It was fitting that Phil Lesh and Friends were at a venue named Planet Bluegrass. Going to any version of a Grateful Dead show is like entering another world. Once our car was parked on a cow pie covered grassy terrain, a guy next to us popped open a beer and introduced himself. He found a face value ticket on Craigs List for the sold out show that morning. He declared. “I just had to be here.”
As we walked up to the venue, a few entrepreneurs asked if we would be interested in buying some shiny objects. That’s when they held up a tray of silver pins full of Grateful Dead symbols of skeletons and dancing bears. They were reasonably priced if you were shopping for that hard to find gift for your Deadhead family member.
After showing our proof of vaccination, we entered the venue into a horde of smiling faces. Many were frolicking in the river that was next to the stage. A few kids dressed in tie dye raced around like it was a Chuck E. Cheese. The beer lines were long. But everyone was just happy to be together sharing their love of the Dead’s music.
Phil Lesh and Friends is an ever changing band of musicians with one constant … Phil Lesh. The eighty-one-year-old bass player of the Grateful Dead. The current line up has keyboardist Holly Bowling, drummer John Solo, guitarist Stu Allan, and Grahame Lesh on guitar. Allan sang most of the lead vocals, but Phil Lesh sang a few songs along with his oldest son Grahame,
As I walked around during the jam session, I ran across the light dancers. They floated their multicolored capes, winds, and hula hoops along to the music. Since the only light source around was coming from the stage, the dancing lights illuminated their surroundings extremely well.
There was a twenty minute intermission. Maybe it was for the band to take a breather. Maybe it was for the light dancers to recharge. I never found out. The band eventually worked their way back to the stage and slowly started the music again.
The kindness of the Grateful Dead fans was remarkable. I wandered around to get a few pictures. After taking a few snaps, a woman tapped me on the shoulder. I apologized if I was blocking her view. She instructed me to stand right in front of her to get the best angle of the band. She was right. The lights reflecting on the trees made a perfect setting for the ultimate jam band.
When I returned to my friends, the band concluded with Sugaree, Uncle John’s Band, and Touch of Gray. No matter what version of the Grateful Dead you are attending, their songs have proven to stand the test of time.
See you at the next show. I’ll be the one shopping for shiny objects.