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Reviews > Shows

Published: 2012/11/13
by Juniper Rhodes

Phil Lesh, Terrapin Crossroads San Rafael, CA – 10/20

Phil Lesh’s Terrapin Crossroads venue on the water is a comforting place. There is an inimitable ease when it comes to finding the venue, passing through the door and waiting around for the show.

Everybody on stage, no matter the caliber of musician, started to sound pretty good once the music began with Lesh at the helm on the Saturday night October 20 show, one of the four Harvest Hoe Downs which concluded the following night. Lesh took the lead on “Mississippi Half-Step” to launch the approximate two hours of music that included 17 songs.

Lesh says he is fortunate to be alive – having undergone a liver transplant about 15 years ago– and this appreciation is seemingly reflected in the music he creates. On this night he was joined by his two sons Brian, who played the mandolin, and Graham, who played the guitar. Both sang. Ross James, a pedal steel and guitar player, stood out as quite the capable and respectful musician.

By all indicators, these Harvest Hoe Downs met, if not exceeded, expectations of the loyal attendees, many of whom went to all four nights. At $25 a ticket, it was a great deal.

On this Saturday night, the band, which also included drummer Tony Leone and pedal steel musician Jon Graboff, was able to at times coalesce and create a strong harmony.

The intimate setting allowed for a close study of the technique Lesh has used to shake the foundations of giant music venues from coast to coast and send holy vibrations into the starry night while lighting up listeners’ insides.

The show had its moments demanding some patience. But Lesh rewarded any lags with a standout “Bird Song” where he journeyed into the weird and sang carefully and wonderfully the touching lyrics penned by Robert Hunter in tribute of Janis Joplin. Not sure if Lesh did so Saturday night, but according to, Lesh now sings “All I know is something like a bird within him sang” in honor of Jerry Garcia, instead of the traditional “within her sang.”
Prior to “Bird Song,” Brian Lesh took the lead to the song he helped resurrect “Mountain Song,” with the moving refrain, “Gonna Make the Mountains Be My Home.”

Lesh was not shy in talking to the audience. He did his staple donor rap, encouraging people to become organ donors. And upon conclusion of the show he remarked how he saw familiar faces at the show while paying homage to “community.”

The four song encore was seamless and had the house dancing all around, beginning with the Mumford and Sons cover “Sigh No More,” followed by “Uncle John’s Band” and “Going Down the Road Feeling Bad.” “And We Bid You Goodnight,” the old English folk song, brought tears to one’s eyes as one could believe to be hearing the haunting Garcia voice as old as 1969 singing: “Tell ‘B’ for the beast at the ending of the wood/Well it eat all the children that would not be good” amid the a cappella from Lesh and company.

The show included solid versions of “China Doll” and a “Ramble on Rose,” with a strong set closure of the Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”

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