"If the thunder don’t get you then the lightning will!"
Lightning struck twice at Sullivan Hall in NYC on Wednesday night as Phil Lesh and The Terrapin Family Band performed a second consecutive sold out night show to die hard fans lucky enough to have scored a ticket. The band consists of his two sons, Brian and Grahame Lesh, along with Ross James, Alex Koford and Scott Padden(who is not with them on this run). The Terrapin Family Band is the house band for Phil’s Terrapin Crossroads venue in San Rafael, California and this is their first east coast tour.
I got to the Greenwich Village venue a little after 8pm and while a bunch of us were waiting on line to get inside Phil popped out of a side door to greet us and shake a few hands. He also took time to pose for a few pictures and share a few words. Very classy guy! A minute later the doors opened and we were on our way inside the VERY intimate club.
Once inside I was fortunate enough to get a great spot close to the right side of the stage (Phil side). Excited fans slowly started to fill up the room and it was starting to have that communal feel of being at a Phil Lesh & Friends or Furthur show. Recognizable faces from past shows were everywhere and the vibes couldn’t have been more positive. The band hit the stage at around 9:30pm the night prior so we were all waiting for that magic time to approach. When it finally did the room was a sea of fans anxiously waiting for Phil and family to take the stage, and at 9:45pm they did.
The band came out to a roaring crowd and it wasn’t long until chants of "Phil!" were heard. He acknowledged the appreciation with a smile and a wave then the band geared up and got the party started. First song of the night was "Candyman" and it was played with an upbeat tempo instead of the slow relaxed Jerry version we know it to be. It was a different approach to playing this song and we all loved it. A nice jammy version of "Friend Of The Devil" was next (a personal fav) and it was this song where the band found their groove and us fans knew we were in for a special night of music. The band chose a non-dead song to play next titled "Keeps Me Guessing". It was a great song that had that flavor of country honky tonk rock to it. It passed with flying colors as we all dug it. When the band broke into "Althea" as the next tune it got a few "WHOOOOO’S!!" and nods of approval. Grahame Lesh kept the tempo of the song upbeat as he played a Fender Strat. A barn burning version of "Big Railroad Blues" was next and it kept the crowd alive and boogy’ing.
For the next song Phil assumed the vocal duties on "Whiskey In The Jar", a popular Irish traditional song made famous by Thin Lizzy. His voice was crisp and clear and it was a nice selection that surprised most of the crowd. Up next was a 2 song combo that I’m sure is a favorite among many fans and a staple in The Grateful Dead repertoire, "Scarlet Begonias -> Fire On The Mountain". For the duration of the song (about 15 minutes) everybody had a smile on their face and many were getting their dance on. It fit the mood and the musicians got to stretch their instruments throughout with solos. A new song titled "Northland" was played next and the tempo progression of it reminded me of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s "Freebird". Started slow, picked up in the middle and by the end it was full swing rock with an impressive solo from Grahame. It was then time to slow down the pace and Phil once again assumed the vocals for a grooving version of "The Wheel". Another classic Dead song titled "Uncle Johns Band" was next but on this night it will probably be remembered by a different title, "Father Phil’s Band". A crowd favorite in "Casey Jones" closed out the set and left everyone wanting more.
In keeping with Phil tradition he came out onto the stage and thanked us all for being a wonderful crowd and did what has become known as his "donor rap" then told us we were in for a special treat as the encore. Phil led the way into the song and within seconds everyone recognized it as "Terrapin Station". It’s my favorite song lyric wise and for the duration of the song the crowd sang along to every word and threw their hands into the air for emphasis. They jammed out on it for about 15 minutes and when it was over the band and audience thanked each other for a real good time.
For the duration of the show you could NOT have found a happier smile than the one on Phil’s face. A father playing songs that he's played for 40+ years on stage in NYC with his sons will do that to anyone. There’s no question that it was a magical night for the band and us fans. If you’re a deadhead, a casual fan or even just someone that loves being in good company then these shows are a MUST! Phil and The Terrapin Family Band will be back for a 3rd consecutive sold out night on Thursday then perform on the Infinity Yacht Cruise while cruising the Hudson River on Friday night.
For the latest music, news, and tour dates from Phil Lesh, check out his Zumic artist page.