The mountain ranges began to turn a darker hue of purples as the sun set upon Infinity Downs Farm for Dead and Company’s first performance last night at Lockn Festival. At the present time, most Deadheads can agree that there has been an excessive amount of chatter regarding the tempo of Dead and Company shows and the boys came to Virginia with all intentions to strike those down.
Shortly after a gargantuan blues set by Tedeschi Trucks Band, Weir and friends hit the stage with light in their eyes and fire in their soul. The band launched into a, “Hell In A Bucket”, opener; despite our crew’s anticipation for a jam machine opener along the lines of, “Playing in the Band”. Immediately, as if in a manner to smite us for second guessing, “Hell in a Bucket”, Weir began speeding up the tempo like a roadrunner on cocaine. The energy of the mountains combined with the Weirwolf’s howls sent a towering sensation of a primal uprising through the crowd. A rare first set “Scarlet Begonias” dropped everyone into a familiar groove and blossomed into a bursting tango of tension build-ups and releases. Mayer turned backwards towards a smiling Billy and the band motioned into the classic Garcia/Hunter, “Brown Eyed Women”. “Ramble On Rose”, perhaps the highlight of the show came next on the setlist. Just like New York City, just like Frankenstein, this tune put the entire sea of tie-dye at Lockn into a stompin’ get-down. The bluesey-ragtime tune was perhaps Dead and Company’s most up-to-tempo, “Ramble” to date.
Fans lock in to the vibrations of Dead music in the hills.
Forty-two teeth in the jawbone and one knee-slappin, “Alabama Getaway”, graced the stage next. The 80’s Dead tune, a Garcia classic, was debuted by Dead and Company at their first stop of summer tour earlier this year at Mansfield, MA. At its inception for the band Alabama Getaway struggled with living up to its roots as a 80’s Dead classic. In due time, however, “Alabama” would transform into the masterpiece we saw yesterday. Although it is nontheless true nobody brings it like Garcia it was a time of smiles and swaying. Weir was eager to end the tune, though. Weir signaled the band into a transcendental, “Cassidy”, which swayed into the stars and culimnated into a set-closing, “Deal”.
After a surprisingly lengthy set break the boys returned to the stage for a particularly jazzy, “Help on the Way > Slipknot”. The band planted a sky-enveloping, “Fire on the Mountain” after the jazzy segment which made its way into a, “China Cat > Rider”. Weir appeared to be at the top of his game as he yelped, “I wish I was a headlight on a northbound train”. Mickey and Billy took the crowd on a twisting journey through drums and space afterwards. Mickey seemed particularly annoyed by the sound man who looked to be arguing with Mickey over the sound on the beam. “The Other One” came thundering out of the cosmic zone of, “drums > space” and played homage to the late Neal Cassady.
Dead & Company are known to have out of this world lighting.
Weir then invited the crowd to listen to the tale of August West as the band summoned the Dead recovery ballad, “Wharf Rat”, which featured Mayer taking mesmerizing a-mixolydian runs on his PRS. To top the second set off in a light-hearted fashion the boys launched, “Franklins Tower”. “The Weight” and “One More Saturday Night” followed as encores. “The Weight” was particularly sped up compared to sluggish versions we saw earlier this summer. As we move forward I hope we see the band continually improving tempo as we saw tonight in Virginia. As a sum, the band put their best feet forward for their first night at Lockn and we can only hope that they will consistently bring the heat to the second night. Dead and Company returns to the stage tonight at 8:45 for a special performance with the legendary Branford Marsalis.
We’ll see you there, SMRFamily!
Photo Credit: Posted on Reddit by u/Post_Crash_Earnheart.