Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Mother's Day, Starring Phil Lesh and Grace Potter

"Are you a mother too?" asked the young blonde waiter at the French restaurant where I'd just wrapped up Mother's Day brunch with my parents. He held out a bright pink rose, identical to the one he'd just given my mom.

"No. I'm one of those people that shouldn't have children" I replied.

This much is true. I'm the girl who told Pauly to grind up 1/4 of a Xanax and slip it into the food of a screaming child on his latest cross-country odyssey, via the Jet Blue skies.

I tried to be a good daughter this year. I wasn't in Las Vegas or gallavanting around at some music festival on Mother's Day, so I took her and my father out for brunch at their favorite French place. Though it was kind of odd to be eating lamb chops at 11:30 in the morning, they were delicious all the same, as was the pecan-hazelnut torte I shared with my mom.

Later in the afternoon, Pauly and I headed across town for the Greek Theatre. He'd picked up tickets for us to the Phil Lesh & Friends show several months ago when he'd figured out that he'd be arriving in California that weekend for his nearly four-month west coast sojurn. As a bonus, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals were opening for Phil. I really dig her album This is Somewhere and have caught her a couple of times at various festivals.

Only 24 years old, Potter sings lead vocals in a thick, blues-influenced timbre that might lead you to believe she was raised on a windblown ranch or deep in the Mississippi Delta, but in fact she and her bandmates hail from Phish country-- the rolling hills of Vermont. She also sits on keys, playing piano and a Hammond B3 and picks up an electric guitar on certain songs. Rounding out the band are Bryan Dondero on bass, Matt Burr on drums and guitarist Scott Tournet. They've spent the majority of the last two years on the road, playing afternoons at large-scale music festivals and smaller club dates on their own. This summer, in addition to their festival schedule, they've started opening for bigger artists like Phil & Friends and the Black Crowes.

Traffic was easy for once and we took our spot in the stacked parking lot around 4:30. We listened to a Phish bootleg in the car and smoked a bowl as we watched a mix of old school Deadheads, tour kids, and wookies file into the lot. A pickup truck with a guy in an Uncle Sam Hat drinking out of a red plastic cup was parked in front of us. A Lexus was parked behind. Pauly pointed out the various iconic Deadhead school buses to me.

"That one's full of fundamentalist Christian Deadheads. See them handing out their literature? And that other one, with the bus on top of the bus? It's been around forever" he said, pointing at a gargantuan purple and orange double-decker with its windows covered by a rainbow of curtains.

Security was a joke. So was the $10 price for a Dos Equis, but I still bought two. We had great seats-- dead center about halfway up. Two sisters from Vermont were sitting in front of us. They stood out to me because their clothes and makeup were far too ladylike and polished for this kind of scene. A couple of older Deadheads my father's age took the two seats next to them. They made fast friends, eagerly and excitedly talking music. At one point, one of the old dudes went out and brought back beer for himself and a carafe of white wine for the girls.

"We've never been here before" said Grace Potter, as she took the stage. "This is a beautiful space." Indeed the Greek is one of my favorite places to see live music-- anywhere. The 5,500 seat amphitheater is nestled in the hills of Griffith Park and there is hardly a bad seat in the house.

Grace opened with a bouncy Ain't No Time and went straight into Treat Me Right. Next was a heavy, jammy treatment of Stop the Bus, where Grace picked up her guitar to solo with Tournet. Nothing but the Water started with an a capella verse-- just Grace singing gospel-tinged blues and slamming a tambourine, before the rest of the band kicked in. They broke for an all-hands-on deck drum jam before segueing back into the final verse. Things then shifted downtempo for Apologies, one of my more recent "favorite songs to sing in my car while sitting L.A. traffic." Mastermind and The Big White Gate, both of her latest album, finished out the set.

Pauly bought us a couple more beers during setbreak-- a tasty Hefeweizen. About halfway through it, I made my first of a half a dozen bathroom trips. As I walked down the ramp toward the restrooms, I noticed a deadlocked guy staggering around, followed by his friend/caretaker. Once he located a large trashcan, he immediately started vomiting, while his pal held his dreads.

As the joker always says, "Pace yourself!"

Phil & Friends took the stage just as the sun was going down. They opened with a sizzling Shakedown Street and immediately broke out into a long jam. About halfway through the song, two younger hipster dudes arrived in the row in front of us, exchanging hellos with the two older guys. One of the hipsters was the nephew of one of the older guys. The hipsters' faces lit up when they saw that their older, wiser companions had already charmed and liquored up two hot chicks for them. Then one of the old dudes pulled out a packed bowl for one of the hipsters and they all started getting high.

I thought about what it would be like to go to a Phil Lesh show with my uncle... well, that would be totally horrifying as he's a redneck who voted for George W. Bush both times and thinks marijuana is evil.

Phil & Friends played some of my favorite Dead songs including China Cat Sunflower, Friend of the Devil and Franklin's Tower. I was really impressed by young guitarist Jackie Greene as well as Larry Campbell, who took up the fiddle during Friend of the Devil. One thing I did miss was someone taking on sort of a Donna Jean role a la Joan Osborne, who toured with Phil & Friends several years back. I was looking for that layer of vocal harmony.

It's pretty easy to smoke weed at the Greek. The mistake so many amateurs make is turning their head skyward and blowing the smoke straight into the air after taking a hit. Literally sending up a "smoke signal" is the easiest way for security to find you. Blow down, people!

I guess I had been smoking a lot during the show. I'm a champion pothead and have a high tolerance. This is not news to anyone who knows me. Seeing me smoke 3-4 bowls in a row is like watching Al Cant Hang drink 3-4 Socos in a row. It's really just a warm-up.

During Phil's second set, the guy sitting on my left tapped me on the shoulder. He had cropped salt and pepper hair, wore a leather jacket, and had been singing the words to all the songs.

"I've seen you smoking nonstop through the whole show and man... I just want you to get high!" He held out a small wooden bowl.

"This is full and I'm not going to smoke it. But I want someone to enjoy it" he said, placing the bowl in the palm of my hand.

"Seriously, man, she must be smoking all your shit!" he said to Pauly.

I looked over at my beloved and he was doubled over in laughter. I was never gonna live this down.

So I smoked the nice man's bowl. It was a decent, mid-grade sativa. I finished the thing off in 5-6 puffs... and then, of course resumed smoking my own shit.

Pauly called Box of Rain for the encore, just as he'd done earlier with New Speedway Boogie in the car on the way to the show. From the stage, Lesh thanked the dude who had given him a new liver back in 1999 and urged us all to turn to the one we love and offer up our own organs, should anything happen.

"You can have anything left that still works, my love. But I wouldn't recommend the lungs" I said sweetly, as the opening chords of Box of Rain rang out and the moon rose over the Hollywood Hills behind us.


the joker said...

thats pretty funny!

Irongirl01 said...

Great "trip" report Change. never saw the boyz at the Greek. I love Jackie Greene with Phil & Friends. after reading your review on Grace & the Nocturnals and I'm hoping to catch them at Mt Jam. Looks like i need to get a three day ticket as they are only playing on Day 1.

jusdealem said...

After reading your post, I checked out Grace on youtube. Wow...she's amazing. Can't believe I've never heard of her before. Big White Gate is awesome.

StB said...

I'm the girl who told Pauly to grind up 1/4 of a Xanax and slip it into the food of a screaming child on his latest cross-country odyssey, via the Jet Blue skies.

Hmm, now I don't feel so bad about wishing the lady would check in her kid at the baggage counter instead of bringing it on the plane.