Phil Lesh & The Terrapin All Stars, Terrapin Crossroads, San Rafael, CA- 8/1
Photo by Michael Stein
Phil Lesh has been a very busy man these past few years and now that Terrapin Crossroads, his beautiful restaurant/venue on the bay is fully operational, it created the most serene backdrop fitting a Jerry Garcia Birthday Party, billed as “The First Terrapin Crossroads House Party.”
Grahame Lesh and his band Midnight North put together an hour long set of covers and originals as the lucky patrons to this event dined on sliced roast, lobster tails and an assortment of top tier cuisine, while Workingman’s Ale from Magnolia Brewery was on tap brewed for this event alone. Shortly after 8pm, we could see Mike Gordon, on his off night from Phish Tour, dining with Phil in one of the restaurant’s many booths. This led us to assume that they would be performing some sort of tribute to Jerry before the night was over.
Coming out with a band of amazingly talented friends, with Grahame Lesh on acoustic guitar, Stu Allen, Boo Reiners and Neal Casal on electric guitar, and Tony Leone on the drum kit, Phil took center stage for the jammed out opener of “Shakedown Street.” The song morphed and transformed many times, showing how loose these 7 can perform together. There were many moments where they could’ve wrapped the song up but they opted for the long version, and garnered, yes, many “Wooo’s” from the standing room only crowd.
After “Shakedown,” Mike Gordon came out to huge cheers and picked up a four string Fender Precision Bass. Jumping right in Gordon took lead vocals on “Tennessee Jed” and with his supporting cast they became a cohesive musical unit from the word go. Mike then left the stage so that vocalist Emily Sunderland could belt out a bluesy “West L.A. Fadeaway,” her sultry voice serving the song quite well. Mike Gordon returned to the stage for a meaningful take on “He’s Gone,” with the swaying crowd that filled the heated outdoor patio singing along with the Phish bassist. Next, Sunderland came back out for a pitch-perfect “Sugaree.” The jam that ensued was fun and again loose, allowing every electric guitarist to switch from rhythm to lead, and back again. Stu Allen killed it during his moment at lead, noodling out notes that flowed like the water that surrounded this one-of-a-kind venue.
Grahame Lesh, Phil’s older son showed his range singing lead on “Bertha.” It was amazing how you can hear tints of Phil’s voice in Grahame, but he most certainly has a fuller range than his father, and complements a storied band such as this quite well. Tony Leone took lead vocals on the most soulful song of the night, “Ramble On Rose,” keeping the tempo and soul simultaneously, a feat not easy even for the most talented of drummers. Boo Reiners then picked up the banjo and took a stab at the usually bluesy “Dupree’s Diamond Blues.” Unfortunately and in a humorous fashion the song fell apart shortly after it really got going and they caught it as professionals before it completely hit the ground. Neal Casal then slowed things down with a vocal/instrumental masterpiece, “Black Muddy River.” We all couldn’t help but think about Jerry on what would be his 71st birthday.
At this point Phil took over the lead singing duties as they delved into a short but spacey “Dark Star,” a “Standing on the Moon” and then a 15 minute “St. Stephen” that left nothing to the imagination. Phil then led the group in a raucous “Help>Slip>Franklin’s.” It was a beautiful and momentous way to end the evening’s show.
With the curfew passed, Phil wished Jerry a very Happy Birthday and the band and many patrons dispersed for the night. The encore came in the form of a very intimate outdoor acoustic show that had fans and musicians alike standing around the outdoor Terrapin Crossroads Campfire as they closed out the evening and house party with “Friend of the Devil,” “Deep Elem Blues” and fitting a “Brokedown Palace” and “We Bid You Goodnight”.
It was a memorable treat, a show that would’ve made Jerry proud. In the Heart of Grateful Dead Country, Phil served up music fitting a venue as beautiful as it was performed in.