Words by Brian Getz :: Images by Michael Jurick

The Duo, G.R.A.B. & Phil Lesh and Friends
06.30.06 :: Tweeter Center :: Camden, NJ
07.01.06 :: PNC Bank Arts Center :: Holmdel, NJ

So much has transpired since the demise of both the Grateful Dead, and later Phish, the stalwart entities of our wonderful psychedelic music scene. Festivals such as Bonnaroo, High Sierra, and New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival have evolved into cultural playgrounds for heads who used to live and die by tour life. Post Coventry, or even post- hiatus, the "jam" genre and its machinations changed greatly. The stakes got higher, and the music moved back into the clubs and bars and got gritty and sweaty again; the music has flourished. People have grown up, fallen in love, made babies, cut their hair, are rockin' suits and doin' it out in the real world. Sure, our soundtrack remains the same, although considerably more open and wide-eared than in the touring era, but the times sure are a changin'. Yet, in true roots fashion, the more they change and evolve, the more they stay the same...

Tweeter Center :: Camden, NJ

There is a WHOLE LOT goin' on with this tour...

With a nervous anticipation greater than any other in recent memory, I awaited the summer tour that paired Phil Lesh & Friends and Trey Anastasio and Mike Gordon with the Benevento/Russo Duo. From a personal perspective, this was an incredible event, tour, and idea. This tour (and all of the parties involved) has elicited such incredibly fierce and divided opinions. Therefore, I wish to clarify a bit about myself as to help readers know where I'm coming from: I am very familiar with all of the performers involved and consider myself a hardcore fan of the GD (and some incarnations of PL&F), Phish, and the Duo. This tour, in its concept, is a wonderful idea filled with promise; however, it has been apparent that there have been some missteps in both the post-GD and post-PH camps. Leave it to the Duo to make it right!

Phil Lesh has taken the Grateful Dead concept and run with it. Ever since his successful liver transplant nearly ten years ago, he has been out on the road, recreating the GD catalogue with a rotating cast of musicians culled from various places in the Dead world and beyond. Most beloved of the combinations is the 'PLQ' lineup, which featured Warren Haynes in a prominent guitar/vocal role, and also included Jimmy Herring. Lately, Phil has been creating the vibe with a mix of old and new friends, re-teaming with his partner-in-riddim, drummer John Molo, longtime keyboard foil Rob Barracco, contemporary songstress Joan Osbourne, Dylan sideman Larry Campbell on guitar, and the amazing Barry Sless on pedal steel. Bob Weir's Ratdog has had a fairly stable lineup and runs through some of the GD songbook as well as introduces new music while Phil & Friends has courageously explored the depth and magnitude of the Dead catalogue, admittedly with mixed results. Bottom line, Phil takes chances... without a net. A Phil and Friends show can often be a mind- bending, high-energy, emotional psychedelic experience in the Grateful Dead tradition. This current lineup is really beginning to gel into a cohesive unit, a la "the Q." Yet the addition of Trey Anastasio would propel this lineup even further toward the stratosphere.

Phil Lesh :: 06.30.06
A decade ago, an event pairing GD members and Phish members would have seemed far-fetched. On their final tour in the summer of 1995, the GD would tease their fans by flashing a Phish logo on the jumbotron. It seemed Phish, most noticeably Trey Anastasio, spent much of their career trying to distance themselves from the Dead and desperately trying to carve their own identity. Recall the smarmy attitude Trey displayed in the film Bittersweet Motel in regards to Garcia and the Dead comparisons. He was quoted countless times through the years pleading to be unchained from the behemoth Dead legend. Phish had long established themselves and their place in the psychedelic rock pantheon, well before they disbanded in 2004. However, in time, the Jedi must return to his father. In April 1999, whilst a functioning Phish was still touring, Trey and Page McConnell first linked up with Phil Lesh for the original uniting of clans, a now-legendary three-night run at The Warfield that also included Steve Kimock. That event began this union of camps that has apparently strengthened in the nearly two years since Phish hung it up. Trey and Mike Gordon sporadically collaborated with Phil and co., and Trey revealed the core of his Garcia affection unabated at the Greek Theatre Comes A Time benefit last summer. Twice, on GD turf, Trey brought his magic to the greatest songbook in modern times. His credibility in that arena is no longer in question. However, after spending a career crafting his own band identity, two years after Phish, it is indeed his identity that is uncertain. His music and its personality have taken on some new attributes that have not been well-received by many core fans.

The original Trey band was great. Though at the time it got mixed reviews, I for one was stoked on the new style, the myriad of directions, the horns, percussion, and the open-ended, Fela Kuti-esque liberating quality driving the new sound. Adding Trey's unmatched guitar wizardry created an amalgam of sonics and cultures, beats and riddims laid over jazzy structures. TAB meshed styles in an innovative and relevant fashion. I accepted this music as an evolution because it was so progressive, it took chances, and the music and rhythms had a world-music feel to them. This band incorporated much of what I really enjoy about Trey's (then) approach to creating. The about-face that his music, band, writing, and energy has seemingly taken since his stint as a sideman to Dave Matthews has taken is striking.

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