Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh celebrates his 80th birthday today. Originally a violinist and shortly thereafter a trumpet player, Lesh’s early interest in avant-garde music and free jazz played a major role in his unique, improvisational-laden bass sound, asserting himself in a way akin to a lead guitar player. A member of the Dead from day one, though never a prolific songwriter, Lesh still contributed tunes like “Passenger” co-written with Peter Monk, “New Potato Caboose,” “Pride Of Cucamonga,” “Unbroken Chain” and “Box Of Rain” to the beloved Dead catalog.

Related: Phil Lesh 80th Birthday Shows At The Capitol Theatre Postponed Until Summer Due To Local Coronavirus Outbreak

After the dissolution of the Dead following Jerry Garcia’s death in 1995, Lesh continued playing with Dead-offshoots in The Other Ones, The Dead, and finally, Phil Lesh & Friends, an ever-rotating cast of the jam scene’s most prolific players. Phil’s Friends over the years have included Trey Anastasio and Page McConnell of Phish, Warren HaynesChris Robinson, Jimmy Herring, Steve Kimock, Eric Krasno, Rob Baracco, John ScofieldJoe RussoJohn Molo, Joan Osborne, Michael Kang and Bill Nershi of the String Cheese incident, and Al Schnier of moe.

Four years ago, Phil & Friends featuring guitarists Warren Haynes and Eric Krasno, drummer John Molo and keyboard player Rob Barraco kicked off a three-night celebratory run at the heralded Capitol Theatre, an East Coast home away from home for Lesh. The Dead played at the Cap in Port Chester, NY a grand total of 13 times between 1970-1971, including this 11/8/70 show with an opening acoustic set on the last night of a four-night run.

Grateful Dead – The Capitol Theatre – 11/8/70 [Full Show Audio]

Here’s a great one as well, as the Dead kick off a six-night run at the Cap from 2/18/71 through 2/24/71. The group debuted three new songs that night, including “Bertha,” “Loser” and “Greatest Story Ever Told.”

Grateful Dead – The Capitol Theatre – 2/18/71 [Full Show Audio]

And the debut of “Bird Song” on the following evening.

Grateful Dead – The Capitol Theatre – 2/19/71

Of course, the Grateful Dead would quickly outgrow the 1,800-capacity venue, working their way up to Madison Square Garden for tens of thousands of loyal Deadheads. The long, strange trip brought Lesh back to the Cap, as promoter Peter Shapiro reopened the venue in 2012 and signed an exclusive contract with the Grateful Dead bassist. Since then, Lesh has been bringing his “friends” to the newly-restored Capitol Theatre, remaining a fan-favorite to this day.

In honor of Phil Lesh’s 76th, enjoy some great videos from various formulations of Phil & Friends performing at the newly-restored Cap:

Phil Lesh & Friends – “Doin’ That Rag” – 7/23/13 

[Video: sgibson818]

Phil Lesh & Friends – “St. Stephen” – 7/23/13

[Video: sgibson818]

Phil Lesh & Friends – “Eyes Of The World” – 4/12/14

[Video: sgibson818]

Phil Lesh & Friends – “Shakedown Street” – 11/8/14 

[Video: rdeal1999]

Phil Lesh & Friends – “Terrapin Station” – 11/15/14

[Video: rdeal1999]

Phil Lesh & Friends – “Uncle John’s Band” – 11/28/14

Phil Lesh & Friends – “Scarlet Begonias” > “Fire On The Mountain” – 12/31/14 

[Video: Victor Dowling]

Phil Lesh & Friends – “Blue Sky” – 3/16/15

[Video: RustedTelevisione]

Phil Lesh & Friends – “Passenger” – 3/19/15

[Video: sgibson818]

Phil Lesh & Friends – “Help On The Way” > “Slipknot!” > “Franklin’s Tower” – 10/30/15 

[Video: InnovAsianTravel]

Phil Lesh & Friends – “Unbroken Chain” – 10/30/15

[Video: Sean Roche]

Phil Lesh & Friends – “Box Of Rain” – 11/6/15 

[Video: Brosef Wilson]

Happy birthday Phil! Head to his website for the most up-to-date tour information.

[Originally published March 15th, 2016]