Saturday, August 15, 2009

ROTHBURY pt.2 - Thursday night in Sherwood Forest

As we waited to enter the US on the bridge from Sarnia, I spotted this message - confirming that the union of church & state is still alive and well in America. Fourth of July in the States - here we come. Yeehawww!!

After being detained over an hour for a "routine" 7-point inspection, we were on our way. (Sigh of relief). Michigan is very flat. And the roads are bad. My travelling buddy was no longer in a great mood and so I was very glad when we pulled up to a field with cars driving around randomly trying to find an entrance. We wove our way around the ranch, site-seeing as we went, and headed for the lowest-density campground. We ended up where I predicted - Bass camp - appropriate since that is my instrument and the name says it all. I was surprised at how many people were already there on Thursday night at sundown. They were already directing people to overflow camping. What would they do with all the people who bought their Sat-Sun ticket? We set up, had a delicious meal and headed into the fray...
It was already too late for the big hip-hop show put on by the Quannum label. I'd seen a tour they put on 4 yrs ago and was looking forward to hearing them again, but setting up camp was more of a priority. We walked into the fairgrounds with a sense of adventure, not knowing what to expect and, boy, did we have a blast that first night.

Now I'm not an electronica fan... I enjoy live bands a lot more. But there were some blurred lines at this fest - live electronica bands. Busy sound, predictable beats, but still fun to dance to, especially in the incredible environments that the festival created just for these purposes. Above is the Tripolee Dome, the trance-dance rave tent where multiple complex projections flashed against amazingly cool-shaped screens. Loved the environment more than the music. The people were out in full regalia, even on the first night. Lots of excitement in the air.
Since we'd come across the border, we were not carrying any illegal inebriants, and resorted to the port-o-bars for Sweet Leaf iced tea mixed with rum. Disco Biscuits were alot of fun after that. We got our taste of the Ranch stage, the playfulness of the crowd, and, still awake, ventured into the Sherwood Forest...
What a trip... giant gates were there to greet us and as we walked inside, we marveled at the huge setup involved. This is not a string of party lights on the patio, people. Not only was the main path lit up, pulsing and changing colour, but deep inside the woods there were still many art installations and light decorations. It just went on & on. The amount of work involved must have been huge. It was hard to tell who was having more fun... the artists or the partakers.
We found many people in the forest hanging out, literally, in hammocks. The place is strung with them and very conducive to little chill out zones. Groups of people were sitting around chatting and ingesting many things. We couldn't believe our luck when we found a baggie in a hammock. We were just about ready to dive in when a group of volunteers came by to ask if we'd found anything. We had. They shared. Success! Scored on our first night at Rothbury, although it didn't really change the trippiness of the forest at all.
Me like pretty lights.
Super cool geometric designs in the trees.
Hearts on fire.
Some brilliant photographer had a friend write in sparklers the name of our beautiful destination. Our new home for 4 days. We made it safely there, only a little affected by the journey =)

For a great walk throught the Sherwood Forest, visit Anne Savage's 360 interactive photos:

Part 3... FRIDAY

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Greetings intrepid travellers -

This is your captain speaking:
In the next series of posts I will take you on a journey through the massive experience that is ROTHBURY. Through photographs and descriptions, I will attempt to persuade you of the power of this new transitive nation, a portal that opens once a year to let the psychedelic carnival through.

This festival is unlike any other I have experienced. It was our first visit and we were completely transformed, utterly convinced and totally devoted by and to the cause. While this fest falls only a little short of paradise, there's enough magic to make you believe. Walking through the Sherwood Forest, shakin' it at the ginormous Odeum stage, or taking shade and a delicious meal at the Ranch, this fest has something for everyone. And the music is just unreal.

So follow me as I take you on a stroll, bop and sway through one of the most exciting intentional communities created for music lovers like me...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

NY state of mind

This post is more of a personal travelogue of our great adventure to NYC. I left Peterborough, Ontario at 3am to meet at the appointed spot at 5am in Toronto. Picked up an old high school friend and a collection of his crazy men and beat it across the border toward our destination. My van is a beautiful '87 Chevy Vandura - lots of room in the back for jamming! Just installed a proper stereo too so we listened to much of Spring Tour '09 up to that point, as well as some favourite GDead shows we'd attended. (Row Jimmy, Stella and Satisfaction from the Palace at Auburn Hills, MI, '94 are still pretty mind-melting =)
After 11h on the road and a few detours for construction, we were ready for action. We realized that the best party in NYC that night was actually in Long Island, so we burned it up to the coliseum. I got so excited as we approached the parking lot. I had no expectations other than hanging outside and taking in the carnival that I missed so much. I knew that MSG wouldn't have the same kind of lot so I was extra glad we made it down.
It was a pretty colourful scene: lots of folks hocking their wares, the gorgeous buses... much like I remembered it. Lots of balloons, the sound of which somewhat grates on my nerves.
This lovely woman is displaying some pretty incredible works of art - imagine the potency!

After a bit of exploring, one of my new comrades on the journey convinced me that it was time to go inside. We made it in time to hear the end of Saint of Circumstance - our urge to GO FOR IT was being reinforced by the whole arena. One of those moments where you know you're in the right place at the right time. it was great to be back inside, in my favourite spot - side stage. Love checking out the band in profile and all their gear. Spent setbreak talking quite a bit with the people seated around us. There was a local usher who was glad to see the Dead back again - "Why do you think I wanted to work tonight??!!" I caught her dancing on the job. "People can be kind, but there's too much drinking here - people turn into shitheads". In general it was a great, comfy scene and I felt right at home in Long Island. The devotion to the band was palpable - not unlike the fervour over sports teams. And the Dead are one of their favourite teams!
We checked out the lot after the show, my buddies all got a buzz on, and yours truly chauffeured us back to Manhattan to stay at the best hotel of all time: the Chelsea. It was more impressive than I expected, though I hear it's going downhill under new management. Nevertheless, a living gallery. Spectacular. Art on the walls on every floor, and the place is just oozing with history...

That first night we partied in the Roach room with some excellent heads from Memphis via Cali - beautiful '60s vintage schoolbus drove them all the way. We jammed all night to the delight of our hosts - mucho debauchery and never a complaint. What a great place to stay! We were on a 3rd story balcony just to the right of the Chelsea sign. I HIGHLY recommend it.

Next day was show day and we were all stoked. Not even tired after our long journey and jamming all night, we were just flying off euphoria. We walked ourselves downtown and to the harbour to get on board what turned out to be the best idea of the trip: the Ship of Fools.
This was a genius idea and a lot of fun. Heads, booze, and the Hudson River. A DJ was spinning some choice cuts and the jams were churning while we were bobbing along. Saw the city as it's meant to be seen... from the water. A natural harbour, it's easy to see why early explorers would want to settle there. It's great to see all the activity in the harbour. Ellis Island has a way larger building than I imagined, and the Statue of Liberty is also quite imposing. Gave new meaning to Liberty seeing her like that - I think we were all having a moment thinking about what it meant to us. Americans, Canadians, liberty is an important concept and we were all excercizing our rights and freedoms that day. Thanks to the French for such a beautiful and meaningful gift.
By the end of the cruise, we were looking a little like this... except more tame. Everybody got used to the sway and we were well-prepared for the bouncing to come at MSG.
Here is a pic of our crew taking stock as we debarked, getting ready to check out the venue. A short walk downtown, we weren't the only ones getting freaky on the streets of New York...
Out front, things were getting busy. Reminds me of my first time trying to see a Dead show, at MSG in '91, I was also taking my first acid trip and milling about the buzzing crowd trying to find a way in. Didn't make it, so now I could finally complete my mission. The tie-dyed hippie in the centre of the picture is Roach - we partied with him in the Roach room the night previous.
There was a musical bus out front - the First Aid bus we'd seen the night before at Nassau. A Beeeoootiiiifullll noise emerged.
One more shot of my man, Mr. Lesh, really givin'er inside the Garden. We were well lubed and our sea legs really helped us get our groove on. I couldn't help but think that the only Ship of Fools of the Tour was played that night for us... A nice shout-out to all who went on the cruise and to the beautiful harbour that is such a distinct aspect of the city.
We celebrated the next day with a visit to Central Park - Strawberry Fields and then a jam with the company. My friends rock! Passers-by were amused, it was one of the first beautiful Sundays of the spring and families were out in full force to picnic in the park. It's quite a gorgeous place and immaculately kept. Not a piece of garbage did I see.
We drove back Sunday and made it home in good time, safely and much better for the journey. Except that I lost my voice for a week after screaming so hard in MSG. That was one loud crowd.
Well, that wraps up my Nassau & MSG coverage of Spring Tour '09. Thanks for your indulgence - it was just too much fun. Next stop.... ROTHBURY

MSG and Nassau - Spring Tour '09

This is part 2 of the Spring Tour posting, featuring pics from Nassau and MSG. Let's begin with some of Candace's lighting, the great stealie-wheel.

You can listen to an audience recording of Nassau from the live music archive:

Set I
01. Jam > Jack Straw
02. Brown Eyed Women
03. Baby Blue
04. Easy Wind
05. Death Don't Have No Mercy
06. Don't Ease Me In
07. Lost sailor
08. Saint Of Circumstance

Set II
03.Looks Like Rain
04.Alabama Getaway
05.Jam > DaRK sTAR > Jam
06.Drums > Space
07.Knockin On Heavens Door
08.Goin Down The Road

09.E: Touch Of Grey

Nassau had a special treat: a 3-song acoustic set to start off set 2: Masterpiece was fitting because of the line about the coliseum (and also the name of this blog!), Peggy-O and Looks Like Rain. You can see here that the drummers came down front to play small kits and hand drums, while Phil has a hollow-body acoustic bass. Sounded great.
Fast-forward to MSG - a special night to be sure. Here's a shot of the band in profile. Have a listen to the soundboard of MSG off
Set I
Cosmic Charlie
China Cat
Shakedown Street
Ship of Fools
He's Gone
Set II
Crypitical Envelopment
The Other One
Born Cross Eyed
St Stephen
The Eleven
Uncle John's Band
Unbroken Chain
Gimme Shelter
One More Saturday Night
Donor Rap
E: Brokedown Palace
There was some struggle in the first set and some missing key licks, in China Cat, for instance. But things picked up and we could really feel the mind-meld in the band once they hit the psychedelic bus-ride of the second set. Challenging music, well performed.
Phil was just glowing by the end. A special thank you to the venue and the crowd, he said there's nowhere like the Garden... and he was right. What a treat to get to boogie down with every single person in that room. I felt the bounce... now I understand.
Let's hope these guys gained as much satisfaction from this tour for all the hard work they put into it. 155 songs is a lot to prepare for a tour, especially when most songs were repeated only once or twice. Bobby says it best here with his sign...
Thank you for a REAL GOOD TIME!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Spring Tour '09

Hi dear readers - this has been one heck of a year... The Dead on Spring Tour brought me out of my funk and into a whole new groove... I'm inspired by these veterans who continue to innovate, improvise, re-work, and bring alive a catalogue of great music. We love you guys!

I was fortunate enough to be dragged on board a NYC road trip in April - Nassau and MSG - after that I caught the bug and got myself and my mate to Rothbury for a delicious 4 days of musical indulgence. Here are some pics to start us off...

MSG was definitely boppin and bouncin. Great venue, great crowd, and an incredible 2nd set - venturing into very psychedelic territory. Blessed to have heard compositions from Anthem. Unbroken Chain was very well played and grooved hard... impressive for such a difficult tune. Gimme Shelter was my highlight, being my favourite Stones tune of all =) Download the audience recording here:

One of my favourite parts was seeing Mickey and Billy - they have really tightened things up and sound sharp!
One of the unique things about this show is that they opened 2nd set with Drumz>Space. That's getting right down to business... wasting no time before blasting off into a great set of psychedelic adventuring - through compositions mainly from the Anthem of the Sun period. Mickey's thunderous drumming on the double-skinned koto-ish drums the night before at Nassau was a cathartic experience for all in attendance. Mind-blowing for sure.

This is my favourite of the Blakesburg shots - the Rhythm Devils hamming it up before the show. I love Billy's planetary afro.
And here's the man of the hour: Mr. Phil Lesh. Not only does he hold down the low end, but he holds the vision - his archival sense and perspective on this great catalogue of music which we call the Dead made this ambitious retrospective tour happen. He was not just dusting off old relics, he's been oiling and winding them and keeping them tuned for years in his own projects, taking responsibility for their survival. And we have been privileged to hear them anew in a fun, successful ensemble.
Thank you, Phil! You are a trooper. A psychedelic music pioneer - we can't thank you enough. Keep initiating, keep singing, and keep smiling.
Love, K