Photos: Warren Haynes, Colorado Symphony pay tribute to Jerry Garcia at Red Rocks - Reverb

Warren Haynes, Colorado Symphony at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, 7-30-13 (photos, review)

Does the Colorado Symphony get preemptive credit for the title of “Most Diverse Musical Performer of the Year in Denver?” Two days after gracing the Red Rocks stage with Rodrigo y Gabriela, the orchestra was back at the famed amphitheater, this time backing guitar virtuoso Warren Haynes‘ tribute to the late Jerry Garcia.

For longtime Deadheads, the most exciting part of this show was seeing the “Wolf,” a guitar built by luthier Doug Irwin that Garcia played from 1973-1979. It was used on many of the Dead’s most famous tours from that period. When Haynes plays with Gov’t Mule, he usually has a rotating stock of guitars, but Tuesday night, the “Wolf” was it. Many of the familiar Garcia guitar tones from the ’70s could be heard dripping from Haynes’ dexterous fingers, though Warren’s harder-edged playing still was the backbone of most of the songs.

Before getting to the music, a question needs to be answered: what is it about celebrations of jam music that turns middle-aged hippies into drunken buffoons? Many in the audience Tuesday night spoke before, during and after the songs, which was a shame, because they were missing a great musical performance. A friend of mine who does sound out west posted on Facebook recently about an experience where a patron complained that the sound was too loud for her friends and her to talk. News flash: a concert should be about music. If all you want to do is relive your drug-hazed, booze-addled early ’20s on the one or two nights a year you still get out to a concert, do the world a freaking favor and stay home.

Throughout the first set, I was stationed in and around the soundboard, where people were carrying on loud conversations about the show, their day, their friends, etc., while spilling beer on everyone around them and stepping on people while dancing around dangerously. Whether it was the achingly haunting “Standing on the Moon,” with Haynes’ voice taking on a reverent, gospel-like quality, the happy hippy anthem “Scarlet Begonias,” with Haynes’ fuzzed out guitar rolling nimbly over a swelling string section and Jeff Sipe’s drum beats, or the anthemic “Morning Dew,” wherein the double basses and cellos of the orchestra added a gravitas to the desperate tune, the music proved secondary to those around me.

That did make for an interesting second set, as my friend and I retreated high into the amphitheater during the setbreak to enjoy the music free from distraction while looking at the twinkling lights of Denver in the distance. Those higher up seemed less interested in talking and more interested in chilling to the music. And low and behold, the symphony was much more discernable in the mix, and you could really appreciate what the orchestra can add to rock tunes. Hearing the violin solo on “Russian Lullaby” or the booming brass and silky strings on “Terrapin Station” renewed the songs, making them something completely different and yet utterly the same.


Set 1
Dark Star -> Bird Song, Crazy Fingers, Standing on the Moon, Scarlet Begonias, Shakedown Street, China Cat Sunflower, Morning Dew

Set 2
Mission in the Rain intro, High Time, Russian Lullaby, Uncle John’s Band, West LA Fadeaway, If I Had the World to Give, Terrapin Station -> Slipknot! -> Terrapin Station, E: Patchwork Quilt, China Doll

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Candace Horgan is a Denver freelance writer/photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. When not writing and shooting, she plays guitar and violin in Denver band Black Postcards.

  • dareekmon

    Per the above review, I guess I can say that one’s concert enjoyment really can depend on one’s neighbors. I must have been lucky as everyone around me was friendly and into grooving with the fantastic music. However, I do understand that many folks are unbelievably rude at these shows (interestingly enough, my worst experience was at a Furthur show two years ago where early 20-something Deadhead types had no regard for reserved seating arrangements).

    The smell in the air by me was not alcohol but more the herbal aroma that has always permeated Dead shows since my first one back in ’73. I guess I just aged myself.

    Personally, I thought the music was magical. My new friend (my neighbor) and I could almost believe that Warren was channeling Jerry and we felt some of the same mysterious vibes from long ago. The symphony added a beautiful touch with the highlight being the violinist’s solo.

    My hat’s off to Warren/band/CSO for pulling this off in spades and taking us back on a long strange trip.

  • Aaron

    Who was playing bass and who was on drums? Why does the rhythm section almost always get ignored?

    I agree about the drunks talking throughout a show. However, I have been at some shows at Red Rocks where the sound was not nearly loud enough to drown out the talkers. I finally gave up on “shushing” those near me, and I left. Bummer…

    • holdenoversoul

      Jeff Sipe on drums and Lincoln Schleifer on bass.

  • cpnnoah

    Wow, I was amazed at how many strangers stopped me just to shake my hand. Literally, Dead audiences are simply the friendliest in the world. Maybe some younger heads need to shape up and get with it but that will come with age. Overall a great crowd.

  • sue ann

    I really did want to tell the tie dye wearing woman behind me to shut the eff up,but my wise 20- something niece told me to just tune her out. A beautiful evening with haunting music.

  • Jack

    While I couldn’t make this show (bummer!), I agree completely about rude audience members. It’s been an issue not just at jamband shows but many shows I attend. I don’t know if it’s our culture where we spend so much time sharing our lives online that we’re OK spending an entire concert sharing our day with our friends. Or maybe it’s just people seeing a social scene as just that. But having seen a near brawl earlier this year at the Avett Brothers show when one person politely asked another to be quiet, I fear those of us who believe in “STFU the band is playing” are sometimes in the minority.

  • Lorenzo Semple III

    Dust off those rusty strings just one more time …by Lorenzo Semple, Aspen Daily News Columnist
    Friday, August 2, 2013
    Printer-friendly version
    Email this StoryIt’s a curse of sorts; being a musician who plays Grateful Dead covers. On one hand you can count on Dead heads dancing and being over-enthusiastic about what you’re performing, but on the other you run the risk of throwing away a perfectly good career. What artist wants to be pigeon-holed as someone who plays Grateful Dead songs and then suffers for the rest of their profession as Dead heads tirelessly harass you into playing “St. Steven?”

    Out of all of the artists that have been afflicted with the Grateful Dead “curse” over the years, Warren Haynes has done a particularly good job navigating the tumultuous waters associated with the cult-like phenomena that continues to this day. That became apparent to me last Tuesday night at Red Rocks as he and his band performed the music of Jerry Garcia with the Denver Symphony Orchestra.

    A big part of the excitement of seeing the Grateful Dead perform was guessing what they were going to play on any particular night, as each show had a different set list. I made a pact not to do any investigation as to what the show was going to be like. The Internet has done an exceptional job of letting the cat out of the bag when it comes to concerts.

    A simple Web search will reveal set lists, band lineups and videos of what you are about to witness. Venture further into the viper-pit of band message boards or chat rooms and you can hear the incessant whining of diehard fans and their deepest, darkest infighting and criticisms. That’s just the type of baggage you don’t want to carry into a concert with you.

    Warren Haynes, wearing a dress shirt and black blazer, opened the show by leading his band and the roughly 80 classical-music performers on stage at Red Rocks into the Grateful Dead’s melodic space-jam vehicle “Dark Star.” The version was refreshingly upbeat and peppy, true to its original incarnation.

    The paradox of performing the music of Jerry Garcia and songs of the Grateful Dead with a symphony orchestra lies in the element of improvisation. While the Dead were known to stretch out their songs, often to the point of absurdity, these versions were kept on a tight leash — thank God. Trying to improvise with that many musicians could’ve proven to be the largest musical train wreck in history.

    Instead of a characteristic tortuous jam-band ordeal, the audience was rewarded with on-task versions of 18 songs spanning the musical career of Jerry Garcia. One of the most intriguing elements of the performance was the fact that Warren Haynes was playing one of Jerry Garcia’s old guitars “Wolf” — a custom made guitar that was involved in a particularly ugly lawsuit and trial between the Grateful Dead corporation of remaining living members and the guy who made it — Doug Irwin.

    Warren Haynes seemed to subtly alter his playing style on the Wolf to mesh with the Denver Symphony Orchestra. His tone reminded me of jazz guitar icon George Benson.

    The near-capacity crowd was a typical mix of crooked-toothed acid casualties and wealthy yuppies dressed like hippies while chain smoking reefers. There was even a guy next to me trying to class up the joint — dressed as if for the theater wearing a “J. Garcia” tie. Interestingly enough, the loudest ovation of the evening came after a lead violin solo on Irving Berlin’s “Russian Lullaby” — an unlikely cover performed by Garcia over the years showing just how diverse he was musically.

    I listened and laughed out loud with astonishment during “Shakedown Street,” not at the reality that I was dancing to a symphony orchestra, but the fact that the crowd of Dead heads consistently yelled the song’s trademark “woo” on the wrong beat (the four instead of the three) each time.

    Warren Haynes’ keyboardist was tucked into the orchestra playing an electronic keyboard, and his sound struck out to me as slightly out of place. This may have been cured by him playing a concert grand piano instead.

    My relationship as a fan of Warren Haynes started many moons ago when he used to play at the Double Diamond to a handful of people with his original three-piece band Government Mule. The music was loud and dark — real head-banger stuff.

    Ironically, it was difficult then to get anyone to come and see him with me. His career and popularity have taken a markedly different path since, largely in part due to his involvement with the former members of the Grateful Dead.

    As a recovering Dead head, I found this performance innovative, uplifting and just what the doctor ordered. The show was a welcome change from the nostalgic cover-band psychosis identity crisis that the scene has been surviving on since Garcia’s death in 1995. It also was refreshing in another sense: it was the first ever Grateful Dead-related concert at Red Rocks where I didn’t see anyone throw-up or overdose.

    To contact Lorenzo email him at