The seeds for what became Phil Lesh and Friends, the free love generation's greatest super group cover band, were planted before the death of Jerry Garcia. The first incarnation of the group made it's live debut on September 24, 1994 at the Berkeley Community Theater. The moniker then lay dormant until 1999, when Lesh and his revolving cast of world class musicians hit the road and quickly became a must-see act for fans of all things jammy, psychedelic, and '60s and '70s.
As Phil Lesh and Friends grew in stature through endless touring, the group became the torchbearer for Dead fans, given the group's dissolution in the wake of guitarist Jerry Garcia's death. More so than Ratdog (though there are some fans who prefer the Weir-led group), Lesh and Friends channeled the spirit of the Dead. Crowds swelled, and shows were must-see events.
The beauty of Phil and Friends is its revolving-door policy - there's no guarantee of seeing any musician other than Lesh, whose band might include anyone from top notch session players to big timers like Ryan Adams, Chris Robinson, Warren Haynes, and Carlos Santana.
On this list you'll find the best Phil Lesh and Friends lineups. Vote for those you think encapsulates the best of the Phil and Friends era.
Perhaps the most well-known and formative lineup of Phil Lesh and Friends shredded mellow jams from 2000 to 2003. The line-up's tours were known for long jams, good times, and crisp tunes. Featured players once again included longtime pal Haynes (guitar & vocals), Jimmy Herring (guitar; The Dead, Allman Brothers Band, Aquarium Rescue Unit, and Widespread Panic), Rob Barraco (keyboards) and John Molo (drums). This incarnation was also known as the Phil Lesh Quintet.
The group's rich improvs featured reinterpretations of Dead classics and covers. They also managed what was once thought impossible: creating a fan base and appreciation outside of Deadheads.
The name Phil Lesh and Friends was first used for a show Berkeley's Community Theater on September 24, 1994. Lesh called upon Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, and Vince Welnick to jam to raise money for music programs in Berkeley schools. The fun, loose set consisted of pretty short (by Dead standards) acoustic tunes, and has long been a favorite of Dead bootleggers.
The original line up wasn't meant to last, and never played as Phil and Friends again.
The first Phil Lesh and Friends tour featured a nice blend of familiar faces and terrific players. Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks, Jorma Kaukonen, Jimmy Herring, and Robben Ford jammed alongside rotating members of Phish, moe., Little Feat, and The String Cheese Incident. Pals like Merl Saunders and Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann came along for the ride.
This incarnation debuted in September, 2007, at a gig in Santa Barbara, and one again featuring Larry Campbell on axe duties. Lesh was also joined by Teresa Williams on vocals, Jackie Greene on vox and guitars, keyboardist Steve Molitz, and drummer John Molo. Though only out on the road for a little over a year, the group played a bunch of memorable gigs, including 14 in 19 days at New York City's Nokia Theatre. Those Times Square shows are affectionately known to Phil phans as the Philathon.
Other highlights of this tour include the band performing with Dead members Bob Weir and Mickey Hart at the Deadheads for Obama show. Weir also played with the band as they closed down the Warfield in San Francisco.