Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh celebrates his 79th 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 Grateful 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.
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 Haynes, Chris Robinson, Jimmy Herring, Steve Kimock, Eric Krasno, Rob Baracco, John Scofield, Joe Russo, John Molo, Joan Osborne, Michael Kang and Bill Nershi of the String Cheese Incident, and Al Schnier of moe.
Phil Lesh is gearing up for his for 5th-annual birthday bash at his east coast home-away-from-home, The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY. The three-night celebration is set to take place on March 14th, 15th, and 16h, 2019. The Phil & Friends lineup for this run of birthday shows will include Benmont Tench (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers), John Scofield, Jackie Greene, Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars), Amy Helm, Grahame Lesh, and John Molo.
Historically, the Grateful 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.
[Audio: Ken and Judy Lee]
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.”
[Audio: Leigh Orf]
And the debut of “Bird Song” on the following evening.
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 79th, enjoy some great videos from various formulations of Phil & Friends performing at the newly-restored Cap:
Phil Lesh, John Kadlecik, John Scofield, John Medeski and Joe Russo – “Doin’ That Rag” – 7/23/13
Phil Lesh & Friends – “St. Stephen” – 7/23/13
Phil Lesh, John Kadlecik, Jackie Greene, Marco Benevento, Joe Russo, Bill Evans – “Eyes Of The World” – 4/12/14
Phil Lesh, Joe Russo, Chris Robinson, Neal Casal, Adam MacDougall, Eric Krasno – “Shakedown Street” – 11/8/14
Phil Lesh, Larry Campbell, Teresa Williams, John Kadlecik, Jeff Chimenti, Joe Russo – “Terrapin Station” – 11/15/14
Phil Lesh, Anders Osborne, Stu Allen, Joan Osborne, Joe Russo, Marco Benevento – “Uncle John’s Band” – 11/28/14
Phil Lesh & Joe Russo’s Almost Dead – “Scarlet Begonias” > “Fire On The Mountain” – 12/31/14
[Video: Victor Dowling]
Phil Lesh, Warren Haynes, Eric Krasno, Rob Barraco, John Molo – “Blue Sky” – 3/16/15
Phil Lesh, Warren Haynes, Barry Sless, Rob Barraco, John Molo -“Passenger” – 3/19/15
Phil Lesh, Stanley Jordan, John Kadlecik, Jason Crosby, and Tony Leone – “Help On The Way” > “Slipknot!” > “Franklin’s Tower” – 10/30/15
Phil Lesh, David Nelson, John Molo, Barry Sless, Scott Law and Jason Crosby – “Box Of Rain” – 11/6/15
[Video: Brosef Wilson]
Happy birthday Phil!