Review of Furthur at the Masonic Lodge in Mill Valley, CA
Sunday, December 27, 2009

By Ted Silverman (WorldWideTed.com

Furthur Stage

Furthur - stage set up at Masonic Lodge in Mill Valley (Photo by Shane Edward Grogg)

As Furthur  evolves and solidifies as a working unit they have decided to use a thinly veiled form of stealth to set up a few small club dates in order to prepare for the New Year’s run of two shows in San Francisco at the Bill Graham Civic  and then a few more in preparation for their pending Winter Tour . 

The first of these occurred last evening at the very modestly sized Masonic Lodge in downtown Mill Valley, just a 15 minute drive North of the Golden Gate Bridge. The scene outside the venue was a have and have not paradox with those lucky enough to have caught wind of the limited release of just 200 tickets (at a reasonable $25 plus $8 handling charge) glowing in anticipation on the entry queue and a loose agglomeration of ticketless heads huddled under a redwood tree across the street under the guise and management of security. 

Those of us online standing close to a service entrance of the venue were treated to a sound check of a fine rendition of Pink Floyd’s “Breathe,” which may serve as a spoiler for those who get to witness the actual breakout, which could occur at tonight’s “rehearsal” performance, or perhaps at the upcoming NYE run. Regardless, it definitely “juiced,” a bunch of us who were waiting to get inside this tiny venue. 

In order to avoid the chaos that occurred at the recent one night stand at the even tinier 19 Broadway club in nearby Fairfax, the band used it’s official Furthur.com sales channel to ensure more order and less chaos at this performance and demanded that each ticket purchaser be limited to just one ticket and that the same purchaser provide ID and proof of purchase upon entry. This made for a much calmer, cooler scene and most folks who did have access were pleased. I can’t speak for those who missed the news, but it made it nearly impossible to gain access to the venue without having gone through official channels. I even witnessed a guy with a faked wristband get nailed and then ejected from insidThe mill valley Masonic lodge is tiny. Psyched for #furthur. ... on Twitpice the venue for attempting to break the rules. 

Once inside it was clear that this would be a special time, simply based on the intimacy of the space which was roughly 120 feet long by about 50 feet wide with a modest stage at the west end of the room and a small but adequately appointed full bar at the east end. A basketball sized mirrored ball was hanging dead center of the stage and the only compromise on stage were the scaled down speaker cabinets and Chimenti’s electric keyboard in place of a concert grand piano. 

About the only thing lacking in the space were any sort of thought placed on lighting. The light show consisted of three red patio floodlights and a few onstage blue theater lights – but folks weren’t here for the light show… 

After a fairly lengthy wait, allowing the privileged few to meet, greet and get to know each other in that unique dead-friendly way, the band finally hit the stage. Eschewing an opening jam, the band simply busted into an extremely funky sounding “Shakedown Street.” This rendition came with most of the expected twists and turns, but also featured some unexpected modulations and non-standard changes. Kadlecik delivered this with Jerry like vocal inflections but with enough of his own spirit to make it his own. 

Furthur, Masonic Lodge, Mill Valley, CA 12/27/2009

Furthur - full band - Masonic Lodge, Mill Valley 12/27/2009. Furthur is: Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, John Kadlecik, Jay Lane, Joe Russo and Jeff Chimenti.

Immediately noticeable was the presence of 2 female back up vocalists, Sunshine (Garcia) Becker  and Zoe Ellis ,  which would shed some light on why the band was staging these rehearsals and just which tunes would be fair game for covering with the aid of backup singers. 

Up next was a bouncy and well played rendition of “Jack Straw,” with a smoking hot end of song jam. Phil and Bobby sounded fantastic in this small venue and Bobby was especially audible in the mix. John Kadlecik really served this song well and ramped up the final four chord jam portion to an extreme degree. 

Another clean and concise opening came with “Eyes of the World,” that featured a gorgeous but just long enough opening jam. Phil took the vocals on here and song swayed and swung its way toward a fast paced but bluesy slide guitar vamp into “Cosmic Charlie,” complete with acapella parts delivered by Bobby and Phil with a summer of love psychedelic vibe. 

The night’s sweetest spots would come next with a cleanly delivered Wheel segueing into a faithful to the’73 era renditions of “Here Comes Sunshine.” Led by that ear-worm Garcia guitar lick so tastily delivered by JK’s guitar, this song led the whole room into contributing to the repeated chorus. This one seamlessly merged into a terrific, “Uncle John’s Band,” that also gave the privileged crowd the opportunity to sing along with this well loved chestnut of the repertoire. 

From the ebb and flow of UJB, Bobby and John gave each other a wink and nod and the angular but screaming intro to “Born Cross Eyed” began followed by Bobby’s unique delivery of “Seems like I’ve been here before, fuzzy, but still so obscure….” 

The fading notes of that brilliant gem then lead toward JK’s rendering of the classic opening lick’s of “Candyman,” which JK delivered with skillful aplomb. The closing chorus contained a biffed word or two, but that’s about the limit of the errors noticed by this writer throughout the 10 song set. 

“Candyman,” led to a potent “Truckin’,” with its fat conclusion emphasized by the twin guitar diminished ascensions and raucous energy and the night’s entertainment simply ceased. Phil took the mic to explain the nature of this so called rehearsal and to remind us to let our loved one’s know that we want to be organ donors. This was a simply, clean and tasty dose of Grateful Dead/Furthur music and it was well delivered by the principle 2 with fine backing support from Kadecik, Chimenti, Russo, Lane and a pair of as yet, unnamed backup singers…. 

Good times were had by all! 

Another rehearsal follows tonight, then 2 dates at the Bill Graham Civic, another three rehearsals at Mill Valley’s Throckmorton Theater, a slightly larger, 300 capacity hall just a stone’s throw from the Masonic. This is a good time to be a Bay Area Furthur Fan…. 

___ 

ed. note: the pictures used here were from tweets. 
if the originators of the pictures would rather not have us use them,
or would want proper credit, just let me know!
thanks - happycat