Words and Photos by Nicholas Stock
Audio Recorded by Dane Bono
It’s been five years since Furthur graced the hallowed stage at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Since then Phil Lesh has nurtured the scene he created around his home venue Terrapin Crossroads while simultaneously grooming his son Grahame Lesh to take over the reigns of his musical empire. From their time playing together in San Rafael the Terrapin Family Band has emerged as a fully functional and utterly impressive group ready to take on the world. With Phil Lesh driving the bus pretty much anything is possible. The weather at Red Rocks in early May is anything but predictable. We were favored with beautiful weather to pair with the unbelievable music emanating from the stage.
The show was sold out weeks in advance so many fans were scrambling to find tickets at the last minute. Leftover Salmon took the opening slot but with a 2-hour-plus show it felt more like a co-headliner situation. They began their massive set with the classic dance number “Let’s Give A Party.”
Fresh off the release of their latest album Something Higher, Leftover Salmon is a band invigorated by the music and ready to rock out this summer. With stops across the county and at festivals nationwide there will be ample opportunity to see Leftover Salmon play these new tunes. They stuck to some classic Salmon to get their set rolling including the title track off their previous album High Country and the Drew Emmitt sung road tune “All Night Ride.”
“Places” marked the first track off of Something Higher which they proceeded to play in its entirety.This record was an incredibly collaborative effort featuring songs written by each member of the band. “Evermore” highlights the intricate abilities of Andy Thorn on banjo. “House of Cards” is Vince’s take on modern politics and how society is reacting. “Foreign Fields” is a eulogy to a dear friend who passed, written and sung by drummer Alwyn Robinson. The band invited Infamous Stringduster Jeremy Garrett up to the stage to join in on the instrumental “Game Of Thorns,” which was a huge highlight from their set. “Burdened Heart” is a lovesick song by Greg Garrison. Everyone brought something to the table during this recording session.
As they wrapped up their performance of the album Phil Lesh appeared on stage. He joined the band for a rowdy version of “Catfish John” and Jimmy Reed’s “Big Boss Man.” After Phil departed they rounded out their show with a pair of fan favorites including the incredibly appropriate “Up On The Hill Where They Do The Boogie” and the snappy “Better.” Leftover Salmon wowed the audience although I’m sure some of the older Dead Heads were expecting a shorter “opening” set. Regardless the members of Leftover Salmon played their hearts out at Red Rocks and their fans were left grinning from ear to ear as the band members disappeared into the darkness.
After a standard set break Phil Lesh and The Terrapin Family Band hit the stage with friends Vince, Drew, Erik, and Andy from Leftover Salmon to start the show.
As the setlist indicates this was a barnburner of a show featuring a slew of guests and good times. They started with a huge jam session that included most of the members of Salmon chopping it up with the Family Band. They were also joined by singer Elliot Peck who lended her backup vocals to various songs throughout the show. “Viola Lee Blues” was incredible and featured some amazing collaboration before the first guests of the evening bid adieu. “Mountains of the Moon” gave Phil the vehicle to let his vocals soar. “Jack Straw” got fans moving in their seats. Their version of Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” stretched past 12 minutes and included some shred-tastic guitar work from Ross James. The seventh and most unknown song of the Terrapin Station Suite “Jack O’ Roses featured some smooth vocals from Grahame Lesh. This tune penned by Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia was never performed live by the Grateful Dead, but it has found a new life with Lesh and his son.
The band then launched into a jawdropping-ly good version of “Lady With A Fan” into “Terrapin Station.” Fans swayed with arms stretched skyward during this stellar peformance of the suite. Drummer Alex Koford took the mic for a glorious take on “Morning Dew” before the entire band joined in to sing “Uncle John’s Band.” The Family Band closed out their set with a tight “New Speedway Boogie.”
Mr. Lesh appeared as he usually does prior to the encore to give his rap about being an organ donor. Phil received a liver transplant over twenty years ago thanks to a young man named Cody. Phil pays his respects to Cody at every single live performance and this show was no different.
The previous night Phil Lesh joined Twiddle for a version of “Shakedown Street” at Red Rocks. So in tit-for-tat fashion Mahali Savoulidis appeared with the group for a pair of songs to encore the show. They went into a ridiculous “Fire On the Mountain” with Phil, Grahame and Mahali trading verses. “The Music Never Stopped” was enthusiastically welcomed by the audience before Phil wrapped it all up with “Box Of Rain.”
This was a perfect night on the Rocks. From the flawless weather to the unique collaborations, everything was top notch. It was incredible to see a group of musicians that basically started out as a house band evolve into the torchbearers of an entire music scene. It’s a powerful thing to witness a father passing on something tangible to their son. Grahame and the rest of his band represent a new generation in the Dead Family. The real answer to what happens when the music stops is The Terrapin Family Band. The fact that new and younger performers are embracing the music of the Grateful Dead and all it represents means us old timers will never have to go far to hear some amazing music.
Set 1: Let’s Give A Party, High Country, All Night Ride, Boo Boo> Gimme Da Ting> Boo Boo, Places, Show Me Something Higher, Southern Belle, Analog, House Of Cards, Evermore> Astral Traveler> Foreign Fields, Game Of Thorns^, Let In A Little Light, Winter’s Gone, Burdened Heart, Catfish John*, Big Boss Man*, Way Up On The Hill Where They Do The Boogie, Better
*w/ Phil Lesh
^w/ Jeremy Garrett (Infamous Stringdusters)
Set 1: Cumberland Blues*> Viola Lee Blues*, Mountains of the Moon, Jack Straw> Like a Rolling Stone, Jack O’ Roses> Lady With A Fan> Terrapin Station> Morning Dew, Uncle John’s Band, New Speedway Boogie
Encore: Donor Rap, Fire on the Mountain^, Music Never Stopped^, Box of Rain pl
* w Leftover Salmon members Vince Herman, Drew Emmett, Andy Thorn, Erik Deutsch
^ w Mahali Savoulidis from Twiddle