Live music, like any art form, can mean different things to different people. That’s the beauty of it, really–while we all may hear the same notes, each person takes something unique away from the experience. There are always levels to it. To this day, I cherish the vivid memory of my first Phish show, on 7/3/12 at Jones Beach–the excitement of watching those four guys walk out onstage and drop into a funky groove, of finally seeing Phish! I wouldn’t discover until later that this memorable opening tune wasn’t even a Phish song, but rather a cover of Little Feat‘s “Skin It Back”–and an ultra-rare 1,417-show bust-out at that. How would I know? It was all new to me. Thinking back on it now, I can only imagine the giddy delight of the more seasoned fans watching next to me, digesting the significance of what they were watching unfold. They were seeing their favorite band open a show with a long-lost cover, a song they may have been chasing for decades; I was seeing a legendary band for the very first time. Two distinct experiences derived from the same performance, both intensely significant on a personal level, and for very different reasons.
I was reminded of this notion a week ago at Fool’s Paradise, after Joe Russo’s Almost Dead‘s fantastic headlining set featuring Dead & Company‘s Jeff Chimenti and Oteil Burbridge. During the Eric Krasno Band late-night set that followed, I struck up a conversation with a college student several years my junior. Together, we gushed about how incredible the JRAD & Company show had been, but it became quickly apparent that this set had been memorable to each of us for entirely different reasons. As a long-time fan of the Grateful Dead‘s music and patron of every post-Jerry Dead project and cover band imaginable (oh, the cross we Millennial Deadheads bear), my reasons for the set’s allure felt obvious: It was Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, a live music juggernaut in their own right and arguably the most electric Dead you can hear live today, breathing new life into some all-time favorite songs with help from two of the most influential latter-day disciples of the Grateful gospel, grins plastered across each of their faces. Timelessness meeting timeliness in thrilling fashion. A little bit of JRAD, a little bit of Dead & Co, a whole lot of magic. But to this young fan, the thrills were of a much simpler variety: “Two bass players trading riffs! Then one of them got on drums, and there were two people playing drums! All without breaking their stride!” He didn’t know the significance of this specific collaboration. Hell, he probably didn’t even realize that this wasn’t the band’s usual lineup. But despite his lack of background, the power of the music was undeniable. We watched the same performance, but had two very different experiences–and we each loved it for our own personal reasons.
At the end of the day, that’s what this whole live music thing is all about. It’s for everyone, and it’s also just for you. It’s an experience “in utero”–the artists play the notes, plant the seeds, and each of us takes it from there, our own lives and backgrounds and tastes and personalities dictating how it affects us. That’s why we travel across the country and around the world to see our favorite bands. That’s why we relish opportunities to see our favorite artists collaborate, get creative, push the boundaries of the music we love. That’s why we support up-and-coming bands and spread the word about unknown artists we believe in. Live music is the vehicle–where it takes you is up to you.
***Below, you can watch crowd-shot footage of the full set courtesy of YouTube user The Sober Goat and view a beautiful gallery of photos from the set courtesy of Patrick Hughes (Faces of Festivals), Keith Griner (Phierce Photo), and Jeremy Scott***
Setlist: Joe Russo’s Almost Dead (& Company) | Fool’s Paradise | St. Augustine, FL | 3/31/17 (setlist via Joe Russo’s Almost Dead Facebook)
SET: Jam @ -> Good Lovin > Ruben & Cherise -> Not Fade Away # -> Loser $ -> The Eleven -> Dancing In The Streets % -> Brown Eyed Women % -> I Know Your Rider % ^
@ – With “China->Rider Transition” Teases (TH)
# – With a New Speedway Boogie Tease (TH)
$ – With Ruben & Cherise Teases (Band)
% – With With Oteil Burbridge on Bass & Dave on Drums &/or Bass as well
^ – With a “National Anthem” (Radiohead) Jam and Morning Dew Teases (TH)
[Cover photo by Jeremy Scott]