Concert Review

Phil Lesh and the Terrapin Family Band Jammed Through Two Sets at Pot of Gold

Phil Lesh performing on the main stage of Pot Of Gold 2018.
Phil Lesh performing on the main stage of Pot Of Gold 2018. Dylan Preston
During the second evening of the 2018 Pot of Gold Music Festival at Rawhide, Texas country singer Cody Jinks dedicated his final number, "Hippies and Cowboys" to those two groups. Jinks called them "his favorite kinds of people."

It was the right night for that dedication. Though, judging by outfits alone, the cowboys were outnumbered. It was a heavily tie-dyed landscape.

Jinks’ finale inspired the audience to dash to the outdoor stage and join the giant crowd waiting anxiously for the first of two sets by Phil Lesh and the Terrapin Family Band.

Bassist Lesh is a founding member of the Grateful Dead, and Terrapin is one branch of a musical family keeping the Dead's art alive. They perform mostly covers of songs by the seminal jam band. Last night was no exception. They headlined the Saturday, March 17, lineup for Pot of Gold, an annual festival that brings together a variety of music genres, including country, hip-hop, and alternative rock.

The band took the stage to an audience roar, which got even louder when Lesh addressed the crowd, asking “So, this is the end of the rainbow, right?” Then they launched into “The Music Never Stopped."

When that "go" button was pressed, the two-set jam session was on, and no time was wasted before the group started highlighting their agility.

They drove through the first rocking number, then down into a softer, sweeter valley where guitarists Grahame Lesh (Phil’s son) and Ross James traded riffs and respectfully weaved around one another’s parts.

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Ross James of the Terrapin Family Band shows off mad guitar skills at Pot of Gold AZ.
Dylan Preston
They’re not a band that spends a lot of time interacting with the crowd. But they certainly aren’t alienating, either. Instead, Lesh and co. bring everyone into the fold, as they travel through the sometimes intricate and almost always lengthy tunes.

A great facet of the show was Elliot Peck, who joined on vocals throughout the night. (She also performs with Grahame Lesh in the band Midnight North.) Her vocal range and power were captivating and created a needed dynamic, cutting through the layered instrumentation.

Fans were eating it up, belting out the lyrics, and howling at the song choices.

And there was the dancing. So. Much. Dancing.

What good is a tie-dyed tapestry if you can’t twirl it ecstatically while kicking off your Birks for some feet-in-the-grass stomping?

The whole first set was light and jumpy. The electric twang of "Bertha" was exciting, while "Friend of the Devil" was airy with its march-y beat. They took "Scarlet Begonias" for a really long ride before closing out the first 75-minute set with "New Minglewood Blues."

They rocked the hell out of that last one. The guitarists had been easily stealing the attention throughout the set, but they cranked it to the next level on that one, going past some of the feathery grooves into blistering rock 'n' roll territory.

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Grahame Lesh of the Terrapin Family Band on guitar and vocals as Pot of Gold's day-2 headliners.
Dylan Preston
After a 30-minute break, they came back for a second round. And it was clear that the hoppy vibe of that first set was not what was going to happen the second time around. The sound was booming; the guitars had a mystical touch, thick and haunting.

“Born Cross-Eyed” and “Cream Puff War” were rich and unsurprisingly jammy. The sweet harmonies on “Shakedown Street” added a delicate layer to the mix. When they got funky with “Get Off Your Ass and Jam,” the crowd was happy to oblige.

As is the nature of the Dead’s improvisational and jam-oriented bluesy rock, the flow of the music was so smooth that it didn't really matter when a song began or ended.

It’s obviously instinctual for this band to create sets that understand how to move with the clock. When the night got darker and the air grew colder, the set grew dense with a roster of songs that moved the crowd from spirited dancing to stare-at-the-stars swaying.

Headiest of all was the final song.

“Playing in the Band” went on for easily more than half an hour, bringing in myriad guitar sounds and rousing vocals as it incorporated parts of the song “Ohio,” about the 1970 shootings at Kent State, as well as a bunch of Dead numbers, before bringing it back around to wrap up.

They could have ended there. But after a break long enough to make the crowd wonder if an encore would actually happen, Lesh popped up to say thanks. And then the rest of the group joined him for a cover of Stephen Stills’ early ‘70s rocker, “Love the One You’re With,” a mood-loosening nightcap after that intense sonic collage.


First Set
"The Music Never Stopped" (Grateful Dead cover)
"Bertha" (Grateful Dead cover)
"Friend of the Devil" (Grateful Dead cover)
"Mr. Charlie" (Grateful Dead cover)
"Loser" (Grateful Dead cover)
"Scarlet Begonias" (Grateful Dead cover)
"New Minglewood Blues" (Grateful Dead cover of Noah Lewis song)

Second Set
"Born Cross-Eyed" (Grateful Dead cover)
"Cream Puff War" (Grateful Dead cover)
"Shakedown Street" (Grateful Dead cover)
"Get Off Your Ass and Jam" (Grateful Dead cover of Funkadelic song)
Playing in the Band (Bob Weir cover. The long jam added in parts of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s “Ohio,” as well as more Dead tunes, “The Wheel,” “Lady with a Fan,” and “Terrapin Station” before heading into the “Playing in the Band” reprise).

"Love the One You’re With" (Stephen Stills cover)

Critic’s Notebook

Last Night: Phil Lesh and the Terrapin Family Band at Pot of Gold Music Festival.

The crowd: Grateful to be hearing Dead songs.

"Thanks for catching my bottle. It's really just tea. If it was dosed, I'd pass it around!"

Notebook dump:
Bell-bottom jeans: eh. Bell-bottom leggings: nope.
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Amy Young is an arts and culture writer who also spends time curating arts-related exhibits and events, and playing drums in local bands French Girls and Sturdy Ladies.
Contact: Amy Young