Song - Artist - Album
Between the Bars - Elliott Smith - Either/Or
... Sometimes it's raining ... Sometimes it ain't ...
The final Friday band I was staying for was Phil Lesh & Friends. They were the last scheduled band on the Main Stage, the Friday night headliner, so to speak. There were other bands scheduled for the night, the late night, but I was heading home after Phil. As of show time, there was no official announcement as to who Phil Lesh's Friends would be. Let’s face it: the possibilities were endless … some of which would work nicely were even right here at the Vibes! In the past, when Phil would tour as "and Friends," Phil Lesh and Friends consisted of major players like Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks, Jorma Kaukonen, Jimmy Herring, Trey Anastasio, John Molo, Steve Kimock Pete Sears, Robben Ford, Jeff Mattson, and members of Little Feat, The String Cheese Incident and Moe, just to name a few. In fact, in 1994, the original Phil Lesh and Friends were Phil Lesh, Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir and Vince Welnick, acoustic. So you get the idea.
I had tried to figure out who "and Friends" was going to be, and one of my best guesses was that Jackie Greene was going to be playing with him. Phil had done a very short gig in February in Broomfield, CO with Phil, John Scofield, Warren Haynes, Jackie Greene and Joe Russo. Phil owns a relatively new venue north of San Franscisco which he frequently plays with some young talent; talent that includes his sons Grahame and Brian. The night before the Vibes, another festival was going on in Ohio: All Good Festival. Warren Haynes is a frequent "Friend" of Phil's, but he was scheduled to play with the Allman Brothers at All Good on Friday night, so he was definitely out of the question.
With only 45-minutes between Bobby and Phil's sets, I hurried and got a bite to eat, and came back to hung out with the photogs inside the media tent. Of course, as luck would have it, the shortest time I had between sets, the most was going on. Wavy Gravy, Master of Ceremonies and emcee of the Vibes, was hanging out in the tent with Branford Marsalis. What a treat! The left coast radio host of the infamous Grateful Dead hour host David Gans came to hang out, as well. Even a local dj that I’ve listened to for years and years but had never met (Lappy), came to hang out.
Wavy Gravy & Mike Lapitino
As I sat in awe of all that was going on around me, who walked by but a photographer from California that I know as a huge Jackie Greene supporter; so huge, I wouldn't be surprised if he at some point won't or isn't coined as Jackie's personal photog. (If he's not at this point, he should be). That answered the question for me. Now I was sure that Jackie would be there. I very well could have 'cheated' and looked at the All Good Festival line-up, but it's more fun for me to try to figure things like this out. I decided to run out and shake howdy with him. I had seen him in action last New Years out in Tahoe, but really didn’t know who he was at the time.
So, as fun things were going on around me, they gathered the picture takers to bring us to the pit. (I’m sort of glad it happened at this point since there was so much cool stuff happening around me, my head was spinning.) When we arrived at the pit, it had stared to drizzle. Jackie Greene had come out to do some set up and tuning. It was so cool to see him here on the east coast. Jackie, in addition to being a musician, is a visual artist. I was wearing one of his artwork tee shirts and it must have caught his eye because he gave me a thumbs-up, which of course, thrilled the hell out of me!
The rest of the highly-anticipated line-up appeared on stage. Now we found out who Phil Lesh and Friends was going to be: Of course, Phil Lesh (bass); his two sons, Brian (mandolin / guitar) and Grahame (guitar); Jackie Greene (guitar); Furthur’s Joe Russo (drums); multi-instrumental Larry Campbell (fiddle / guitar); and Larry’s wife, Teresa Williams (vocals).
Phil Lesh, Brian Lesh, Grahame Lesh (l to r)
Larry Campbell, Jackie Greene
It seemed quite a long time before the set actually started, maybe because the rains came, and came down in a big way. For at least the first three songs, it poured like no tomorrow! At this point, I was dressed in my raincoat, and a plastic poncho to cover my camera gear. Though I was covered … I didn’t realize how little cover the musicians had from the weather. Maybe the tarp over them had become saturated, or maybe it was because it was raining sideways, but it was teeming onto the band; I felt terrible for them … they didn’t look like they were having too good of a time.
The band started with a cover of a Grateful Dead, Hunter/Garcia tune, Till The Morning Comes to get things going. Wise choice since the audience seemed to know every word. Then, funny, they went into a Jackie Green staple, Gone Wanderin’. I suppose when you have a fiddle and mandolin on stage, this song would be a natural progression, but the audience seemed to have been stunned by an unfamiliar tune so quickly into the set. Of course, I was loving it since I’m quite familiar with Jackie’s music. Then they turned from feeling like you’re at a hoe-down to another Garcia/Hunter tune, Bird Song. Huh; I thought.
For me, the rain certainly put a damper on the vibe. I think it was the rain. I’m still a bit confused about this line up. At some points in the show, there were four guitars, all playing different styles. Oh, and no keyboards. As I mentioned in with the Bob Weir/Bruce Hornsby, the music of the Grateful Dead is very versatile; in fact, much of it was conceived from the bluegrass scene, so I don’t think it was the style; I just wasn’t feeling it. I think the talent on the stage was a bit mismatched, but hey, that’s just me.
I think overall, the majority of the audience dug it. One thing for sure, Jackie Greene showed his stuff and pleased his fans, and certainly gained a few more. The beautiful voice of Teresa Williams lended some beautiful harmonies, especially to Jackie Greene’s vocals. Phil was Phil. His boys showed what they could do on the large stage. There was great symmetry and balance not only between the two Lesh boys, but between them and their dad, and the boys and Jackie. But, oh, the rain.
The more I ponder it, I suppose another part of the reason I wasn’t feeling it is that I don’t think I’m ready to give up the musicians I grew up with to the younger scene. That may be conceding to the fact that age has taken its toll. Let’s just say, for me, this was not the highlight of this year’s Vibes. Brian and Grahame seem talented in their own right, and of course, Jackie Greene as I’ve said over and over, is the whole package. Larry Campbell, though not too young, is soooo talented; he’s everybody’s friend. For the past several years, Campbell has been musical director and bandleader of the Levon Helm Band. Phil’s band paid Levon, who had just passed in late April, quite the tribute by playing several covers of music by The Band. It was a fun, sort of sing-a-long, for some of the sets, and spacey, Grateful Deadish for others. Oddly, they did The Other One again. I say again because just hours earlier Bobby had done it.
So, listen for yourself. There were a ton of tapers at the show, but I’ve provided a handy link for you to check it out.
Till The Morning Comes
Gone Wanderin’ (Jackie Song)
Bird Song --->Cumberland Blues tease---> Bird Song
Up On Cripple Creek
Pride of Cucamonga
Tell Me Mama (Jackie Green song)
St. Stephen -> The Other One-> The Wheel -> Uncle John’s Band
This Wheel’s on Fire
So Many Roads
Scarlet Begonias -> Fire on the Mountain
I Know You Rider
Encore: Shakedown Street
(Next up: Saturday at the Gathering of the Vibes)