Legendary Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh & The Terrapin Family Band teamed up with Colorado natives Leftover Salmon on Saturday, May 5th, at Red Rocks Amphitheatre for a co-headlining bill, bringing deadhead’s from around the country together for a celebration of life, laughter and the love of the Grateful Dead. The 78-year-old bassist was in fine form, delivering an old-school, ten-song main set filled with classics, covers, guest appearances and much more.
Boulder’s own Leftover Salmon kicked off the Red Rocks festivities, hot off their newest release Something Higher; the six-piece ripped through a number of older fan favorites before diving into their new album in its entirety. Produced by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos, Something Higher showcases Salmon’s ability to seamlessly weave different boundaries of music into a cohesive story-telling masterpiece, highlighting their songwriting abilities and ultimately solidifying them as one of the great homegrown acts still touring today. While the slamgrass feel will always remain with Leftover Salmon, the new album has a feel that wouldn’t seem plausible in their earlier days.
The band explored the world of funk, R&B, and soul to the sold out Red Rocks crowd while remaining true to their jamgrass roots. Towards the end of the set, Salmon invited The Infamous Stringdusters’ Jeremy Garrett to the stage for a beautiful rendition of “Game of Thorns.” Jeremy’s fiddle was the perfect touch for the track, bringing an added element of energy to the stage.
After delivering an outstanding first take of their new album, Leftover Salmon invited Phil Lesh to the stage for a couple of tunes, “Catfish John” and “Big Boss Man,” respectively. Lesh looked excited to play along with his old friends, linking up with Salmon frontman Vince Herman and locking into several well-orchestrated jams to close out Salmon’s set.
Leftover Salmon Set: Let’s Give A Party, High Country, All Night Ride, Boo Boo > Gimme Da Ting > Boo Boo, Places, Show Me Something Higher, Southern Belle, Analog, House Of Cards, Colorado Evermore, Astral Traveler, Foreign Fields, Game Of Thorns (with Jeremy Garrett on fiddle), Let In A Little Light, Winters Gone Today, Burdened Heart, Catfish John (with Phil Lesh), Big Boss Man (with Phil Lesh), Way Up On The Hill Where They Do The Boogie, Better.
Returning the favor immediately, Phil Lesh & The Terrapin Family Band stepped onto the legendary stage and invited Leftover Salmon’s Vince Herman, Drew Emmitt, Andy Thorn and Erik Deutsch to the stage for a fiery ten-minute version of “Cumberland Blues,” sending the sold-out Red Rocks crowd into a spinning frenzy. The band segued fluidly into “Viola Lee Blues,” one of the Dead’s first major jam vehicles off their original self-titled album. Aoxomoxoa’s “Mountains of the Moon” came next, followed by the familiar Jack Straw lyrics, “We can share the women, we can share the wine.”
With a wide selection of Grateful Dead classics already under their belt, the Terrapin Family band segued into their first cover of the night, Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone.” The highlight of the night came from a mammoth rendition of “Terrapin Station,” clocking in at just under 14 minutes. The crowd was loose, and the vibes were flying high, as the beautiful summer night began to move towards dusk, the sun tucking behind the shadows of the Rocky Mountains. Another old-school classic followed, as “Morning Dew” saw a long, jammed out segment before bleeding into Workingman’s Dead’s “Uncle John’s Band” and “New Speedway Boogie” to close out the memorable set.
If “Terrapin Station” wasn’t already the highlight of the night, what came next certainly was. After the traditional “Donor Rap,” Phil called up Twiddle frontman Mihali Savoulidis to the stage for a two-song encore, featuring a beautiful rendition of “Fire on the Mountain” with Mihali singing lead vocal and some beautiful guitar work on “The Music Never Stopped.” Twiddle, who made their Red Rocks debut the night before, has built a close relationship with the Grateful Dead bassist, who not only sat in with the band for their Red Rocks debut but also joined in for the Mihali and Friends show that Sunday as well. After the two-song escapade, Savoulidis left the stage, and Phil Lesh & The Terrapin Family Band finished out the night with a heavy-duty “Box of Rain.” It was a strong, willful performance by the 78-year-old bassist, who was all smiles as he waived to the cheering, sold-out Red Rocks crowd as he exited the stage. While it cannot be certain how many more times we will see Lesh play the legendary venue, one thing is still certain: Phil Lesh still has it.
Be sure to catch Phil Lesh & The Terrapin Family Band at the upcoming Revival Festival at Harmony Park in Geneva, MN as well as headlining Summer Camp Music Festival in Chillicothe, Illinois. Additionally, the band just announced a three-day “Unbroken Train” run at Phil’s Terrapin Crossroads this June 14th – June 16th. The run will feature a performance by Phil Lesh & The Terrapin Family Band, Grahame Lesh’s Midnight North, as well as Twiddle - Tickets, are on sale now at the Terrapin Crossroads website.