Live Review: Jerry Garcia Tribute in Berkeley, CA

September 26, 2005 by Jim Harrington liveDaily Contributor

Everything felt so familiar--the songs, the players, the venue and the crowd. But someone was clearly missing from Saturday's (9/24) "Comes a Time - A Celebration of the Music and Spirit of Jerry Garcia show at the U.C. Greek Theatre in Berkeley, CA. The missing person wasn't Garcia; the legendary guitarist seemed to be everywhere on this night, and many crowd members remarked that they could feel his presence. If that sounds ludicrous to you, then you don't own a VW Bus with a Steal Your Face decal on it.

Three of the four surviving members of the seminal Grateful Dead lineup--drummers Billy Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart and vocalist-rhythm-guitarist Bob Weir were there. But bassist Phil Lesh was elsewhere, which was a true shame, given the magnitude of this tribute to his former bandmate. In fact, it will be hard to forgive Lesh--a man who owes his spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to Garcia--for missing this show. But, walking up to the picturesque venue, one fan helped put things in proper prospective:
"This isn't about who's not playing," he said, "it's about who is."

Good point. There was certainly much for the capacity crowd to cheer about with a lineup that included Melvin Seals, Merl Saunders, Bruce Hornsby, Warren Haynes, Jimmy Herring, String Cheese Incident and Weir's Ratdog. The biggest name on the bill was Trey Anastasio and fans were champing at the bit to hear the former Phish frontman tear through some Garcia classics.

Unfortunately, the show--a fundraiser for the Rex Foundation, the Dead's charitable arm that provides grants and support to creative endeavors in the arts, sciences and education--didn't quite live up to its promise. The concert was plagued with sound problems and the format—-where musicians rotated through the stage—-made it hard for any ensemble to fully hit a proper jam-band stride.

The six-hour performance got underway with short sets by David Nelson, who was a member of the Garcia side-project New Riders of the Purple Sage, and Colorado's String Cheese Incident, which delivered acoustic versions of the likes of "Casey Jones" and "Friend of the Devil." The remaining members of the Jerry Garcia Band, led by Seals, put on perhaps the best full set of the night by playing such favorites as "Rhapsody in Red" and "Cats Under the Stars."
Weir's Ratdog--which currently also includes drummer Jay Layne, keyboardist Jeff Chimenti, guitarist Mark Karan, saxophonist Kenny Brooks and bassist Robin Sylvester—-had a hard time matching the Jerry Garcia Band's energy level. Heck, they had a hard time matching Rip Van Winkle's energy level as they plodded through a set of "Mississippi Half-Step," "Bird Song," "Lazy River Road" and "Big Railroad Blues."

Utilizing portions of Ratdog as the house band, the main set featured an ever-rotating cast of guest musicians performing some of Garcia's best-loved tracks, beginning with the Anastasio-sung "Help on the Way." Anastasio, although he never quite took flight on guitar in a similar fashion to what he routinely did with Phish, definitely sounded great on vocals. Unfortunately, we didn't get to hear his every word, as the sound momentarily cut out midway through "Help on the Way." That was a huge letdown. Thankfully, Anastasio would have better luck later in the show during renditions of such songs as "Eyes of the World." (Side note: Anastasio's version of that Dead classic, while good, still wasn't as great as the one delivered by the Dave Matthews Band at the same venue just two days after Garcia died back in 1995.) Other vocalists didn't do as well with Jerry's material. In particular, Hornsby lost on "Loser" and Haynes wasn't sweet with "Sugaree."

The main set improved greatly in the second half as Kreutzmann and Hart took to the stage to help drum home such great numbers as "Stella Blue," "Scarlet Begonias" and "He's Gone." Lesh's bass work, however, was greatly missed on these songs.

Garcia, indeed, is gone. But these fans will never let him be forgotten.


Jacked Up

Word is that radio frequency 105.9 FM (the original KKDJ-FM) is converting from it's current Spanish language format to a McFormat called "Jack." They even brag about a play list of 1,200 songs. Wow! That's a small ipod's worth. And...if you do the simple math....let's say they play 10 songs an hour because it'll be loaded up with commercial content and promotional material. That means in a 24 hour day they'll play 240 songs and burn through their entire "huge" library in 5 days excluding any new material they beat into the ground of course. How many times can you listen to "Dude Looks Like A Lady?" No offense to Aerosmith. What you'll get is vanilla programming that sounds just like every other "Jack" station in America and they'll refer to it as revolutionary, groundbreaking and cutting edge. RIGHT! The jocks will sound the same as the jocks in L.A. They'll read the same liners. They'll do the same tired promotions with cellular shops and car dealers and call it local content. And who knows...if we're lucky...somebody might do that lame Mayflower Van routine at Thanksgiving. Holy Cow...thanks for the innovative programming and for exposing us to some new music that might be meaningful and artistically important. Sad to say it but this is just the product of lazy baby boomers pretending they're "real" business people while they go about their unconscious ruination of the music industry and the fleecing of unwitting advertisers with deceptive hype.

We all really deserve better but commercial radio has become such a huge wasteland that people just accept what they're spoon fed. Thank your lucky stars that Fresno has an oasis like KFSR-FM 90.7 (or at kfsr.org) where you can get a variety of great new music (and some tasty older music as well) presented with loving care and without hype. It's a community artistic institution that should really be treasured for adding to the quality of life of the place we call home.


Music Industry Awards

The show tonight should be pretty eclectic and pock marked with some tasty esoterica. On another note, does anybody out there have an idea of how many lame music award shows there are in existence now? The easy answer is too many. How many times can the same vapid people insincerely fawn over each other for the fact that they've received some sort of inconsequential piece of hardware. It just demeans the artistic element of the music business. Not to mention that some of these selfsame individuals are completely inarticulate, boring and so consumed with narcissism that they are incapable of relating to their fellow humans in any meaningful way. Who watches these things and what's more who takes it seriously?


September's Top 10

The following are the top 10 getting spins and listens around here:

1. Shelby Lynne 'Suit Yourself'
2. Husky Rescue 'Country Falls'
3. Eels 'Blinking Lights and Other Revelations'
4. Van Morrison 'Magic Time'
5. Oasis 'Don't Believe The Truth'
6. Bob Dylan 'No Direction Home: The Soundtrack'
7. Loudon Wainwright III 'Here Come the Choppers'
8. Sly and the Family Stone 'Different Strokes by Different Folks'
9. Jim White 'Drill a Hole in the Substrate and Tell Me What You See'
10. Jools Holland & His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra 'Friends 3'


Jimmy Buffett

Jimmy Buffett who has eschewed lengthy tours in recent years, preferring to play shows in short stints--plans to perform at an upcoming Hurricane Katrina benefit show in New York, and has also added a Portland, OR, date to his schedule

Buffett claims a spot on the bill of the hurricane "From the Big Apple to the Big Easy," set for Sept. 20 at New York's Madison Square Garden. Dave Matthews, Lenny Kravitz, Simon & Garfunkel and Elton John are also scheduled to perform at the show, which will air as a live pay-per-view telecast. Tickets are on sale now.
Meanwhile, Buffett will sandwich the newly confirmed Portland gig between two previously announced October shows in Las Vegas. Tickets for the Portland show hit the market Saturday (9/17), according to Buffett's www.margaritaville.com.

On Nov. 8, Buffett is set to release a live CD/DVD titled "Live in Fenway Park," which was recorded at the historic Boston ballpark on Sept. 10 and Sept. 12, 2004. The collection includes 2 CDs that contain 32 songs, plus a bonus DVD with performances of 15 songs.


Did you know?

In 1963, "She Loves You", with its flip side, "I'll Get You" by the Beatles is released by Swan Records in the US. Although it was currently number one in the UK, "She Loves You" was ignored in the U.S. until 1964 when it would reach the top of the U.S. pop chart.

Also in 1963, a two-disc bootleg set of Bob Dylan songs, called "The Great White Wonder" first appears in a Los Angeles record store. It's believed to be the first bootleg album and would continue to be in print in various editions for many years.


Bob Denver

With sadness I note that Bob Denver has left the Rabbit Hole. While many remember his portrayals of Maynard G. Krebs on the 'The Dobie Gillis Show' and as Gilligan on 'Gilligan's Island,' he also made a contribution to the music world. The cover of his lone album is included for your viewing pleasure. Like Wow!


1962 John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr begin recording together for the first time at EMI's St. John Studio. They record 6 songs including "Love Me Do", "How Do You Do It" and "P.S., I Love You".

In 1967 D.A. Penebaker's Dylan film 'Don't Look Back' premiered in New York. It would become a model for future concert films and it's opening sequence with Dylan flipping the lyric cards to "Subterranean Homesick Blues" would become a rock/film/video cliche.

1975 'Born to Run' by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band is released. The album garners critical raves, and Springsteen appears on the covers of both 'Time' and 'Newsweek' in October.


Fats Alive

One of rock 'n' roll's chief architects has been rescued from the rubble of New Orleans.Fats Domino, who had been unaccounted for in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, was plucked from the flooded city by a helicopter late Thursday. He was reported to be in good condition.An APB went out for the musician and his family earlier in the day.The musician's niece, Checquoline Davis, posted a plea on Craigslist.com for information on her missing relatives, writing that Domino and his wife, Rosemary, and their children and grandchildren "didn't get out" of their New Orleans home. Her plea was one of thousands seeking information on missing friends and family on the site.The R&B legend had last been heard from on Sunday night, a day before the storm struck. During a phone call with longtime agent Al Embry, the 77-year-old performer insisted he would ride out the hurricane in his three-story home.It is not immediately known if Domino's family made it to safety.Domino's house was located in the city's 9th Ward, an area that is heavily flooded and littered with dead bodies.The singer and boogie-woogie pianist, born Antoine Domino, has sold over 110 million records in his nearly five-decade career highlighted by the jukebox staples "Blueberry Hill" and "Ain't That a Shame." The New Orleans music fixture's 1949 recording of "The Fat Man" is considered by some to be the first rock 'n' roll record, and Domino was among the inaugural group of inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

Another Hall of Famer, singer-songwriterAllen Toussaint, was listed among the missing, although Fox News reported that Toussaint may be among the 20,000-plus refugees seeking shelter in the Super Dome.With New Orleans a hub of jazz, blues and even rap, several musicians were impacted by the storm. Rapper Juvenile's home was destroyed and he says he has lost several friends. Soul Asylum frontman Dave Pirner, who was waiting out the storm in his native Minneapolis, told the Associated Press he still hadn't heard anything about the condition of his home and recording studio in the Crescent City. Pirner moved there seven years ago.Meanwhile, several high-powered denizens are rallying support. Master P, whose home was swamped and who hasn't been able to track down his uncle, father-in-law or sister-in-law, has announced the formation of a charity, Team Rescue, and is organizing a "Save Our Hood" concert and benefit album. Wynton Marsalis will play both NBC and BET's telethons in the coming days. [Many thanks to the Duke of the Discs]


Odds and ends

In 1964, with their cover of "House of the Rising Sun," the Animals become the first British group to top the American charts with a song not written by Lennon and McCartney.

In 1977, Three people are arrested in Memphis after trying to steal Elvis' body. As a result, his body is moved to Graceland.

In 2002, the longstanding battle between the sixties girl group The Ronettes and rock'n'roll impresario Phil Spector was on the docket this week of New York State Court of Appeals in Albany. The Ronettes, led by Phil Spector's then-wife Ronnie Spector, recorded 28 songs for Spector from 1963 to 1967. Under a 1963 contract, they received a one-time payment of $14,482. Group members contend that the contract didn't cover the royalties for Ronettes songs used in movies, TV shows, and advertising. The Ronettes' big hit, "Be My Baby" was featured in the movie "Dirty Dancing". In November 2001, a lower state court said the Ronettes were entitled to nearly $3 million. Spector's lawyers counter that the 1963 contract gives him ownership of all the group's recordings. The court battle between Spector and the Ronettes started in 1988.