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Published: 2012/07/20
by Bill Kelly

Furthur, MCU Park, Brooklyn, NY – 7/13

In 1964 , a bus named Furthur, loaded with Merry Pranksters, set out for the World’s Fair in Queens NY to celebrate the release of Ken Kesey’s second novel, Sometimes a Great Notion. One wonders what would have happened if the bus veered slightly south and found itself in the freakishly wonderful peninsula of Coney Island. Almost 50 years later, despite attempts and gentrification and waves of new immigrants converting the surrounding area into a western version of Odessa, Coney Island remains a redoubt of freaks, all things strange and a wonderful window into New York’s colorful past. The boardwalk and streets are still full with hustlers and barkers, drawing the uninitiated into shows featuring bearded woman and sword swallowers. The wooden roller coaster Cyclone still clanks overhead as it has for over 80 years, terrorizing and thrilling riders with break neck turns and dizzying speeds. And, a short walk from the venue, Nathan still serves crisp hot dogs and fat, wonderfully greasy french fries to thousands of beach goers. If you squint your eyes a bit, one can see Kesey and crew setting up camp and bringing their alternative universe and house band, a young Grateful Dead, to this eclectic community on the Atlantic.

And so, Grateful Dead founders Bob Weir and Phil Lesh brought their band, named after that famed bus, to MCU Park in Coney Island. Carrying on the Grateful Dead tradition of improvisation music, the group continues to focus on the Dead’s vast songbook, bringing new arrangements, twists and tempos to the old standards. Never ones to rest easily on tried and true formulas, Lesh’s avant garde musical background, coupled with Weir’s folksy but unique approach to basic rock structure push the band into finding new pathways in every song. This set opened with old favorite “Hey Pocky Way” and included a warm cover of Dylan’s “Ballad Of A Thin Man.” The first set was crisp and efficient, the band establishing its footing, with Weir in full voice and Phil’s base darting around John Kadlecik’s guitar and anchoring the rhythm section. Backup singers Sunshine Becker and Jeff Pehrson brought full voice and perfect harmonies to every song. Drummer Joe Russo somehow manages to provide the backbone previously provided by the two Grateful Dead drummers, suggesting the syncopated beats of the great jazz drummers. The set ended with a roaring version of Jack Straw, the stadium now full of delighted, twirling Dead heads.

The second set provided fireworks from both the stage and Coney Island boardwalk. Opening with a ripping “Scarlet” > “Fire,” the band settled into a second set pace, with Weir leading the band through “Weather Report Suite” into a punched up version of “Dark Star.” And here’s where the integration of Kadlecik, Chimenti and Russo really shows; the jam framework of “Dark Star” ratcheted up into a jazzy, beat driven exploration removed from earlier, meandering versions – familiar, but different. Flowing into Phil’s “Unbroken Chain,” the band tightly ran through the bridge, building up to the crescendos and falling back, quietly bleeding into the Rev. Gary Davis’ “Death Don’t Have No Mercy,” with Weir again showing strong vocal form. A quick, harmony driven version of “Not Fade Away” led to a quick interlude and Phil’s donor wrap, followed by an encore of “Ripple,” sung by the entire stadium. Clocking in at close to four hours, this Furthur show showed how the band is gelling, taking those old gems and pushing them in new directions.

Comments

There are 16 comments associated with this post

Pm July 24, 2012, 16:15:06

NEW DIRECTIONS?

SamIam July 25, 2012, 06:56:59

Phil on “base”?

Pm and Samlam July 26, 2012, 15:44:47

Hands down one of the funniest, though not intentional, reviews I’ve ever read. New directions? You’re joking right? This whole review is a joke, RIGHT!? Furthur is such a garbage band, and Weir and Lesh should be ashamed for what they’re doing to Garcia’s music. Russo overplays the hell out of every tune. “Jerry Jr.” doesn’t have an once of originality. The only thing they have going for them is Jeff. If Garcia was still around and no longer playing, I’d be willing to bet he’d rip both of those guys a new one for doing what they’re doing. Phil’s base…hahaha!!

steve b July 26, 2012, 17:04:56

Though they may not be pushing the envelope into new territory, “Pm” you must not be attending to many shows if you really think they are a garbage band- Are you serious, you think one drummer, Russo, over plays what 2 drummers used to do, are you for real man or just a serious hater? id like to attend a few shows with you and really pick them apart and discuss them…(not just for Furthur either) id really like to gain some insight into your thought process as I just cant relate..

Wooker T. July 27, 2012, 06:34:03

I love PHIL JOE and JEFF but just cant stand one more wax museum quality reproduction of a jerry jam. can you? heres a link to nearly four hours of PHIL LESH AND FRIENDS with JEFF CHEMENTI and JOE RUSSO with JIMMY HERRING CHRIS ROBINSON and GHRAMME LESH from TC on 3 20 2012 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNYqCoedgvA

PUGDOG July 28, 2012, 12:33:32

Wow…I thought the review was good…it gave vibe of the town and a nice lil show run-down. Where’s the love?

CarlJ July 28, 2012, 15:39:02

Some people are just plain odd. Instead of seeing the beauty of a 73 year old man playing his heart out on stage in the middle of heavy summer heat, playing songs from both nights that the dead dropped in the early 70’s (yes they did nearly all of Anthem night 2….ever see that Pm?) we’ve got bozos running their yap about what Jerry would think. Have a little respect for goodness sakes…......... As Jerry WOULD say, “ain’t no time to hate, barely time to wait!” Fortunately for the rest of us, folks like Pm won’t be there to bring us down….... Thank you Phil! You continue to bring happiness to so many…..... All the years combined…..

Davino July 29, 2012, 04:49:52

How good is your band, “PM & Sumlan”?
Go eff yerself, toolbox. Furthur rocks & we should all be grateful that the spirit is still being wafted out to us.

Irwin Tiger July 29, 2012, 19:28:31

The show reviewed here was okay. The following night was absolutely one of the best shows I have seen since Jerry passed. The second set was a combustible display. Yes, JK is the weak link in this band, but there’s such a strong support system around him that the band puts together a concert far superior to what some of the comments above convey. That said, this review reads like a 2nd grade book report. With all of the thoughtful, music loving people who attended this show, I’d guess that it wouldn’t be too hard to find someone who can put coherent sentences and thoughts together for the dedicated fans who look to you all for insight.

Pm and Samlam July 30, 2012, 11:53:38

I saw a few Furthur shows when they first came around, and saw a good amount of GD shows. Sorry to burst everyones bubble, but Russo overplays. Listen to what Billy and Mickey did w/ the GD, and then listen to what Russo does. He’s not trying to fill in for 2 drummers. He’s bringing his style to a table of music that shouldn’t be there. I’ve been a drummer for 27 years, and a fan of the GD for more. What he does behind the kit doesn’t make sense….it doesn’t fit w/ the music. To everyone else that thinks I’m just a “hater” ( what are you 12?), this is a comment section to give your opinion. I gave my opinion and that’s that…deal w/ it. if you like Furthur, and they bring you to that special place, then by all means, have a blast. I for one can’t deal w/ the emptiness in the music…it’s watered down and the only time it actually goes somewhere is when Phil turns off his FOH mix and tells the band that HE wants to make a change in the band. GD music is supposed to be played without a net, and unfortunately, Furthur has a puppet master holding the strings above them w/ every move they make. I’ll hold onto my $, and go see a band that’s not out there “just because”.

Heardenough July 30, 2012, 14:14:34

Criticizing what Bob and Phil are doing to keep the music alive is just bad taste. if you don’t like the music, keep it to yourself. No one really wants to read that crap. You should be happy their still playing at all.

jambandguy July 31, 2012, 16:23:59

As a chef many foods have been ruined for me. I can’t just eat and enjoy for what it is without picking it apart and analyzing it even though I enjoy a baked four cheese lobster mac and cheese as much as a box of Kraft’s. I’m glad I’m not a musician. Especially a drummer. I enjoy listening to music. Not that I need to qualify myself but after dozens of Dead shows and every Furthur or Phil or whatever vein of the music comes nearby…I love it. Just sounds good. Isn’t that enough?

eldiablo August 4, 2012, 11:45:18

Furthur at coney island sucked. its like kareoke dead that guitarist cant play anything other than a jerry scale.mr fantasy was a joke.should have gotten jimmy herring

Jason August 6, 2012, 21:04:45

You have every right to say that Russo is overplaying in your opinion but at least acknowledge his talent as a drummer. He’s one of the most talented drummers playing today so if you don’t think that his style fits with the Dead’s music that’s fine but as a fellow musician you should respect and acknowledge his talent.

Pm and Samlam August 16, 2012, 13:54:59

@ Jason. Of course I think he’s an INCREDIBLE drummer, but his style simply does not fit w/ Grateful Dead music.

GR December 9, 2012, 15:22:40

Meandering through some show reviews, I come across this thread. Garbage? are you kidding me? This band maintains a non-stop tour schedule. , bringing out crowds wherever they go. For Wier and Lesh, the obvious question is “Why?” And the obvious answer is because they love what they are doing. Everyone on that stage is an excellent musician by any standard. Chimenti and Russo bring a subtle but unmistakable jazz flavor. Kadlicek is a fine guitar player in his own right. And before you jump on the bandwagon with the “unoriginal” rap, you might consider the fact that the lead guitar, more so than any of the other instrument, defines the music. So unless Bob and Phil were looking to bring somebody on who would redefine the music, JK was the perfect choice. And I seriously doubt that JG would be ripping anybody a new one. That wasn’t his style. And he might have even reflected on how he became the weak link in the GD as he destroyed himself at the end..

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