Photos by Mir Ali | Check out more great Terrapin Station photos!
Terrapin Station, featuring The Other Ones
Alpine Valley | East Troy, WI | 8.03.02 & 8.04.02
Rob Barraco – keyboards, vocals | Jeff Chimenti – keyboards
Mickey Hart – drums, percussion, vocals | Jimmy Herring – guitar
Bill Kreutzmann – drums, percussion | Phil Lesh – bass, vocals
Bob Weir – guitar, vocals
Trying not to set my expectations too high (a bad habit of mine) I set off for the Terrapin Station shows with the intent of seeing a satisfactory performance. Nothing too mind-blowing; just good solid music that would hopefully overshadow all the hype and hullabaloo surrounding this event. I had my reservations and concerns, like many people going to the shows... and even some who opted to sit them out. Would the boys be able to evoke that chemistry and deliver that magic in spite of all that’s gone on in the last seven years? Or was this event just some promoter’s way of capitalizing on and exploiting the Grateful Dead’s name?
Even the venue itself holds a lot of weight for many Deadheads. Alpine Valley is one of the most beautiful venues in the Midwest - or just about anywhere - with its rolling green tree-lined surroundings, an enormous steep lawn and a lovely old-school pavilion with signature wooden arcs. It was the site of many a Dead Mecca from 1980 until 1989, the year an eventful three-day run prompted the band to decide, and Alpine management and local authorities to concur, that the Dead would never play there again. Anyone who remembers that rainy, crazy time can probably understand why the locals were a bit concerned about this year’s event. But the scene was a whole lot different back then, and in the past few years the Further Fest played several times at Alpine without major incident. Plus, the estimation that 200,000 fans would storm the venue was way over-the-top, especially given the divided emotions of many Deadheads (including me) regarding these shows.
Well, clearly the concerned parties don’t have this insight into the Dead culture, and this has always been a point of contention between the Dead and its fans and everyone outside of that realm. Needless to say, this tension was alleviated the weekend of August 3rd and 4th, as the Terrapin Station shows went off without a hitch. There were incidents, of course, but given the number of people there and the potential for disaster, these incidents seem relatively minor and small in scale. (For example, 300 citations for marijuana possession is 300 more than necessary, in my opinion, but not too bad considering there were 70,000 people there over two days; this represents less than 0.5% of attendees.) All involved parties expressed a very positive outlook on Terrapin Station, and everyone we encountered – from Alpine personnel to local authorities to Clear Channel reps, and of course members of the Dead organization and the Deadheads themselves – seemed extremely pleased with the results of the weekend.
Contrary to being a commercialized exploitation of the Dead’s name, Terrapin Station felt very genuine with exhibits, vending and interviews that were insightful and tastefully done. Though the place was packed people were overall very chill, and I got a good vibe from the many nice people I met and didn’t see anybody too spun-out. (Although we did encounter a few folks with tales of woe; more on that later.)
But, most importantly, the music was fantastic. Every band that I saw threw down a strong performance, and clearly reciprocated the crowd’s energy and appreciation. The overall lineup was impressive, featuring a nice variety of vibrant players from the tweaky, high-octane Disco Biscuits to the gritty, gentle Jorma Kaukonen to the rollicking Robert Randolph. And of course there were the current projects of each of the surviving Dead – Mickey, Bill, Phil and Bobby – which covered just about all bases from rock to jazz to world rhythm... and even a bit of hip-hop, believe it or not.
As for those Other Ones, they were more than satisfactory: they were excellent. The setlists were almost “fantasy Dead” material; I don’t think the Dead even played setlists like that during the time I saw them. The onstage chemistry was certainly apparent, and the “new fellas” Jimmy, Rob and Jeff felt right. Overall, their two sets over two nights (including some killer encores) were polished, heartfelt and inspired. I couldn’t wait to tell my friends back home that, honestly, the boys were on and that the future of the Other Ones, not to mention the Grateful Dead, is looking good.
SATURDAY | 08.03.02
Cryptical Envelopment > The Other One >
Feel Like a Stranger
Lazy Lightning > Supplication jam
Iko Iko >
Estimated Prophet >
Music Never Stopped
China Cat > I Know You Rider
Morning Dew >
Dark Star > Born Cross-eyed >
Dark Star > Cryptical reprise >
One More Saturday Night
E: Help on the Way > Slipknot! > Franklin’s Tower
Thanks to Dead.net for help with the setlists. See the complete setlists on Dead.net.
The first set kicked off without too much hoopla; except when the sound started to konk out at the very beginning. This was the only time I saw the crowd get angry – understandably, I might add, especially given the sound problems during Robert Hunter's set just prior to the Other Ones taking the stage. (Overall, though, production problems were minimal, and having the Second Stage really kept the good music flowing.) Bobby, Phil, Mickey and Bill took their usual spots and would prove to be in top form, not only individually but collectively as well. Bill and Mickey were a veritable rhythm whirlwind, steady and forceful (not surprisingly) and Phil and Bobby’s frequent musical exchanges seemed focused but good-spirited (this was a welcome sight for sore eyes). Jimmy Herring, his blond scruff partially hidden by a Steal-Your-Face cap, quietly took his place to Bobby’s left. His laid-back stage demeanor underlies a very powerful, yet unpretentious, guitar style. And the addition of two keyboards worked. Rob Barraco and Jeff Chimenti: how psyched were they? It was fun to watch these two distantly-related keyboardists (from Phil & Friends and Ratdog, respectively) trade spots, switch instruments and generally cause a melodious ruckus in their corner of the stage.
The set began with a hint of “He’s Gone” that was so subtle, I almost thought I just wished it into existence. That is, until after the show when a friend made mention of the “He’s Gone” tease. This was one of several moments that showed not only how well thought-out the setlists were, but also the extent to which Jerry Garcia’s presence was felt throughout the weekend. Surprisingly, this didn't feel awkward or even sad; to me it felt very natural and simply reflected the fact that his influence is, and always will be, intensely deep-rooted. As for “The Other Ones” suite as an opener? Nice touch, not to mention the band rocked it out. Then they kicked it up a notch with a funky “Stranger” that sounded sweet. The lovely “Bird Song” followed, and for the final verse Phil switched the words a bit, changing the female pronouns to male: “All I know is something like a bird within him sang./All I know he sang a little while and then flew on.” Another understated yet strong Jerry allusion.
The “Lazy Lightning > Supplication” was smooth and tasty, and after a pause the boys erupted into a high-energy “Iko” that at the beginning could’ve easily been a “Man Smart, Woman Smarter,” of course, but that still got folks off their feet (those who weren’t already) and dancin’. The familiar opening notes of “Estimated Prophet” were a welcome sound, and for me this number was one of the highlights of the set. They closed with “Casey Jones,” a tune Phil & Friends have somewhat resurrected, that sounded very strong with the three-part harmony (Phil, Bobby and Rob on lead vocals).
By the start of the second set the blazing sun had settled, and the crowd was relaxed yet anxious to see what lay in store. So what did the Other Ones open with but “Music Never Stopped,” a very appropriate - not to mention soaring and inspired - number. This was followed by “Baba Jingo,” one of Mickey’s new songs, I believe? It had more of a repetitive, world beat style than the rest of the show, but the song is high-energy and it was good to see Mickey having fun on vocals. Then it was back on the classic Dead train with a very fine “China Rider.” Even the transition between these two numbers was exhilarating; you could feel the crowd’s love and appreciation, and I’m sure none of this was lost on the band.
They continued to delve into old-school Dead with the mellow “Morning Dew,” followed by one of my favorite portions of the entire weekend: “Dark Star” into “Born Cross-eyed” back into “Dark Star,” then back into “Cryptical Envelopment.” That “Born Cross-eyed” was especially fine, and it got people rocking... and talking, even hours after the show. Very nicely done on that one; way to pull out all the stops! [Author's note: one of our readers has since pointed out that "Born Cross-eyed" is particularly epic, since this was the first time they played it since 1968, when it was performed only six times.] Wisely ending the set (as opposed to the show) with the inevitable “One More Saturday Night,” the boys busted out a fabulous “Help/Slip/Franklin’s” that left no doubt that their hearts are in the right place. What a way to treat your audience - ending the show with a quintessential Dead triad that was truly inspired from start to finish. And this was just the first night...
SUNDAY | 08.04.02
Jam > Cassidy >
Black Throated Wind >
Eyes of the World >
Saint of Circumstance >
Mountains of the Moon >
Fire on the Mountain
Jam > Drums/Space >
Playin’ in the Band >
Banyan Tree > Playin’ jam >
The Wheel > Playin’ reprise
St. Stephen > Eleven >
Let It Grow
E: Sugar Magnolia > Uncle John’s Band > Box of Rain
Thanks to Dead.net for help with the setlists. See the complete setlists on Dead.net.
The boys kicked off the second night with a wonderful “Cassidy.” No better way to start a set, in my opinion. The jam portion was mellow and wavy yet also tight, proving that these guys can still hold it together. What followed can best be described as a superb, eye-and-ear-opening onslaught of some of the finest songs in the Dead’s catalog. “Brown-Eyed Women” was very moving and “Black Throated Wind” refreshing. “Eyes of the World” hit all the right places, and “Saint of Circumstance” (personally, one of the songs I really wanted them to play) brought it to an even higher level.
They wound things down a bit with “Mountains of the Moon.” While this was not the most inspirational tune of the evening, it is a great song and they played it nice and mellow. Then the boys really rocked it out for “Fire on the Mountain,” and at one point Mickey got on the mic and started doing his rap thing. I’m more a fan of the traditional “Fire” delivery, but I appreciate the fact that they’re mixing it up a bit and trying different directions. Then came “Jack Straw,” for which they tore it up, once again. I think they had us in the palm of their hand by that point, but they let us down easy as the song slowed to a gentle close.
For the second set they pulled an interesting stunt: starting off with Drums and Space. I now realize that I prefer Drums and Space later in the set. Mickey and Bill were amazing – they’re always a pleasure to watch - but personally I like to get my percussion on when I’m all fired up and in the midst of a killer set. But again, I appreciate the fact that they’re shaking things up and trying out different approaches to tried-and-true material. Drums and Space as the opener... who knew? Then they fairly erupted into “Playin’ in the Band” (another fitting song choice) that made way for an excellent “Wheel” that had us nearly spinning out of our minds. This was followed by yet another set, not to mention weekend, highlight: “St. Stephen” into “The Eleven.” Here they really let it rip with near abandon, but still sounded incredibly tight. This was a very encouraging moment, and showed the Other Ones at their strongest.
It was then that they decided to inject “Terrapin,” and the moment seemed just right. This song had a lot riding on it, obviously, and the Other Ones could really do themselves in just by delivering a less-than-stellar performance. But they did the song justice, and then some, with a relaxed, focused rendition of yet another definitive Dead song. Appropriately enough, this moment of the show felt like a true culmination of the whole weekend. Whatever followed this would be a tough choice, but they threw us a surprise with “Let It Grow.” The way this song builds into a hard-driving climax, only to end softly, made it an appropriate selection for the show closer. Another very structured but inspired improv session occurred within this song, and the set ended on a very assured note.
As for the encore of the last show, the pressure was on. I really had no idea what they were going to play; I didn’t even want to consider it. And I’m glad I didn’t, because I would never have imagined them doing “Sugar Magnolia” into “Uncle John’s Band” into “Box of Rain.” What were they doing to us? Who would ever think? This trilogy of definitive Dead songs showed that the band really understands its audience. Or at least these guys know how to tell us, in their own way, that they are still in tune and able to deliver the goods - inspired and often magical moments. It was refreshing to see, hear and experience.
Following this monster of an encore, it was very apparent that Phil wanted everybody to take a bow together; what better way than this to end a tight two-night “debut” run. But the boys seemed to disperse in all directions, and for a moment I felt a little uneasy. Did they feel as strong a connection as I felt by just being in the audience? I hoped my perception of the music wasn't clouded by my heightened senses. But after a time they all returned to the stage: first the three not-so-newbies, followed by the four Other Ones with their arms around each other. They were obviously pumped (Bill could barely keep his feet on the ground) and after taking a bow together they grouped in a circle, made one last jump-for-joy and departed from the stage in high spirits. This reinforced the positive vibe I was feeling all weekend, and sent me off into the night on a hopeful note.
“NOW IS THE TIME OF RETURNING”
The Other Ones' tentative fall tour now looks like a reality, given the outcome of the Terrapin Station weekend. But hopefully this tour will steer clear of the pitfalls that could have ruined the Alpine shows, one of these being blatant commercialization and exploitation of the Grateful Dead name.
At various times during the daylight hours, an overhead plane pulled a huge banner that read, "SOME RISE, SOME FALL - YOUR FRIENDS AT JAM." You might recall that JAM Productions was the original event promoter but was denied permission to hold the shows in Chicago, prompting rival Clear Channel to pick up the ball and move forward with the Alpine shows. So what exactly did that banner mean? Are the Other Ones going to become a "hot commodity" that cause intense competition between large-scale production companies? This is inevitable to a certain degree. And yet, even when selling out venues like Alpine Valley, the Dead have always maintained a decidedly non-mainstream approach to their music and thrive more on grassroots, word-of-mouth appeal than commercial airplay or other avenues of mass exposure. To me, the Terrapin Station weekend felt very genuine and did not smack of someone just making a buck off the Dead's legacy. Hopefully all involved parties can continue to maintain this balance going forward, although a lot of this rides on us, the audience, which brings me to my next few line items...
Though the overall vibe was pretty chill and positive, there were a few negative factors to speak of. For example, we met two separate fellows who had their backpacks stolen when they were dancing just a foot or two away. The nature of our scene makes us easy targets in many regards, and despite the fact that nearly all the people we encountered were pushing the good vibe, you always have to watch out for the thieves and scammers who infiltrate the crowd. This element didn't seem as prominent at Terrapin Station as during the Dead's last Summer run in 1995, but it is always there in some form or another and will probably increase as the Other Ones build momentum.
Of course, there were arrests and citations. But again, when thinking of the potential for trouble, these numbers seem very small in scale (with all due respect for those who were cited or arrested). There was a particularly big bust down the street from our friends in the RV section of the lot, and I got a chill down my spine from just hearing the story. We need to continue to watch ourselves and each other's backs. But also, don't deal with people you don't really know. It's huge risk with potentially devastating effects, case in point.
The crowd did seem very contained and respectful, never getting unruly except during the sound troubles. (And even then the crowd simply let out a loud "BOOO!" to express its legitimate frustration.) However, when we left the venue Sunday night the place was trashed. Talk about disrespectful. Yes, they have staff to clean up after the show, but if you can carry a $6 beer down the steep, jam-packed hill you can tote the empty cup to the nearest trash receptacle. They could've used more strategically-placed trash cans at Alpine. But still, given our role as fans and purveyors of the culture, our involvement goes well beyond the moment when the music stops. People, pick up your shit and show some respect for your surroundings, and this will help ease some of the negative perceptions surrounding our scene.
Lastly, the crack-down on lot vending was a bit troublesome. I know this activity is illegal, draws people who are not necessarily into the music - which is at the core of all this - and needs to be managed effectively. However, Shakedown Street has always been an integral part of Dead society, and all the great, creative foods and beautiful art-and-craft work have always livened the whole experience for me and solidified a sense of community. Although the craft vending inside Alpine was nicely done, the food lines were immense and unbearable, not to mention expensive. To do away with Shakedown and propel people to wait an hour for a $10 burrito, this does not leave a good taste in many fans' mouths. There has to be a happy medium somewhere.
Again, the music itself is really at the core of all this and will determine the future success of the Other Ones. So far, so good. The setlists themselves were very well thought-out. Notice that they played few covers, except for "Baba Jingo" and some traditional songs that have become Dead staples. But no Dylan numbers or no Beatles tunes; overall just exemplary Dead songs that hit all the right notes. Their delivery was right on, too. Even their "out-there" jams felt structured and tight. If they continue to build on their obvious love of the music and the joy of playing it together, then things will only get better.
At the press conference on Saturday afternoon, the mood was very relaxed and even jovial. It was refreshing to see the county sheriff and one of his lieutenants joking around with reps from the Dead organization and Clear Channel, and even with the press itself. Dead publicist Dennis McNally snuck in a good-natured dig on the media ("You're very perceptive, you must be from the press...") and the overall tone was optimistic. Everyone seemed very pleased with the way the event was progressing, and this was at 5pm on the first day. By the end of the weekend the collective efforts of all involved parties - the band, fans, venue, promoter, and local authorities - resulted in a positive experience could seemed to assure a good future for the Other Ones.
Now if they would only announce those elusive West Coast dates...
JamBase | San Francisco
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Photos by Mir Ali | Check out more great Terrapin Station photos!