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Columns > John Zinkand - Improvise

Published: 2002/09/24
by John Zinkand

Journey to the Center of the Rocks

Drive and Arrive
After procuring our rental mini-van, removing the seats, and packing that sucker up, we were on the road. Its quite a long drive from Portland, OR to Breckenridge, CO, but we didnt care. The harsh reality of the driving distance was compounded by the fact that we had no CD player and only four measly tapes to play in the tape deck. Id love to be able to report that the time on the road flew right by, but it didnt. We scanned the radio dial and found little in the way of options, especially when driving through places like Ontario, OR and Green River, WY. There was little to observe out the car window but rolling hills or sterile desolation. We did see some huge thunderheads and gigantic streaks of lightning from a great distance on the vast open plains. As we passed Boise, ID, the radio announcer informed us that there would be a Tom Petty concert in town that night (with Jackson Browne opening!). We joked about checking it out, but had more substantial musical fare in a better location than Idaho on our minds. This trip would offer an epic musical adventure through Colorado, a journey that would involve three thousand miles of driving, four different bands, and four different venuesall over six short days. And it would all culminate with two nights of Phil at Red Rocks.
At the end of the first day of driving on Wednesday, August 28th, we had completed about thirteen consecutive hours on the open road. We found a cheap hotel where the beds were pretty uncomfortable. It was not surprising when we awoke feeling groggy and generally tired the following day. At least the next days drive was a comparatively brief six hour jaunt. We cruised into the little mountain town of Breckenridge with no problems, arriving just before dinner time.
Scanning the town for an affordable place to spend the night was a mini-adventure in itself. First, we found the bar called Sherpa-n-Yettis on Main Street of Breckenridge. We were very psyched to be seeing Garaj Mahal play a show there that evening. From there, we worked our way in concentric circles around the bar trying to find lodging. There was a vacancy at a Bed And Breakfast, but we decided not to stay there. Disturbing the other guests by stumbling back to our room after a late night of partying would not be very courteous. Also, their check out time was 10:00am, much too early for us. We were frantically looking for a cheap place to stay and about to give up all hope when we stumbled upon the Breckenridge Mountain Lodge. After checking in and being granted a late check out time of noon, we headed into town for the evenings festivities.
Not Your Average Garaj Band
We were famished and soon found a BBQ joint. Upon completion of the grub-shoveling, drinks were in order at the Breckenridge Brewery before heading back over to Sherpa-n-Yettis. The door of the bar opened for the evening about twenty seconds after we arrived. We strolled into the nearly empty room and checked out the small place, which was actually more like two connected rooms. As one walks into the venue, there are some small couches on the right and a small bar on the left. This little room connects to the main dance floor room, but the stage is at the front of both rooms, acting as the connecting glue at the bottom of a letter L shape. The main room also has a bigger bar that runs along the entire side of the larger dance floor.
We decided to get comfy on the vacant couches and in no time found ourselves chatting with Alan Hertz and Fareed Haque. I asked Alan about the future of his other project, Big Elvis, and he promised some shows in San Francisco and a possible subsequent tour of the west coast. Big Elvis is basically KVHW minus Steve Kimock, but with the additions of Eric Levy on keys and Tal Morris on guitar. I asked him if there was any bad blood between he and Kimock and he answered a resounding, No way! Apparently, Kimock had Alan sit in at a show in Arizona a few weeks prior to this show. We spoke with the guys a little more, but then they had to do their sound check. People began to shuffle in and fill the place up by the time they were finished.
This show was phenomenal. Garaj Mahal is so good on so many different levels. Every player in this band is a virtuoso, yet there seems to be little in the way of ego. The band rips through tune after tune as a unit, playing off one another and exploring the realms of jazzy improv. The songs are mostly complicated structures that make use of odd or varying time signatures, startlingly abrupt shifts in key, and dynamic changes in mood. There is usually a hook or main theme established, after which the players just go off.
Kai Eckhart is simply astounding on the bass with his arsenal of techniques and styles. From tapping to slapping, Kai does it all. Fareed Haque is a true virtuoso on guitar. He can blaze through incredibly quick runs and solos over jazzy chords using any one of his many guitars. The one guitar of his that always intrigues me is the stand-mounted acoustic guitar that looks like a cross between a guitar and a sitar. Eric Levy is no slouch on the keyboards, either. He can be counted on to hold down the groove by repeating a phrase over and over while his band mates go off, but can also work magic with his thoughtful soloing ability. Of course, Hertz on the drums is a machine. Alan turns into a blur of arms and legs while the syncopated beats flash wildly, making one wonder how the hell he can play like that.
Tonight the band was obviously psyched to be playing. The packed room was up and dancing from beginning to end. Garaj Mahal ripped through some of their classics like a great Poodle Factory which was sped up more than any other time I had ever heard it played. The vocal breakdown was a little different, too. It was even more syncopated and confusing than normalif thats possible. Kai sang a cover of Steve Millers Fly Like an Eagle, which was very good. Except for the singing parts, one would never guess what song it was if they came in during the jams. The band took the simple tune way out there to the gratification of the sweaty crowd. As the final notes of a very mellow encore were played, Kai invited us to buy a live CD which he promised to sign. I took him up on the offer.
I felt pretty good upon awaking the next day, but my traveling companion had to do battle with my snoring, the poor guy. When I drink I snore and I had a few nips during the Garaj Mahal show, to say the least. Its not often that I am within walking distance of a great show in a bar and I took full advantage. As hung over as we were, our excitement was building. After some coffee and donuts, it was time to head over to the site of the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Festival, the swanky little ski town of Aspen, CO. *Poor Travelers in a Wealthy Town *
Aspen was bubbling with activity. We stopped at the Festival site on our way in, but the attendants told us to park in town and then take the shuttle bus. The Jazz Festival was happening at the mountain while there was a volleyball tournament taking place in town. This caused us some concern since we needed to find a motel. I had been to Aspen once before to see a couple Jiggle the Handle shows, so we drove over to the hotel I fondly remembered as being relatively inexpensive. My memory may have been playing games on me, however, as we were quoted a rate of one hundred fifty nine dollars for the night. We decided to look elsewhere and were told by several places that we would absolutely not be able to find anything under one sixty in Aspen on this weekend. Never giving up hope, we pushed on. We walked up a little hill and I found a small place perched up high called The Aspen Ski Chalet. Although the cost was still pretty high at one twenty for the night, it was probably the best deal available in the pricey town. As the stinging sensation of the price tag shock slowly subsided, we ate a quick lunch and headed in to town.
My friend was thinking quickly and suggested that we purchase tickets for our late night show before we made our way over to the festival. In a town so packed with tourists, I agreed that this was a pretty smart idea. As fans of smaller more intimate shows, we decided to see The Motet at a bar called The Grottos instead of checking out Deep Banana Blackout and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band at the Double Diamond. Also, Dirty Dozen had just played at Hornings Hoedown a few weeks before this and I had danced the entire set, whereas it had been sometime since my last Motet fix. The owner of The Grottos, Tim, introduced himself to us and invited us into his bar. He suggested we pay for the tickets in advance so that we would not get shut out if it sold out, which he thought was a definite possibility on a crowded weekend night with so much going on in town. With our Motet tickets purchased, a short shuttle ride was the only thing standing between us and the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Festival.
The scene was pretty small because they were not letting anyone park in the lot nearest the actual site. However, some renegade scene-sters managed to bully their way through the parking attendants and lined up in two small rows. This has to be the smallest lot scene I have ever witnessed. It was a microcosm of a macrocosm, though. I was offered mushroom chocolates, I bought a kind beer from some dude, and someone was selling grilled cheese for a dollar. We mingled with the people and made some new friends, then headed over to the line to get in. Scoring tickets for less than face value was no problem and, after a light pat down, we were inside the venue.
Jazz Aspen Snowmass took place on the lower ski slopes of Snowmass Ski Area. This has to be the second most beautiful venue Ive ever seen. The bottom of the slopes led down to the massive main stage area. All around were jagged peaks and mountain tops that could be seen across a small valley. The sun was slowly setting and turning the mountains into a dusky purple color as the sky melted into a wash of pinks and oranges. It was not a venue for the weak or weary, however. The entrance was near the very bottom of the ski slopes and one had to walk up a fairly steep hill to get inside and to the main stage. There was a tent with another smaller stage that was even further away at the very top of the hill. Normally, Im not one to complain about a good walk, but walking up hill at ten thousand feet where theres hardly any breathable air was interesting. Getting acclimated to being at that altitude took us a little while.
Huffing and puffing, we made it to the small stage under the tent at the top of the hill. The Motet was playing a short set there before Govt Mule took the main stage. The tent was all set up like a club. There was a wooden dance floor that was carefully placed on the grass in front of the stage . A few pleather couches were scattered here and there, and there were also some high tables with bar chairs at them. A full bar was located near the back of the little tent. It was a club setting in the middle of a ski slope! How weird but cool!
As The Motet ended their short set, we walked back down the hill towards the front of the gigantic main stage. We found some friends located just in front of the soundboard and quickly settled in. As Govt Mule started their set, little doubt was left about the quality of the sound system. It was very loud which was fitting for Mules style of in your face southern rock. Warren was on fire shredding solo after solo while running through many of his concert staples. Matt Abts drumming was powerful and kinetic while Dave Schools was playing some monster power chords on bass. The set ebbed and flowed between slower soulful ballads and more rocking tunes. Of course, Warrens powerful vocals stole the show yet again as he conveyed so much emotion with them. And it was all driven home wonderfully by the incredibly powerful sound system.
By the time Govt Mule was finished, I had to go to the bathroom. Unfortunately, the port-a-johns were located at the very tip-top of the hill, a little higher than the tent stage. I returned to our seats both relieved and a little winded about twenty minutes later. We began talking with a guy named Skip who apparently owns a bar in Telluride. He happily puffed on the Oregon supply we had brought with us and invited us to hang out at his suite in town later that night. Apparently, he knew the owner of the Double Diamond and could get us in to that show for free. This just cemented our belief that we had chosen the right late night show to attend, however, the less popular one.
The first set of Phil and Friends was a bit of a letdown. They opened with an average Celebration and played some uninspired renditions of Dead classics including Cumberland Blues and Tennessee Jed. Its not that they were playing terribly, but the songs lacked any real punch. The jams didnt elevate to a very powerful level at all. The highlight of the first set was a kick ass Passenger to close things out. Here was a glimpse of the true power this band possesses. They slammed into the intro riff as the chords pounded us in the face. We were turned upside out and inside down as things heated up too intensely for words before ending in a nice neat finish.
The second set looks pretty bad on paper. Its replete with songs that traditionally are fairly mellow like Friend of the Devil, Dire Wolf, Uncle Johns Band, and Sugaree. Dont be fooled, however, as this was a very good, energized set of music. The band came out of the gates firing on all cylinders as the jam that eventually led us into Friend of the Devil was no meandering or lilting little jam. This thing was a full force locomotive with power and direction. Later on during the set, I mentioned to my friend that there sure was a lot of jamming going on. I forgot what song they were playing several times as they delved deeply into territories that became pretty dark and twisted before coming back to a familiar refrain. The Sugaree set closer was a personal highlight. The song has departed from its classic style of old and has been given a new vitality by Warren Haynes. His bluesy vocal approach gives it a fresh feel and Warren and Jimmys solos were elevating the jam to seriously rocking levels. Night of a Thousand Stars was a fitting encore on this cold and clear evening, perched high among the peaks and stars in the Rocky Mountains.
Late Night Madness
Back down the mountain and towards the shuttle buses we went. The lines to get on them were agonizingly long, however. Having everyone use shuttle buses to get in meant shuttle buses were necessary to get everyone back out. Instead of standing around in line, we decided to head back over to the two rows of cars that constituted the only scene this show had to offer. We bought a couple Sierra Nevadas and moseyed over to the Jeep Cherokee owned by some guys we talked to a bit before the show. A few minutes later, we were happy to see the two guys walking towards their car.
When they saw us they seemed happy, too. Whats up guys? they asked. We talked about the show and how much fun it was. Eventually, the topic came around to late night festivities. After only a minimal amount of convincing, they agreed to check out the Motet with us. We tried to convince them to let us ride back in their vehicle so we didnt have to wait in the lines, which they agreed to, but with one condition: They wanted me to drive their car because they were very spun, apparently. This fact was fairly obvious to the trained eye, and I breathed a sigh of relief that they didnt plan on attempting to drive us back into town while high.
Once safely parked in downtown Aspen, our new friends offered me a large Jack-n-Coke in a big old plastic cup to compensate me for my driving labor. Not being one to ever refuse my favorite alcoholic beverage, I happily obliged. The Grottos was pretty full when we got there, but had not yet sold out. We found a bench and proceeded to take a puff or two when a group of conservative-looking adults walking by our bench pointed at us and said, There! Thats where that smell is coming from! This was our cue to head inside immediately.
The Grottos is a great little bar with a cozy feel to it. It only holds about one hundred people at the most, but it was a very laid back and friendly environment. I spoke to several strangers during the evening about topics as varied as Widespread Panic to the upcoming Phil and Friends shows at Red Rocks. And the show itself just smoked. This was the Motet at their peak.
Usually this band can lean too heavily on one aspect of their sound, almost as a musical crutch. Ive seen them numerous times and usually they have one main recurring theme throughout the night. Some nights Ive seen mostly percussion and drumming, others mostly jazzier guitar-driven tunes. Tonight, however, the band gave the packed audience a generous helping of each of their styles. Drum jams slipped into jazzy tunes which gave way to Latin-tinged funky grooves before leading into a more rocking song laced with great guitar and keyboard jams. The newest addition to The Motet, Garrett Sayers on bass, certainly shined. He exuded energy with his smile, eager approach, and great talent. The dance floor held more and more grooving bodies until it was ready to burst at the seams. Everyone moved here and there, grinding, bumping, and generally having fun. When the final beats of the percussive encore ended, the clock on the wall showed 2:05am.
Rolling on to Red Rocks
The next morning arrived and we got our shit together. It took a little while to get alive as we expended quite a lot of energy the day before. But with the help of some coffee and donuts, we were driving down the road in no time while the sugar and caffeine coursed through our veins. Our decision to take the scenic Independence Pass out of Aspen was a wise one. The route climbed and weaved its way around some incredibly beautiful landscapes. Huge green mountains towered above tiny valleys where trees sparsely dotted the foothills. Different colored foliage on the hulking mountains made things look like a living work of art. Splashes of yellow and maroon underbrush near the bottom of these peaks flow into the deep green of pine trees and then the light browns and grays of dirt and stone further up. The route was fairly slow with narrow roads and many twists and turns, but the time flew by as we took in the breathtaking surroundings.
We pulled into our final destination, Morrison, CO, on Saturday August 31st psyched for a two night stand seeing Phil and Friends at Red Rocks Amphitheater. These shows promised to be more than a little special. Not only were they the last scheduled shows for Phil and Friends, but Ratdog was opening the first night and Willie Nelson was opening the second night. Add to this the fact that a great group of people came together to create a beautiful community for two days, and you have what turned out to be one of my favorite two night stands of music ever.
Red Rocks itself is amazing. Its located just West of Denver in the foothills before entering the Rocky Mountains. Driving in, one sees a huge pile of massive reddish rocks off to their right that jut up hundreds of feet into the air, and most are slanted in the same direction. Without having seen a picture of the place on the old 1-900-USA-Dead fridge magnets, I would have never known there was a venue neatly tucked into the middle of the large rocks that, in turn, serve as a perfect frame to this naturally occurring Amphitheater. All around the area are lower foothills and rocky peaks that create even more bucolic beauty. There are long steep walkways that are welded into the side of the rock that lead up and around to the entrance areas. The parking lots sit well below the venue and it can be quite a hike up there depending on where you park. Yes, this is another venue for the physically fit music lover. I noticed more than a few overweight heads huffing and puffing as the sweat ran down their faces by the time they reached the inside of the venue.
After I grabbed a quick nap in the back of the mini-van while my friend looked for some people he knew, we headed up the hill towards the geologic wonder. We entered the venue and immediately tried to find some seats. Ratdog was already well into their set, most of which we missed. I was slightly surprised at the somewhat agro responses I received from folks when trying to find a seat. I sat down once at an empty space just to catch a quick breather (Ok, I admit it. I, too, was huffing and puffing from the walk up the hill) and the guy next to me almost ripped my head off. He shook his head violently and said, No way man, you cant sit there, repeatedly. I thought this was a bit much. It gave me a slightly bad vibe, but it showed just how high of a demand there was to witness what could very well be the final two Phil shows.
We made our way to the other side of the venue to meet a friend who promised to bring us some tapes to listen to on the way home, (remember, we only had four tapes for the nineteen hour drive home) but she forgot them. I tried to walk across the seating area right in front of the stage and first row since it was not roped off (on Rob’s side). This was the scene of the second occurrence of bad vibes for me on this evening. I took about three steps when this big, muscle-bound, crew-cut guy lunged and pushed his arm up and into me, forcing me to back-up a few steps and stumble over someone’s wheelchair that was all folded up and sticking out from under the seats. When I told him he should be more careful since I almost tripped due to him pushing me, he yelled ‘I didn’t PUSH you. Get OUT of here!’
My main problem with this kind of ‘enforcement,’ is that meat-head obviously was on some sort of strange, eight dollar an hour power trip. He could have just as easily hopped over to me and said, ‘Sir, walking through this area is not allowed. Please go around. Thanks.’ I went to speak to someone who looked more like a manager (he was wearing headphones and a nice blue windbreaker) so I could maybe get this guy reported and disciplined. The manager guy just said, ‘He pushed you? I can’t do anything unless you want to press charges. Do you want to press charges against him?’ I said no because he didn’t injure me or anything. I then asked the manager to at least reprimand him so that he wouldnt do this to other people and eventually end up hurting someone.
The next night the same guy was in the same place. I’m sure he never heard anything about the incident from the manager, either. What if he pushed me and I had a sprained ankle or some other medical condition and was seriously injured? Seems like I understood the financial ramifications of a lawsuit better than meat-head or wind-breaker headphone man, which is pathetic. Overall the security was fine on both nights, it was just this one bad apple that I happened to find. Lucky me.
An Evening of Magic
We finally found some places to sit on the wall next to the front row on Robs side. These makeshift seats were off to the side of the aisle by the large concrete column on the front left side of the stage. The view was slightly obstructed and the seats were not extremely comfortable, but there was pretty good sound and we could see the large video screen. Looking up at the crowd from this vantage point was pretty cool. I felt like I was on the bottom of a huge pile of people. Just above the sea of people was one of the massive rocks with trees peppered here and there just below it. A beautiful site to see! Unfortunately, my weariness and the two minor incidents I had before the start of Phils set had thrust me into a somewhat bad mood.
Then the band hit the stage and things changed immediately. Help on the Way started things off nicely. Most setlists Ive seen say that the band next went into Slipknot! before taking a sudden turn into Lovelight. I have no recollection of the Slipknot!, however. From what I can remember, a jam after Help on the Way, segued directly into Lovelight. This one-two combination was one of my favorites of the two nights. It must have lasted for twenty five minutes. Lovelight would fade away until it was an unidentifiable jam before the unmistakable bass and guitar riff hook came back around. Warren had two separate vocal jams, the second culminating in a howling fury of emotion. Next they played the old classic, Til The Morning Comes, which is always a treat to hear when pulled out and dusted off. The end of the set kept with the theme of older tunes as a bopping up tempo Masons Children closed things out. Not the best version Ive heard, but fun nonetheless.
Of course, my frown and frumpy mood had been replaced by a beaming smile shortly after the set began. The show was turning out to be something special. And they never let off the pressure, either. The band raged into the second set and never once paused their sonic assault as every single song in the second set segue into one another. Things started off with a jam that had more than a few teases in it. This flowed nicely into Dear Mr. Fantasy which was sung and played nearly perfectly. As the tune ended the band went into another jam which melded into the chords of The Other One. Soon the band had decreased their volume and the spotlight came up on Phil. Instantly, I knew exactly what was going to happen. Phil bent down and turned to the side a little before swinging around and starting the rumbling intro to The Other One that peaks in a massive Phil bomb. Holy shit! The place went bonkers.
After ripping through the first verse of The Other One, a haunting version of the Beatles song Tomorrow Never Knows was played and slow things down a bit. This led into a combination of tunes played in the opposite order of the way the Dead used to play them. The Eleven led into St. Stephen. People were flabbergasted but exuberant about this curve ball the band had thrown our way. The energy caused by the raucous version of St. Stephen would have been through the roof if we had not been perched in the middle of the rocks with nothing but stars above our mostly hairy heads. Before we knew what was going on things led into the second verse of The Other One, then directly into The Wheel then Cosmic Charlie to end the set. Wow. But things didnt end there as the playful band came back and encored to complete some unfinished business from the first set. Slipknot>Franklins Tower was the perfect end to this classic show with its circular theme.
Walking back to the car was a quite an affair. Everyone was in awe of the show they just saw. Trying to digest what had happened would probably take some time. The people I spoke with after the show were pretty much speechless. We had just witnessed some seriously heavy shit and we all knew it. The spirituality and power of the venue seemed to help sustain the energy of the show. Cops aggressively and quickly clear everyone out of the lots at Red Rocks, so we were happy to find some friends who would let us crash at their place soon after the show let out. An hour or so later we were near the little mountain town of Nederland, CO.
The girls house where we crashed was a tiny little one room cabin up in the mountains. There were a few other cabins scattered around the area, too. We hung out and listened to some tunes until about 3:00am when I decided that I better get some sleep. Out of respect for the other folks, I went out to the van to crash for the night so I wouldnt bother them with my snoring. Im glad I did because in the morning my friend told me stories of how he couldnt sleep due to the five dogs running around the cabin all night. It took us awhile to actually get up and out of there the next day, but it did eventually happen. We picked up some take-out food on the way back down to Morrison and our second day of Phil on the Rocks.
Get Your Phil Before You Go
The lots were bubbling with activity so we decided to hang out there for awhile. I bought a nice Zappa T-shirt and a little glass-handled bong poker while chatting up various interesting folks. After an hour or two of walking around in the sun, I was ready to go inside. It was still pretty early and my friends wanted to hang out in the lot some more, but I headed inside, blanket in hand, to secure some space for us and listen to Willie Nelsons set.
After the short work-out of getting up to the venue, I made it inside. I went to the same area I had been the night before, but up a row or two and to the left where a little grassy area with trees was located. I laid down my blanket and stretched out until Willie came on. Willies set was so much fun. His band impressed me very much and I was surprised to hear mostly up-tempo bluegrass influenced songs. He played all the classics you would expect, as well. Obvious fans were singing along as I swayed back and forth on my blanket. After Willies set, a guy asked me if he could sit on my blanket. I let him know that friends would be coming for the seats eventually, but until then it was fine. I also saw a guy I had met briefly at High Sierra Music Festival and invited him to sit down and chat for a bit.
My friends came in and found me just before the set started. They brought me a frozen rum drink and before we knew it the band had taken the stage. After having teased the tune in Aspen and the first night of Red Rocks, the band busted into a well received Shakedown Street. What a smoking opener! Everyone was up and dancing immediately. From there the band went on to play a very solid first set. China Cat>Rider was played well with some of the jams going pretty far out there. After a Warren interlude of the Brent composition Tons of Steel, the band launched into an extremely psychedelic version of the Beatles tune I Am the Walrus. The twisted lyrics and dark, sinister-sounding chords weirded more than a few people out, Im sure. The foray into darker regions ended abruptly when the band switched gears and started playing the bouncy and light set closer, Good Lovin. While this song is not a personal favorite of mine, I did enjoy Warrens interpretation of the vocals.
We took the opportunity during set break to walk all the way up to the very top of the venue. There were some bathrooms, a bar, and a concession stand here in addition to a large open space where one can walk around. The view from here was amazing. We looked down on the stage which was now perfectly framed by the towering rocks on either side. Out in the distance we could see the shimmering lights of Denver, sparkling like a pile of diamonds. As the band took the stage to begin their final set of music, we decided to linger a little longer at the top. The sound was a bit weak up there, but it was cool to hear how the volume would slightly increase and decrease every so often depending on which way the wind was blowing the sound waves. A James Brown bobble head doll was shown grooving away on the big screen. The opening jam, laced with strong Led Zeppelin teases, eventually found its way into Phils classic, Unbroken Chain. As the familiar opening notes rang out, we headed back down to our seats with much haste.
We decided to try and dance in some of the seats right down front and it turned out to be no problem. The way seating is set up at Red Rocks makes for lots of extra space since the seat is an extension of the walking path between each row. Basically, when people stand up from their seats, there is plenty of room behind them and in front of them. People tended to bunch up towards the center with many couples standing in a hugging position, one in front of the other. This created plenty of extra space and I wriggled into the side of one of the front few rows. From here the sound and view was even better.
The first tune led into Lady With a Fan, and everyone sung along to the familiar lyrics. It felt like a gigantic family reunion sing along. After some fierce jamming the tune flowed into a new song with music written by Jimmy Herring, Again and Again. As Terrapin Station emerged from yet another jam, the crowd was cheering. This version of Terrapin was very different than the way it has been traditionally played. The end part was sped up and syncopated to give it an almost dance party feel. DJ Logic would have fit in perfectly to add some extra textures and beats. And just when we thought things might be coming to an end, the band launched into the old classic, Viola Lee Blues. The tune culminated in some of the fiercest guitar jamming of the night from both Warren and Jimmy before turning suddenly into Golden Road. This choice was pure nostalgia inducing goodness. Everyone there must have been thinking about the Grateful Dead of old as the band happily breathed life into the grandfather of a tune. The band came back on the stage and encored with Not Fade Away much to the delight of the crowd. I was hoping for something a little meatier, but was satisfied enough with the happy loving vibes exuded by this song choice. As it led into the revamped version of Bid You Goodnight, the place was filled with smiles, and perhaps a few tears.
I felt that the first night was a better show overall, but that the second night had some amazing high points. The crowd was more chatty than the night before as we were walking out, which I took to mean they were less flabbergasted. I have heard many people say the second night was their favorite of the two, however. As we slowly walked down the ramp like so many packed in cattle, a funny thing happened. Every so often, the huge line of packed people would stop, holding the whole stampede up. Thats when a guy behind me would yell YAH!! Head em UP! Move em OUT! Then he would mimic the sound of a whip until the log jam was freed up. At first I found this to be only a mildly amusing play on the cattle feel of leaving a packed show. But as things came to a grinding halt once again, he screamed out YAH!! Giddy up now. Whats going on down there? YAH!! followed by more whipping sounds. Suddenly I realized that it was actually working. The guy was herding us! A few people would forget they were in a huge line of people and would space, stop, and start talking to others. The herding guy was very effective at waking these people up and keeping the line moving. I think I may use his tactic the next time Im leaving a crowded show with the rest of the cattle.
Two guys came by our van after the show and asked us for a ride to Denver. We promised them a ride in exchange for some directions to a motel and the next show. As valiant and courageous music lovers, we decided to try to catch some of the Garaj Mahal show that was happening in Denver. By the time we got to town twenty minutes later, we had to wake the hitch-hikers up since they had both fallen fast asleep and begun snoring. We dropped them off in a church parking lot, found a motel, then called over to Quixotes where Garaj Mahal was playing. It was already about 1:30am, but we heard they had played until 4:00am the night before. Unfortunately, they were finishing up when we made the call and there was no point in even going over there. I didnt really mind because I knew we had a day and a half of driving in front of us.
The next morning came and we packed up our stuff one final time. The drive home was long and boring, but there was one high point. Remember how we had no tapes? Well, as we were leaving Denver my buddy thought he saw a friend of his in a car next to us. When he honked the horn to get her attention, however, he realized he didnt know the two girls who looked up at us at all. Not being a shy fellow, he rolled down his window and screamed, Tapes! Cassettes! Do you have any? The young girls seemed surprised, but they obliged. Do you like Lauryn Hill!? they screamed. We both shrugged our shoulders due to our lack of pop knowledge, which further surprised these two young girls. Much to the chagrin of the line of cars behind us, our vehicle swerved back and forth as the high speed tape hand off was made. Ironically, after many consecutive days of live improvisational music, we were introduced to the mellow hip-hop of Ms. Hill. As our trip filled with so much music and so many twists and turns came to an end, it felt right to just go with the flow.

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