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Phil Lesh played Grateful Dead’s 6/7/77 Winterland set at BK Bowl (pics, review)

words by by Peter Jurew

To celebrate his 77th birthday, Phil Lesh played a week of shows in the New York area, including two with the Terrapin Family Band at Brooklyn Bowl and three with Phil and Friends at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester. For the second of his Brooklyn Bowl shows, Phil joined his son Grahame, lead guitarist Ross James, keyboardist Jason Crosby and drummer Alex Koford for a celebratory re-staging of a vintage Grateful Dead Show from —not coincidentally, we suspect —‘77.

Many bands now perform classic albums track for track to re-create the experience fans had listening to the songs in the order they heard them so many times, but the Grateful Dead was never about its studio recordings. Even their finest albums—American Beauty, Mars Hotel and the latter-day In the Dark—merely provided the raw material for their live shows, of which there is now a seemingly endless stream of recordings from various vaults being released. The idea of not just playing set lists but trying to re-create the arrangements and feel of past performances was pioneered by Dark Star Orchestra, one of the original and very best Dead tribute bands.

Phil and Terrapin Family have rarely embraced the concept, but for their March 13 show they chose to recreate the Dead’s June 7, 1977, Winterland concert. Located in the one-time run-down Fillmore district of San Francisco, Winterland Arena was the domain of the irascible Bill Graham that served as the set for The Band in Martin Scorsese’s The Last Waltz as well as the site of an epic Bruce Springsteen concert and the final show by the Sex Pistols in 1978. But it was the Dead who properly “owned” the hall, playing more shows there than anyone else over the course of Winterland’s seven-year history. On that first week of June in 1977, they launched a three-night run that brought to a close one of the highest creative peaks in the band’s long, strange trip — the fabled Spring ’77 run.

Today, much of the Fillmore district, along with the rest of San Francisco, has been transformed into impossibly expensive real estate, but Peter Shapiro, New York’s modern-day Bill Graham, has kept the flame alive with his Brooklyn Bowl and Capitol Theatre serving as homes to the many offshoots and iterations of the music that began in the Bay Area half a century ago.

The Terrapin Family Band has grown from the house band at the Lesh family’s Terrapin Crossroads restaurant and performance space in San Rafael into one of the major Grateful Dead-related touring acts. They appeared with father Phil at Brooklyn Bowl in February and traveled back east to be part of the week-long birthday celebration. Joining them on both nights this time around was Eric Krasno — guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer and member of Soulive, Lettuce and several other musical projects. Lesh’s subsequent appearances at the Capitol as Phil & Friends included Joan Osborne, guitarists John Kadlecik and Stanley Jordan, Terrapin keyboardist Jason Crosby and Mark Levy on drums.

As a sign of the times, between sets at the second Brooklyn Bowl show three lawerly-looking men appeared on stage to make an announcement that ultimately brought cheers from the crowd. A representative of Guernsey’s auction house recounted how, two decades ago, Jerry Garcia’s famous Wolf guitar was auctioned for nearly $1 million, at the time one of the highest amounts ever paid for a piece of rock memorabilia. Concerned about the current direction of our nation, Wolf’s buyer, who remained anonymous, has now asked Guernsey’s to put the guitar back on auction, with all proceeds to be directed to the Southern Poverty Law Center. “If what the Southern Poverty Law Center stands for and does has ever been needed, it’s now” was the message delivered to the crowd. Founded in 1971, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is a nonprofit legal advocacy group that, among its many activities, has won notable victories against white supremacist groups. The SPLC is also involved in cases of discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation, the treatment of illegal immigrants and issues of separation between church and state. Bids for Wolf will be accepted online through May 31, when the live auction will take place at Brooklyn Bowl.

Pictures of the March 13 Brooklyn Bowl show are in the gallery above.

March 13 Set List (originally performed at Winterland, 6/7/1977)

Set 1: Bertha; Jack Straw; Tennessee Jed; Looks Like Rain; Peggy-O; Funiculi Funicula; El Paso; Friend Of The Devil; The Music Never Stopped.

Set 2: Scarlet Begonias -> Fire On The Mountain -> Good Lovin'; Candyman; Estimated Prophet -> He’s Gone -> Drums -> Samson And Delilah; Terrapin Station ->Morning Dew ->Around And Around. Encore: Uncle John’s Band; U.S. Blues.

photos by Lou Montesano

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