Photos by Lou Montesano
The Terrapin Family Band is an amorphous group of musicians sometimes led by Grateful Dead co-founder and bassist, Phil Lesh, and sometimes by the guitar and vocals of his eldest son, Grahame. The ensemble cast started out- and still holds down a regular gig- as the house band at Terrapin Crossroads, Phil and wife Jill’s restaurant and performance space in San Rafael, California. Whether at home or on the road, the combination of musicians called on a given night plays fresh, original interpretations of Grateful Dead music for the three generations of fans who turn out to lose themselves in lengthy jams of well-worn tunes that never grow old.
Kicking off September for two nights at the Brooklyn Bowl, Grahame Lesh was joined by Ross James on guitar and vocals, Jason Crosby on Hammond organ, Alex Koford on drums and Scott Padden on bass. The first set was given over to the repertory of the much-loved Jerry Garcia Band, the commander-in-chief’s semi-regular gig with John Kahn and a rotating musical crew that grew into something much greater than a side project. One part of Garcia’s genius was his limitless listening spectrum – his “big ears” drawn to rock and roll, blues, folk, bluegrass, R&B, reggae and so much more. Blending these disparate musical styles into a uniquely unified form, a familiar song in Garcia’s magical hands was transformed from a cover into a fresh, new experience.
For the “Brooklyn Is Dead” shows, the JGB set opened with the Smokey Robinson Motown classic, “I Second That Emotion,” moved through a haunting version of the Beatles’ “Dear Prudence” and closed with a titanic take on Dylan’s “Tangled Up In Blue.” Jackie Greene joined the fun on several tunes, adding especially fine lead vocals on Little Milton’s “That’s What Love Will Make You Do.”
For the second set, Grahame and colleagues got into some well-received Dead music, leading off with a “Ramble On Rose” that had the audience dancing and singing. The “New, New Minglewood Blues” that followed was played with more energy and inspiration than many late-Dead slogs of the same song. A jammed-out “New Speedway Boogie” struck home as well, its declaration that “one way or another, this darkness got to give” as poignant today as it was when Robert Hunter penned it almost 50 years ago. Greene was back to lead the band through the guitar trickery of “Help On The Way,” which fed into an exceptional jam that even touched on the Allmans’ “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.” Finally, after a rocking encore of “Going Down The Road Feeling Bad,” audience members began going down their own roads feeling absolutely great.
Judging by the evidence offered over two sets, the Terrapin Family Band could be going places well beyond San Rafael – as sweet as that place that may be – if they so choose. The band pulls their set lists from a much-loved, nearly inextinguishable well of music that they honor by playing with fire and inspiration. For your own great time, check out the Terrapin Family Band.
Setlist: JGB Set: “I Second That Emotion” (Smokey Robinson & The Miracles), “After Midnight” (JJ Cale), “Stop That Train”* (Peter Tosh), “It Must Have Been the Roses” (Jerry Garcia), “Dear Prudence” (Beatles), “That’s What Love Will Make You Do”* (Little Milton), “Don’t Let Go” (Jesse Stone), “Tangled Up in Blue” (Dylan)
Dead Set: “Ramble On Rose,” “New, New Minglewood Blues” (Noah Lewis), “Alabama Getaway,” “Jack Straw”*, “New Speedway Boogie”*, “Help On The Way” > “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed”* (Dickie Betts), “Dear Mr. Fantasy”* (Traffic)
Encore: “Going Down The Road Feeling Bad”* (Woody Guthrie).
Note: * with Jackie Greene