Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Furthur at the Greek

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Went to see Furthur last night, an off shoot of the Grateful Dead with two of their original members. Sort of a birthday show for me. Known fact... I have never seen Phish on my birthday, but caught my first ever Grateful Dead show on my 15th birthday at MSG in NYC. My life has never been the same since.

Nicky went away on a business trip to Argentina, so I went to this show with my buddy Bob. We used to see Phish and the Dead together back in college. In the 1990s, some of my best bootlegs (on Maxell IIs cassette tapes) were sourced from Bob's roommate. Lucky for me, Bob acted as designated driver so I could get sloshed and shitty and not worry about getting from the Greek back to my flat in the slums of Beverly Hills.

The Greek Theatre in LA is nestled in Griffin Park in the hills just north of Los Feliz. It's much smaller compared to the sister theatre in Berkeley and seats less than 6,000 people. We found non-stacked parking for an extra $5. Some guy in a Lexus snuck into the lot and asked to use our parking stub so he wouldn't get busted. Bob said no because the guys was driving a Lexus and could afford to custy it up and pay $20 for parking.

Didn't see a Shakedown. Late arriving crowd was stuck in traffic and still making their way to the Greek as of 6:30pm. Lots of people with index fingers pointed up to the skies in search of miracles. Few extras floating around. Old hippie who looked like Abe Vigoda offered me liquid sunshine. When I followed the Dead, I was the teenager embedded with thirty-something and 40+ year old hippies. The older I get, the higher the median age at Dead shows grow. No joke, but I passed one guy in a walker as he climbed up the hill to the Greek. Man, I wonder if that's gonna be me at Phish shows in 25 years?

We had the middle section, which didn't matter too much because the sound is crisp if you're anywhere in the middle. Even a taper sat in front of us. The last time I was at the LA Greek? Phil and Friends a few summers ago when Grace Potter opened for them.

Photo by @furthurband

Furthur included just Bobby and Phil with Joe Russo on drums and John K, the dude from Dark Star Orchestra on Jerry guitar. Nice mixture of youth with the savvy vets. The moon was out and about hovering above the theatre with Jupiter also visible in the twilight sky. Furthur opened with a twisting and windy Alligator. The band was still getting warmed up, so they length of the jam out surprised me. I got used to Phish trimming their jamming time to squeeze in more songs, and here's guys twenty years their senior ripping it up to start the show. A sloppy segue into Caution ensued and at that point, I knew what to expect the rest of the show. The first two songs, off of Anthem of the Sun, dictated the theme of the night. Anthem was one of the few studio albums released in the 1960s, and Bobby and Phil dug deep into their repertoire... how deep? I wasn't born yet when they originally recorded those tracks.

The crowd's energy surged for Good Lovin'. The Dead put their own unique spin on that cover over the years and the crowd always lapped it up. At that point, the shaky and rusty start had subsided and everything was sounding smooth. Bob pointed out that Russo was going off during Muli Guli, and indeed he was among the MVPs of the show.

The crowd erupted during the opening notes of China Cat Sunflower, which would be played without the accompanying I Know You Rider. Instead, the band threw a curve ball with Ramble On Rose for a high energy sing-a-long with John K leading the way. Expected an IKYR, but Mason's Children, another deep cut, was next on the menu. Two high school girls snuck into the empty seats in the row in front of us during Mason's. They were twirling in a sea of tie-dye shirts, many of which were probably older than them.

The seven-song first set ended rather quickly and clocked in at 63 minutes. The highlights were China Cat > Ramble On Rose. I was drinking and was kinda sloppy by the time setbreak began. During the 45-minute break, we joked that Bobby and Phil needed naps. During break, a couple of wooks were hanging out nearby. They were smoking tuff and sipping on a flask.

Setbreak at the Greek, taken from behind the stage
Photo by @furthurband

The second set (almost an hour and 45 minutes including the encore) impressed me mainly because my expectations were lowered after the first set, and that they jammed out all the way until the 11pm curfew. Bobby and Phil returned to the Anthem of the Sun theme with Born Crosseyed > New Potato Caboose, but they reversed the songs as it appeared on the album. They finished up the rest of the album with Cryptical Envelopment > Other One. By that point, I was no longer drunk but rather super faded. Talk about a 180 degree turn. I got sucked down the rabbit hole with the jam out of Unbroken Chain. It was the only rare Dead song that I was hoping to hear (aside from St. Stephen and Cosmic Charlie) and I got it.

Initially, I wasn't thrilled with the selection of Let it Grow. I've never been a Bobby fan, but let me say that they won me over with this version. My buddy Bob thought it was the highlight of the second set. The version started out choppy and Bobby flubbed the lyrics. He's always been dyslexic and sometimes the teleprompters don't work for him, so maybe he needs someone speaking the lyrics to him in an earpiece? The powerful jam made up for the flub.

One of the high school girls was taping Let It Grow with her iPhone while she danced next to taper guy with the old school rig that he had to patch up with duct tape at set break. That moment was a perfect example of the shift in technology and the gap between the generations.

IronGirl mentioned Mountain Song in an email earlier that day and sure enough, they played it. She reminded me that it was an original tune created by members of the Dead and CSNY. Kinda cool to hear it at the Greek.

Morning Dew is always one of those special moments at a Grateful Dead show, especially when you're peaking on acid. John K always nailed the Jerry parts with Dark Star Orchestra and he continued his strong performance playing the role of Jerry Garcia with a smoking version of Dew. At that point, I was spent after ninety minutes of straight jamming with just one breather in between. Heck, I had to sit down before the encore.

Phil gave his usual donor rap and explained that he was only sharing this amazing music because of an organ donor. He followed it up with Box of Rain. Here's am excerpt that I found...

I headed to the pisser on my way out. Shoeless wook was standing in the urinal next to me. I guess I wasn't paying attention and my stream veered off course. After a few seconds, we both realized that I was pissing on the wall, which trickled onto his bare feet. He didn't seemed too pissed and asked me for "some yay." I told him that I didn't have any cocaine to sell and that I was sorry I urinated on his dirty feet.

I had fun with Furthur. Go in with no expectations, get shitty, and re-live those old memories. You will definitely have fun too. Awesome to see a show with Bob, whom I haven't seen a concert with since 1994 (Phish at the Fox in Atlanta). We used to see so many Dead shows together that it was cool to try to recapture some of those golden memories of our youth.

Phil Lesh (70 years young) and Bobby Weir (mid-60s) are still bringing it night after night. It'll never be like it used to, but the new blood (Russo and John K) help keep the vibe going. And yes, the music is bittersweet because it makes me miss Jerry. I've seen over 200 Phish shows and I'd give it all up to see one Dead show circa 1977.

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