long-time Dark Star Orchestra guitarist John Kadlecik was really impressive. Yes, it's a bit odd that a man who has made a career as a Grateful Dead scholar, and more specifically has played the Jerry Garcia role with DSO is now the lead guitarist in Phil and Bobby's band. However, there's a reason: the guy is really fucking good at it. But, it's still a bit odd. My friend and I shared a good laugh over the irony of the situation when during "Althea" he sang the line: "There are things you can replace, and others you cannot." Yeah, tell us about it.
Jeff Chimenti impressed the hell out of me with his playing in The Dead last year. This time around was no different. He took "Feelin' Alright" to new heights in the way he tickled the ivories--both playful and edgy, serving as a reminder that the Grateful Dead could also be a great jazz band when they want to be.
And finally, the most impressive thing I took away from this experience was seeing the rhythm section of Phil Lesh and Joe Russo. This music, or language, of the Grateful Dead is inherently weird and beautiful. If you don't get it, you don't get it. But if you do, then seeing the Grateful Dead's music still expand and evolve with someone like Joe Russo behind the kit is gratifying beyond belief. The conversation that he was having with Phil during "Dark Star" was worth the price of the ticket alone. Russo's an aggressive rock drummer with NYC-underground-jazz finesse, and after years and years of hearing him play music, I had a hard time imagining how he would sound in a band with Phil and Bobby. It took witnessing it to realize how good the conversation could be. During this "Dark Star" at about 4 minutes in through the end, I laughed out loud several times with sheer enjoyment of watching how deep, weird and awesome the group interaction got -- they exchanged ideas in that one-of-a-kind Grateful Dead psychedelic way, by letting them float by and spiral off. And then the subtext between Lesh and Russo was just incredibly inspiring. Check it out: