(REVISED: Dead & Co. have scrapped their entire event due to COVID.)
The latest punch in COVID vs. touring rock lineups has knocked out Dead & Company’s Playing In The Sand festival right before its scheduled start. A positive test for John Mayer was followed the next day by a cancellation citing multiple cases among artists and crew.
DMB’s Tour de Force in Versatility
Within this particular circle of artists, Dead & Co. are at least the third to run into this situation. Last September, Dave Matthews Band’s Carter Beaufort and Stefan Lessard tested positive right before a traditional, high-profile three-night stand at The Gorge in Washington.
Instead of three solid full-band shows, and with the usual rhythm section out of commission, those fans on any given night got to see a one-off experience that included:
- A few Dave solo tunes, including songs not played solo in years
- A few Dave & Tim tunes
- Some quintet songs with no drummer
- Several more featuring noted New Orleans bassist Tony Hall and with keyboardist Buddy Strong moving to drums(!)
- Many tour debuts, and at least one entirely new song debut
The shows were more varied than anyone could’ve predicted originally, with their own character and band/audience relationship. And despite the personnel challenges, Dave pulled off the band’s usual feat of zero repeats over the three nights.
The only downside: No commercial purchases (so far). Only fan recordings and memories of those lucky to be present.
Trey Anastasio Band: And Then There Were Five
You probably heard about Phish canceling their New Year’s Eve run due to omicron and playing a “lemonade” themed dinner-and-show webcast instead. But last year, Trey Anastasio had his own experience with this phenomenon on the east coast during a Trey Anastasio Band tour.
The band, which originated from Anastasio’s desire to incorporate horns into a certain blend of sound and song, lost its entire horn section to COVID after a few shows. Most acts, that’s serious blow.
In the hands of musicians like these, it’s an opportunity. Anastasio and keyboardist Ray Paczkowski (whose playing I love) had to carry on and stretch out, giving familiar songs new shades of color and new soloing territories to explore.
Not too long after the horn section tested positive, TAB lost its drummer (Russ Lawton) as well. Jon Fishman himself came to the rescue. This again changed the setlist possibilities, creating a distinct TAB/Phish hybrid performance moment.
I’ve come to really enjoy the classic TAB sound (much more than Phish, personally), but in the face of lineup adversity, who wouldn’t be game for a change of pace like this?
LivePhish does sell downloads of all these shows. I picked up the Asheville show (no horns) and NYC1 show (no horns, plus Fishman), and I’ve enjoyed them for the reasons above.
Nobody wants to get sick. Nobody wants any of these musicians to test positive. But when it does happen and an artist can forge a way to keep going, it can bring out the best in them and their bandmates (regular or for-the-night).
In times like these, when joy and surprise can be harder than usual to come by, don’t sleep on looking into those moments.