RatDog at Northrop Auditorium, 6/13/14

Northrop Auditorium, Minneapolis
Friday, July 13, 2014

Bob Weir and the incredible RatDog kicked off what was to be a bizarro weekend Friday night on the University of Minnesota campus. On a gorgeous summer evening underneath the "honey moon," folks were hanging outside the newly renovated Northrop Auditorium and priming one another for the impending adventure.

The beautiful mall and granite steps hosted a wonderful convergence of fans to take in the sun, hang out, and sell T-shirts, jewelry, and tickets. In more than one circle, friends were strumming one another's guitars and playing hand drums. It was a long-awaited communal return for all to enjoy the Grateful Dead alumni, Weir and bassist Bob Wasserman, who were in town, carrying the torch of the great strange trip of music for everyone once again.

See also:
Slideshow: RatDog at Northrop Audtiorium, 6/13/14

As everyone entered the crisp new auditorium, it was very much in the spirit of a festival, with the kaleidoscopic swaths of tie-dyes across the room all ready to catch the groove. Friends, families, and new acquaintances were primed for a heroic dose of music, RatDog style. It goes without saying at this point, but the fragrant aroma of marijuana was also finding its place in the air.

In sandals, a pocket T-shirt, and cutoffs, Weir sauntered out looking cool, relaxed, and not like he's gotten in for a spring trim from his barber any time recently. Wizard-like and shamanistic, he took an early lead atop a slow groove RatDog had began to build. Chugging along, the band cut out for the first lyric: "I wanna tell you how it's going to be!" Weir sang, diving into a very extended "Not Fade Away."

Bobbing to and fro, the audience was soaking in every note. Trading leads with guitarist Steve Kimock, Weir led keyboardist Jeff Chimenti, drummer Jay Lane, and the unique double bass arrangement of Robin Sylvester playing electric and Wasserman playing upright. The combination RatDog forms on stage musically is a steady machine that moves nonstop. Throughout both sets Friday night, performing on two large carpets full of amplifiers, Weir and the band not only never said a word, but barely ever stopped between songs. Very simply, what RatDog maximize in their efforts is the music -- and they deliver it magically. Nothing stopped the songs from moving forward or the audience from engaging in every note performed by the band. In a powerfully connected and organic manner, RatDog performances are no-frills occasions. Only a wall of road cases served as any sort of set design for the night.

With his bow, Wasserman created a sonic pulse that meshed with the guitar leads that were slowly dancing in a counterpoint of melodies. A sweetness to Kimock conjured a lush tone that lifted each verse of "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl." The white ornamentation all around the Northrop reflected the sound, carrying it upward. Evoking an Eastern style of ambient chords and raga type dissonance, RatDog filled the room with the cool succession of "Even So" into "October Queen" and "The Deep End." As if to end the first set with a bit of a reward of an actual sing-along, Weir assuredly led "Casey Jones" before he signed off, indicating they were going to take a short break.
The generous intermission allowed everyone to move about. Many returned outside for some fresh summer air, another beer, and even a few rounds of hacky sack. Returning for a second set, everyone was ready to catch another blissful wave of RatDog.

Back for a more rhythm and blues-infused second set, starting with "Peggy-O" and a very deliberate "Candyman," Weir's guitar tone morphed into a sitar sound that gave a beautiful air about the music. Girls with flowers in their hair twisted and moved with one another through each airtight transition on stage. Several sweeping organ solos from Chimenti settled each progression and ride the band followed each other on. The sweet, sweet smell of marijuana continued to complement the music as the lights dimmed and RatDog took everyone to the outer limits for a massive suite of songs. Starting with "Estimated Prophet," they worked toward later reprieved "Slipknot!" for climatic effect again after an especially long interlude of "Morning Dew."

It would've been easy for one to not necessarily know what song RatDog was playing. I imagined it would've not been impossible for RatDog to not know necessarily at certain points what song they were at. Getting lost in the music is often the most rewarding aspect of a RatDog show and the audience were very much basking in the evening's treasure.

After a quick dip backstage, Weir and band came out for an encore. Going out with a hit, RatDog took the tempo knob down a few notches for a delightful and warm "Touch of Grey" that continued to please the crowd for a windup for fantastic night.

Critic's Bias: Went to high school with so many Deadheads, I had no choice.

The Crowd: Suuuuuuuper baked!

Overheard in the Crowd: A security guard to a couple dudes passing a bowl back and forth, "Come on maaaan, you guys are seriously harshing my mellow. Don't make me have to do my job and kick you guys out... Hide that!"

Not Fade Away
Scarlet Begonias
Good Morning Little Schoolgirl
Row Jimmy
Tennessee Jed
Even So
October Queen
The Deep End
Casey Jones
Estimated Prophet
Help on the Way
Morning Dew
Franklin's Tower
Touch of Grey

53 things you might not know about Prince
73 things you might not know about Bob Dylan
Brother Ali: My fans are kicking the sh*t out of me over Trayvon Martin

Here's why we didn't sign the Foo Fighters photo waiver
Top 20 best Minnesota musicians: The complete list