With the passing of Jerry Garcia in 1995, his longtime collaborator Merl Saunders shared the difficult responsibility of keeping the late guitarist’s music alive. In the years afterward, the keyboardist continued to explore the music of the Grateful Dead with fantastic performances alongside his and Garcia’s latter-era group, The Rainforest Band.

At one particular Rainforest show at Club Toast in Burlington, VT on April 11th, 1996, the band, featuring Saunders on keys, Michael Hinton on guitar, Vince Littleton on drums, and Michael Warren on bass, received a Phish-y visitor, as guitarist Trey Anastasio added some firepower to the band’s performance. Anastasio joined the band just three songs into the first set and stuck around until the end of the show. He lent his guitar mastery to some classic tunes, including Grateful Dead numbers “Dark Star” and “Fire On The Mountain”, in addition to some funky jams on “Let’s Go Get Stoned” and “Mystery Train”. Soundboard-quality audio of the entire show recently made its way onto YouTube after many years in obscurity.

Kick back and enjoy, you won’t regret it.

Merl Saunders and The Rainforest Band – Club Toast – Burlington, VT 4/11/96
[Audio: nognuisagoodgnu]

Setlist: Merl Saunders and the Rainforest Band | Club Toast | Burlington, VT | 4/11/96

Set 1: Expressway to Your Heart, The Harder They Come, Built for Comfort[1], It’s in the Air (Konfusion)[1], Dark Star[2]

Set 2: We All Wanna Boogie[1], Caravan[1], Eduardo (Can You Hear Me Calling)[1], I Feel Like Dynamite[1], Let’s Go Get Stoned[1], Fire on the Mountain[1]

Encore: Mystery Train[1]

[1] Trey on guitar
[2] Trey on guitar; instrumental.

Notes: Trey joined Merl Saunders and the Rainforest Band on guitar from Howlin’ Wolf’s “Built for Comfort” through the end of the show. “It’s in the Air (Konfusion)” included a “Dixie” tease from Trey. “Dark Star” was performed instrumental and included a “China Cat Sunflower” tease from Trey. “I Feel Like Dynamite” included a full-band “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” tease. The rendition of “We All Wanna Boogie” from this gig appears on the CD Merl Saunders With His Funky Friends: Live!

[Originally published 4/11/17]