Our car was loaded with jubilation as our small Ford Taurus ventured further southward down the Golden Road. A magnificent, “Other One > It’s A Sin > Stella Blue” from Freedom Hall 1974 hummed out of the speakers as our band of pranksters discussed what Weir would have in store for us in Lousville, Kentucky. Our four man band finally arrived in the quaint city of Lousville after 5 hours of giddy excitement. I turned to Olek and said, “Gosh, it’s really quite here”. We continued to walk around the city and the noise of a city was simply absent. No car horns, no yelping or even passing conversations. It was like a Twilight Zone scene. Not too long after our journey into silence we noticed the gleaming lights of the Palace Theatre off in the distance. The familiar smell of palo-santo and pot greeted our noses and before we knew it our senses had flip flopped from absence to presence. Mini-shakedown was in full bustle. After surveying the art and wares of heads we headed into theatre to avoid the nippy weather. Our eyes were dazzled with the massive piece of art before our eyes. Every turn inside the venue was greeted with busk heads and towering sculptures. After a short hour of shooting the breeze and admiring the surrounding art, Weir and friends hit the stage. I looked at Olek and smiled trying to guess the first song. Olek murmured, “..Bertha?”. “BERTHA!”, We both shouted and our journey into the cosmos of dance began. The building began to bounce as Weir exclaimed his unwillingness to have Bertha return. After a bubbly Bertha, Weir shifted the energy towards a grizzled, “Good Morning Little School Girl”, which featured Weir reworking the chords of the song to an entirely new key compared to the Pigpen classic. Weir pioneered the vocals on the rugged blues tune with sincerity and and created a mutual zone of musical understanding between himself and the audience. “Lay my Lily Down”, one of of the redemptive cowboy tunes from Weir’s 2016 solo album, “Blue Mountain”, took its place on the setlist next. The looming and haunting heartbeat behind “Lay my Lily Down” echoed over the audience as Weir told a story of murder and western skies.
The atmosphere of the Kentucky venue began to shift towards the flavor of the Sistine Chapel and the Spanish Stairs as Weir grabbed for his acoustic. As Weir adjusted the guitar over his shoulders the audience rustled with anticipation. “Oh the streets of Rome..” rang out of the psychedelic cowboy’s vocal chords and the audience began yelping, “woos of bliss”. The Bob Dylan classic, “When I Paint My Masterpiece”, was a poignant invitation to the heart by Weir. Weir’s vocal ferocity took control over the leaps and lines surrounding the familiar melody. Weir connected the Dylan classic to a Jerry Garcia classic, “Loser”, and took the audience back to Dylan’s world with, “Maggie’s Farm”. “Loser”, featured Weir heating up the audience with impassioned country licks and turn-arounds and culminated with Weir finally reaching for his electric guitar to blow Deadheads minds into totality. A favorite tune for some, and hated tune for others, “Corinna”, was summoned by Weir next. Much to the dismay of anti-90s Dead purists, “Corinna”, rocked the entire palace and gave a consistent groove to the audience. The Jerry Garcia classic, “Deal, was called upon by Weir next to close the second set. Twisting and twirling was catching on like a disease in the theatre and the audience lusted for more. In a blur of groove and dance the tune was over. I glanced at my bestfriend and he gave me a firm smile. “Let’s go find Kevin”, I said. We left the balcony, which had been our first set boogie down spot, and found Kevin in a seat near the stage. Our band of tie dyed misfits discussed the strengths and weaknesses of the set and puffed on a pen. Weir treated us to Dead rarities and frequent Dead staples in the first set. All things considered, every tune was a great toss up compilation for a first set. Weir’s trend of having unpredictable setlists for Wolf Bros tour continued and our anticipation began to fester for the second set.
The lights once again dimmed in the Palace Theater for another set of songs from other times and places. Bobby came out once more, and began strumming a similar song that all heads know so well. “Scarlet Begonias” came lushful through the air, Bobby’s twang and crunch bringing a sound that is so unique and so familiar, squeezing out his odd chords to give each lyric a life of its own. Jay Lane, hair covering up his eyes and bobbing his head ever so slightly, backed Bobby up with a tight drumming that is wholly focused on giving Bobby the rhythm he needs to switch back between small solos choruses. It’s a tight focus on background, driving rhythm, with only hints of fills here and there. The group, now humming tightly along on this sonic engine, pursues into a quiet “West L.A. Fadeaway.” Don Was lays down a thumping, swaying bass that leads to the romantic quiet that is met with Bob Weir’s voice, hushing along imagery of black cars, mob bosses, and smoky rooms in chateaus. It’s an excellent song to hear in this intimate setting, the faces of the statue’s of the place illuminated by little lights, and the smoke starting to fill the room. Hoops and hollers can be heard here and there as Bobby takes his little breaks between the lines of the songs, everyone feeling they got a voice of their own in this small little place. The boys stop for a moment and a breath of air, and then Bobby begins slowly, but rushing to a quicker pace. “I Need A Miracle” came swinging out of the speakers, at a pace now enjoyable to dance too. Everyone to boogying, and the ever familiar ring of “I need a miracle, everyday!” could be heard from anywhere in the building, the heads all delivering the lyric Bobby let them sing. The music, however, slowly begin to dwindle down, slower and slower. Erich and I looked at each other puzzled. We couldn’t put together what he was starting to play. A twang rang out here and there, and we rolled through dictionary of Dead songs in our heads silently, but couldn’t find the page that “Eternity” was on. And so it was, that this gem of nineties Dead was being played before us. Neither of us had really heard the tune before, so it was a welcome surprise. It had a romantic sway to it, Bobby’s voice seeming to roll left and right with the lyrics. Once again, the rhythm was tight, and seemingly unbreakable, but here, it was definitely a little looser. Lane lays down little unique fills here and there, as Bobby bounces to and fro from each lyric. It was a pleasant surprised, but one that found itself quickly being hollowed out by a distinguishable bass line. “The Other One” found its way into the Palace Theater. The familiar line that Phil used to deliver to heads on his bass now found its way into the fingers of Don’s, getting everyone excited about the rollicking tune that was just on the horizon. Bobby twanged and pushed his way through the number, in the only way he knew; controlled chaos. He swung between colorful chords, to dark ones. He mixed them together with fills of rapid-fire licks. He pushed up and down on the whammy bar to give the song a little more voice. Upon the second chorus, everyone opened up their mouths and yelled throughout the auditorium as Cowboy Neal took the wheel the bus on down to Nevereverland. It was a powerful number, and one that found itself slow in momentum. Quiet licks now sang out through the building, the statue’s seeming now to move eyebrows as to what this next number would be. The familiar twangs finally mettled out to a “Standing On The Moon.” While talking and chatter seemed to a familiar problem with this ballad at previous shows with Dead & Company, there seemed to be an understanding here. The auditorium hushed, as Bobby sang out what he was seeing from those mountains. All the while, I couldn’t help but feel something was missing. It was Jerry, of course. Whenever Bobby sang this number, I couldn’t help but feel that Jerry is somewhere in the back of the stage, looking through some corner in a curtain. Whenever Bobby turns left, whether to glance at Was or maybe some stage hand, there’s another part of me that thinks he’s still looking for Jerry, waiting to strike in a solo that would palpitate through everyone’s ears. It’s a wonderful number, and I think one that’s encentutated by the beautiful quiet of the place and the quiet strum of the acoustic guitar that only Bobby can deliver. After a near-tearful performance, the rhythm picks up, Lane giving Bobby an almost crazed look in his eyes. The familiar plucks of a string ring, and “Going Down The Road Feelin’ Bad” spurns into realization. After the quiet reflection of the past song, this was one that got the place rocking. “Yeeeeeeow!”’s and “Wooooo’s!” dotted the auditorium, as everyone swung around and filled the aisles with dance and grins that stretched from ear to ear. The place began to feel more like a small bar hall rather than a theater as everyone yelled and tried to get their own bit of attention from Bobby. The music eventually dwindled out, to a momentous applause delivered by everyone. Bobby quickly took off, Was laid his bass down, and Lane turning and walking into the blackness of the curtains. The place continued to hoot and holler for one more song, one more lyric, one more voice. And so it was. The boys slowly got back into their places, and picked up their tools.Now it was time for the encore. Earlier, I had been saying how wonderful it would be for Bobby to play a “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” after hearing an amazing and mythical rendition of the song at the Capitol Theater in 1970 on the way up to the show. Now I was getting my wishes fulfilled. Bobby’s powerful voice swang from loud roars, to mere whispers as he went through the otherworldly tune, strumming along in his own special way. His guitar, with the simplicity of a bass line and a drummer, gave the song an intimate feeling as if he was playing it next to bonfire to a few people listening. The boys ended this number, and it was truly a nice sprinkle on top of a psychedelic acoustic cake that everyone had wanted. They took their familiar bow, Bobby always clasping his hands together in a quick prayer, before walking off the stage to the right to the screams and yells of a thousand souls in a small little hole in the wall in Kentucky.
Good Morning Little School Girl
Lay My Lily Down
When I Paint My Masterpiece
West LA Fadeaway
I Need A Miracle
The Other One
Standing on the Moon
Goin Down the Road Feeling Bad
It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue