Words: Joe Wolf
Photos: Brian Bruemmer

It wasn’t the Grateful Dead and it wasn’t Ratdog, but it sure felt like it. With Bob Weir at the helm and a ‘Friend of the Devil’ opener it was reminiscent to say the least – even if Bob forgot the first few words of Jerry’s second verse. The merch tables weren’t exactly Shakedown Street either, but the crowd was moving and shaking in the aisles and the whole theatre smelled like patchouli and herbs. It’s inescapable for Bob. Wherever he goes will be a pack of the faithful desperate for one more experience.

The setlist was by and large Grateful Dead tunes and traditional Dead covers. The room was more than satisfied with the song selection. The first few chords of nearly every song were met with cheers and followed by Dead Head dancing as best as is possible in seated venue. Hands were raised in approval as the fans sang along. Much to my surprise Weir even delivered a minimalist version of Touch of Grey to close the night

My favorite part of the show was the stripped-down style of the tunes. I love a frothy jam, but I am much more a fan of the songwriting and the timeless choruses. The trio leaves plenty of space for the song to breathe and for the lyric to remain the focus. Don Was with his eternal smirk and Jay Lane hold down a tasteful rhythm complementing every rise and fall without ever overwhelming the simple lone guitar. Weir’s lead guitar was rough around the edges much like the players on the stage and the characters in the stories. I love the bad notes, though. They make it obvious that Weir himself is out on a ledge going for it with sincerity and soul.

The average Dead Head will never be satiated. Weir could’ve stayed to play 40 more ditties or 140 more. Those people were not going anywhere until the curtain closed and the lights came on. They’d follow him around the globe to hear him sing every night if they could; they have. For them, the music never stopped, a perfect 2 nd set choice. The clean-cut well-dressed 48 year-old gentleman to my left had to return to Indy for work this morning. The intoxicated dancer with no regard for personal space to my right is, I’m sure, sleeping it off today. Some of the crowd is probably on their way to Philly to see the boys tomorrow night. Most of us are right back to the daily grind. We are either boasting to our work buddies how great the band sounded last night or hiding how much fun we had from our colleagues who can probably see it and smell it.

I would see this three piece again in a heartbeat! In many ways, I would choose it over a Dead and Company show. It was raw and real and simple just like a version of the traditional ‘Going Down the Road’ should be. It is the intimate setting that we wish we could see all of our idols in. I am without a doubt, grateful.