Warren Haynes made his first visit to Wolf Trap a memorable one as the featured artist in the National Symphony Orchestra’s Jerry Garcia Symphonic Celebration. His blazing guitar and soulful voice cut through the summer humidity and filled the air with songs! I was skeptical how Jerry Garcia’s music which is heavily improvised jam music would blend with an orchestra which is used to playing more structured music. Warren Haynes and conductor Emil De Cou worked together and the orchestra and other musicians blended together perfectly. The frequent smiles on Warren Haynes face showed this was a labor of love for him. Jerry Garcia would have proud of this performance. He blended and hopped musical genres often during his musical career with The Grateful Dead, the Jerry Garcia Band, and others.
Grammy Award-winning Warren Haynes was a great choice for this project. Not only is he one of the best guitarists in the world – is he also one of the hardest working guitarists in the world. He is currently a guitarist for The Allman Brothers Band, Gov’t Mule, and his own band. Haynes also has a strong relationship the surviving members of The Grateful Dead – having toured with them in a band simply called The Dead after Jerry Garcia’s death. He has also played with Phil Lesh’s band – Phil Lesh and Friends.
Haynes was joined on stage by drummer Jeff Sipe who was a member of The Aquarium Rescue and who has worked with former Grateful Dead member Phil Lesh. Bassist Lincoln Schleifer, who used to be in the Warren Haynes Band and has worked with numerous artists including Donald Fagen and Donald Fagen, completed the rhythm section. Alecia Chakour – who sings in the Warren Haynes Band and has her own band -was one of the backing vocalists for the concert. The other backing vocalist was Jasmine Muhammad from the Pittsburgh Opera.
The show started with “Dark Star,” which played into “” in true Grateful Dead fashion. The third song, “Crazy Fingers” was perfect for the pre-concert showers the weather provided. The opening lines “Your rain falls like crazy fingers, peels of fragile thunder keeping time.” Fans were up and dancing along with the opening sounds of the next song “Scarlet Begonias.” The vibe had changed from a night at the orchestra to one that was reminiscent of a Grateful Dead concert – complete with colored balloons being batted around like beach balls.
They continued on with “Ship of Fools.” The orchestra was adding a new dimension to the songs, adding lots of emotion and energy.The next song was a funky version of “Shakedown Street.” The first set finished with “China Cat Sunflower,” which really highlighted the background singers, followed by the classic “Morning Dew.” Haynes’ soulful vocals and the orchestra really made the set strong.
Conductor Emil de Cou got into the spirit of the evening to start the second set trading his white tux for a multi-colored Wolf Trap tie-dye. The second set kept the party going with “Mission in the Rain” and “High Time.” The latter featured a well- received violin solo from an orchestra member. They played a beautiful arrangement of “Russian Lullaby” – a song from Jerry Garcia’s solo collection. The fans were up and dancing again with “Uncle John’s Band,” The Grateful Dead’s “West L.A. Fadeaway,” “Terrapin Station” and “Slip Knot!” They finished their set with a song The Grateful Dead only attempted to play live once – “Terrapin Flyer.” Unlike The Grateful Dead – they completed the song!
The first encore song was written by Warren Haynes called “Patchwork Quilt,” with lyrics that easily paid tribute to Garcia: “The blood of his music runs through the veins of our guitars Bright lights, Dark Star.” They finished with a great version of “Stella Blue,” and the fans went home happy.
It was a fitting tribute to the legendary Jerry Garcia.
Running Time: Two hours and twenty minutes, with one intermission.
The National Symphony Orchestra Jerry Garcia Symphonic Celebration featuring Warren Haynes played on June 26, 2013 at The Filene Center at Wolf Trap – 1551 Trap Road, in Vienna, VA. For future Wolf Trap events, check their calendar of events.