Dead & Company 7.2.16

Folsom Field
Boulder, Colorado

Words By J. Picard
Photos By Elliot Siff Photography & J. Picard

The thought of tens of thousands of music fans, hippies and local residents coming together on the campus of CU Boulder for two nights of the Grateful Dead incarnation, Dead & Company, was almost too much to handle. The show would mark the first in fifteen years at a venue that most were unfamiliar with. The night prior to the show I experienced little to no sleep and came to like a kid on Christmas for what would be a wild couple of days of music with my wife and some of my best friends!

Our Jeep roared up Coal Creek Canyon towards the house of Matt and Teri Maylen. We arrived at the end of the dirt road to the driveway being a scattered mess of items essential to our partying. Upon our arrival we met Matt and Teri's friends, Mike (Chet), Stephanie and Mike's mom, D. We consumed copious amounts of cannabis while loading grills, coolers and chairs into the compartments of the 2017 Winnebago that would be our chariot for the weekend. It would mark the new rig's maiden voyage so the anticipation was high to roll safely down the mountain into the lot. With our coolers and the fridge loaded with a variety of Michigan beer and Michigan meats, we hit the road departing around 2:00 PM. Down the switchbacks we went with ease eventually leveling out as we hit the front range. It was a beautiful drive north along the Flatirons as we pulled into Boulder. A few turns later and we were on campus pulling into the Space Science building which would play host to ample non-sense from that point on. To our surprise the lot was empty, which we chalked up to it being early and the lots supposedly not opening for another thirty minutes. The stabilizers went down and the slide-out stretched to their maximum reach. Within' minutes of our arrival, the party was in full swing!

I heeded caution to the group regarding open alcohol, cannabis consumption and even smoking cigarettes as we were on University property. I was very curious as to how the police and security would respond to the "floppy" crowd. Another car pulled into the lot and approached us rolling down their window.

"You guys need some bubble wrap..." the woman said from the vehicle.

Chet gave me a sideways glance and turned to walk away.

"... Or some decorations or something for your motor home..." the woman finished.

"What are you, law enforcement?" I said approaching the vehicle, then seeing a badge and uniform.

"I am," she said.

"Wow, you're going to have your hands full this weekend, I assume," I said following it up with "so, how are you guys approaching this? Should we expect the police to be heavy-handed this weekend?"

"Not at all and everyone has been great so far," she exclaimed!

"What time do you get off?" Chet shouted from a distance.

The officer laughed as I tried to sell her two (non-existant) GA tickets. With that, out came the beer, the grill and our Grateful Dead Tarpestries (tarp/tapestries). The officer was right, we needed to spice up our location. We dove into heavy appetizers consisting of jerky, seven-layer dip and other delightful snacks before firing up the grill. More friends arrived and only a couple of additional motor homes. By around 5:00 PM we realized that there would be no crazy scene in our lot, which was just about perfect. On went the burgers and pork loin and it was off to the races! Around 5:30 PM we packed up camp and made our way to the shuttle (a campus bus) that would take us from our distant corner of campus to Folsom Field.

We pulled up to a heavy shakedown filled with fingers in the air, beer being sold out of coolers and smiling cops directing traffic.

"Have a great time!" one of the officers said.

As we approached the madness I glanced down to see the tiniest mouse that I had ever seen, walking along side me. I realized that I wasn't hallucinating when others noticed it and smiled. We turned the corner around the massive iron gate that surrounded the facility and descended into chaos. We located the box offices and hopped into line with a bunch of familiar faces from the GroundSwell Cannabis Boutique crew! After an extensive wait and some assistance from a police officer who had jumped in to help with ticketing, our envelope was in hand. I opened it up to find two all access passes that read "Dead & Company Summer 2016 All Access," and boasted a stars and stripes steely! My hands were trembling as I put one around my wife, Carly's, neck and one around mine. "What planet was I on?" I thought to myself holding back screams of utter joy.

We passed through light searches and entered a venue in which we had never seen a show. We arrived on the concourse and had no clue which direction to head. We made our way through a tunnel, hit the restrooms and headed down a lengthy set of stairs towards the field. The line came to a stop. Apparently, the security had run out of field bracelets and they were only letting people through who already had bracelets or passes. The crowd was extremely displeased and as we entered the field, pushing ensued behind us and a handful of police rushed over to calm the tense situation. After several minutes more bracelets showed up and the flow onto the field resumed. The crowd roared, Dead & Company took the stage, tuned and began with "Bertha!"

Dead & Company Live at University of Colorado, Folsom Field on 7.2.16

Set One: Bertha > Good Lovin', Tennessee Jed, Cold Rain and Snow, Even So, Uncle John's Band, One More Saturday Night

Set Two: Scarlet Begonias > Fire On the Mountain > Saint of Circumstance > Terrapin > Drums > Space > Stella Blue, Throwin Stones > Not Fade Away

Encore: Black Muddy River

I threw my hands in the air and as our friends joined us we headed towards the left side of the soundboard. The crowd was already dancing like crazy as we hugged a bunch of friends passing by. From the first few notes the band sounded energetic and well-oiled for what would be a long couple of nights. John Mayer's vocals sounded great and his guitar playing spot-on in paying tribute to the late Jerry Garcia. Since the announcement of his involvement in the band, it didn't take long for the bulk of Deadheads to fall in love with him. Oteil popped up on the screen sporting a GroundSwell t-shirt as one of the owners, Don walked up and smiled! "Bertha" went into "Good Lovin" as the crowd sang along with Bob Weir, who sounded rested and strong! Jeff Chimenti contributed some heavy organ early in the song, that translated nicely and Mayer's noodling persisted to the end. "Tennessee Jed" came next to the delight of the Colorado fans. The classic song resonated throughout the stadium with ample sway following suit and Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart nailing the cues.

"Rain and Snow" followed with Mayer's vocals at the forefront as Oteil's low end contributed a groove to an otherwise groove-less composition before Mayer took off on guitar. Jeff's keys filled in the gaps brightly and overall the song was unexpectedly sweet. The Bobby lead, "Even So" slowed the set down with an airy feel as an image of Rob Wasserman appeared on the screens in tribute following his recent passing. "Uncle John's Band" began with immediate noodling from Mayer and excitement from the crowd. The interplay on stage was magical and reminded me of some of the 74' and 77' shows that I hold dear. The band looked genuinely happy and seemed to be enjoying themselves. As the they kicked into "One More Saturday Night" we headed off of the floor, up the stairs and onto the concourse to hit the restrooms and grab another round of Oskar Blues' Dale's Pale Ales. Unfortunately, the water fountains were off, so were were forced to purchase bottled water in order to hydrate. We hit the stairs and made our way back down as Bob hit the high notes and the first set concluded with a cue to head to Participation Row to register to vote. We located our group sitting even with the side of the stage in an area with ample space to dance and get weird.

Matt and Teri introduced us to some friends of their's whom we would be seeing at Jam In the Sand in Jamaica before we headed backstage. We inquired with security about where the dressing rooms were and were sent on a wild goose chase before texting Oteil that we would catch him later. We made our way to the elevators where we met a gentleman who claimed to be one of the Athletic Directors. We thanked him for having us and he assured us that the university would like to do Dead & Company annually! We headed up to the VIP roof top where we found a bunch of patio furniture and fire pits set up, as well as a private bar. We looked out from an incredible vantage point behind the stand at an incredible scene. In the distance the flat irons' rocky faces stood out, while in the foreground, the University buildings sat just on the outside of the stadium. We ran into producer Michal Menert and some friends before heading back down in the elevator which stopped on the third floor. The doors opened to flashing lights and a bar with a disco vibe. We hugged some friends and hopped back in the elevator with Rob Eaton (Dark Star Orchestra) and Jeremy Salken (Big Gigantic). We headed back down to the field level and the doors open to Don Strausburg (AEG) wishing us well. In the distance, giant, Bill Walton (NBA Champ and MVP) passed by, posing for a quick picture with Carly and I. My night was made and it was only setbreak.

We re-joined Matt, Teri and their friends just as the second set began. To our delight they began with "Scarlet Begonias!" I started to dance uncontrollably, spinning and weaving in and out of the small group that had gathered along the railing. Bob sang the main vocal line and John Mayer did his best to hit the "Donna" part. As expected, Mayer and Oteil kicked it into high gear and the Rhythm Devils followed with Chimenti in tow. Bob hit a plethora of obscure phrasings complimenting Mayer's ripping lead work. The crowd was dancing with pure bliss jumping back into the vocals collectively for a brief sing-along. At one point I said hello to Eric Krasno (Soulive) who passed by with a big smile on his face. The jam turned towards the "Fire on the Mountain" transition with beautiful ease, and as Bobby sang the opening lines, the crowd erupted! "Saint of Circumstance" featured Bobby's straining vocals and Mayer and Oteil digging in from start to finish.

"Terrapin Station" followed with the crowd swaying and Mayer handling the vocals. His vocals were sweet, well executed and may go down as the best vocalist of any incarnation The Dead has featured. The setting was perfect for the beautiful "Terrapin" that followed. Upon it's conclusion the beauty descended into chaos prior to a very electronic "Drums." As always, Mickey struggled with his electronics, looking frustrated on the screen as Billy drummed. The focus shifted to the vibraphones, or balaphones, as Oteil joined in. Chimenti came up next as everyone jumped on what appeared to be a rack of bi-cycle horns as they shifted into "Space" upon Mayer's entrance. Mickey took to The Beam and Mayer to the drums as shit got weird. We headed up to the concourse for another round just as the band returned to participate in the end of "Space." They slowed it down and transitioned into "Stella Blue." Bobby nailed it and the band showed how truly capable they were of letting a song breathe. From there, came "Throwing Stones," which turned out to be a lot fun and quite the sing-along. During the middle/end portion it got relatively funky before transitioning into "Not Fade Away!"

The crowd was really moving as the band hit all of the cues and really leaned into the instrumentation. Chimenti shined bright once they turned him up and Mayer soared as he did through most of the show. Mayer and Oteil squared off, absolutely crushing it with huge smiles on their faces. Watching the end of the Allman Brothers and the beginning of Dead & Company, I was so proud of where Oteil was and so impressed with how well he fit in the music of The Grateful Dead. The music slowed down until it was almost non-existant before some cool vocal skat bass hybrid took over and though I am not usually a clapper, I clapped loudly and sang "You know our love will not fade away..." repeatedly. I, as well as most in attendance, were very caught up in the experience. The band exited the stage and the Steely popped up on the screen as the crowd continued, sounding very happy and very high.

Dead & Company returned for "Black Muddy River." It wouldn't have been my first choice, but it was beautifully done none-the-less. Realistically, after many of the songs they played, I was in no position to demand anything and in fact found myself a very happy camper. A few rounds of solos and some well executed vocal harmonies later and the show had reached it's inevitable conclusion. The house lights came up and I smiled looking around at all of the grateful people. We waited a bit as the crowds poured off of the field. Folks were wide-eyed and satisfied as they ventured off to get into additional trouble for the evening. The night was young and we still had ample time to party!

We made our way up the concrete stairs reaching the top and heading out of the stadium, down several flights of stairs and up a hill to the bus stop. Traffic stood still as an officer took playful gruff and mocking comments from a handful of wooks at the bus stop before remounting and riding off. Everything was bottle-necked and it would be an approximate twenty minutes before the buses made their way back around the route to us. When it did, we boarded and were dropped off on our far corner of campus. We continued partying for a little bit before packing up and heading back up the winding canyon to the top, where the dirt road ends. I reflected on how may musicians from a wide range of genres that I had seen at the evening's show. It gave me a lot of hope in the scene and remind me just how much of a uniting factor The Dead are. We need that at current. I thought that the staff and University did a great job and hoped that they would correct the few minor issues that took place that night. We returned to the house, soaked in the hot tub on the deck over the canyon and enjoyed ourselves in preparation for the following night's show. Once again I felt like a kid on Christmas eve and tossed and turned in bed until the sun came up...

Elliot's Photo Gallery


Popular posts from this blog

Livetronica Sampler 3.22.11

Billy Strings 4.18.19

Buckethead: Gimmick or Guitar God?