My road buddy Carla and I decided to split the trip to Bethel into 2 days so that our drive Saturday would not be as long. We stopped outside Philly at my best friend from high school Ingie's house with his family. Great to see them. Moved on towards Bethel, my gps had us taking quite a few scenic Catskills back roads and we arrived at the Valley Brook Inn in Wurtsboro to check in and pick up Kristen and Alyssa (whom I met for the first time.) Classic Catskill place with cottages, right out of the movie "Taking Woodstock." Easy placid drive to Bethel Woods, where we picnicked, walked the fun and busy shakedown, and met up with Charlie and co., including the Colorodans I had met on Spring Tour. Our posse was formidable and fun.
The venue was spectacular and oozing the history of Woodstock; amazing how that event resonates with so many of us as a watershed counterculture festival moment in time. Charlie was in row D and Carla and I were in Row U, but we went down to his row and stayed, no problem. There were a couple of free seats right there. Sweet! Security was friendly, and the weather was spectacular. We were off to an excellent start.
The concerts start in daylight, which is nice, since you get a good view of your happy neighbors. The band started with a solid Feel Like a Stranger, with a nice long jam that had everybody up on their feet and smiling. Bobby and Phil both looked fit and happy, and the sound was just exactly perfect. Bobby's guitar is nice and audible in the mix, and John takes musical cues, waits, listens and then does his thing. Phil and Joe were playing fast 1/8th notes, Jeff was crosshatching with nice powerful jazz-inflected Rhodes chords and synth patches; sweet opener! Russo's fills were spot-on, and John K was bending a few notes. And this was just the first song!
Crazy Fingers was lilting and fun; John sang part of the second verse during the first verse, and then repeated it during the 2nd verse ("beneath the cool" instead of "recall the days") (Jerry would approve). The song seemed light, sparse and gentle, not forced or dense.
and Cumberland Blues was a hoedown, with some nice veering by Chimenti out of barrelhouse into angular jazz territory. Russo and Chimenti were pushing rhythm changes and hooks and the crowd was responding positively! Bird Song had a nice jam in it; the whole first set seemed
to have plenty of room for improvisation. During the reprise of verse I Phil sang "All I know is something like a bird within HIM sang, using the male pronoun (at least in the reprise), which seemed an implicit Jerry tribute.
There was that purposeful pause before "storm and rain" where the crowd filled in by singing along. Cassidy was a real treat. To my ears, it had an added or changed section in the middle with a more melodic bass part than previous versions. Great song, well played and ecstatically received. Built to Last was fun, and Big Bad Blues jammed out some. Playing in the Band had some delightfully vintage Grateful Dead jamming, with plenty of rhythm and tempo changes; a jam that went places. It did not quite get to the "roving 1" by which I mean it did not lose form to the extent that we forgot what key we started in (something I desire), but it was a sweet jam nonetheless, and showcased a band that was listening, exploring and looking for some new ground. A very satisfying and music-full first set.
The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts was sprawling and well designed. Short lines for food, drink and mercy, veggie food, the works!
2nd set opened with a jumping' Music Never Stopped into a rocking' Golden Road. What a party song.
Eyes of the World featured a long piano solo by Jeff, with Joe finding some great grooves alongside. The transitions in the 2nd set were nice, fluid and unpredictable with some unexpected key, tempo, and rhythm changes. During Eyes of the World, Phil's voice had a lilting lightness that seems to mark and improvement in his singing voice, more elastic, less bombastic. I like they way these musicians improve as they go further.
Fast slinky lines by John, a good syncopation between Russo and Chimenti. Another smooth transition jam into Help-Slip- and a cool turnaround into the Eleven. Nice! Then back into Franklin's, everybody boppin!
Comes a Time was a Moment. Sunshine's dual vocalizing with John was spectacular and she sang along and counter to him scatting during his solo. Great stuff, and very moving. St. Stephen! What is the answer to the answer man?: One more Saturday Night.
I was with a powerful crew of happy dancers and there were smiles all around.
A hugely satisfying show with a US Blues Encore and off we go into the night
to jam guitar and accordion under the stars until 4 AM.
After that Bethel show, I had that great feeling that sometimes comes over me after a Grateful Dead experience, and that is the happy belief that anything is possible.
Jones Beach was a great venue; I swam off the beach after parking in the show lot;
that was special!
Highlights for me: Last 3 songs of the first set: Brown Eyed-Throwin' Stones-Shakedown St.
2nd Set: Loved the Weather Report Suite opener. I love how the song is both sad and hopeful;
embracing the natural changes and the rejuvenation, while feeling the losses that each season brings.
Deep stuff; I was really having a relationship with that song, one of those very personal and beautiful Live Dead moments. Yes.
Once again I was able to really soak in the crowd around me as the show began in daylight. There were several parents who had brought their teenage or young adult kids, and later at the hotel we had a nice talk with some 20 year olds who were having a blast on tour. I love that.
Dark Star had a very cool fast jam in the middle, and Unbroken Chain-Wheel were sweet.
I had had smoke coming out of my brakes so I semi-broke down on the way to the show.
I texted 4 different friends who were going to the show in case I needed help and they all
4 texted right back, indicating they would help me if necessary. This is a community folks, and it
takes a village!
I was joking with Carla at Pep Boys (as they informed me my caliper was seizing)
that the band would play songs about breaking down on the road.
I suggested Black Throated Wind (and they played it),
but they also had the "pile of smoking' leather" and "nailed the retread to my feet" reference in
Then during Unbroken, we got a Wheel tease and I told Carla that was the car song,
but then they went into Unbroken Chain so I informed her that they had chosen to do
a bike song instead. Ha ha! Humor!
Brokedown was a nice way to go out into the night after a beautiful two day run,
even if they had to cross one or two songs off their setlist (which they posted to Facebook)
possibly due to a too long set break. (?)
They might have squeezed a Dew in there,
But hey I'm heading off to Philly and Holmdel, NJ
so I'd better get to work so I can hop on the bus for part II of
the great summer adventure that is Furthur.
You dreamed of me..."