Continuing his dedicated commitment to two bands, Midnight North and Terrapin Family Band, means Grahame Lesh is almost always prepping for or playing another show. In Midnight North, he is writing and performing many original songs, recently completing a winter’s run of dates in the Western U.S. supporting the Infamous Stringdusters. He’s home only briefly at the moment before a weekend of Terrapin Family Band shows in the Pacific Northwest. After that, Lesh will take the Family Band—house regulars at Terrapin Crossroads—for a trek back east for a pair of special performances including The Songs of Barlow event honoring the late Grateful Dead lyricist at Brooklyn Bowl this Thursday, February 7 followed by a club appearance at Garcia’s in the Capitol Theatre on Friday, February 8. Discussing his most recent spate of activity as well as the future of both live and recorded music, Lesh spoke just ahead of his trip with the Terrapin Family Band back to the friendly confines of New York City.
Explain the anatomy of The Songs of Barlow show at Brooklyn Bowl. How did this come about?
I was approached by Peter Shapiro and Brad Tucker. It was because we had done a Songs of Barlow show at Brooklyn Bowl a couple of years ago, when John was still alive, to benefit his medical bills and all of the various organizations he started: freedom of information; freedom of the press. All of the things he was known for other than being the lyricist for the Dead. It was awesome. Super fun. Same band for the most part. It was a really cool event. Now, coming up on a year after he passed, it’s cool to be a part of it again. We play all these songs all the time in the Family Band. To do a whole set of them is really special. So, we said yes, of course, immediately. Tell us when.
One of the names on the guest list caught my eye. Tell me about Jake Peavy. Most would know him only as a major league baseball player.
He’s a musician. He’s put on shows. He’s got a band that he played with in the offseason. When we’re in Alabama, we stop by. He’s got an awesome studio. We were there about a year ago with (Eric) Krasno and my folks for a benefit. We called him up and asked if he wanted to come to this and sing a couple of songs. It’s going to be great. As a pro ballplayer hopefully he’s going to bring a few people in. He’s really fun and a good musician.
I know he was a San Francisco Giants pitcher. Is that how you connected?
He somehow got in touch with Jim Irsay, the owner of the Indianapolis Colts, who owns Tiger, Jerry’s guitar. He was instrumental in bringing Tiger out to some shows at Terrapin, and at Red Rocks for Warren (Haynes) to play. That was in 2016. I kind of got to know him through that. He put on a big show in San Francisco at The Fillmore in 2016 that I believe was a benefit show for his Jake Peavy foundation. My dad, Jackie Greene, Cody and Luther Dickinson, Jeff Sipe and I- we all played. Elliot (Peck), from Midnight North, and I were like Jake’s backup singers. We became friends and, that season, kept in touch. He’s doing really cool things in Mobile.
What is about the New York City area and this music? You always seem to get great support.
I don’t know. Midnight North was out east in December and it was an awesome run. Our fanbase out east is similar, on an incredibly smaller scale, to the Dead’s, where we feel this energy. It’s different than the California energy. It’s the whole vibe around the fandom (there). It’s a place where people who like live music definitely are at. Those folks are everywhere, but there is an energy there for sure.
And you’ll also be doing a show at Garcia’s at the Capitol Theatre the next night?
It’s an awesome venue whether you are at the Cap or at Garcia’s. We can’t come to the New York City area and just play one show. So, it’ll be a second night to have some fun with whoever is around.
Midnight North just finished a tour in the west with the Infamous Stringdusters. How was that?
It was amazing. They’re the best band, the best people. Their whole crew is amazing, right down to the lighting, sound, and tour management. We’ve done one-off shows with them, but to do a tour with them and really get to hang out, see how they put on a show, how they go about their business was really cool and really inspiring for us. And, to jam with them. They are masters, all of them.
What are some specifics that were inspiring?
For us it was how the band carries themselves, how they act, how pro the whole organization is: we’ll sit-it and their amazing tour manager will have the lyrics printed out for us; the way they have their meeting every day to do their setlist. None of it is seat-of-their-pants. It’s all putting themselves in a position to put on a great show for everybody. That also extends to how they treated us as an opening band. They’re on-time. They’ve give us time to soundcheck. We know they’re the five best players at their particular instruments, but to see the nuts and bolts of how they put on a show was a cool experience on this particular run.