Phil and Friends - Mardi Gras Edition
Its fascinating to me how choices I made a decade ago have an impact on my current life. Rob Levitsky, an ex-landlord of mine, was and is a major contributor to the Grateful Dead community. Being handy with both mechanical and electrical construction, he built an elaborate float called "the wheel" for a Mardi Gras parade that occurred during the middle of the Phil and Friends show.
He asked if I wanted to push the float for a free ticket to the show. I declined, what with my weak back and small stature. Then he asked if I would run a video camera on the float. Well, that I could do. Done.
He asked folks to show up in the late afternoon to help decorate the float. I turned up around 5ish, and there was no work for me to do. So instead, I soaked up the scene. The opener, Dumpstaphunk hit at 7ish, so I figured I'd just chill out, talk to folks, and score some sweet seats for folks who would join me later. I was really fired up for the opener.
There were lots of other people mulling around who clearly had been key members in the dead scene for a long time. After spending so much time learning about the Dead since arriving in California, I really appreciated the experience.
And oh look, there was Phil.
They practiced pushing the floats out on the floor.
I ended talking to several NES security people who worked for Bill Graham, helping set up huge destination Dead shows in the late 60's/early 70's. It was rad.
Eventually Dumpstaphunk took the stage, and life as I know it got particularly funky. These guys tore it up good. I was ludicrously psyched, and the place was sadly almost empty. Ivan Neville is a sick keyboard player. They rocked two bass players. It hit low and hard, and it was tight. There was even a sweet "Soprano's" theme song tease in the middle of a tune. I would see these guys ANYTIME they come around.
As Dumpstaphunk finished up their set, my friends arrived, and I was already somewhat spent. Cruising around, I ran into a ton of folks from all walks of life. Hanging out backstage was fun. They had a large wardrobe of costumes so folks could Mardi Gras it up, and when everyone's in costume festive feelings are amplified. Eventually Phil and Friends took the stage. It was the same incarnation as the last time I saw them.
First set was pretty good. It started out pretty mellow, which was not what Dumpstaphunk left me craving for. I wanted more umph. They slowly started picking up steam while I adjusted my internal dial from Funky to Hippie, and everything started coming up Millhouse.
During set break, I went to join the party backstage. There were TONS of folks, all in costume, celebrating with gusto. Stilt walkers, clowns, dragons, and giant face masks buzzed around while many of us hung out on floats, getting ready to kick this party up about fifteen notches. I hung out with Wavy Gravy and felt as connected as I ever am going to to this scene. His fish on a stick was MIA - instead he was rocking a gopher on a stick. Anticipation and excitement built up, eventually followed by impatience, as in true Dead fashion, everything ran waaay late.
Then they boys returned, rocked a killer Shakedown which made me think about all the ex-Shakedown cohorts who were present inside the venue. Then they launched into Iko Iko, the giant black curtain was dropped, and controlled mayhem commenced. It was REALLY cool to be up on the float. I tried to video capture the energy and excitement that was going down, and by doing so, it deeply infected me.
Stina took some video from the seats:
After the parade finished up, we were backstage, on a float, eye level to the stage. So we danced. They brought out Ivan Neville. We danced some more. Eventually, I made my way back to our seats, and collapsed. I was pretty done at that point. I made it maybe another hour, and then we left. I've just peeked at the setlist from last night, and they freaking played for another hour!? Show ended at 2:08am. Daaamn.
I spent 7 hours at the Bill Graham Civic center that day. It was time well spent.