To: Scott Bernstein
Date: June 22, 1994
Dear 16-year-old version of myself,
While I [the current, 33-year-old edition of Scott Bernstein] should probably warn you about the mistakes you will make over the next 17 years, I’d rather focus on the positive – ’cause there’s plenty of it. More specifically, I want to tell you what went down yesterday and blow your mind.
First, some bad news: God Street Wine broke up in 1999. That’s right – enjoy the next few years while you have this band because they won’t be around forever. Now, the good news: after 11 years apart GSW will get back together for six shows and you’ll get to see them all. Not only that, but you got to see Lo, Aaron, Bevo, Tomo and Dan on a huge cruise ship with 10 of your friends and other music fans from around the country.
Remember that dream you had the other night, where God Street jammed out with Bob Weir? I knew you woke up and said that would never happen, but it did! Bob Weir, of the Grateful MFing Dead sat in with the boys for four songs at a small theater on this Jam Cruise thing I was telling you about. Sometimes dreams do come true, you just might have to wait 17 years.
Speaking of dreams coming true, I should probably mention that you’re a music writer aboard Jam Cruise 9 to cover the action and that you spent 45 minutes interviewing the whole band about how they got back together. You were in all your glory as the sun went down over the Caribbean behind GSW during your chat. There was a three-minute break in the action when y’all saw a few dolphins swimming besides the ship. Tough life, I know.
READ ON for more of this unique version of a GSW review…
Let’s get back to that God Street Wine on a boat show I was telling you about. You walked into the Teatro Carlo Felice on January 5, 2011 to find a small but zealous group of Winos. A fine gentleman named Cartelli saved you a spot directly in front of the band and it freaked you out a bit to be so close to these guys you interviewed, but you made it through.
[Photos by Adam Kaufman]
Princess Henrietta opened and the feisty fans up front went ballistic. The band vamped before the intro allowing Lo to banter about the conditions that led GSW to play on the boat. Henrietta smoked and was followed by a song you won’t really like for a while but will eventually come around on – R U 4 Real? I’ll let you know right now, you don’t have to worry about God Street becoming an MTV band like the Spin Doctors, so don’t waste any energy on those thoughts.
Sorry, back to last night’s show, Fortress of Solitude was a slow burn while Cheap Utah Blues still has the fire each time through. Diana had a nice little jam tacked onto the end during which time Bobby came out. Each of the band member’s faces had these goofy grins that they couldn’t hide no matter how much they tried. Weir came out for four songs, both leading and singing each of the tunes. A reggaefied Book of Rules was groovy as fuck thanks to Bevo’s organ fills and Tomo’s deep-in-the-pocket performance.
Once Bobby took the stage the crowd filled up substantially. A pretty version of Dark Hollow followed, which showed off the tight harmonies that were always a vital component of GSW’s sound. What a fine choice, if I must say so myself. Race Is On got the biggest reaction both from the crowd and yourself. Once Jerry died (oops, sorry, hate to break it to you this way), Bobby would sit in with bands all the time but he didn’t always seem into it. Last night, Mr. Weir sang from his soul and played with conviction, which was much appreciated by both the fans and the band members. Let’s not forget each of these guys were into the Dead and Tomo even went on tour at points, this was a shining moment for God Street Wine.
Dear Prudence was the final song of the sit-in and perhaps the best. Bob isn’t exactly know for his ability to hit high notes, but he nailed Prudence. Aaron’s solo was pretty badass and he even traded licks with Weir. After four songs and five handshakes Bobby went on his way as the Winos in the crowd shook their heads in disbelief.
As great as the stuff with Bobby was, it was the show’s next sequence that blew your mind. An intense Feel The Pressure segued into the reggae-tinged Driving West. Throughout those two tunes and the Mile By Mile, Epiphany and When She Go that followed, Lo and Aaron’s solos were absolute fire. Epiphany’s nautical references received big cheers from the 70 or so Winos still left in the theater at that point and last July’s trend of extremely limited flubs continued. I talked to a guy who had never seen the band before and knew nothing about GSW. He was flabbergasted when I explained the backstory and how little the guys had actually played and rehearsed together over the previous 11 years.
When Better Than You started, you took your one chance to freshen up and ran up the stairs to your room. The great part about this Jam Cruise thing – you were able to use the bathroom in your cabin and change into your pajamas in time to return before the end of Better That You. No disrespect to Aaron’s tune, but it doesn’t get much better than rocking out to God Street Wine at 3 in the morning wearing pajamas.
The last song sequence – Waiting For The Tide -> Hellfire -> If I Can Dream – was no joke either. Speaking of nautical references, Waiting For The Tide hit home as the tide rose around us. I knew there was only a few minutes left in the show and I wanted to burn all the energy I had left in my body so danced like a crazed hippie to Waiting For The Tide. Hellfire had a bit of a different arrangement and went into a synth-driven jam, probably the best bit of improv of the evening. And just like that it was 3:30AM and the venue staff turned on the lights as if to say, “don’t even think about an encore.” Since GSW gets another set tomorrow at 8PM on the Pool Deck, you didn’t mind.
So, 16-year-old Scott, I hope you enjoyed this tale of what your future-self was able to see. I don’t know how many parts of this story will blow your mind, but I hope it was nearly everything. Be sure to see as many Phish and God Street Wine shows as you can over the next 18 months as it will be a peak period for both of those acts. Alright, I’ve said enough, I don’t want to change your future, so go have fun and I’ll see you in 17 years.