He started out with some low-profile appearances in the Bay Area, beginning with a benefit for Darfur and Doctors Without Borders, held on February 9th at Slim’s in San Francisco (where he’d been spotted a few weeks before, in his first public appearance post-op, as an audience member at a show by Particle, for which the opening act was Crystal City, a band that includes among its members Phil’s son Grahame). The benefit featured Phil as special guest of Rich Price & The Foundation. Grahame Lesh and younger brother Brian also turned up onstage during the course of the evening.
On March 2nd, Phil returned to his old hometown and to his musical roots, with a trip across the Bay to Berkeley for another fundraiser, this time for co-beneficiaries the Young People’s Symphony Orchestra (with which he played violin and trumpet as a child) and the Jazzschool. For this event, Phil served as a guest conductor with the YPSO, which is the oldest youth orchestra in California and the second oldest ensemble of its kind in the United States.
The most talked-about Lesh sighting so far this year, however, took place some 3,000 miles from home on April 9th and 10th, when Phil flew to New York for two gigs at SOB’s (aka Sounds of Brazil), an intimate Lower Manhattan club with a capacity of about 400. The shows (which, not surprisingly, sold out instantly on the basis of a single announcement on Phil’s website) were a low-key way of breaking in a new Phil Lesh & Friends lineup that mixed some old and new faces. Making return appearances were P&F veterans Larry Campbell and Steve Molitz; longstanding Friend John Molo had to sit out the first night due to illness (he was ably filled in for by Jaz Sawyer), but John was back stoking the rhythm engine at the second show. The newcomers were singer Christina Durfee (known for her work with Trey Anastasio) and the acclaimed blues/R&B guitarist/vocalist Larry McCray. The second night also brought a welcome guest appearance by a familiar Friend, the ubiquitous and tireless Warren Haynes.
Back in the Bay Area, Phil had one more trick up his sleeve, making a stealth guest appearance on April 26th with longtime cohorts David Nelson, Barry Sless and Pete Sears at the Iron Springs Pub in the Marin County town of Fairfax.
Be on the lookout for more Phil & Friends activity down the road, starting out with a June 3rd performance at the Mountain Jam, the third incarnation of an annual bash thrown by Warren Haynes and Radio Woodstock at the Hunter Mountain ski area in upstate New York.
As ever, Phil urges you, if you haven’t done so already, to become a blood and organ donor; and also for all men to have themselves screened for prostate cancer. Early detection saves lives!
For the official Lesh lowdown: www.phillesh.net