Grateful Dead

A Big Weekend of Music and Fun from Bob and Phil

By Blair Jackson

January 25-26 was a big weekend for fans of Dead-family music in the S.F. Bay Area, with both Bob Weir and Phil Lesh making appearances with groups of respective “friends.”

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Bob Weir fronting the band Jelly at the Friends of Fields benefit.
Photo: Bob Minkin © 2008

Bob, who seems to play nearly as many benefit shows as actual concerts, was first up, performing at a fund-raiser for a non-profit organization called Friends of Fields, which is dedicated to improving the sports fields of Weir's long-time hometown of Mill Valley (in Marin County). An avid sportsman himself (biking, football with the Tamalpais Chiefs, etc.), Bob has been a supporter of the cause for more than a decade. The Friends of Fields benefit took place at the intimate Mill Valley Community Center. Photographer Bob Minkin tells us that the evening began with a high spirited cocktail hour, then offered a fine dinner (and live auction), and then got down to the musical portion of the evening.

The excellent local rock group Jelly was the house band; they were in turn joined by guests Pat Nevins and Stu Allen, and, in due course, Bob Weir, who fronted the band for six very well-received songs: “Deep Elem Blues,” “Shakedown Street,” “Sugaree,” “Playing in the Band,” “Good Lovin'” and “Brokedown Palace.” A splendid time was had by all!

Meanwhile, that same night, over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Phil Lesh & Friends--the current lineup with Jackie, John, Steve and Larry we've been raving about here for months--rocked out at a special concert at the Fillmore, a benefit for Habitat for Humanity, the fine group devoted to building affordable housing for people in need.

The next night, Phil Lesh & Friends headlined a grand Mardi Gras celebration at the Bill Graham Civic for about 9,000 dancing maniacs, your humble narrator included. What a night! The festivities opened with an excellent set by the New Orleans band Dumpstaphunk, spearheaded by keyboardist Ivan Neville (son of Aaron) and every bit as funky and nasty as their name implies. Yow, these guys were really in jamming mode, with guitarist Ian Neville (son of Art) really stretching out on a number of tunes as the scintillating syncopated rhythm section of bass monsters Nick Daniels and Tony Hall and drummer Raymond Webber kept the grooves sufficiently funkalicious throughout.

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The friendly Dancing Bear was the winner
of the Mardi Gras costume contest, hosted by Phil.
Photo: Bob Minkin © 2008

After a break, Phil & Friends came out and played a set dominated by late '60s tunes associated with the Dead: “The Golden Road,” “Midnight Hour,” “Viola Lee Blues” and “Caution.” Everyone was in great form all night--this band is getting both heavier and jammier with each gig it seems.

Before the second set got underway, Phil was the MC for a costume contest: A dozen or so lucky fans were plucked out of the crowd to go up onstage and parade their costumes in front of the assembled throng of crazies. There was an Uncle Sam, a Jester, a dancing Gumby…you know, the usual suspects! But the consensus winner was someone attired in an oversized blue Dancing Bear suit. He/she/it blew kisses to the crowd and won our hearts (and our cheers).

Like most people, I assumed the second set would begin with the Mardi Gras parade, as was traditionally done at Dead shows, but no--instead the band came out of the gate with a big 'n' beefy “Shakedown Street.” Then Ivan Neville jumped behind Jackie's B-3, the groove of “Iko-Iko” started up and then the festivities really began!

The parade was quite the colorful and trippy spectacle, in keeping with the Grateful Dead Mardi Gras parade tradition that goes all the way back to a Kaiser Convention Center (Oakland) gig way back in 1986. Over the years the parades got bigger and more elaborate (particularly when the shows moved to the larger Oakland Coliseum Arena), and though this one was back in a smaller hall, it was still a wondrous visual and aural treat. The parade was led by a dancing Chinese dragon--lest we forget that Chinese New Year is right around the corner: Gung Hay Fat Choy, everyone! It's the year of the (Wharf) Rat!--which was followed by revelers with giant paper-mache heads, stilt-walkers, costumed harlequins, jesters and what-have-you, and then a series of floats--one with magic mushrooms, another with a globe, another with a giant light-up wheel--all populated by tripsters and hipsters who tossed Mardi Gras beads by the hundreds into the throng. Meanwhile, the people who participated in the costume contest danced on the lip of the stage in front of the band. It must've taken a half-hour for the parade to make its way through the hall--that was one long “Iko,” brudda--but it was a great time; a fabulous extended peak, punctuated occasionally by explosions of glittering confetti.

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The Mardi Gras parade snakes through the
Bill Graham Civic Center as
Phil & Friends play "Iko-Iko" onstage.
Photo: Bob Minkin © 2008

Once the parade had finally cleared the floor, Phil & Friends went back to doing what they do best: cranking out some of the most powerful rock 'n' roll on the planet, in a marathon set that went to 2 a.m. As N'awlins' own Dr. John might say, it was “such a night!” And desitively bonarroo to boot!

Two nights after the Mardi Gras mambo, Phil & Friends made their way up to Portland, Oregon for a pair of eagerly anticipated shows at the intimate Crystal Ballroom. The concerts were ostensibly to commemorate a pair of shows the Grateful Dead played at the same venue 40 years ago, February 2 and 3, 1968. Of course, it's just like Phil to whip out some of the same songs the Dead played there back in the day: “Dark Star,” “That's It for the Other One,” “Schoolgirl,” “Viola Lee Blues.” But c'mon, dude--where was “Clementine”?

P&F Set Lists

1/25/08 The Fillmore (San Francisco)
China Cat Sunflower, Deal, Beat it on Down the Line, Dire Wolf, Gone Wanderin', Cumberland Blues

Mountains of the Moon, The Great Unknown*, Dark Star, Death Don't Have No Mercy > Dark Star, The Other One, Eyes of the World, Sugar Magnolia / Lovelight

* song by Particle, Steve Molitz's other band; he sang it

1/26/08 Bill Graham Civic Auditorium (SF)
One More Saturday Night, Brown-Eyed Women, Pride of Cucamonga, Cold Black Devil, The Golden Road, Midnight Hour> Viola Lee Blues> Caution> Viola Lee Blues

Shakedown Street, Iko-Iko*> Truckin'*, Jack Straw, Saint Stephen> Eleven jam> Unbroken Chain, Fire on the Mountain, I Know You Rider, Morning Dew> Uncle John's Band / Box of Rain

*with Ivan Neville on organ (and vocals on “Iko")

1/28/08 Crystal Ballroom (Portland, OR)
Viola Lee Blues> Cryptical Envelopment> The Other One> Cryptical Envelopment> Good Morning Little Schoolgirl, Birdsong, Mexican Girl, Cold Rain & Snow

Bertha, Althea, New Speedway Boogie> Mountains of the Moon> Terrapin (Inspiration)> The Wheel> Help on the Way> Slipknot> Not Fade Away / Franklin's Tower

1/29/08 Crystal Ballroom (Portland, OR)
Shakedown Street> Mississippi Half-Step> Big River, I'm So Gone> Loose Lucy, Cosmic Charlie, Uncle John's Band

Playing in the Band> New Minglewood Blues, Scarlet Begonias > Sugaree, Dark Star> China Cat Sunflower> The Eleven jam> I Know You Rider> Playing reprise / Brokedown Palace

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Walstib's picture
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Joined: Jun 23 2007
good times

Wow it sounds like a throwback to the good ol days at the Kaiser! Seems like I missed some great shows-Inspiration!!!!

Never had such a good time...........

Hank Stamper's picture
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Joined: Jun 8 2007
grumble grumble

Don't want to dump too much cold rain and snow on anyone but whether its Bob or Phil on tour it's up and down the East coast over and over and over, and yeah, we all know that's where the money's at. But as seldom as either hits the Pacific Northwest would it be asking too much to limit ticket sales to the area? Phil's shows at the Crystal were gone in a heartbeat, and yeah, they would have been anyway. At least folks from this part of the country would have had a little better chance to see them without having friends at the Creamery or paying the hundreds folks were asking on Craigslist or ebay.

iknowurider's picture
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Joined: Oct 23 2007
me too!

I wish I even knew someone who would dig being a friendly dancing bear, besides me.

I'm lucky to have all these Dead net friends

Right on

Timmy's picture
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Joined: Jun 5 2007
Nice

Wish it could be heard by all...

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