Terrapin Station Project
Capitol Centre - Landover, MD
[March 15, 1990]
First Appeared in The Music Box March 1998, Volume 5, #3
Written by John Metzger
The powers that be at Grateful Dead Central are at it again. The creative forces behind all that great music are now tackling their most ambitious project yet. For those of you who have not yet heard the news, at the turn of the Millennium, the Grateful Dead organization plans to open Terrapin Station, an interactive museum, sensory playground, and social/cultural laboratory.
Potential sites for the project are currently being explored and a definitive opening date has yet to be set. Even the details of this new venture are still being sorted out. The main focus will be to recreate the Grateful Dead Experience via a rooftop dance garden, a 360-degree sound and light environment called The Wheel, and multimedia presentation arena called the Jerry Garcia Theater. In addition, the project will create a performance space for hosting live concerts and special events.
Terrapin Station also will include an interactive exhibition area featuring Grateful Dead-related instruments and artifacts as well as those of their influences. As if this isn't enough, there will also be an on-site research facility and library, listening stations with access to samples from the vault, and office and display space for the various charities the Grateful Dead have supported over the years.
The planning for this venture has been an on-going, creative, and organic process that continues to evolve daily. Much like a Grateful Dead concert, the opening pathway has been created. Now, it's time to venture onto that path and see where it will lead.
The funding necessary for such an ambitious project is, of course, huge, and the Grateful Dead organization would like to maintain full control to steer this ship where it needs to go. Proceeds from the sale of a variety of products (from hats to lithographs, from t-shirts to a special limited edition compact disc) will all go towards the completion of this project.
The compact disc is well worth the seemingly steep $39.50 price tag. The package contains beautiful artwork which adorns a fold-out disc case, a slipcase, and the discs themselves. A fold-out poster from Mouse and Kelley, creators of the original 1977 Terrapin Station cover, is tucked away inside the package.
The show itself is the entire March 15, 1990 (bassist Phil Lesh's 50th birthday) concert at the Capitol Centre in Landover, Maryland. This is the whole show — with no cuts — perfectly laid out over the course of three discs. Sonically, this may be the best sounding release the band has ever issued. The clarity is truly remarkable.
The first set kicks off with a rapid-fire Jack Straw that barely contains the intensity of the band. Sugaree quickly follows, and the band settles into a groove that allows them to loosen up, shake off the cobwebs, and melt into the music. Bob Weir rips his trademark, feedback-laden, rhythm chords throughout the song as Jerry Garcia, keyboardist Brent Mydland, and Lesh simultaneously solo, intertwining their instrumental musings in a beautiful kaleidoscopic soundscape.
Easy to Love You was Mydland's best song, and the version here — the first since 1980 — is stellar. It's impossible not to picture his feet dancing beneath his keyboard as he performs his solo. He also puts a real kick into the middle of Walkin' Blues, keeping the momentum rolling and making the remainder of the set an outstanding musical series.
Just close your eyes, and let the music carry you away. In Althea, Garcia's guitar sings a flurry of notes that pass like clouds on a windy Spring day. The interplay between each member of the band makes for an incredible aural experience, and each person is clearly tuned in to every other person in the band.
Perhaps some light is shed on the particularly tight musical partnership this evening as Lesh sings, My best friend, my drummer, won't even tell me what it was that I dropped, during Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues. After all, it was his birthday as Garcia reminds us with a few strains of Happy Birthday towards the end of the song. You never know when those Pranksters will appear!
Cassidy is short, but powerful raging through the solo excursions and covering quite a bit of musical territory in the process. The set concludes with a typically rousing rendition of Don't Ease Me In.
Another Happy Birthday interlude leads into China Cat Sunflower. to start the second set. The notes collide sending a cosmic burst of "comic book colors" across the audience. The jam weaves and turns over familiar ground, raging in intensity then dropping down a notch for a beautiful jam into I Know You Rider, which also rings with vibrant energy.
Samson and Delilah is furious but gives way to a mellow, melodious Terrapin Station. Given the cause that this collection represents, it's only fitting that this should be such a monumental rendition. From Garcia's towering solos to Lesh's own sublime bass excursions to the subtle rhythmic fills from Weir and Mydland, this version of Terrapin Station soars with the best. It's truly transportational. The song transcends both time and space as the music plays the band. The final jam out of Terrapin repeats like a mantra, as the band becomes a singular, giant sonic beast. The theme gradually mutates and changes — each cycle crashing like a giant wave, folding upon itself, pulling back, and crashing again. Each thunderous explosion seems to dissipate the storm, until all that is left is the aptly titled Mock Turtle Jam — a sweet, thematic, extension of the song led by Garcia's midi-guitar.
Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart gradually begin to influence the theme as the jam increases in speed and intensity and flirts with both Eyes of the World and Mind Left Body transitions. Before either of these songs can fully form, the band turns things over to the drummers for their segment of the concert.
After Drums and Space, the set continues with a tender rendition of I Will Take You Home and a commanding and inspirational Wharf Rat, featuring an emotional vocal performance from Garcia. Weir draws the set to a rousing conclusion with an outstanding pairing of the anthems Throwing Stones and Not Fade Away. The icing on the cake is a wonderful cover of The Beatles' Revolution, which made its first appearance at a Grateful Dead concert since 1985.
As with most things in world of the Grateful Dead,
it's hard to say where this latest path will lead. But
it's a new and exciting path that is "dizzyin'
with possibilities" that will change and mutate
much as their music has done over the years. Whatever
the final form of Terrapin Station is, it's sure to be a
high-quality production. It's up to the community to support
this project and give something back to the band
that has given us so much.
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 1998 The Music Box