Two nights ago, at a casino in Reno, Bob Weir stepped up to the mic and said “If you want exactly perfect you are going to have to wait two or three nights”, well this is the third night of the Weirwolf's tour, and it was well worth the wait. This 17 song show is particularly interesting because it contains only 5 (if we count the Deal as a Jerry Garica song) Grateful Dead songs. Aside from miscellaneous covers, the other leaders were 3 Ratdog and 3 Bob Dylan tunes.
The first set started with Hell In A Bucket. To be honest, I saw this set and wasn’t happy that it was on there. This has always been a weird song to me and I really wasn’t sure how the trio would handle it. A band has its own heartbeat and every heart beats just a little bit differently. Finding that rhythm is the key to working these songs. But instead of flopping, the song was smacked like a 100 mph fastball straight into the cheap seats. The intro to Hell In A Bucket was my favorite intro I’ve heard in any rendition of this song. I say that with the knowledge there are more renditions that I have not heard, essepcially the Ratdog ones. So if this mocks something done before link it below so I can hear it! One thing is sure, Hell In A Bucket set off an unbelievable first set. Mama tried is one of my favorite tunes of its kinda (short and sweet) not to mention it fits this band like a glove. Tennessee Jed was tight. The song flowed so effortlessly from the band and the bass kept us thumping along. Even So was my favorite of the first set. This was the first time this song really shined since I’ve seen it (only talking Dead and Co versions with this comment). The song made its Ratdog debut on May 28th, 1999 in my home state of Ohio at a little place called Buckeye Lake during Spring Hookahville 1999. Hookahville is a festival hosted by Ekoostik Hookah yearly in Ohio. The festival is much smaller now and is known as a stop for artists like Keller Williams, Zach Deputy, and Wanyama. It is quite wild to see that Bobby was in one of the opening slots back then. Wolf Bro’s worked through When I Paint My Masterpiece and Peggy-O, finishing with a strong Deal. I found it particularly funny during this song that a fan fed Bobby a verse he forgot. You can hear the fan in the recording and Bobby even thanked him quick on the mic.
Set two began with the Weirwolf stepping up to the mic and howling out the opening lines “Hello little school girl,” with the band catching him right as the last syllable hit. Next, they delivered a surprise cover of Donovan’s “Sunshine Superman”. While Dylan and the Dead were carving up the 1966 counterculture scene of Haight Asbury, across the pond Donovan become one of the first pop musicians to adopt the “counter-culture” movement in London. This isn’t the first time Donovan and the Dead’s music have crossed paths. A song off The Allman Brothers “Eat a Peach” called “Mountain Jam” was told by Bill Graham to have been a creation of a jam that happened at the Fillmore East between Duane Allman, Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac and Jerry Garica based around Donovan’s 1967 single “There Is a Mountain”. Soon after came the infamous “Dark Star”, the first Dark Star of Wolf Bro’s tour and an instrumental one at that. They took this train straight into “Two Djinn” another Ratdog classic. Two Djinn made its appearance in the Ratdog line up on February of 1999 at the Warfield. This song would live in the top 25 most played songs for the band till it's final gigs in 2014. Bobby’s setlist from his Instagram included a Dark Star reprise, but they more or less skipped that completely. Bobby then brought up his second guest of the fall tour, Tal Wilkenfield. The 31-year-old Tal is a bass virtuoso. She has played alongside everyone from Prince to Herbie Handcock and was awarded Bass Players Magazine’s “Young Gun Award” by Don Was himself. She joined Bobby for “Along The Watchtower” where she laid down a fat bass solo, working so seamlessly with Was. In my head popped a cartoon of this groovy wolf band rocking out a cave turn speakeasy with an audience of fellow wolfs. Bobby finished the vocals and went into a jam that carried this vision into a whole scene for me. What a great ending to the song. The transition into “Throwing Stones” lead by Lane, seemed to miss its mark. Honestly, the only missed mark of the whole show. Throwing stones was good, but couldn’t hold up to the rest of the night. We are pretty used to hearing Throwing Stones finishing the show or going into to NFA, so a Day Between slipped in there was nice. Day’s Between is a song a lot of people don’t like. I’ll admit it never moved me to great extents ether but I think its always a good addition. The best memory I have of it was dancing in the corridors of Citi Field on the Sunday show in 2016, one of the few times you could have called me a "spinner". The lyrics of this song have always been the focal point. Kind of like a Gospel of a Dead show. This song is Garcia’s last stand …
“Hearts of Summer held in trust
still tender, young and green
left on shelves collecting dust
not knowing what they mean”
These lyrics have always resonated to me regarding the fans. More importantly, the die-hard heads who lived on the road, and still do, as best as they can. Summer is what the Dead universe spins so freely around. But once that ends, it puts many people back in a place that they haven’t quite figured out yet. For Weir, I think his Days Between is now. The time he has to hold the torch, between what he knew, The Grateful Dead, and what he doesn’t, the end.
From the depth of Day Between we get rocked back into an NFA which had the fans singing and cheering the band off stage. The encore was a personal favorite “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”. I love every time I’ve heard the Grateful Dead do this tune. Unfortunately, I can’t quite get behind Bobby on vocals, but I do love that he at least is thinking of this song. I could see Dead and Company killing this song. Both Mayer and Oteil could sing this one and it would rock either way. It misses much of the melody which I think a large band would have. Something so different from the Dead sound that Bobby does is he’s been playing without a keyboardist. Even The Campfire Band didn’t have that element. I like it overall because it’s making Bobby into this cowboy rocker, but it does effect tunes like this.
All in all, my favorite show yet … however, there has only been three! So that means very little! We are looking forward to getting on with the rest of the tour. For more on The Wolf Bro’s keep following us here at SMRTRAVELED and be sure to tune into The Double Encore podcast!
Hell In A Bucket
Even So >
October Queen >
When I Paint My Masterpiece
Good Morning Little Schoolgirl
Sunshine Superman >
Dark Star >
Two Djinn >
All Along The Watchtower* >
Throwing Stone >
Days Between >
Not Fade Away
Encore: It’s All Over Now Baby Blue*
With Tal Wilkenfield
Photo credot: Doug Clifton