RECAP :: Phil Lesh and the Terrapin Family Band on October 30, 2017 at Brooklyn Bowl NY

Posted on Tuesday October 31st in

If you’ve ever visited Terrapin Crossroads, the Phil Lesh-owned club in Marin County that turns five this year, you know it’s a cool venue, and more importantly, a scene. National headliners roll through often enough and it’s Phil’s many Friends incarnations that continue to help pack the place, but the true heart and soul of TxR is its many house bands: endless configurations of likeminded artists that live in the area and are constant presences in TxR’s Grate Room and, even more often, its inviting bar space.

One of the road ensembles that bottles the spirit of TxR is the aptly named Terrapin Family Band, which has had a banner year in 2017. TFB, which returned for a celebratory evening last night at the Bowl, is Phil himself’s most frequent commitment these days and features Crossroads regulars Grahame Lesh, Ross James, Alex Koford and Jason Crosby providing a warm, youth-infused, goofily energetic take on classic Dead and Dead-associated material. They get tighter and more interesting, this inter-generational collaboration, and no one seems to be having more fun on stage than Phil himself.

Monday was a special show, with most of the TFB core crew expanded with Rob Barraco, long of Zen Tricksters and Dark Star Orchestra, but still well remembered as the keys man in a classic lineup of Phil & Friends back in 2000-2003; Nicki Bluhm, known for her gorgeous singing in front of the Gramblers but, of late, another brilliant blend-in to the TxR scene; and Robert Randolph, the Hendrix of the pedal steel and a recent Lesh recruit. Each each added so much even as they yielded to the ensemble, embodying Lesh’s “chance music” dictum and keeping things excitingly variable.

Bluhm had sugar and spice, lending an extra something to harmonies and positioning her vocals somewhere between the exuberance of the guitarist-singers and Barraco’s typically passionate delivery, with breakout performances on “Little Red Rooster,” “Eyes of the World” and her own “Remember Love Wins.” Barraco…well, Barraco knows this music in, out, up, down and probably in other dimensions, and new just when to coax along and when to hang back. Randolph favored the jams, such that you could see and feel the entire rest of the group lapping up the dirtied gospel whenever he took flight.

Both sets had varied charms, from the sharp-elbowed boogies of “Music Never Stopped” and “Tangled Up in Blue” to an exploratory “Bird Song” that came together out of the Set 2-opening “Truckin’” jam. In a good way, it was as if the band were trying out a number of different flavors before settling at long last on a song that could define their exact vibe, and that was “Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad” to tie off the second set. Lots of fun, lots of smiles, the music never…y’know.

Reviewer: Chad Berndtson

Photos Courtesy of Marc Millman
Facebook :: Instagram: @marcmillmanphotos


Phil Lesh & Friends Setlist Brooklyn Bowl, Brooklyn, NY, USA 2017

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