A Symphonic Celebration of Jerry Garcia Featuring Warren Haynes, Filene Center at Wolf Trap, Vienna, VA- 6/26
Warren Haynes is easily one of the hardest workingmen in the jamband community. While dedicating himself to his first love, The Allman Brothers Band, Haynes also boasts an extensive resume with a multitude of very successful side projects, a relentless touring schedule while already being a veteran of the festival circuit, including organizing the annual Christmas Jam in his hometown of Asheville, North Carolina and co-founding Mountain Jam at Hunter Mountain, New York. That’s barely scratching the surface but let’s just say the man wears many hats.
In a true pioneer’s fashion, Haynes surprised fans again by collaborating with the nation’s top symphonies on a tribute to Jerry Garcia . Haynes is no stranger to the Grateful Dead’s repertoire. He had a nice little stint touring with The Dead in 2004 and in 2009 and has performed with Phil Lesh & Friends, most notably during an intense run from 1999-2003.
Warren Haynes graced the Wolf Trap Center for the Performing Arts, in Vienna, Va, along with the National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Emil De Cou, as well as a band of familiar faces. Jeff Sipe on drums, Lincoln Schleifer on bass, as well as Jasmine Muhammad and Alecia Chakour providing some soul-filled backing vocals. As if this wasn’t already enough of a special occasion, Haynes was armed with Garcia’s beloved Wolf guitar, which was The Grateful Dead frontman’s weapon of choice in the mid 70’s. Despite random spurts of heavy rainfall, fans of all ages graced the Wolf Trap to see Haynes and company put an orchestral spin on some of Jerry Garcia’s classic numbers.
The band opened with the intro to “Dark Star,” which they jammed into “Crazy Fingers.” This gem from renowned Grateful Dead album, Blues for Allah, fit perfectly with the strange weather from earlier in the evening. Sporting the lyrics “Your rain, falls like crazy fingers/Peals of fragile thunder,” welcomed a nice response from the audience. The symphony really showcased their talent by not only providing Haynes with a solid foundation but also working well with the backing band to really bring the music to life in unison. The string section was in complete control as a full harp from stage right could be heard during the sharp musical breakdowns.
The vibe of the show shifted with “Scarlet Begonias.” As the band started winding down, rather than the classic Grateful Dead segue into “Fire on the Mountain,” the group went into “Ship of Fools” a nice variation that showcased Haynes’ rich vocals. “Shakedown Street” came as a complete surprise and ensued a circus like dance party. Haynes evoked Garcia’s signature sound as the opening notes of this song traveled through the orchestra and crashed onto the lawn. The first set closed out with a stunning rendition of “China Cat Sunflower” > “Morning Dew.” Both of these songs were very well executed and nice foreshadowing for what the audience could expect for the second set.
One of the most immediate notable changes for the second set, as the band walked back out on stage, was that conductor Emil De Cou exchanged his white tuxedo for a tie-dye Wolf Trap t-shirt, really getting into the spirit of the evening. The band opened up the second set with “Mission in the Rain” > “High Time,” where the violin and viola section of the symphony made significant contributions. Haynes then decided to dip into Garcia’s solo catalog when he played “Russian Lullaby,” another beloved Garcia/Grisman collaboration.
“Uncle John’s Band” surfaced next and featured a strong clap along from many of the fans in the orchestra. Haynes was all smiles to see such positive reciprocation. “West L.A. Fadeaway” was jammed nicely and as the song was winding down, Haynes stepped up with authority and played “Terrapin Station,” which showcased sharp musical breakdowns from his backing band as well as the symphony. Jasmine Muhammad and Alecia Chakour provided absolutely stunning backing vocals to lift the song’s range and power. The band went on to play “Slipknot!” before closing out the second set with a number that the Grateful Dead only attempted to play live only once, “Terrapin Flyer.” Unlike the Dead, Haynes and company finished this song and played it in its entirety.
The encore slot was where Haynes really poured out his heart and soul. He gave a double tip of the hat to Garcia with “Patchwork Quilt” > “Stella Blue.” “Patchwork Quilt” is one of Haynes’ masterpieces in which he tells the story of when he heard the news of Garcia’s passing in 1995. The lyrics, “We were at Jones Beach when we got the word/Saddest sound that I’ve ever heard/The bluest note that nobody could play/Ravens sang with us that night on the stage/Tears of sadness, tears of rage,” really set the melancholy theme of this song and the way Haynes delivered this one with elegance, warming the hearts of all fans alike. “Stella Blue” was a perfect way to end the show, especially given the occasion and the fact Haynes was in fact playing Garcia’s guitar. The lyrics, “Dust off those rusty strings just one more time/Gonna make them shine, shine, shine,” were the perfect way to cap off an incredible evening.
It becomes more and more clear through the continued growth of the jamband community that while Jerry Garcia has long since passed on, his spirit and his legacy will never die. This was the last show of the first leg of symphony shows, Haynes will return with the Colorado Symphony at Red Rocks in late July after he completes a European tour with Gov’t Mule. Be sure to catch Haynes pay tribute to Jerry Garcia as this is a beautiful production and not one to be missed for even the slightest fan of The Grateful Dead.