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Benefit for HeadCount with Bob Weir, The Roots, Warren Haynes, Grace Potter, Bobby Keys and Trey Anastasio, Capitol Theater, Port Chester, NY – 9/7

Photos by Dave Barnum

The Capitol Theater schedule originally listed the event as a “Benefit for HeadCount: The Roots and Bob Weir Solo Acoustic.” With such divergent musical styles, it seemed like an odd pairing. Figuring they would each play a set, I wondered how this would go together. Well, when you later add special guests Warren Haynes, Grace Potter, Rolling Stones saxophonist Bobby Keys, and a surprise guest shows up by the name of Trey Anastasio, it all goes down quite spectacularly. And, for the newly re-opened Capitol Theater, it’s love at first sight and sound.

Peter Shapiro brought the storied venue back to life- creating a desirable destination for both the ardent music fan and the musician alike. The theater’s state-of-the-art sound system had an appreciative Bob Weir commenting on the achievable cycles per second and kHz numbers. The stage is roomy for large productions and since the venue holds less than 2,000, there’s not a bad sight-line or seat in the house. The dance floor gently slopes, so it’s perfect for viewing the stage.

The interior is tasteful with a gold carved proscenium and dome. The white walls, dome, and arches serve as a blank canvas for the mind-blowing light show. It’s easy to be engrossed by the ever changing high-resolution images being projected all around you such as ivy creeping up the walls, ocean waves, constellations, fast moving clouds, animals, textures, psychedelic patterns, photos, film clips, and color-rich laser lights. The venue is located adjacent to the train station and everything about the experience went smoothly, amazing really, since this was the venue’s second show. Bob Dylan was the grand-opener earlier in the week

The atmosphere was crackling with excitement and speculation before the show when Roots drummer ?uestlove sent a cryptic message, via twitter, hinting that Trey Anastasio might join them. There was even a rumor floating around that Keith Richards might show. It never happened; but it was plausible, given his history with the venue, he lives nearby, and the Bobby Keys connection.

Peter Shapiro kicked off the night by introducing Bob Weir. Shapiro conveyed that Bob performed at the 10th anniversary of Wetlands, was the first show at the Brooklyn Bowl, showed up at the Jammy Awards, and agreed to be on the Board of Directors for HeadCount. Weir quipped “that makes me sound pretty easy.” The venerable Weir began his acoustic set with “The Music Never Stopped” and the joyful vibe was palpable. With his storyteller voice, Weir sang “Me and My Uncle,” Friend of the Devil,” and a growling and howling “Loose Lucy.”

Weir hesitated before “Lost Sailor” then said “let’s go there.” He hesitated again before segueing into “Saint of Circumstance” saying ”maybe not tonight” but went into it anyway. Next was the heart-tugging “Peggy O,” “Easy to Slip,” with a wind down into set closer “Dear Prudence.” Weir kindly sang to the audience ”The sun is up, the sky is blue, it’s beautiful, and so are you.”

Weir then grabbed an electric guitar and welcomed out Warren Haynes, Grace Potter, and Bobby Keys. Potter wore a long flowing scarf with a print of skulls and roses to mark the occasion. She added “this is my first Dead song” and wailed and cooed along to “Bird Song.” Keys’ sax punctuations played off Haynes’ and Weir’s gentle guitar exchanges. Sweet harmonies and verses were traded during “Jack Straw.” After a rousing version of “Jailhouse Rock,” Weir left the stage. Haynes asked if he could play Weir’s acoustic guitar and joined Grace Potter and Bobby Keys for the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses.” Psychedelic horses were projected on the walls, as Keys’ solo, with his signature sound on saxophone, was a thrill to hear. Potter exclaimed “I love this theater. You can feel the vibe…there’s some pretty awesome ghosts in here”. The Warren Haynes and Grace Potter duet of “Gold Dust Woman” ended the first set.

During the short set break, Andy Bernstein of HeadCount thanked everyone and noted it was Peter Shapiro’s 40th birthday and projected onto the walls a photo slideshow highlighting Shapiro’s personal and professional journey with Phish’s “Down With Disease” and the Grateful Dead’s “Touch of Grey” playing in the background.

The celebration picked up as hip-hop/soul artists The Roots exploded onto the stage. The Roots have a Friday night residency for the month of September at The Cap and let loose with some hip grooves and dangerous dance moves. ?uestlove kept a propulsive rhythm with a call and response duet with percussionist F. Knuckles that made the crowd go wild. They played an hour-plus mixture of tunes including “Paul Revere,” “The Fire,” “Get Busy,” “Here I Come,” “You Got Me,” and “Break You Off.” They also threw in snippets of Guns N’ Roses and Thievery Corporation.

The Roots took a short break and returned as the back-up band for Trey Anastasio, who took the stage with the rapid-fire instrumental “First Tube.” This was followed by “Bathtub Gin” with The Roots in lock-step behind the Phish guitarist. Anastasio called out fellow Vermonter Grace Potter to join him on a new song called “Pigtail” from his soon to be released LP Traveler.

For the closer, Haynes, Weir, and Keys came back out to join Potter, Anastasio, and the Roots. The site of everyone on stage together was overwhelming. Seeing these legends, and legends-in-the-making opening up a new era at The Capitol brought on a loving appreciation for their immense talent. They collaborated on “Dancing in the Streets” and B.B. King’s “The Thrill is Gone” with Grace Potter and Warren Haynes trading off wailing vocals, while Keys wove in some sax lines. Potter was at ease with the heavy-hitters, and can stand her ground any time, any place. The Roots, also, added a superb dimension to each song. Warren Haynes led the finale on “Whipping Post” with Captain Kirk Douglas of The Roots sharing vocals. Haynes slid briefly into “My Favorite Things” and back out for a scorching final solo and incendiary jam with the others. DJ ?uestlove rode out the evening with a dance party afterwards.

Hats off to Mr. Shapiro for bringing us the sun, earth, moon, and stars and as the verse we all sang earlier to “Loose Lucy” goes…. “Thank you for a real good time!”

One last serious note, in the spirit of HeadCount, please flex your power and vote in the upcoming presidential election. The candidates are almost even in the polls. Your vote CAN and WILL make a difference.

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