Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Tribal Gathering

In fits and starts Spring arrives in the Pacific Northwest. Hours of sunshine, punctuating days of rain, hint at a life to be lived. Seattlites emerge from the gray, blinking like bears awakening from hibernation. Bike rides become longer and more frequent. The Mariners take the field and lure us out into the stands with the promise of a new season and the return of Junior. We know they'll break our hearts again, but the sun is shining and the beer is tasty. And like mushrooms, concerts pop up in open fields across the state.

Sue and I made the trek across the Cascades to George, Washington to see The Doobie Brothers, The Allman Brothers, and The Dead playing The Gorge Amphitheatre. The drive was a pleasant 2 1/2 hour jaunt down I-90, with a stop in Vantage for burgers and beer. As we got closer we started noticing cars with Dancing Bears and Steal Your Face stickers and drivers in Tie-Dye. The tribe was gathering.

We joined the caravan as it wound it's way down the high desert road from the interstate to the pasture / parking lot. Abandoning the cars, the throng moved towards the hillside. Past folks selling beautiful hand-crafted shirts, bottled water ("Sealed! Approved to bring in! $1 out here; $5 inside"), and rather dubious looking plastic containers being hawked as Jello Shots ("Help me out. I need Gas Money to San Francisco"). Passing through a bag-search/security check point that might have been tight enough to catch anyone carrying a pony keg or a 4' hookah we entered the enclave. Music greeted us as we crested the ridge that forms the natural amphitheater; "Take me in your arms and rock me, rock me, a little while longer...". We looked about for our spot, and soon located it about 1/4 of the way downhill, slightly on the Phil side of center stage. We spread our blanket and kicked off our shoes. Settling in, Sue declared "Hey, the band is playing!"

Indeed they were. The Doobies opened it up at 3:30, just about the time we were wandering in. They were the perfect opening band for this show. As we soaked up the sun and ambiance they played a string of their well-known pop songs from the 70s. A little dated; but then, so was much of the audience. And besides, who else would fit into the two-drummer motif that was to come?

Between acts the crowd continued to flow in. A group of twenty-something's wandered by looking for a place to sit. We made room for them in front of us and soon we had some new friends. They were up from Portland for the show and were kind.

The Allman Brothers took the stage around 5:00 and jumped right into a long Mountain Jam. Derek Trucks and Gregg Allman are magical together and their 90 minute set was a thing of beauty which included Statesboro Blues, Ain't Wastin' Time No More, Dreams, and I'm pretty sure that they might have slipped in some Grateful Dead along the way. Simply amazing.

The break gave us an opportunity to stretch and wander off to the porta potties. Long lines, but the crowd was very friendly and when a girl came dashing to the front saying "I really, really, have to go!" no one was upset that I let her in. I stopped by the concession stand on the way back. I had left my wallet with Sue back at the blanket and only had enough for either two hot dogs and a beer or two beers and a hot dog. I was still mulling the decision when I reached the front of the line and was told they were out of hot dogs. Okay, two beers it is. I got stopped by security on the way back who said I needed a red wrist band to have alcohol. I explained that my wallet was down at my blanket and pointed out that the Jerry Garcia Band tee shirt I was wearing was old enough to drink.

The Dead came out around 7:30(?) and lead off with a very appropriate Music Never Stopped. The first set was a little choppy and the changes from The Grateful Dead took a little getting used to, but by the time Phil broke into Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues I was there. When Bobby flubbed the lyrics to Dire Wolf, it was as if Jerry was on stage in spirit. The first set included a sweet cover of Into The Mystic and a rather abbreviated Dark Star.

The break probably seemed longer than it was, but soon the boys were back on stage and the jams really got going. At one point flowing from Eyes of the World into Drumz into Space into the conclusion of that Dark Star from the first set! The set ended with One More Saturday Night. Phil came out and thanked everyone for pulling the family together again and closed the show with a Box of Rain encore.

By the time we got back to the car it was 12:30. Fortunately I-90 isn't too crowded at midnight and we were back home before 3 am. A great start to the Spring and to the concert season to come. Alas no pictures since daughter #2 borrowed mom's camera and returned it with a dead battery.

On edit: Jambase has the set lists as well as some great photos of the event.

1 comment:

Cap'n Bob said...

LAst time I saw the ABB they had Derek on lead - he REALLY fits in well with the band.....probably because he sounds SO much like Duane. Must have been nice hearing those good old Dead songs too! ;)