But before things got weepy the band treated Lockn festival to two full sets of music with the legendary jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis joining for the latter. Dead and Company had a lot to live up to as Deadhead’s memories are always alive with memories of the legendary 3/29/90 Branford Grateful Dead show. The first set began without the aid of Branford and promptly kicked off with, “Playin in the Band”, which remained mysteriously unfinished throughout the rest of the night. The “Playin” jam melted beautifully into, “Uncle John’s Band”, which took the audience deeper into the void of mixolydian musical surrender. Weir and friends then began to tease, “Playing”, in, “Uncle John’s” briefly before shifted the mood entirely with, “Loser”. “Loser” had a sluggish beginning but eventually skyrocketed into the cosmos as Mayer took the signature Garcia solo. Pigpen classic “Mr. Charlie”, which was debuted by Dead and Company this past summer at the Gorge, took center stage next. Mayer ripped the familar blues song with a Garcia-esque focus on the melody which was also supplemented by Mayer’s Stevie Ray Vaughan style blues approach. I would go as far to call this the highlight of the first set. Tennessee Jed greeted the southern audience with a knee-slapping’ good time and peaked so hard you could’ve sworn the side of the mountain split open. Although the tune was met by some vocal flubs by Weir the audience laughed it off and cheered uproariously.. Good ol’ Bobby we love you no matter what!
Taking its place once again in the first set, with a summer 2018 history of being placed in the second set, “Althea” was pioneered next by an impassioned Mayer. To close the first set Mayer and Weir began playing, “Sugar Magnolia”, which was once again met with vocal flubs by Bobby. Sometimes our boys have off nights, this definitely was not one, but maybe Bobby should’ve laid off the blunt a bit before he hit the stage because vocals took a hit at times. As if in a manner to redeem himself Weir began howling to the sun and took the house down with the end of, “Sugar Mags” everyone waited for the second set happily afterwards.
After an extremely short break Dead and Company returned to the stage aided by Branford with all intent to bend minds. “Shakedown Street” opened up the second set in a funk-ified fashion and featured a tasty end-jam which featured Oteil and Marsalis trading call and response licks to one another. “Bird Song”, which made an appearance on the Grateful Dead’s legendary 3/29/90 Branford performance, was summoned next. The open-chorded song allowed all of the experienced musicians to explore the tune in a way that was explorative and humble to each of their styles. After the second set heated up the boys launched into another 3/29/90 tune and GD classic, “Eyes of the World”. The real hero of this tune was Oteil, who appeared to be making bold decisions to increase the funk approach in his playing. “Terrapin Station” was taken into the picture next as Weir and the boys made the conscious decision to pull all tricks out of the bag. Personally, I am very surprised this slot was not used for, “Dark Star”, as it resonated so heavily on the 3/29/90 show. I think this was a wise decision made by Weir in order to push the band to new heights instead of revisiting old nostalgia for Branford’s past performance. After a short, “Drums” the boys returned to the stage for one of the show highlights, or as we at SMR like to call it, “NEW SPACE”. Dead and Company have illustrated that “Space” is now the place for pure Grateful Dead-esque experimentation this past summer. In the past for D&C it would be common that only Billy and Mickey would jam on, “space”. Now, it’s a time for mutual jam between all members; and looking back at summer 18’ we’ve seen some of the best “spaces” by Dead and Company.
Weir took everyone out of space with a skull-crushing, “Morning Dew”, which peaked numerous times due to the versatile playing of Mayer’s expertise on G-major voicings. Marsalis took his swing at the Garcia classic and knocked it out of the park, too. “Not Fade Away” brought a thunderous close to the second set and left everyone aching for more. This “NFA”, is notably the best D&C “NFA” of all time. The musical expertise of Mayer and Marsalis brought smiles to everyone’s faces as they echoed licks back and forth to each other.
The boys returned to the stage for their encore with, “Brokedown Palace”, which featured Marsalis’ taking a hair-raising solo on the tune, U.S. Blues, and finally, “Ripple”.
Summertime's come and gone my oh my.. And I suppose that’s a summer tour wrap, folks. My heart glows when I look back at all the smiling strangers we’ve met this summer. Our @SMRTraveled family keeps on growing as the years go by and the memories keep blossoming. We’re all already aching for more tie-dyed days dancing with all of you. As the years combine were all humbled to melt in a dream with all of you.
But the music never stopped.. I think I hear a wolf howling..