New York, Has Got the Ways and Means: A review of Furthur’s Fall 2011 New York State Run.
Tyler Hyp, Get in the Groove
Our taxes may be high, our politicians may be corrupt, and winters are cold, but one thing New York does have going for it is the undeniable loving relationship it has with Grateful Dead music. Since the late 60’s when the Dead played the Fillmore East, to the 80’ and 90’s when they were selling out Madison Square Garden, there was always something special about a New York show, and the band realized this. The love does not stop in the Big Apple though, Upstate New York is also a hotbed for this music and the heads come out in droves whenever there is a show Upstate.
Now in 2011, the relationship this music has with the Empire State is as strong as ever, as displayed by the 4 shows in 4 different NY cities this past Furthur tour. While the shows were not all consecutive and not neccesarily logistically sensible, the run had shades of the old I-90 runs RatDog would often do, hitting multiple Upstate cities up as they make their way to New York City. Furthur played Madison Square Garden on November 10th, The Oncenter in Syracuse on November 11th, First Niagara Center in Buffalo on November 13th, and the Times Union Center (“The Knick”) on November 15th. I was fortunate enough to do the entire NY run, and enjoyed myself at each show and each city I was at…
The run kicked off with a Thursday night show at the Garden. Even more so than other New York shows, a show in New York City always has that extra something. It’s just New York City, tough to explain. I took the train into the city and was greeted by many deadheads who were onboard incognito, must have noticed my “I’m Bob Weir Bitch” t-shirt. Had some time to grab a bite and a few beers at an Irish bar just down the road from the Garden. Chatted with some grate folks, and met up with some of the Ratdog.org crew (represent!) I met up with my friend Ailsa who took the Subway in from Brooklyn and we headed in to the show. We got into the Garden and onto the floor just as the band took the stage and started tuning up. By the time we found “our seats,” the band immediately blasted off into Sugar Magnolia. I have seen this song as show closer many times, but never to open the show, and it was very much a treat. Very energetic rendition and got the crowd into a frenzy and set the mood for a great night. The energy kept going with a Fire-less Scarlet Begonias. The outro jam was very different and it was appearant they were taking it a new direction, rather than into the B-A-B-A progression of Fire on the Mountain. The transition went into Ramble on Rose. “Just Like New York City” even though Bobby flubbed the line, the message was still there with some 15,000 singing the line for him and cheering. The rest of the set featured former Phil and Friend member and family player Larry Campbell and his Wife, Teresa. A highlight which really stood out was the Uncle Johns Band with Larry playing fiddle. It gave the song a different feel and was really welcomed by the crowd. Things got sentimental as they closed the set with Box of Rain, and a stellar version, to boot…The second set again featured Larry and Teresa for the majority of the set, and kicked off with a smoking Shakedown. One of the best Shakedowns I have ever seen, Larry really put the jamming over the top on this one. Perhaps the highlight of the set for me was the haunting version of Days Between. To the people around me, who have probably never heard the song before, this was their chance to chat loudly or go on a beer run. But for myself, as well as many others in the building, this was gold, and hearing Bobby and Phil musically communicate with their fallen brother, Jerry was a genuine treat. “We gave the best we had to give, how much, we’ll never know.” Later on, the crowd pleasing continuation of the classic Grateful Dead pairing was delivered, as the band jammed into Fire on the Mountain. Before the set ended, Sunshine Daydream brought the house down and completed the Sugar Mags sandwich. As an encore, Attics of my Life was very bittersweet and showcased the harmonies of the band, along with Larry and Teresa.
The next day I woke up and immediately hit the road for Syracuse, where I was meeting my 2 friends from coming in from Buffalo. A few bumps along the way, but made it to our hotel in ‘cuse by 5:30 and had enough time to check in and have a pre show beer at the Empire Brewing Co., just a few blocks from the venue. Had the privelegde of meeting deadhead author and Rochester native, Peter Connors. Thinking it was a 7:30 show, we strolled into the War Memorial around 7:15 only to hear the band playing Alligator, and by the time we finally got through the excessive security, they were haflway through The Last Time. We got settled in, and then came the JGB classic Rueben and Cerise. This was my first time seeing this song live by any band, and was very neat. The end jam got very cool and still sticks out in my mind as one of the tightest jams of the run, which segued into High on a Mountain. Not my first choice as a song I would like to hear, but was tolerable. Following that, came three Grateful Dead staples and crowd pleasers with the trio of Loser>Brown Eyed Women>Jack Straw. After the Jack Straw my buddy Binner accurately and simply summed it up with saying “the tasties.” These three more than hit the spot, and we were so content with those songs that by the time they went into the Beatles song Revolution, we (knowing it was the set closer) beat the rushes to the bathrooms and beer line and started our setbreak a little early…My friend asked “What is your 2nd set opener prediction?” I thought for a minute and replied with Weather Report Suite as my answer. Sure enough, a few minute later, Bob launched into his signature intro to the song, and it was smiles all around. After the WRS, the band seemed to have peaked out a bit, and didn’t feel the energy and super tight playing that I saw in the first set. It was still big fun, with the Playin in the Band and second Beatles cover, I Want You (Shes so Heavy) just didn’t have the big kick of the first set, to me at least. The Dark Star was however surprisingly good and stands out. It had a perfect balance of spacey dark star weirdness with up tempo, more progressive jamming. The treats were saved for the encore, as they played The Eleven>US Blues complete with a Whipping Post tease in there before the US Blues. Very appropriate was this encore as the date was 11/11/11 and they took the stage for the encore right around 11:00pm…After the show we took a brief stroll down Shakedown before making our way to the Syracuse watering holes, which to our chagrin, were packed with local college students, rather than deadheads looking to keep grooving. Maybe we missed the memo were the aftershow was? A very fun night in Syracuse and the drive to Buffalo the next day was easy wind.
We skipped the Atlantic City show on Saturday and headed right to our hometown of Buffalo, where Furthur would meet us for a show on Sunday. I love travelling, seeing new places and being on the road, but there is truely nothing like a hometown show. Things just feel right, and so comforting. That feeling set the tone for a great show at the First Niagara Center (though to me it will always be HSBC Arena.) We got downtown and parked around 5:00, did some tailgating at our car for an hour or so before making the rounds down Shakedown. Said hello to some friends, both local and from tour, and then headed into the arena for warmth and to get settled for the show. Right of the bat, A blazing version of the Music Never Stopped rocked the place and got people riled up. Following that was Alabama Getaway, a song I had been chasing for a while now, so it was great to finally hear it. Phil was dropping bombs all night, but they really stood out during that Getaway. It just kept getting better with the Sunday Sermon, Greatest Story Ever Told. A favorite of mine, but moreso a top favorite for my buddy Justin, who had been chasing the song like I was chasing Getaway. A few songs later the band was tuning up and it sounded like a Lost Sailor was coming, but instead went into Mission in the Rain. A true gem, this was very special to here and did not go unappreciated by the Buffalo crowd. Next up was Hard to Handle, which seems to follow me almost every show I go to. Call me crazy but I utilized this time to run to the Mens room and got back in time for set closer and dance fest Gimme Some Lovin….Second set started off with a little jam, which by the time it was 2 minutes in, was obvious a Truckin was coming. It went Truckin>Smokestack Lightning>Truckin and even though common, was still fun to hear and dance to. Of course the crowd loves the line “Truckin, up to Buffalo…” Now I am not the biggest fan of Furthur covering The Beatles. I love both bands, but sometimes just feel Furthur playing The Beatles every single show is excessive. However, when they went into the Abbey Road tracks, Polythene Pam>She Came in Through the Bathroom Window, I could not have been happier. So cool to see, and the band rocked it! The entire Terrapin Station Suite followed the Beatlesmania, and confirmed that this show would be one to remember. This is the song that got me (and countless others) into this music, so everytime I hear it I get transported back to a different time and place. Then came Standing on the Moon, with Bobby paying hommage to Jerry and genuinely meaning it when he sings “I’d rather be with you.” To put an exclamation point on an already stellar show, the band ended things with Turn on Your Lovelight, and the dance party returned. Now I swear the band is messing with me when they encore with Johnny B Goode. For some reason, this song just never did much for me, and as an encore is just very anti climatic. But yet they always seem to play this song whenever it is my “last” show of the tour. It happened here in Buffalo, it happened over the Summer when I was getting off tour in Raleigh, and it happened once or twice back in the RatDog days too. I still dance, I still sing “Go Johnny, go, go” but it just isn’t my cup of tea. It has become humerous and and a joke to me and friends now. Still, they could have encored with Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On, and this show still would have stuck out as a great one.
So that was it for my tour, right? Wrong. I had no plans on going to Albany, but after some thinking, and a long drive back to my apartment just outside of New York City, I thought “Why not?” 2 hour drive, $45 ticket, very do-able. I had to sit through one class Tuesday morning which seemed to go on forever, and then had to skip my second class and use up my only allowable absence for the semester to go to this show. It would all be worth it as I soon found out. So I trekked up I-87 solo, bound for the Knick. Later on I would find out my friend who I went to the MSG show with, also decided last minute to go to the show, so met up with her after the show. Got to the show and parked, and headed right to the box office to get a ticket. Sure I could have done the finger in the air thing and hoped for a cheap extra ticket, but for peice of mind, the box office seemed like my best option. By that time I still had about 2 hours before the show to kill, so kicked it on Shakedown and soaked it all in. Of all the NY shows, Albany had the biggest and best Shakedown Street setup. Unfortunately, the nitrous clowns also found a safe haven and were running tanks all day and night…Just before 7:00, into the show I went to find a nice place to set up shop. One of the perks of being at show alone is the freedom and ability to go essentially wherever I please. I found a little space about 5 rows off the floor right near Jeff Chimenti, where I spent the first set. Here Comes Sunshine opened the show and had some cool jamming in it and had a pefect, seamless transition into the favorite, Row Jimmy. Later things got intense with Minglewood Blues, one of my favorite songs to see live. Old School Grateful Dead ended the set with the combo of Dire Wolf>Loose Lucy>Cosmic Charlie. The latter two songs were never among my favorites, but still managed to fit in perfectly into the set and vibe…Now perhaps my favorite set of the 8 I saw this tour, this second set actually started off sort of slow and uneventful. Passenger was fun, but then Here Come the Sun kind of took the wind out of the sails, only to be followed by the snoozer No More Do I. Estimated Prophet came to the rescue and really did wonders. An all time favorite of mine, this picked up the show where the first set left off and launched The Knick into a cosmic state. Complete with the Bobby “haaaas” and crows, the crowd reacted nicely and errupted during the Bobbyisms, giving me chills. Things didn’t slow down after that, as they went primal Dead with the Cryptical>Other One. Phil Bombs galore, The Other One was really rocking. Next up was the pairing of All Along the Watchtower>Stella Blue, perhaps a nod to the old days when the Grateful Dead would pair up these two in the second set. This was The Knick, afterall. Watchtower was a song I had been chasing for a long time, and to see the band blister through it like they did was amazing. I had always had fears of Bobby in the post-Jerry world slowing down this song and mellowing it out, but there was no such action in this version. They rocked it and really brought the heat on this one. For the ensuing Stella Blue, I took a seat and let it all soak in. I was tired, burnt out and for a ballad like this, sitting just felt right. “I have stayed at every blue light cheap hotel” really struck a meaning with me the entire song really hit the spot. After the Stella, came Uncle Johns Band, which prompted me to get up and put back on my dancing shoes. I heard this old guy mutter to his wife behind me sarcastically “Oh he must know this song.” Wanted to say something nasty in return, but just looked back and smiled, then kept dancing. The treats kept coming with the encore, as they rocked a Not Fade Away, immediately into Brokedown Palace. Ahhh, thats more like it. Now that is how my NYS run should end. “Mama, mama many worlds I have come since I first left home.” Ironic, I told my Mom 3 shows was all I was doing this tour, but talked to her that morning and told her “actaully I am going to Albany afterall.” I assume she just shook her head and laughed…
Well its been heaven, but even rainbows will end. This was a great tour, and a great run. I enjoyed every show, every city and every person I met along the way.
If I had to rate the show starting with my favorite I would go:
1. MSG, 2. Buffalo, 3. Albany, 4. Syracuse. However they were all special and I will not be forgetting any of them anytime soon.
Thanks for reading....