Turning the Wheel: Phil Lesh's 84th Trip Around the Sun

Article Contributed by gratefulweb | Published on Saturday, March 16, 2024

In a theater not so far away, where the walls hum with the echoes of a thousand nights, a gathering of cosmic proportions unfolded beneath the watchful gaze of the ever-spinning disco ball. The Capitol Theatre, a vessel adrift in the sea of time, Port Chester, its current harbor, bore witness to the convergence of spirits old and new, as the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Grateful, under the baton of one Phil Lesh, celebrated the maestro's 84th passage around the sun.

Upon this stage, a troupe unlike any other assembled. Daniel Donato, with fingers ablaze, carved melodies from the ether, while Jason Crosby, the keyboard conjurer, wove spells of harmony and discord alike. John Molo, keeper of the beat, summoned rhythms from the very heart of the earth, and Grahame Lesh, progeny and prophet, echoed the songs of yore. Amy Helm, siren of the night, her voice a beacon in the darkness, and special guest Mike Gordon, the bassist bard from lands afar, joined the fray, adding their magic to the cauldron's brew.

The night unfolded in chapters, each a tale unto itself. Cosmic Charlie danced with the stars, Jerry's ghost smiled upon "They Love Each Other," and "Friend of the Devil" cavorted with shadows. "Bird Song" took flight, "Jack-A-Roe" pranced through forgotten fields, and "Brokedown Palace" wept tears of sweet farewell.

As the earth spun and the moon rose, so too did the second act. "Promised Land" roared with Chuck Berry's fire, "Box of Rain" fell soft upon thirsty souls, and "Viola Lee Blues" shook the very foundations of the hall. "Bertha" swaggered into "Eyes of the World," a journey through the cosmos, encapsulated.

And then, as if the universe itself had paused to draw breath, the third act commenced. "Estimated Prophet" spoke in tongues, "Let It Grow" blossomed in the heart's fertile soil, and "Sugar Magnolia" bloomed in radiant splendor, with Mike Gordon, the night's pilgrim, leading the congregation in celebration.

Before the final notes rang, a moment of communion: the audience, a choir of the ages, sang "Happy Birthday," a simple melody carrying the weight of decades, love, and gratitude. A cake, the symbol of shared joy, presented by Mike Gordon and Levon Lesh, illuminated the night with candles like stars in a personal constellation.

This was no mere concert; it was a rite, a ritual binding the past to the present, the earth to the stars. Phil Lesh, at 84, stood not just as a musician but as a beacon, guiding the ship through the cosmic sea, with his crew of misfit maestros and the gathered tribe of the night.

So here's to Phil, and to the friends, the music, the journey. May the road go on forever, and the party never end. In the kaleidoscope of sound and light, in the Capitol Theatre's embrace, the spirit of Ken Kesey, of merry pranksters past and present, danced among us, reminding us that the trip, indeed, is far from over.