It was all grins at The Mousetrap last Sunday night, with Terrapin Flyer delivering a performance that impressed both Deadheads and non-Deadheads alike. This is already their second visit to Indianapolis this year, and we don't want to be greedy... but can we do this again soon please?
Their line-up changes frequently, and depending on the date and the location of the show, certain venerable musicians will occasionally join them onstage - this time, the team was stacked.
Melvin Seals, organist for the Jerry Garcia Band, is a musician you can appreciate even if you aren't familiar with the Dead's music -- a giant of a man, he towers over his Hammond B3 organ like a child over a Fisher Price piano. Among organists from the gospel tradition, he has few contemporaries; he's versatile, playing with graceful ease regardless of whether it's sweeter-than-honey soul or spacey, free-form jazz.
Mark Karan (lead guitarist for RatDog) weaves a melody around Seals' chirps and swells, the organ occasionally responding with a flutter of its own or launching into a deep groove that carries the rest of the band along with it. It doesn't matter what your musical background is, it's hard not to find enjoyment listening to this playful instrumental dialogue.
Adding an extra emotional element to the night was the presence of Jimmy Tebeau, tireless bassist for JGB, Schwag, and frequently, Terrapin Flyer. Until recently, Tebeau's 350-acre property Camp Zoe was the site of Schwagstock, an annual music festival in Missouri; last month, he was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for the dubious charge of "maintaining a drug-involved premises."
With a ruling on his appeal and the threat of prison time looming in the future, he seems content with the opportunity to play music in the company of his supporters, who during "The Other One," shouted the lyrics with their fists in the air: "And the heat come 'round and busted me for smiling on a cloudy day!"
Also in attendance were JP Nowak, the outstanding drummer from Cornmeal; Tom Constanten, who played keyboards for the Grateful Dead in the late sixties (he performed with them at Woodstock); and the most consistent presence in Terrapin Flyer, founder and band leader Doug Hagman, who plays rhythm guitar and provides smooth vocals in the style of a young Jerry Garcia.
Among other highlights of the show was the always-hypnagogic "Dark Star," along with a deep, organ-rich rendition of "Don't Let Go." It was 1:45 a.m. by the time they finally let up, and for the crowd of good-natured people in attendance, it was a rare (decreasingly, I hope) treat indeed.