On Friday night Phil Lesh reconvened his long-running “& Friends” project to begin a run of two special shows dubbed “Dead Blues” at his home venue of Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael, California. The bassist was joined by Luther Dickinson, Cody Dickinson, John Medeski, Roosevelt Collier, Junior Mack, Grahame Lesh, Danielle Nicole and Elliott Peck for the first of two performances exploring the blues influence on the Grateful Dead.
The ad-hoc ensemble kicked off the night with “Viola Lee Blues,” the prison song that was originally written by Noah Lewis and included on the Dead’s 1967 self-titled debut. Luther Dickinson stepped up to sing lead next on a version of Wille Dixon’s “Little Red Rooster” that featured some great interplay between the guitarist and lap steel player Roosevelt Collier. Next, vocalist Danielle Nicole emerged for “Hand Me Down My Walking Cane.” According to the the Grateful Dead Lyric & Song Finder the tune was only known to have been performed by the Grateful Dead twice in their nascent days. The band then delivered their first original Dead tune of the night with a version of the much beloved Robert Hunter-Ron “Pigpen” McKernan collaboration “Mr. Charlie” that saw Medeski take charge on a lengthy jam.
“It Hurts Me Too,” which was originally made famous by Elmore James, followed. The back end of the opening frame featured Jimmy Reed’s “Big Boss Man,” along with “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” and Willie Dixon’s “The Same Thing.” Pigpen sang “The Same Thing” during the Dead’s early days and the cover was later revived in the ’90s with Bob Weir singing lead.
Phil Lesh & Friends’ second set of the night got rolling with Elliott Peck fronting the band for a take on The Beatles’ “Come Together,” one of three songs played last night that the Grateful Dead never covered. Next, Cody Dickinson had his turn singing lead from behind the drum kit on the traditional folk-blues tune “Deep Elem Blues.” Robert Johnson’s “Walkin’ Blues,” Rev. Gary Davis’ “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” and Louis Jordan’s jump-blues classic “Let The Good Times Roll” helped fill out the middle portion of the set. “Mystery Train,” which was only played once by the Grateful Dead in 1970, came ahead of a set-closing run featuring The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows,” Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning” and “Truckin’.” The band finished off the night with an instrumental take on “Amazing Grace” and the traditional song “And We Bid You Goodnight” as the encore.
Another round of “Dead Blues” will be held on Saturday night. nugs.tv is providing a free webcast live from Terrapin Crossroads.
Watch full show pro-shot video thanks to nugs.tv:
Setlist (via PhilZone)
Set I: Viola Lee Blues, Little Red Rooster (LD), Hand Me Down My Walking Cane (DN), Mr. Charlie (EP), It Hurts Me Too (EP), Big Boss Man (JM), Nobody’s Fault but Mine (JM), The Same Thing (DN)
Set II: Come Together (DN), Deep Elem Blues (CD), Walkin’ Blues (JM), Death Don’t Have No Mercy (EP / DN), Let the Good Times Roll (DN), Mystery Train (JM), Tomorrow Never Knows > (EP) Smokestack Lightning (JM), Truckin’ (GL)
Encore: Amazing Grace ( LD instrumental) > And We Bid You Goodnight
LD = Luther Dickinson, DN = Danielle Nicole, EP = Elliott Peck, JM = Junior Mack, CD = Cod Dickinson, GL = Grahame Lesh