October 9, 2011
Day 1, Friday, Oct. 7: As I walked the length of Fairgrounds Road at noon, the familiar smell of pot, patchouli and dirty dreads had already started to permeate the air. Heads of all ages were busy settling into what would be their makeshift homes for the next couple of days. "Doses," "boomers" and "nugs" was the common mantra as I wove in and out of a tie-died mecca of hand-blown pipes, Grateful Dead memorabilia, acid blotter art, vegan grilled cheese sandwiches and the occasional guy taking a leak between two parked cars.
By 5pm, the crowd had grown exponentially as showtime was just around the corner. Phil Lesh and Bob Weir were about to play on the same stage they first played on back in 1967 at the Monterey Pop Festival. And that sense of nostalgia was definitely present for the folks attending that were at the festival more than 40 years ago. One concertgoer, who attended the event when she was just 13, remembered when the Dead played because she and her buddies breached the back fences of the main arena so they could get in for free. Furthur hit the stage a little after 7pm and didn't disappoint the nearly 7,000 folks in attendance. "Candyman" was as ethereal as it was with Jerry and their rendition of "Dear Prudence" was the unexpected jam of the night. Complete setlist is below. Lesh and Weir have put together a solid band: John Kadlecik (below) smokes on lead guitar and his voice sounds eerily close, in a good way, to Garcia's. And Jeff Chimenti—who's appeared regularly in the past at the Monterey Jazz Fest—has chops on the keyboard that rival the late Keith Godchaux. After four decades, Weir and Lesh haven't really lost a beat and I think that's a result of how much fun they continue to have on stage.
Day 2, Saturday, Oct. 8: As I walked down Fairgrounds Road around 2pm, the scene had grown even larger than Friday. It was like semi-organized chaos under the influence and armed with a herd of docile pitbulls. That night, I had never seen the arena as full as it was. From the seats on the sides of the arena, a sea of dreadlocks and glow sticks twirled steadily like whirligigs blowing in a faint breeze. The energy had to have transferred to the band because their performance was even better than the previous night. In my interview with Weir, he said it may be interesting to revisit the set the Dead played in 1967. Furthur didn't revisit the set but they did pluck a couple tunes from the set: "Viola Lee Blues" and "Golden Road." See entire set below. The second set of the second day was something very special from start to finish, highlighted by "Shakedown Street," "Truckin'," "All Along the Watchtower," "Morning Dew," "Let it Grow," "Franklin's Tower" and "One More Saturday Night" for the encore.
At this point, Bobby and Phil are running a well-oiled machine and if all the freaks, geeks, old hippies, trustafarians and young dirtballs trying to find themselves can come together peacefully to listen to their music, I don't think it will ever stop.