NYSMuse: A Conversational Review of Dear Jerry

A few of us from NYSMusic made it to the Dear Jerry show at Merriweather Post Pavilion on May 14, mostly for the fun of attending an outdoor show early in the season and celebrate the music of the Grateful Dead. Afterward we couldn’t help but discuss the show and found we had several similar and differing thoughts. Even though we went without intending to review the show, we thought it would be a different twist to bring you some of our back-and-forth thoughts.
Dear Jerry - 4

Set 1:
The Wheel, Uncle John’s Band, Standing On The Moon, Liberty (Communion featuring Phil Lesh), Get Out My Life Woman (Allen Toussaint with Bill Kreutzmann), Shady Grove (David Grisman & Sam Bush), I’m a Roadrunner (Peter Frampton with Bill Kreutzmann), Deal (Buddy Miller), Sugaree (Jorma Kaukonen with Barry Mitterhoff), The Harder They Come (Jimmy Cliff), Attics Of My Life (Jimmy Cliff with Bob Weir and Mickey Hart *One verse, acapella), Fire On The Mountain (Jimmy Cliff with Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, and Dave Schools)

Set 2: Help On The Way> Slipknot!> Franklin’s Tower (Billy & The Kids), Scarlet Begonias> I Know You Rider (Disco Biscuits with Bill Kreutzmann & Tom Hamilton), Loser (moe. Chuck on vox), St. Stephen (O.A.R), Not Fade Away > Bertha (Los Lobos with Bob Weir), Brown Eyed Women (Trampled By Turtles), Shakedown St (YMSB), Days Between (Bob Weir), Friend of the Devil (Grace Potter with Bob Weir, and Matt Burr), Tennessee Jed (Eric Church with Bill Kreutzmann, and Mickey Hart), Morning Dew (Widespread), Touch of Grey (Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann & Mickey Hart), Ripple (almost all of the evening’s performers & the crowd)

Steve Malinski: Mickey and Bill were part of the last few songs too, right?

Graig Adler: Yeah. Bill was also in the house band as well as Dave Schools.

SM: I didn’t have the greatest of starts to the show — thanks to DC traffic I was delayed getting there from Alexandria and didn’t arrive until “Shady Grove.” I didn’t know who was on because I couldn’t see more than some of the crowd from the gate but knew pretty quick from the mandolin that it was Grisman. It was a good first song to hear after the hassle of getting to Merriweather. I’ve always loved the Garcia/Grisman collaborations.

SM:  There were several times I was pleased with the performances and interpretations; obviously there were some better than others and one in particular that ranked lowest. But overall I wasn’t as impressed, as my expectations were high for the show. Some groups did a couple of Dead tunes and others did just one, which was cool, no big deal. The flow of the show was a bit jagged and staggered logistically, so there was a bit of down time which for me dampened the vibes a little bit. More continuity would have made the experience better, in my opinion.

GA: Yes, it was impossible to get in a groove. But will make for one fine $29.99 DVD, lots of professional recording equipment on stage. Biggest surprise of the night was how good O.A.R. was and how good The Disco Biscuits would be if they stopped playing that crappy jamtronica.

SM: I thought Disco Biscuits had a pretty good groove going, especially with adding their own style jam in the middle. Billy and the Kids too. I think what made their sets stand out is they did more than one song and had the opportunity to loosen up and bloom a bit on the Dead tunes.

GA: Also, Bill Kreutzmann on drums and Tommy Hamilton on stage — two guys who play dead tunes for a living.

SM:  O.A.R.: It was cool to hear the island vibes from the song but they had a shaky start with the opening riffs and that set the tone for me. It wasn’t bad, but not my favorite of the night. I did enjoy the one O.A.R. show I had seen before outside of that though. I really enjoyed the refreshing arrangements by Trampled by Turtles and Yonder Mountain String Band playing stripped-down Dead. YMSB’s version of “Shakedown Street” had everyone’s attention.

GA: O.A.R., I thought they sounded great. His mic wasn’t turned on to start the song.

SM:  It was tough to notice that in the wash of the crowd where I was. I don’t recall seeing Phil Lesh on stage throughout the night. Was he there at all? It would’ve been awesome to see them all play together, especially since I just missed getting a Dead 50 ticket.

GA: Communion (Phil Lesh, Stu Allen, Grahame Lesh, Ross James, Alex Koford and Jason Crosby) played the first four songs.

SM:  I’m sad I missed Phil. I heard people mention him in passing and I hadn’t realized he was on the bill.

GA: It seems he still doesn’t want to play with these guys. Which is concerning for Dead 50. He really only seems to play Terrapin and Shapiro events these days.

SM: I do hope Phil settles his differences or whatever is going on for Chicago. I’m sure no one — the fans or the band — want to see the farewell shows dampened by differences.

GA: Audley Freed and Buddy Miller were also in the house band.

SM: The house band was pretty solid. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see the stage well so it was tough from the projector to keep track of who was up there except for the announcements of the guest artist for a particular song.

SM: For me, the end of the show made up for what I missed at the start. It was a bit emotional and a tear-jerker. “Ripple” is one of those pretty songs to begin with. Now add a slide show with images of Jerry along with the song’s lyrics to encourage a 19,000-Dead Head sing-along. This was probably the best way to end the show, with something that rings out.

GA: I’m surprised that nobody mentioned that the house band drummer for the show was Raymond Weber, the legendary funky NOLA drummer and former member of Dumpstaphunk. He’s SOLID! There was a very funny exchange involving him in an episode of Treme that went like this: Bass player Cornell Williams asks with surprise, “I know you didn’t just tell Raymond Weber that he dropped the beat, did you?” “Yeah, I did,” Antoine replies. “Ray, when was the last fucking time you dropped the beat?” Williams asks. “Me? ’83,” Weber responds.