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Reviews > Shows

Published: 2001/07/30
by Brian Ferdman

Phil & Friends/Galactic/Warren Haynes, Jones Beach Amphitheatre – Wantagh, NY 7/26

Shows at Jones Beach Amphitheatre always have the potential to be a miserable experience. The amphitheatre is situated right on the water, so cold winds frequently whip through the audience, turning a warm summer day into a night on the frozen tundra. To make matters worse, all of the seats are uncovered, so there is no protection from potential rainstorms. The two days leading up to this show had featured the worst muggy and humid weather New York City had experienced in a year. Then Thursday came around and the rain set in, eliminating the humidity and dropping the temperature down to the low 70s. As I rode the train and stared at the black clouds in the sky, I couldn’t help but think about the previous summer’s Phil and Dylan show at Jones Beach and the chilly, wet weather that accompanied the evening.

I got into the venue just after Galactic began their set. Even though they were playing to a mere handful of people, Galactic still managed to keep their energized funk grooves tight and nasty. Seeing this unstoppable funk machine in a large open air amphitheatre with reserved seating and a paltry crowd in attendance was less than ideal, but that didn’t stop the band and audience from gettin’ down and buggin’ out in a major way. I even saw Phil Lesh groove by, thoroughly enjoying Galactic’s offering. Many people sat on their stiff white asses, but that couldn’t prevent a small portion of us from gettin’ our groove on. Galactic was happy to help us in our quest to dislocate our hips, as the band laid down a thick wash of funky songs, dominated by the appearance of many new tunes which have emerged on their recent European tour. A very long stretch of chunky funk occurred in the middle of the set as the band started with what I believe was “Shibuya” and then jammed it into several new songs over a swirling twenty minute or so span of time. I could try to name these songs, but titles such as “the song that went Boom Ka Chiggy-Chiggy’” or “the song that went Ka-Whap Ka-Whap A Momma Chugga’” are probably off the mark. Let’s just say the new songs were damn good.

Rich Vogal, who flew up and down his organ and then dropped some mean riffs, dominated Galactic’s set. Of course, I need to give credit to guitarist Jeff Raines, who displayed a newfound aggressive style. I’ve never seen this talented man show so much assertiveness, and I can only guess that all of that strong European beer caused Jeff to grow a few hairs on his chest. His ferocious playing was evident on the set closing “Africa,” a song that intense drummer Stanton Moore would not allow to end until the band took three or four turns on the coda.

Galactic finished, we stopped grooving, and it started to get cold. It didn’t help that Warren Haynes’ solo acoustic set was up next, causing everyone to respectfully sit still to enjoy the music. Warren began his set with a ripping version of “It Hurts Me Too.” Growling out the vocals like a rabid dog, his fingers attacked the acoustic guitar’s frets on raunchy delta blues riffs. As soon as the song ended, my date turned to me and said, “I’m in love with Warren Haynes.”

Within seconds, I hated Warren Haynes.

I kept hoping he would start playing some wussy songs like “Tiptoe Through The Tulips” or “I’ll Tumble For Ya,” but no, Warren Haynes was intent on destroying my sex-life. He continued to deliver impassioned performances with his big burly voice and nimble hands. When he brought out Rob Barraco to accompany him on keys on soulful renditions of “To Lay Me Down” and “Soulshine,” I started to realize why my women fall for Warren; here was a man as tough and macho as can be, tearing through songs from deepest, darkest depths of his manly soul. Thankfully, Warren Haynes ended his set before I started to question my own sexuality.

As the libidos cooled after Warren set, the temperature followed suit. The chill was beginning to set in, and many people ran into the concourse to feel the warm rays of the bright setting sun. I hoped that once Phil took the stage, the place would heat up, and I was right.

“Celebration” started the set, and this was my first time hearing this newer song. I really enjoyed it, and I especially enjoyed the long, thick jam that followed it. Jimmy Herring’s leads gracefully danced across the strings and the quintet wound its way into a slower but fun “Scarlet Begonias.” Finally recognizing a song, the crowd went nuts. Phil kept the elation flowing as this highly danceable Scarlet meandered through another long jam into a very long “Fire On The Mountain.” Warren Haynes’ slide was all over the map, spreading smiles across the many faces in the in the crowd. When the blissful jam finally ended, Phil and company had just run off a three-song sandwich that had lasted for 50 minutes.

The blood was flowing in everyone’s veins and Warren’s “Patchwork Quilt” provided a nice chance for a rest. The lyrics of this song recall Warren’s feeling when he was playing at Jones Beach with the Allman Brothers on the night he learned that Jerry Garcia had just died. Naturally, the circumstances of this evening laid the groundwork for a very emotional performance of this song which jammed right into a blistering version of the late Brent Mydland’s “Just a Little Light” to close the set.

The set break arrived, and although we were all juiced from such a great set, it was clear that the temperature at Jones Beach began to rise. Couple that with the great vibes flowing in the crowd, and everyone was having a blast, even the security guards. Strangely enough, Jones Beach does not serve alcohol, but that didn’t prevent people from enjoying themselves whether or not they chose to partake in any other recreational activities. Personally, I chose to abstain from everything but the music, but my date summed it up best when she said, “This music is so beautiful it’s as if I’m on a natural high and not sober at all.”

When the second set began, the stars had just started to come out in the Long Island sky. Just right of the stage, a bright orange planet hung in the reaches of outer space. Some people said it was Jupiter, but I don’t care if it was Uranus, this scene was inspiring, and it served as a beautiful backdrop for the wonderful jam that Phil led the band through to open the set. At times, the groove was so tight that the jam seemed as if it was composed. No one really had time to dwell on that point because two very familiar notes signaled the start of “St. Stephen.” The crowd erupted in a roar, and the band began to rage through this time-honored chestnut. The twin guitar attack of Herring and Haynes romped through the verses, before Phil delivered awellcreative vocal turn on the “ladyfinger dipped in moonlight” bridge. It didn’t make any difference because the rest of the ensemble was chomping at the bit, ready to rip into a ferocious jam to end the song before they suddenly drilled two notes in unison and Warren began signing the first verse of “Good Times Bad Times.” I had a friend two seats down, who is huge Zeppelin fiend, and hearing “Good Times Bad Times” coming right out of his first ever “St. Stephen” nearly caused him to pee himself with glee. In fact, the Long Island crowd got really pumped after hearing a nice dose of Zeppelin, and after Phil and company jammed right back into “St. Stephen,” the whole amphitheatre was in a zone.

“St. Stephen” kept the energy peaking and the band nicely shifted gears into one of the funkiest renditions of “China Cat Sunflower” to ever grace my ears, and Phil’s big basslines owned this song. Showing a thing or two that he learned from his Jazz Is Dead days, Jimmy Herring was all over the lead part in fine style before he engaged in a little duel with Warren Haynes that kept the excitement percolating. A big jam found its way into “Blue Train,” but the crowd was so transfixed at this moment that the band could have played a song about Amtrak and it wouldn’t matter. The inevitable “I Know You Rider,” saw Rob Barraco dancing across the keys when he wasn’t adding to the nice harmonies on the vocal lines. It was a thunderous end to a nice 54-minute sandwich of songs that had more peaks than the Pyrenees.

Everyone was kind of wiped out from such a huge string of songs, so the band wisely chose a ballad to bring us down to planet Earth. The lights projected stars on the stage that matched nicely with the clearing sky, and this was a perfect setting for an emotional turn on “Stella Blue.” As soon as Warren finished singing, “All the years combine, they melt into a dream,” pins were heard dropping amongst the silent, transfixed crowd. Holding the entire crowd in the palm of his hand, Warren led a jam out of “Stella Blue” that smoothly segued into a rockin’ “Not Fade Away.” Herring and Haynes were up to their old dueling tricks again, but no one seemed to mind as their game of one-upmanship drove the number to a powerful ending.

Since Galactic opened the show, I had envisioned Phil possibly reliving the glory of Summer Sessions ’99 by inviting Theryl “The Houseman” deClouet up for a turn on “Midnight Hour,” but I was wrong. The band did take a high octane shot at the tune, but this time Warren came through with the vocals. While it would have been nice to see Houseman and his tacky suit out there, you can’t really complain when Warren Haynes sings. And it would be hard to complain about Warren’s guitar skills because he broke a string within 30 seconds of the first note of the tune, but no measly string could put a stop the one-man musical wrecking crew known as Warren Haynes. Yet again engaged in a Southern-rock duel with Jimmy Herring, Warren took pity on the battered but smiling audience and he ended the evening with a punch just before midnight. The audience was stunned at what had just transpired, and the house lights came up, leaving everyone in a state of shock after witnessing musical brilliance.

Someone once told me that every Phil show has a “dream setlist,” and if that’s true, the second set was one of those dreams that you don’t tell your momma about. After all, it never rained at Jones Beach, but the second set climaxed so much that the entire amphitheatre was wet.

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