On Friday night, Goodnight, Texas & Midnight North descended on Phil Lesh’s own The Grate Room @ Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael. This was the first time GN, TX played together at Terrapin, meanwhile Midnight North has been a resident artist since their inception in 2013. The night was met with additional anticipation as Phil Lesh was billed as a guest bassist for GN, TX, and he did not disappoint. I arrived 2 hours before the show intent on walking the grounds on my first trip to Terrapin Crossroads, and the restaurant was hopping as the 4:20 Happy Hour was coming to a close and the Friday dinner crowd was rolling in. For those that have never visited, the facility is complete with Bar, Restaurant, Outdoor Patio, The Grate Room, play area for kids, and the long awaited outdoor stage opening on April 17 – The Backyard, all with an expectedly heavy dose of Grateful Dead and Phil Lesh memorabilia.
San Francisco local Midnight North took the stage just after 8PM, and treated the crowd to a full set of their country/folk rock sound. Elliot Peck and Alex Jordan alternated throughout the set on guitar and keys, with Peck usually on acoustic and Jordan on electric. Peck, Jordan, and guitarist Grahame Lesh took on the bulk of vocals duties, alternating leads and harmonizing choruses. Connor Croonn and Alex Koford had the duty of keeping the group in rhythm, manning the bass and drums respectively.
Following a quick stage shuffle, Goodnight, Texas was ready to take the stage. The band is comprised of two singer-songwriters Avi Vinocur and Patrick Dyer Wolf on guitar, and supported by the rhythm section of Scott G. Padden on bass and Alex Nash on drums. Similar to Midnight North, many of the musicians displayed their capabilities on a variety of instruments to help create their hard-bluegrass, folk-rock sound. There is something very American about Goodnight, Texas, from the name of their band, to the look of the musicians in the band, to the sound of their music. The band is named after an unincorporated hamlet in Texas just south east of Amarillo, with a population of 28, that represents the geographical midway point between the founding members: Vinocur(San Francisco, CA) and Wolf(Chapel Hill, NC). After meeting in 2007 and doing some work on and off together, the 2 picked up steam when Nash and Padden joined and they released their first LP in 2012.
After a rousing start to their set and the crowd already clapping their hands and stomping their feet, Vinocur came to the mic and introduced their special guest for the evening, Mr. Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead joining on bass. That moved Padden over to guitar as they carried through a four-song mini-set with Phil as the bassist. After they wheeled through a playful “Dire Wolf”, most of the members of Midnight North came out on stage as well and the 9-piece outfit rocked out a high energy, string intensive “Cumberland Blues” > “Nebraska, Hello”. GN, TX continued to power through their remaining set, keeping the people dancing and the hands clapping, all while each of the players demonstrated their precise musicianship on multiple instruments and in various capacities. The night even featured two happy birthday songs back-to-back, one to a fan in the crowd who came to the show for her birthday and the other to the sound engineer of Terrapin Crossroads. The night concluded with a three-song encore that began with a tribute to the late Merle Haggard, the Grateful Dead staple “Mama Tried”. The final two songs included members of Midnight North again and both were Grateful Dead tracks as they busted out grassy versions of the Workingman’s Dead classic “New Speedway Boogie” and the time immemorial “Bertha” to end the show.
The intimate crowd showed their appreciation to all 10 musicians that performed during the evening, giving a raucous applause as the house lights came up. Then, true to San Francisco form, the crowd was greeted by a steady rainstorm as they exited that would accompany each of them on their journey home.