On a mild January Friday night in Boulder, my photographer, Harvdog and I decided to skip the usual CU ragefest and check out Rocky Mountain Grateful Dead Revue performing the "Best Of Winterland" at our local Boulder Theater. Comprised of Jim Allard (Coral Creek Band, American Beauty, One Kind Favor, Shakedown Street) on Bass and Vocals, Rob Eaton (Dark Star Orchestra, American Beauty) on Rhythm Guitar and Vocals, Dave Kochmann (Shakedown Street, American Beauty) Lead Guitar and Vocals, and Jake Wolf (Shakedown Street, One Kind Favor) on Drums, Percussion, and Vocals, RMGD is loaded with many unique talents who love to play the music of The Dead, and just happen to be experts at it as well. The theater was arranged differently than we were used to, with many tables and seats indicating the expectance of an older crowd. Behind the stage hung three brightly colored tapestries that would come into play later in the night. We arrived early and watched as one by one the theater filled up with young dreaded dudes and older refined deadheads. I would like to take this moment to say thank you to the guy who helped me with some song titles and shared the show with me. I am no Dead scholar, in fact I'm just some 19 year old kid who loves the music, but I will do my best to give an accurate description of what went down that night.
The band came on at around 9:30 to an eager crowd, and instantly satisfied them with a Shakedown Street. The crowd's energy rose to an early high as we got a huge dose of guitarist, Dave Kochmann's perfectly tuned in envelope ("Wah" Jerry sound) bouncing off of Eaton's rhythmic funk chords, a technique the expertly applied throughout the rest of the night. A beautifully executed Jack Straw propelled the crowd into a frenzy of song which was followed by Ramble On Rose, that was sweetened by Eaton's masterful use of small bends for fills, and ended with tremendous energy. Another honorable mention was a particularly funky Me and My Uncle where drummer, Jake Wolf displayed some exceptional technical drumming in the form of complex symbol hits during Kochmann's rambly solo. Wolf also killed it in the set ender, Not Fade Away, which featured a super smooth quiet breakdown that slipped into Going Down the Road Feeling Bad, where Kochmann showed some more technical chops with rapidly ascending scales and pivotal climaxes. The song eventually broke back into Not Fade Away with a bang. The first set concluded and the band strolled off the stage, leaving a fired up crowd in their wake.
Second set opener relieved the crowd of a long anticipated China Cat Sunflower, I Know Your Rider that featured some prime guitar from both Kochmann and Eaton. The highlight of the set was a long jammed out Eyes of the World, in which Wolf took out some sort of African Talking Drum that he successfully implemented into his fierce tom rolls. Eaton's slow backwards strumming created an illusion of waves passing over, especially to those members of the audience spinning in little circles. During the jam towards the end of the song, Bassist Jim Allard finally got to showcase some of his technical abilities as well, playing high up on the neck over a hushed band, he created some interesting textures that had yet to be heard in the show. The song also featured a jam that I was not familiar with called Milking the Turkey that led into Wolf's intense drum solo which was continually cheered on. Later on after the epic Eyes, the band gave a moving performance of China Doll, another first time song for me which I immediately fell in love with. The night concluded with a classic Casey Jones encore lead by Allard that was much appreciated by the crowd.
For someone who is just breaking through the surface of the colossal mass of music that is the Grateful Dead, I was still more than able to appreciate the show and not feel like an outsider. The feeling of community in that theater, and those shows is not something I get to experience very often, and I cherish it.