I saw far more Phil than Ratdog, and it was always the more interesting, in depth show!
TOTALLY different bands. I saw far more of Bobby because he loves Philly and has some old, old friends here. If he wasn't headlining somewhere he was part of some summer festival. But almost from the first time I saw Phil I was thinking, "Whoa, what's this?" Like you say, there was a depth to what he was doing and a real open-ended sense that any song could go anywhere. It really resonated with me because a lot of my favorite Dead music is their earliest stuff where most of the time all bets were off.
Now I love Ratdog, particularly when I could see them in a place like the Tower or the Mann, where the acoustics were good enough so that the musicians could really hear each other. They really are a great rock band, but like the Stones you pretty much knew what you were going to get each time. For Phil, though, I'd travel to other cities (mostly NY) because there was always the chance that you'd be really surprised.
"Got any flies?"