“Have an epic party for me and play my favorite records and remember all the good times we had, the music, images, and waves we caught. That’s all.”
These words from Neal Casal shown on The Capitol Theatre stage, began the tribute of his life after the lights went down and Exile on Main Street had stopped playing over the house speakers. His message, hope, and dream were put on display for the audience and it wasn’t until “Moonlight Mile” started to play that everyone realized that our friend was truly gone. The crowd was so eager for this show to start and visibly sad once it finally did. All eyes were on Neal’s jacket, draped over a lone chair on stage with his guitar resting silently next to it.
This musical wake consisted of numerous segments, each focusing on different chapters of Neal’s life. The first set highlighted Neal’s earlier work and had his friends and collaborators each share songs that Casal had written, while the second set highlighted his projects with friends over the last decade. Behind the stage was a screen showing pictures from Neal’s life as well as the photos Neal took himself. Gary Waldman led us through Neal’s life between songs, telling stories that highlighted their friendship and also his experiences as Neal’s manager. The emcee’s jokes and tales had the crowd engaged and excited for each new detail he’d share with in his stories.
The two hour first set was full of beautiful solo performances, touching respects and countless collaborations from Neal’s former band members. Hazy Malaze, one of Casal’s early bands, ended the set before Peter Shapiro came on stage to thank the crowd for coming out. He regaled the audience with a tale about needing “intermission music” for the Fare Thee Well shows and how that led to the creation of Circles Around The Sun. Before leaving the stage, he announced that the stage at the Garcia Forest at the Lockn’ Festival will now be known as the Neal Casal Stage.
After a very short intermission, the tribute continued with a more upbeat second set starting with Beachwood Sparks and then the premiere of the new Circles Around the Sun lineup featuring Eric Krasno on guitar. Joe Russo also popped in for a tune before coming out with Joe Russo’s Almost Dead with Adam MacDougall filling in for Marco Benevento. After a few songs, Chris Robinson came on stage and played with a few members of Chris Robinson Brotherhood to end the set. The late hour didn’t deter the crowd or the performers, and the entire lineup came out for an encore performance of “Farther Along” and a final prayer Robbi Robb to end the night. It was a memorable, emotional evening that left everyone both fulfilled and drained after five and a half hours of music.
You can watch the entire Tribute below on Relix’s YouTube channel.