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Published: 2012/06/05
by Brennan Lagasse

Terrapin Crossroads and Sweetwater Music Hall: The Dead Vibe is Alive in Marin County

If the Sweetwater is a locally informed place for Mill Valley and the north Bay Area music scene, Terrapin Crossroads in the same thing only more for Deadheads. The place itself is a product of a dream long held by Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh to have a musical home in Marin County. After plans to build a barn in the spirit of the East Coast rambles facilitated by late musical hero Levon Helm fizzled, Lesh bought a few properties in San Rafael and created Terrapin Crossroads to fulfill his West Coast dream.

The facility is stunning, housed right on the water with a beautiful outdoor patio dining area. The inside is equally impressive so much so that it almost feels a bit overwhelmingly upscale than one might expect. There’s a gorgeous bar serving a delicious beer, wine and cocktail selection as well as a spacious dining area and comfortable lounge space upstairs. In the past several weeks since its spring opening there have been long night ragers and intimate bar shows mixed with events like a storytelling evening, and even the first Telstar Jam session that I was able to attend this past Sunday.

The Telstar show was not your normal night of music. In fact, when Phil greeted the crowd he made mention that as a band tonight, “we don’t know where we’re gonna go”, to bring “no expectations” to the show, and that he was “happy people were weird enough” to come out tonight. The show lasted about 1:40 and was most accurately described as one long spacey jam. Every few minutes the feel would shift and a new tease might be heard, such as “Revolution 9” or “Dancin’ in the Streets,” however the band did sing a bit, offering both verses of “Dark Star” as well as a slowly peaking version of “Morning Dew” to finish the set.

It seemed that a few of those who attended the show were hoping for more of a Dead set experience even though the bill accurately described what was offered. Regardless, the night was unique and a special set of music played by Phil, John Kadlecik, Adam MacDougall, Jon Graboff, and Jaz Sawyer. After all of these years of music it was truly a stand-alone type night, something no one in attendance has heard the likes of unless they had attended one of the infamous Acid Tests in the 1960’s. Phil couldn’t have looked happier. His vibe on this evening seemed to capture the essence of what many who have been attending Terrapin Crossroads shows regularly have been sharing, and what I also felt after spending some time at his place last Sunday. Inspiration.

The Bay Area has long been a home for all things Grateful Dead, but in reality home just got a lot more centered and way more rootsy. With a Dead influenced space like the Sweetwater hosting diverse musical acts weekly, and a straight home for Deadheads in Terrapin Crossroads offering several new adventures each month the greater music community in this north Bay Area enclave from Mill Valley to San Rafael is beaming with vibrancy. Not only that, but the efforts put forth by many, notably Grateful Dead alumni Bob Weir and Phil Lesh, are making sure that if you get confused there’s more than one extraordinary spot to listen to the music play in Marin County.

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