On Wednesday, Dead & Company headed South from their stop at Irvine Meadows and pulled into, seemingly, the last pull off before you hit Mexico; Chula Vista, CA and the Sleep Train Amphitheater. This was my first foray into the venue that sits a mere 500 or so yards from the Mexican border. I’ve been told, but cannot confirm or deny that from the top of the lawn, you can actually see Mexico.
Compared to Irvine Meadows, this was a welcome relief in ingress and egress from the venue. Go South until you see the border, turn left right before you get there and follow a single road to the venue tucked into the hills. Never have I had an easier time getting into a place. A brief stroll through a moderately sized Shakedown Street in the upper lot and it was time to head into the show. Bacon was, for the first time in my life, the hot word on Shakedown Street. Every food vendor highlighted the bacon. I’m not complaining, I love it. Had the “Pig Pen Bowl” from one vendor. Mac n’ Cheese with bacon on top! Delicious!
Tonight I was seated Oteil side about halfway up the 100 section. A wonderful vantage point to take it all in. Already this show was feeling different. No hassles at the box office, no long ass walk to the seats. No mountains to climb. Just a nice easy stroll, a brief wait in a very friendly security line and then we were in. Just as I was clearing security I heard the familiar beats of Aiko Aiko and felt the tone was being set for a stellar evening vs. the Cold Rain and Snow precursor the night before. Aiko got bodies moving and shaking and rolled right on into Minglewood Blues, Candy Man and Big River (Johnny Cash). All reminiscent tunes of Dead shows of my early years. A familiar Friend of the Devil got the fringe fans movin’ and groovin’. The first oddity of the show came next with the Rat-Dog/Bob Weir tune Even So. Looking around I could tell that there was a large contingent of folks asking themselves if this was new, old, cover or unknown Dead song they’ve never heard. For most, sadly, it appeared to be a bathroom break song. I like the tune myself.
Next up was something that sealed the deal for me as the reason for the season. John Mayer’s truly beautiful rendition of Sugaree. I’ve seen a lot of people try but only a select few can even come close to getting it right. You’ve got to have soul and conviction to deliver those words and Mayer delivered in spades that night. That led into a set closing Music Never Stopped and everyone went to set break anxiously anticipating what was to come in second set.
I’ve always found Truckin’ to be the “they’ve got to play it but please just get it out of the way early and quickly so we can get on with the good stuff” kind of song. Nothing against the band, just got too much Truckin’ over the years that I’ve grown to dislike hearing it. Until Wednesday night at Sleepy Train. Oteil Burbridge’s bass bombs, Mayer’s guitar licks, Jeff Chimenti’s keys…the perfect formula for Truckin’! Even with Bobby stepping on the lyrics…that made it all that more authentic.
Althea came next and, being a personal favorite, was a special place in the set. We then got an Estimated Prophet into Playin’ in the Band followed by Drums and Space with John Mayer jumping behind the drum kit. Longer and more out there than the night before, this drums kept many right there in their seats vs. the usual bathroom migration that occurs.
Drums wrapped into a Playin’ Reprise to close out the extended jam portion of the evening.
The next 3 songs hammered home a message that Weir has been sharing for a long time. Get out and VOTE. The Grateful Dead has clearly been in tune with the political climate of the country since the beginnings and this incarnation closed out the Chula Vista stop with a, not no subtle, message in the songs. Going Down the Road Feelin’ Bad, Bob Dylan’s “Hard Rain Gonna Fall” and the GD’s 1980’s political anthem, Throwing Stones closed out set two. Hopefully implanting some knowledge and thought into the heads of the…um…Heads.
A soulful and eye misting Black Muddy River closed out the night and sent this reporter away with a sense of satisfaction that I picked the right show to end my Summer tour on.
Thanks to blisstanger for the great videos!
Dead & Company
Sleepy Train Amphitheater
Chula Vista, CA
July 27, 2016
Friend of the Devil
Music Never Stopped
Drums/Space (w/ John Mayer behind the drum kit)
Black Muddy River
Tonight Dead & Company head to their final stop on the Summer 2016 Tour at Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountainview, CA.