2018 was a high time for Grateful Dead fans in New York City. In addition to hosting numerous outdoor performances from Dead & Company and Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, New Yorkers were introduced to a new Dead-themed tribute band this year by the name of High Time. The five-piece rock band began hosting concerts at Union Pool in the north Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg starting back in March and have expanded to a few smaller markets outside the city in the months since. The band has played the small but fun Brooklyn venue seven more times since their debut back in the spring, more often than not to a sold-out crowd of local Deadheads.
High Time’s show on Sunday acted as their last NYC gig of 2018, and they closed out their inaugural year with a thrilling two-set performance of Dead favorites, in addition to a notable debut from one of the jam scene’s newest tribute bands.
High Time focuses primarily on the early, primal years of the Grateful Dead live catalogue (1965-1974) and they make sure to create a set and setting fitting for the band’s LSD-friendly era. Colorfully psychedelic liquid light projections covered nearly every inch of the performance room, including the stage, making for an environment similar to that of Ken Kesey‘s original Acid Tests of the mid-1960s.
Rather than coming out with an instrumental jam as some Dead shows tend to do, High Time started Sunday’s performance with the familiar opening guitar riff of “China Cat Sunflower”. The room immediately filled with an abundance of dance-fueling energy as they played the popular song from Aoxomoxoa right into “I Know You Rider” for a thrilling start to the night. Up next was “Jack Straw”, with both guitarists Michael O’Neill and Jake Rabinbach (Francis and The Lights) sharing a slightly embarrassed smile when they both missed their singing cues heading into the song’s first verse. It’s that kind of on-stage looseness which has helped the band gain such a strong local following of like-minded spirits within their first year performing Dead songs. “Brown Eyed Women” came next with a great solo from Rabinbach, followed by “Ramble On Rose”.
The opening set took a wild turn as the band then tore right into “Truckin”, which heard the audience saying fare thee well to 2018 with the packed room all yelling out the lyrics of “What a long strange trip it’s been!” The song also featured some dreamy slide guitar work from Rabinbach during the outro solo, keeping the adrenaline going as they transitioned into “The Other One” and further continuing into “Morning Dew”. The set would come to a climactic close with another jam-filled song from Grateful Dead’s 1967 debut album, “Viola Lee Blues”.
Set two was about as head-y as any Deadhead could imagine for a final show of the year. The band returned to start the second half of the show with “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo”, which transitioned into “Playing in the Band”, sung by drummer Adam Kriney. The lengthy solo for the Bob Weir solo tune featured some really fun stand-alone interplay between Kriney and bassist Jake Vest. The jam quickly took a fun but dark turn when pianist Kevin Uehlinger (Ice Pedal Flowers) launched the venue into orbit with a mini “Space” section courtesy of his keyboards. Taking the audience into space was right where the band had in mind as they then continued the jam into Robert Hunter‘s lyrical masterpiece, “Dark Star”. The band then brought their audience back down to earth with O’Neill diving into the opening chords of “Eyes of the World”, before revisiting “Playing In The Band” for its reprise.
“If you stay late, you get to hear the hits!” Rabinbach told a still-packed venue as the clock passed 11 p.m. He held true to his word as a quartet of Dead “hits” would begin with their live debut of “St. Stephen”, and charging into “The Eleven”, “Turn On Your Lovelight”, and “Scarlett Begonias” all consecutively to close out the set. The band never even got the chance to leave the stage to rest before the encore. They instead went right into one final song of the night with “Going Down The Road Feeling Bad”. Photos from Sunday night’s show can be seen in the gallery below.
High Time is scheduled to start 2019 with a concert at Garcia’s at The Cap early next year on January 30th. Tickets for the show can be purchased here.
Setlist: High Time | Union Pool | Brooklyn, NY | 12/16/2018
Set One: China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Jack Straw, Brown Eyed Women, Ramble On Rose, Truckin > The Other One* > Morning Dew (Bonnie Dobson cover), Viola Lee Blues (Noah Lewis cover)
Set Two: Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo > Playing in the Band (Bob Weir cover) > Space > Dark Star, Eyes of the World > Playing in the Band II, St. Stephen**, The Eleven > Turn On Your Love Light, Scarlett Begonias
Encore: Going Down The Road Feeling Bad (Woody Guthrie cover)
** Live debut