An Evening with the Terrapin Family

Last Wednesday, I had the chance to see Phil Lesh and the Terrapin Family Band at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

Photo by Mark Angelo from Pexels

Last Wednesday, I had the chance to see Phil Lesh and the Terrapin Family Band at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

I’ve been a Grateful Dead fan for the past seven years, since one of my best friends brought me to a festival to experience their music for the first time. But since Furthur broke up, I hadn’t seen Phil Lesh (the Grateful Dead’s bassist) play anything live.

Our first glimpse of Phil was during the opener, The Infamous Stringdusters. He came out for a rendition of “Wake the Dead” that felt way too appropriate for the show that would be coming that night.

The weather was perfect — not windy, but with a chill to the air that kept us all dancing long into the evening to keep warm. As they played, the musicians gathered in a tight circle around Phil, the nexus of the musical creation, and they all bounced energy and notes off of each other in a frenzy of musical ecstasy.

Photo by Suvan Chowdhury from Pexels

It was my boyfriend’s first Dead show, and he was nervous. He was convinced he’d be entering a world of drug-infested psychedelia, when the majority of the fans at the show were over the age of fifty and did nothing more intense than smoke a joint or two while we all wiggled to the music. He was surprised by how kind everyone was — stopping to shake his hand when they were introduced, people offering us hits off of joints and beers — and quickly fell under the spell of the fiddles.

I’ve since listened to the album that birthed many of the songs the Stringdusters played during that opening set and I have to say, I’m impressed. It’s been six years since I’ve seen them play at All Good and I was even more captivated by their music this time around. I danced so hard I hurt my hip! (Perhaps that means I’m getting old, but I refuse to tell myself that at 27.)

When Phil and the Terrapin Family Band took the stage, the crowd erupted into a confetti of cheers. Funny enough, the last time I saw Phil was also at All Good, back when Furthur was still together and he and Bob graced the same stage. Life had been different back then — I was on my first cross country road trip, for one, and I was mostly concerned with my friend’s opinions rather than the music at that time.

This time was different. I was fully dialed into the music, surrounded by friends and good vibes. Nothing left to do but smile, smile, smile.

Phil and the Terrapin Family Band opened with “Bertha”, which I found appropriate considering the Grateful Dead had played it at their seminal Red Rocks show back in ’78.

Photo by Wendy Wei from Pexels

A wonderful rendition of “West LA Fadeaway” was sang with soul and power by Elliott Peck, whose name I did not know before the show. Her vocals the entire night were stellar, but her vocal jam during “Fadeaway” convinced me of her chops. It’s rare to hear a strong female voice in the mix of the Dead’s music — Donna’s inevitable screeching notwithstanding — and I was blown away by her power.

Other standouts of the night included: “Box of Rain”, which felt appropriate considering my dad passed away this year; “Throwin’ Stones”, one of my favorite and the most political of the Dead’s tunes; and “Eyes of the World”, always a favorite.

We left before the encore to avoid the long lines out of the exit and I’m terribly disappointed I missed “Terrapin Station”, AKA my favorite Dead song.

What a wonderful end to a beautiful night.

Sam Ripples is an essayist and novelist living in southern Colorado. She has an interest in words that provide the mind, body, and soul with rejuvenation and hope. You can follow her on Twitter here.

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