John Molo

On November 10th, 1999, I attended my first ever Phil Lesh & Friends show at the New Haven Coliseum. The venue, affectionately known as 'the old barn,' was just off I-95 in lovely downtown New Haven, Connecticut. It also hosted my second Grateful Dead concert back in May 1978. The New Haven Coliseum did not age well and it was gone shortly after that show in 1999. A young lad, the 20-year-old Derek Trucks, was called in as an emergency fill-in guitarist, hired on the fly.

Gov’t Mule, in the midst of its 13-stop, Thirty Years Strong tour of the West, and Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, on its opening winter/spring tour stop, both touched down on February 16 for a massive, and splendid, night of music at The Venue at Thunder Valley Casino Resort, just north of Sacramento.

Led by Phil Lesh & Friends and Melvin Seals & JGB, the second generation, literally, of Terrapin Crossroads staff presented a one-day, two-stage, seven-band Sunday Daydream on August 27, in Novato, Calif.

“Welcome home, Terrapin Nation,” Phil Lesh proclaimed on July 9 to the large crowd before him on the expansive, lush lawn of McNears Beach Park on the shores of San Pablo Bay in San Rafael, Calif. Lesh, co-founder of the Grateful Dead and now 83, joined the so-called Terrapin All-Stars for the closing set of a first-ever, one-day Sunday Daydream festival, which began in the early morning with an aptly named Turtle Trot that included 5K, 10K, and kids races.

Which is the best version of Phil Lesh & Friends to play at the Capitol Theatre? The best version is the band that’s playing the night you’re going to see them. From a rotating cast of musicians, Phil Lesh has now played 100 shows at the Capitol Theatre since the reopening in September 2012. Starting in November of 2012, Phil Lesh played his first show at the Theatre since the Grateful Dead last played at the venue in February 1971.

Arriving early for round two on Sunday, February 5th, the air was electric with anticipation outside the Mission Ballroom on Phil Lesh’s final night in Denver with his friends. Fueled with the outcome of a great first night, multiple conversations in the already forming lines speculated over the musical possibilities of the evening, including the rest of “Dark Star” in lieu of the full moon or an appropriate “Mission In The Rain”. Certainly, the possibility of Billy Strings sitting in was on everyone’s mind, Strings having wrapped his own three night run the day before and sitting in with Ross James and Andy Thorn in the wee hours of Sunday morning. Of course, the “Never Miss a Sunday Show” theory factored into everyone’s predictive model and with all these dynamics, so much potential was still on the table. With everyone’s continued reeling from the outpouring of love and quality playing on Saturday, the energy of night two, from outside the building, was already climbing.

For the first weekend of February, Denver’s Mission Ballroom once again became a mecca for travelers seeking the psychedelic and for those who made the leap of faith, the reward was great. Grateful Dead bassist and living legend Phil Lesh gave the Rino district two nights of splendor, sound, and the opportunity once again to rejoice in community under a blanket of aural pleasantries that would defy expectation.

A rollicking “Cumberland Blues,” the Appalachian-bluegrass-style Grateful Dead tune that opened the first of two shows at The Warfield in San Francisco on December 27, was a microcosm of the mighty capabilities of this formulation of Phil Lesh & Friends.

October is quickly rolling to a close, but not without the excitement of the Phil-O-Ween residency at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY.

The stardust has settled down so let’s recap the first-ever Sacred Rose Festival. Opening up a new bracket for Chicago by seasoned festival producers, Sacred Rose certainly had some highs and some lows but one thing is for sure Sacred Rose was one for the ages and one we hope will return.

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