Dead & Company 6.9 & 6.10.17

Folsom Field
Denver, CO

Words by J. Picard
Photos by Doug Fondriest Photography

Airplanes full of people in tie-dye streaked across the sky on the same route as more VW Buses than a Boulderite could shake a stick at! Colorado was the destination and the main event, two nights of Dead & Company at CU Boulder's Folsom Field! The band that started the scene kept it rolling with Bob Weir and golden boy, John Mayer, at the helm. I awoke Thursday to a missed call and text from bass player, Oteil Burbridge, and bailed on any hope of preparing for the weekend, instead opting to spend the day with one of my favorite humans! That evening my wife, Carly, and I packed and came morning, we hit the road towards Boulder for what would be a peak summer experience!

Friday, June 9:

We took a left turn about halfway down the Front Range at Coal Creek Canyon and headed to the canyon's top to join our friends Matt and Teri, as well as the Chets (Mike & Stephanie)! We powered down a blunt, boarded the motorhome and rolled down canyon to Boulder, stopping first at our friends' eventual flop house for a quick miracle. From the flop house we headed to CU's Space Science building where to our surprise we not charged the anticipated $150.00. Instead the lot was used to park staff so we pulled in, put up the awning and set up the grills. To our dismay, Matt had forgotten to grab the meats/grillables. Luckily, I am a hefty cat and brought enough to basically feed the party of six.

The sun beat down on the motorhome as the day grew later and it was time to board the shuttle for Folsom. We loaded up a Gatorade and off we went to celebrate! The bus ride over saw the Gatorade bottle passed around more than a field bracelet among wooks! By the time we stepped off of the shuttle, it was clear that "maybe we had too much too fast." Our brows grew sweaty, the crowds grew thicker and our eyes wider than a silver dollar. Our group broke up and headed in different directions as we acquired our all access passes. As I looked down at the passes I was overtaken with appreciation and emotion. This life is indeed weird.

Dead & Company Live at Folsom Field on 6.9.17

Set One: Dancing in the Street > Cold Rain and Snow, Hell in a Bucket, Big River, Althea, New Speedway Boogie, The Music Never Stopped, Ripple

Set Two: St. Stephen, Estimated Prophet > Eyes of the World, Deal > Let It Grow > Drums > Space > The Other One > Morning Dew

Encore: Touch of Grey

We hit the concourse where we greeted friends, acquired tall boys of Dale's Pale Ale and headed down towards the field. We stopped at the same section as the previous year's adventure and parked ourselves as our friends slowly gathered around us! A short time later the crowd roared and the band hit the stage to kick off their first of four sets over the next two days. They began with a Dead & Company debut, "Dancing In the Street" that went into "Rain & Snow," transitioning from Bob Weir's vocal lead to John Mayer's. The crowd was receptive and participated in the chorus'. "Hell In A Bucket" brought Bob's return to the vocals as John dug into some fantastic tonation. Our group was on fire, taking up most of the space in the section as we danced wildly. Johnny Cash's "Big River" hit the paper and a sweet "Althea" followed with John at the mic and Oteil Burbridge contributing some beautiful bass.

A Bob-lead "New Speedway Boogie" came next as the crowd sang along and spun wildly before fading with the "one way or another" line before "Music Never Stopped," with Bob and John sharing vocal duties. The band closed the first set with an acoustic "Ripple," with Jeff Chimenti filling the spaces sweetly on keys. The isles became full of people like a water from a breached dam. We stayed put, giggling and yucking it up for the duration of setbreak. A bunch of familiar faces passed by and several smiles were exchanged!

Dead & Company returned and began with "St. Stephen," full steam down the track! Shared vocals and sweet guitar tones filled the air! "Estimated" came next with a slinking quality that spelled Bobby weirdness. "Ha! ha! ha!," Bobby screamed into the mic as the spaceyness grew before transitioning smoothly into "Eyes of The World!" Oteil thumped away and Bob took the vocals as John reflected a deep study of Jerry Garcia's tone and sound on the guitar. "Deal" followed quickly with Bill Kreutzmann hammering away on the cymbals and John near flawlessly executing the vocals in a way only a pop star could. Chimenti plowed through a fantastic solo with Oteil punching the bass. The song ended with a vocal improv that turned into a Bob-fielded "Let It Grow" that featured another great Chimenti section towards the middle/end. Slowly, the song faded into "Drums."

Mickey Hart's Beam (A low end string instrument) sounded out and Billy K ventured across his kit as some electronic sounds came from Mickey's side of the stage. Some of Mickeys' drumming sounded disjointed and off tempo, but the duo powered on. Not much happened through the duration of the five minute segment, outside of some string instruments plucking without order. "Space" took over with other-worldly sounds and huge drums beating heavily. Mickey returned to the beam and a short time later the band returned and began noodling for an extended improvised section that turned into "The Other One." Bob screamed into the mic with heavy echo on his voice. The composition slowed down and transitioned into "Morning Dew" with Bob remaining on vocals to end the second set.

The boys returned to the stage and launched into "Touch of Grey," which received mixed excitement from the beginning and kicked off with some rough Bob vocals. John took over vocally and traded with Bob prior to everyone jumping in on the chorus. With that, night one had come to a close and the houselights came up triggering a massive outpouring of people into the stands. We remained for a bit before the crowd became too heavy and we made our way out of Folsom with the group, back to the shuttle pick-up point. Boulder was flooded with hippies! Back at the Space Science building we loaded into the motorhome and headed back up a very dark and winding Coal Creek Canyon to our mountain abode! Early morning we fell asleep with setlist hopes on our minds...

Saturday, June 10:

Ample cannabis and coffee was needed to jump start the day as the sun beamed down on the pines in the canyon! One by one, our party came to life just in time for a big breakfast and a sweep and repacking of the motorhome. We joked about the previous day's follies as we repeated our mistakes with another blunt. Slowly we loaded the motorhome and achieved liftoff for Boulder. Down the canyon we went, re-stocking on beer and ice before our arrival in Boulder at a very strange and entertaining house. Long story short, there is a group of middle aged folks who love the Grateful Dead and love to get weird! The bulk of the group met at Jam In the Sand, a Dark Star Orchestra festival in Jamaica. Yeah, you heard me right. We arrived at a house in a residential neighborhood being rented by said group of hippies. What translated was a double-booked house, with randoms showing up for the potluck. It was a hodgepodge of hippies and burners who didn't know one and other, coming and going and made for a wild pre-show happening.

With the motorhome remaining in place down a side street in Boulder, a couple of us decided to walk the mile to Folsom, which turned out to be quite enjoyable! Through the town we went, intersecting with gathering tribes and running into familiar faces along the way. The scene outside of Folsom was a mad house, with bands, burritos, and fingers in the air. We made a quick stop at the church parking lot across the street from the venue, where one of the most massive shakedown streets was unfolding, with $10.00 Boulder priced balloons and all. We crossed the street, dipped through a opening in the fence manned by a security guard and headed in.

Dead & Company Live at Folsom Field on 6.10.17

Set One: Truckin' > Smokestack Lightning > Spoonful > Bertha > Ramble on Rose, Friend of the Devil, Loser, Brown Eyed Women, Turn on Your Lovelight

Set Two: Help on the Way > Slipknot > Franklin's Tower, China Doll, Dark Star > Drums > Space > Stella Blue > China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider

Encore: One More Saturday Night

We met a couple of friends on the concourse and made our way down to the field to start the evening's show. Dead & Company took the stage for one more Saturday night and began with some noodling on a composition that quickly became "Truckin'." Mayer dug in from the get go and the crowd was moving as Bob and John shared vocals. "Truckin'" became "Smokestack Lightning" and two minutes later, "Spoonful." Bob belted, John noodled and Jeff filled beautifully on the keys as the band transitioned into "Bertha!" John assumed mic responsibilities and as I looked around, our group was losing its mind. "Bertha" slowed and became "Ramble On Rose," with Bob stepping up and the band executing a sweet version of the Dead classic!

A short breather came between songs before DeadCo kicked off with an acoustic, "Friend of The Devil." I used the opportunity to hit the bathroom and concourse for a beer prior to the setbreak rush. I returned to our section as Bob and company kicked off "Loser." The song's mid-section was filled with soaring guitar and keys as the sun set. John led the "Brown Eyed Woman" sing along to the delight of the massive crowd. The first set of the evening closed with "Lovelight" and as Oteil thumped away, I couldn't help but think of Col. Bruce Hampton for the duration of the song. I smiled and felt extremely grateful in that moment for having seen the Col. as many times as I had.

The lights came up and madness ensued as we hunkered down for the duration of set break. Conversations were boisterous, excitement was high and there was still a full set that remained! DeadCo returned and with their return came "Help On The Way!" Mayer handled the vocals and the song transitioned smoothly into "Slipknot" with some heavy bass from Oteil. The jam was psychedelic and loose, building and peaking a couple of times over before diving into "Franklin's Tower." John returned to the mic and the band followed down the track! "China Doll" followed which meant it was time for Colorado to experience the vocals of Oteil Burbridge! The crowd roared as soon as Oteil sang the first words of the song. Chimenti's keys rang out beautifully in between vocal lines. During the song, people high-fived me and came over to communicate how awesome it was that Oteil was taking a lead position. It was bizarre, but sweet none the less.

"China Doll" took a turn towards "Dark Star" that featured fifteen minutes of fluid guitar and reflected the risk that the Dead was willing to take on their jams. The result was powerful and even Bob's vocals fell right into place! The composition dissolved and the front line dismounted for "Drums," which started off typically, but dove into a more tribal groove, that meandered. "Space" was airy and felt distant with what sounded like bells ringing. The band returned and noodled for a few minutes before the disjointedness became "Stella Blue." Bob nailed the vocals and created a very sweet moment in the set, where once again, the "Golden Boy" output some spot on Jerry tone and musical approach.

The set picked up steam and turned towards its eventual close, but not without one last transitional segment in "China Cat" and "I Know You Rider!" The jam started with Bob up front before he was joined by John and Oteil! The middle of "Rider" packed a powerful punch, as it often does, with the lyric "I'd shine my light through the cool Colorado rain!" The set concluded and for the next two minutes the crowd clapped and cheered for one last hurrah! As it was Saturday, it was no surprise that the hurrah came in the form of "One More Saturday Night." The encore was much more enjoyable than the previous night. I looked around and some of my favorite people were getting down one last time for the weekend before they ventured off to get their Dead through other avenues until Dead & Company hits the road again.

The band took a bow, the crowd showed their appreciation, the lights came up and the slow crawl out of the venue followed. Up to the concourse we went, then down the stairs to street level where a large crowd had gathered around a marching band. The crowd, though still thick, thinned out as we ventured away from Folsom. We passed bands and musicians set up on the street and law enforcement smiling and waving on traffic. Slowly the crowd became non-existant as we made a couple of turns into a dark neighborhood lit only by streetlights on each corner. I reflected on how solid the weekend was as a whole. The entire experience from start to finish is what music fans like me chase. Following several minutes of quiet wandering, I turned to our small group and said "does anyone know where we're going?" A look of confusion came over the faces who had been following me for some time. I winked and we made a turn onto the street of our destination. Folks gathered at the house as we hopped into the motor home and climbed back up into the Rockies.

Thank you to the Grateful Dead for starting this party a long time ago and thank you to Dead & Company for keeping the party alive in 2017!

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