From Dillon to Vail, and then to Lyons, Deadheads converged on Planet Bluegrass last night for the last of three Colorado shows this week from the Grateful Dead bassist and his band. With an ever-changing lineup, this week’s Phil Lesh and Friends band consisted of the man himself, keyboardist Holly Bowling, drummer John Solo and guitarist Stu Allan. Also joining the lineup was Lesh’s eldest son, Grahame, on guitar, bringing that familial intimacy the Grateful Dead community is known for fostering, no matter how large the crowd size.
Though the Grateful Dead in its purest form is no longer, the remaining original members continue to keep the music alive and well with their touring offshoot bands, covering the catalog across the country for diehard fans. Colorado fans have lucked out this summer, with one run from guitarist Bob Weir and his band in June, another from drummer Bill Kreutzmann in July, an upcoming run from Dead & Company this October, and Lesh’s three-night run fitting nicely in between. While venues like Red Rocks are easy favorites, the change of setting to the Lyons venue was a lovely breath of fresh air.
A beautiful, nearly fall evening at Planet Bluegrass set the stage for Saturday night’s show, with the rolling river passing by and the stars shining brightly up above. One of only a handful of single-night shows to occur at the venue this year, Phil Lesh rocked out to a sold-out crowd, kicking off the first set with the jaunty and rambling “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo” before leading into the dark and funky “West LA Fadeaway.” “Til the Morning Comes” came before back-to-back fan favorites and relatively rarer tunes, “So Many Roads” and “Crazy Fingers.” The rumpus raising “Deal” followed to close out the set, which gave fans a moment to regroup, grab a cocktail and enjoy the spectacular scenery.
The jammy “Dark Star” opened up the lengthy and positively raucous second set, with Lesh, Lesh and Allan taking turns on vocals throughout. Sing-along “Eyes of the World” fell between what became a two-part “Dark Star,” turning up the tempo for the remainder of the evening. A raging “St. Stephen” came next that transitioned seamlessly into a brief “Cryptical Envelopment,” another rare tune but one whose jam was imperative to the metamorphosis of the second set. With folks twirling and spinning, barefoot and smiling, Lesh and his band pushed on further.
A trifecta of musical perfection closed out the second set, starting with “New Speedway Boogie,” leading into “Sugaree” and ending with “Uncle John’s Band.” With nearly 30 minutes left before the town curfew, the elder Lesh took back the mic to thank the audience and give his traditional “Donor Rap.” Typically encouraging becoming an organ donor, this time Lesh’s rap had one additional message — get vaccinated. Following the rap, the full band returned to the stage for a double-encore of a “King Solomon’s Marbles” jam and a fan favorite, “Touch of Grey.”