Thursday, March 4, 2010

Review: Furthur Live @ Mullins Center (Amherst, MA) 2-20-2010

Photo by Marie L. Schroeder

They each suck down a breath drop container full of high-powered LSD, and proceed to run around the hotel room - jumping on the beds and hanging from a luggage cart they had rode in on. The two and a half-hour ride from upstate New York to Amherst, Massachusetts, has obviously left Cosmic, Stephen and Ashbury restless as the three freaks along with Rosalie, Peter and I prepare to head over to the Mullins Center on the University of Massachusetts campus to witness the newest Dead-oriented band, Furthur.

I had had the pleasure of catching the band during its first performance on the East Coast, when they visited New York City's Hammerstein Ballroom in early December. However, my friends, my fellow freaks, surprisingly enough had not caught any of the shows during the group's five concert mini-tour. Instead this would be their first encounter with the band that has taken the Dead-community by storm since original Grateful Dead members, Bob Weir and Phil Lesh, formed the group in September of last year.

We pull ourselves together while Stephen contacts the front desk to ensure that a cab will arrive on time to pick us up and chauffeur us to the show - if we have learned anything from the past it is that a 'responsible Dead Head, is a free Dead Head.' After more than an hour wait, including one incident when our cab was stolen by some selfish bastards who we vow to prank later, we arrive on the UMass campus as our mad cab driver exhaustively explains to us everything from how the school was forced to close down the top two floors of the library because the building was not built to withstand the weight of the books to the campuses new multi-million dollar sports complex which he believes some of the female students need to visit more often.

While we entertain the mad cabby's self-indulgent rant, we finally find ourselves in front of the Mullins Center where we quickly exit to a swarm of Heads who flood the streets and sidewalks in front of the venue.

We make our way to the entrance of the venue only to find some overweight puppet with a blow horn, shouting instructions to ticket holders while we mingle around the weird in the frigid cold temperatures waiting to be let in. Eventually we gain access to the venue, but it's not until after the powers at be have made the mistake of attempting to control the community and who entered the venue for more than an hour - a big mistake at a Dead show as everyone knows the only way to control the scene is to not attempt to control it at all.

The six of us join forces and march to the front of the line, through the front doors and past security without a trace. I can hear the band has already begun the show as the high-energy harmony of the Buddy Holly classic "Not Fade Away" comes echoing through the corridor. We find a section where some fellow Heads we know from Massachusetts have gathered and squeeze ourselves into the row as the band proceeds with the fan favorite, "Althea". While the boys jam in and out of the first two songs, they take a more structured approach to the remainder of the first set as Bobby throws down one of his dark, "New Minglewood Blues"; John Kadlecik adds his Jerry-esque vocals to the classic sing-alongs', "Dire Wolf" and "Brown Eyed Women"; the two combine for a dawdling rendition of the Robert Hunter self-proclaimed classic, "Friend of the Devil"; a jammed-out, high energy "Cassidy" ensues; and eventually close the first set with another well-known sing-along, "Casey Jones".

After what seems like a short break, at least by Dead standards, the band kicks the second set off in high-gear with Bobby belting out a rendition of "Lost Sailor" as the group uses the song as a launching pad into a spaced-out, epic second set that includes such songs as "Saint of Circumstance", "New Speedway Boogie", "Drums", "King Solomon's Marbles", and the Pigpen rap inspired, "Caution (Do Not Step On Tracks)".

While parts of the set are extremely self-indulgent, it is hard not to see how tight the band is as their jams flow in and out of each other with shear fluidity. As the band pushes forward into the mystical "Dark Star", our high from not only the drugs that consume our minds, but the music that fills the air is beginning to reach its peak. This becomes more apparent as a shirtless Stephen, catches my eye from across the aisle as I look over to find him standing tall with his arms extended in the air, his long hair flailing about as he shakes, and hollows like a wolf at the moon as the band hits the crescendo of the hard-driving "The Other One". The song, along with Stephen's energy, brings us all back to our feet as we groove along to the Neal Cassidy inspired classic. The band follows with another Bobby staple "Let It Grow" and eventually closes the set by transitioning back into "Not Fade Away" - thus sandwiching both sets between the classic sing-along. They eventually finish the song and exit the stage to a chant of "you know my love will not fade away" - in vintage Dead Head fashion. However, we are a little disappointed with the encore choice of "Knockin' On Heaven's Door", not because of the performance, which was spot-on, but rather the slow, non Dead-inspired song choice.

After the final notes of the Dylan-classic have succumb to the deafening roar of the crowd, we quickly make our way outside to join the party that is raging in the lot. Somewhere along the way we lose Cosmic, Stephen and Ashbury amidst the crazed surroundings. The lot is small, so we eventually find our friends among the weird, huffing on nitrous balloons and mingling with old tour friends. Rosalie, Peter and I purchase a few handfuls of the nitrous-filled balloons ourselves. We suck-on the toxic gas, and laugh uncontrollably as our brains drift somewhere into outer space and the only language we can make out is "wah wah wah wha wha wah wah wah wah."

Our buzz is cut short, however, as the hissing nitrous tanks come to a halt and people begin to scream and struggle to escape the heavy footsteps and twinkling flashlights that quickly make way toward us.

We attempt to avoid any confrontation with the pigs as they ascend on the crowd of Heads like a riot team on an angry civil rights protest - screaming at folks to turnoff their stereos, pack up their things and quietly get the "fuck out of the lot." While violence does not erupt, the hostility present can be felt among all of us as we try to avoid the pig fuckers ourselves while they harass and force the crowd out of the lot and into the street. The music never stops, but the party is obviously over as we disappear into the dark night to avoid any further confrontation. After a long walk that leads us through an entertaining host of drunken frat kids returning from the bar, we eventually hitch a ride back to the hotel from a kind Head who happens to live in the area. You got to love family.

Stephen throws the thoughtful Head a cigarette for his generosity and we all pile out to go and raise hell in the hotel room. While the show didn't encompass one of my favorite set list's on the tour, it is hard to deny how tight the band sounded after less than a year together and a handful of performances. But while the show lay fresh in our minds, it is time to do what Dead Heads do best - party!

Set 1:
Not Fade Away>
New Minglewood Blues
Dire Wolf
Brown Eyed Women
Friend of the Devil
Casey Jones

Set 2:
Lost Sailor>
Saint of Circumstance
New Speedway Boogie>
King Solomon's Marbles
Caution (Do Not Step On Tracks)>
Dark Star>
Other One>
Let It Grow>
Not Fade Away

E: Knockin' On Heaven's Door

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