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Tuesday, July 31

Bob Weir, Bruce Hornsby and Branford Marsalis - All Good Festival - 7/19/12

When The Air Is Full With Songs
What do you get when you take two ex-Grateful Dead members, arguably the best saxophone player alive and add musicians throughout the set?  A mystical jazz formula, which produced the paramount experience of the weekend at All-Good music festival.  This was it's inaugural year at it's new home where Buckeye Lake once rested.  
The show began innocently at this special place with just these three musicians improvising and trading musical jabs until, “Bird Song” blossomed out of the opening jam.  Bob Weir supplied the structure while Bruce’s piano keys danced perfectly in step with Branford’s saxophone.  The melodic free-form jazz that developed after the initial round of heartfelt lyrics, exploded as the chemistry shared by Bruce and Branford was so hypotonic.  Bobby literally sat down to enjoy the show, while the two maestros did what they do best, improvising wizardly.  Their notes delicately hinted at classics that would eventually make their way into the set.  
Just when Mr. Weir seemed to be as captivated in the magic as the rest of the thousands dancing in the sweltering heat, he climbed to his feet to bring the jam full circle back into “Bird Song.”  Then, seemingly out of thin air, J.V. Collier (the bass player currently in Bruce’s band) appeared on stage and belted the unmistakable bombs that preceded, “The Other One.”  Slowly the remaining members of The Noisemakers joined the chaos as the music played the band.  It was so alluring that Phil Lesh appeared side stage and after a heartfelt hug with Branford, he stared with a marvelous grin enjoying the theatrics every bit as much as the now delirious crowd.  This was more than anyone expected as the now crowded stage delivered the madness that this psychedelic classic demands.  The band continued to gain momentum as they played two Hornsby numbers with the latter being the jam vehicle, “Rainbow Cadillac.”  The sound was reminiscent of the first incarnation of, “The Other Ones.”  John Thomas held down the keys while Bruce led this all-star band through his gem while playing the accordion.
 The band was firing on every cylinder imaginable when they launched into, “Franklin’s Tower,” and on this mystical night, even mistakes conjured the memories of another time’s forgotten space.  Exiting the bliss of the elongating jam, Bobby approached the microphone several times seemingly drawing a blank.  Bruce quickly took over the lyrics to salvage the moment, reminding Bobby that if he gets confused, just listen to the music play and play it did.  Bob bounced right back into form and sang, “Hell in a Bucket,” with more vigor and passion than I’ve witnessed in years.  
Just as the atmosphere reached a fevered frenzy, Bruce conjured the spiritual punch of yesteryear with an emotional take of the beloved Jerry ballad, “Loser.”  The crowd was blinded with tears of bliss.  Unfortunately this musical celebration had to end, but not before a powerful, “Scarlet Begonias” gave way to a spirited, “Jack Straw.”  The set was dreamy and the jams were fearless as it managed to capture the crowd’s hearts while tiring their feet. The music was loose, unpredictable and perfect, as it took everyone to that sacred place that we all seem to chase since the untimely death of Jerry Garcia.  At the same time it allows the new generation of dead heads to catch a glimpse of how it used to feel.  They say lightening never strikes twice in the same spot, but as the rain began to fall, that theory was put to rest as we all had one of those flashes that we been there before. 

Words by Kevin Long
Photos by Jordan August
  © Phish and The Dead - a Grateful Music Publication