The Other Ones feel at home at Alpine Valley.
Review by Tony BonyataDespite the initial fear of nearly a quarter-of-a-million Grateful Dead fans descending on the quiet community of East Troy, Wisconsin last weekend for Terrapin Station, the event turned out as mellow and unobtrusive as the music that was featured throughout the two-day concert.
Photos by Terry Mayer
Terrapin Station (named after the 1977 Grateful Dead album) was a weekend long festival that featured the first reunion of all the remaining members of the Grateful Dead since the 1995 death of guitarist Jerry Garcia.
Clear Channel (the show's promoter) and the Grateful Dead's management ran extensive pre-show media coverage trying to discourage Deadheads (the self-proclaimed moniker of Grateful Dead fans renowned for faithfully following their tours) without tickets to not bother to show up. "If you don't have a ticket, don't come," the ads stated. And it seems as if their following took heed, looking for alternative ways to enjoy their favorite act.
Those alternatives were thankfully produced by the band's management just prior to the shows when it was announced that Dead fans could not only tune into live webcasts of The Other Ones two performances, but also unveiled dates for a tentative 15-city fall tour throughout the U.S. This tour was, of course, hinging on the success, or failure, of their Alpine Valley show.
And the result? A surprisingly peaceful, happy, uneventful event. Although security was heavily beefed up, even including the Royal Courtesy Mounted Patrol, the nation's largest ever private peace time cavalry, arrests were reported to be no more than a standard sellout concert for the venue. Traffic problems were minimal and the general atmosphere was easy-going and serene. Based on this outcome, their planned fall tour seems almost inevitable.
With a sea of tie-dyed shirts and dreadlocks under a billowing cloud of marijuana and hashish smoke, the Deadheads arrived by the van-full, setting up shop in the venue's parking lot selling beads, jewelry and assorted drug paraphernalia. The warnings of getting slapped with a $1,000 fine for unauthorized vending on the property didn't seem to deter many, however.
Matt, a longtime fan who traveled from Ohio to see the show, spoke from his Technicolored painted bus, which seemed right at home in the parking lot of this reunion. But as he admitted, his psychedelic wheels are also shockingly out of place elsewhere. "I started painting the bus just for fun," Matt explained. "I got it from a local Head Start agency and they had painted over the original insignias because it's illegal to drive it with school stuff written on the outside. Then I just started painting over that. I've been adding a little bit more to it for the past two or three years. People were cautioning me from putting Dead stickers on it, because it's 'probable cause' to get pulled over in many states. I ended up putting one on anyway and then after that I just decided to add more stuff. When people see it now they freak-out. Especially in the Midwest, like they've never seen anything of any color before."
Other than the fact that security was tighter than normal, the whole affair felt like a typical Dead event of yore, which outside of the Dead community can seem very foreign to the average Midwestern small town community. Men in tie-dyed dresses, women with long unwashed dreadlocks and unshaven legs, along with toddlers, newborns and a few soon-to-be-borns, all euphorically danced to the lengthy psychedelic flavored jams.
The music during the day was provided mainly from the bands formed by ex-Dead members, such as Ratdog, Phil Lesh & Friends and The TriChromes. But it was the gathering on the same stage of the remaining Grateful Dead members- Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, now known as The Other Ones, that filled the 35,000 capacity venue both days.
Sunday evening's performance from The Other Ones was highlighted by familiar numbers such as the upbeat "Cassidy," which saw the crowd spinning and dancing in ecstasy, "Mountains of The Moon," featuring Lesh's somewhat limited yet welcoming vocals, as well as "Jack Straw" and a strong version of "Fire On The Mountain," lead by drummer Mickey Hart. Although the band's casual stage attire, which looked like they were ready for a full day of yardwork, didn't exactly meld with the intensely colorful and psychedelic effects on the huge video screen behind them, their audience didn't seem to mind, as their focus was on what they were hearing and not what they were seeing. Many fans, in fact, never even appeared to open their eyes, intent instead on trance-dancing the night away.
While musically it was apparent that the remaining members of The Dead connected with their audience, mention should also be made to guitarist Jimmy Herring. With the god-like shoes of Jerry Garcia's to fill, Herring meshed perfectly with the band with flourishing leads that were, at times, beautifully fluid and ethereal and, at others, unintentionally noodling and meandering - much like Jerry's.
When the band bit into the meat of their songs they proved to be as engaging as ever, but, unfortunately, many of their lengthy jams were just to blase. Of course, many of their lengthy, directionless jams have long been what attracts Deadheads to their music. A young glassy-eyed female who drove all the way from New Jersey to see the show couldn't honestly say where she was heading after the show. "I'm not going back home," she said as her arms kept snaking above her head. "I don't know where I'll be tomorrow." And in many ways her lack of direction mirrored the sounds of the headlining act.
Even though it was the magical, mystery tripiness of The Other Ones that brought the masses, it was Bob Weir's early set with his own band Ratdog, that made the strongest musical impact.
As fans flooded to their seats, Weir along with upright bassist Rob Wasserman, drummer Jay Lane, keyboardist Jeff Chimenti, guitarist Mark Karan and saxophonist Kenny Brooks, tore through a spirited set filled with deep funk, reggae, New Orleans spiced R&B and boogie-woogie. In fact, of the band's thirteen songs performed that day, nine of them were Grateful Dead numbers. "Shakedown Street," "He's Gone," "Terrapin Flyer" and even "New Minglewood Blues," from The Dead's 1967 self-titled debut album, were all given a welcome shot-in-the-arm.
Former Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter followed as he walked onto the stage alone with nothing but his electric guitar. Despite his rough voice and, at times, rudimentary bluesy riffs, his set transcended into a mystical moment as a brief sunshower gave way to a breathtaking rainbow that stretched all the way from the heavens to the grassy hill directly behind the stage.
Filling the sky with bubbles from his toy bubble-gun, the jester-like fan, known as "Bird Song" (after the Dead song of the same name) seemed to sum up the the overall outcome of this event when he exclaimed, "It's a beautiful thing here, man!"
Jerry may be gone and the name may have changed, but with the success of Terrapin Station in East Troy, Wisconsin it seems that The Grateful Dead's "long strange trip" is far from over.
Check out the Deadheads in all their Technicolor glory!
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