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Published: 2009/07/06

Rothbury Day 3: One More Saturday Night with The Dead

The Dead played its only summer show last night at Michigans second annual Rothbury festival. The seminal group, who completed its first tour in five years this past May, played to sprawling crowds on the festivals main Odeum stage from 8:15 PM until after 1 AM. The bands set mixed crowd favorites like Sugar Magnolia, Loose Lucy, Friend of the Devil and One More Saturday Night with more open-ended material such as Eyes of the World, Viola Lee Blues, China Cat Sunflower and a lengthy run from Help on the Way through Slipknot and Franklins Tower. Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann also led an extended second set drum segment that drew in String Cheese Incidents Jason Hann and members of Toubab Krewe.
The Dead has always synthesized a number of American styles, so it makes sense that the group nodded to Independence Day at several times throughout its two-set show. Early in the evening, Bob Weir took a moment to thank whoever thought up this country, and the group opened its two-song encore with the thematically appropriate U.S. Blues. Rothbury also set off a massive Fourth of July fireworks display during the latter song, and one of the bands crew members emerged wearing a skull mask to wave an American flag onstage.
The Odeums daytime schedule was stacked with musicians rooted in Americana. Bluegrass legends Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mountain Boys opened the days festivities. Now in his 80s, Stanley lets his band do most of the singing, but he did step up to the microphone for Man of Constant Sorrow, a song that took on new life after being featured on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. Next up, Jackie Greene turned in a set with his solo band that featured his infectious single Gone Wonderin. Phil Lesh also sat in for a take on The Deads New Speedway Boogie. Backstage before the show, Greene discussed how his association with Lesh led him to his current tour with RatDogGreene and Weir first bonded when Lesh brought his Dead bandmate to a California gig to play a few acoustic songs with Greene. The Black Crowes played the stages penultimate set immediately before The Dead, offering sections like Thorn In My Pride, Oh Josephine, Poor Elijah – Tribute To Johnson (Medley) and Jealous Again.
The Ranch Arena also showcased a mix of Americana music, ranging from the alt-country of the recently re-energized Son Volt to the roots-jam of Railroad Earth. Bill Nershi also sat in with the latter group for two songs during its packed set. Likewise, Cody Dickinsons Hill Country Revue played its distinctive brand of southern blues on the Sherwood Court stage and discussed its bands origins backstage. Though Gary Burnside wrote many of the bands songs and appears on its album, he decided not to tour with the group so that he could be closer to his young children. His father RL Burnside is a legendary blues musician who was on the road for much of the year.
Electronica and livetronica continued to dominate Rothburys late night offerings: MSTRKRFT, EOTO, Shpongle and STS9, which offered a stripped down live PA set. The one notable exception was Umphreys McGee whose prog-rock jams drew sprawling crowds to the festivals Ranch Stage. Pretty Lights also emerged partway through the bands show for a seamless segue into a tweener spot between Umphreys two-set performance. Elsewhere, EOTO welcomed Kreutzmann and beatbox LYNX onstage during its early morning jam-session.
The festivals atypical activities also helped separate Rothbury from similar gatherings. Bill Kreutzmann sold his art in a tent located on the Odeum stages field, Michael Kang participated in a panel discussion on greening and Roots of Creation played a surprise set. Yoga classes, energy efficiency workshops and the enchanted Sherwood Forest were also welcome distractions for fans.
Rothbury will come to a close today with performances by Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Govt Mule, Yonder Mountain String Band, Toots and the Maytals, Guster, The Hold Steady and Matisyahu, among others. Umphreys McGee will also play a bonus late night set.

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