RatDog rocks St. Augustine

Archie (Andrew Edward Thomas Jr.) and Lily (Megan Wheeler) sing "How Could I Ever Know" from PSST!'s production of THE SECRET GARDEN.
Photo by Robert Richoux.

Rain seemed to be the theme at Sunday night’s RatDog performance in St. Augustine. A beautiful First Coast day turned into a pre-show downpour for about an hour. That didn’t dampen spirits in the parking lot one bit. The familiar vibe was in full force: vendors setting up shop, old friends reuniting and talking about previous shows on the current tour, and even older memories being relived. There was more than one, “The last time I saw Jerry…” heard. For those not familiar with RatDog fandom, that doesn’t mean that fans are only there trying to hang on to the essence of the Grateful Dead, as evidenced by the fan-designed bumper stickers for sale that said “Weir Still Here.” People love the music, sure, but they also love original Grateful Dead member Bob Weir. They love the music he’s created since the Grateful Dead days too, the music by other artists that they play, and the group dynamic created by Weir, guitarist Mark Karan, saxophonist Kenny Brooks, keyboardist Jeff Chimenti, drummer Jay Lane and bassist Robin Sylvester.
The rain theme seemed to have inspired the set list as well, but first moe. opened for the third in a three-night run of the two bands sharing the bill. Although moe. didn’t play ‘Plane Crash’ as fans were urging them to, they did do fan favorite ‘Nebraska’ in the middle of their performance and, appropriately enough, the tune ‘St. Augustine.’ Kenny Brooks came out near the end of moe.’s set to play really energetic sax with them on ‘Happy Hour Hero.’ The members of moe. seemed truly tuned-in to one another. The many moe.-only fans, as well as fans of both bands and even the dedicated RatDog fans, seemed to really enjoy their performance. One bespectacled, tie-dye-sporting gentleman said, upon emerging from the merchandise line after the show, “I even liked moe. so much I bought one of their CDs.”
Fans were fired up by the time RatDog was ready to go. They opened with a jam into ‘Playing in the Band,’ with Bob signaling frequent change-ups in his familiar, umpire-like way. They then did ‘Cold Rain and Snow,’ after which one fan echoed the feeling of the crowd, screaming, “That was hot!”
RatDog didn’t break out any songs during this show that they’d never done before, but St. Augustine did get a few treats. Almost half of the set list was songs they had not yet played in ’09. Although there is usually a mid-set acoustic section, one has to wonder if the earlier rain had anything to do with the choice of ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’ and ‘Looks Like Rain’ for that section. Near the end, moe. guitarist Chuck Garvey’s sit-in on ‘Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodleloo’ was very well received. You can find the entire set list at www.ratdog.org.
RatDog kept the energy high the whole night and closed with an appropriately energetic ‘Johnny B. Goode.’ Since RatDog shared the stage with moe., they did just one long set instead of their customary two-set show. They also didn’t do an encore, but not for lack of urging on the audience’s part.
St. Augustine was hot on Sunday night and so were moe. and RatDog. Larry, from Jupiter, Florida, had this to say about the show: “I’ve been on tour [following RatDog] since ’96, and I have to say I think that was the best [show] from start to finish … They came out of the box on fire.”
Fans of both bands lined up after the show, in what one onlooker called “the longest merchandise line I’ve ever seen at a show,” to purchase Weir Here CDs of that night’s RatDog performance and USB drives containing moe.’s performance. Reportedly, there was a stack of less than 20 RatDog CDs left and still several people in line. The unofficial, fan-based “green team,” that picks up the trash and recyclables in the lot after RatDog shows in order to reduce the band’s impact on venues they visit, were kindly told by event staff that they had it covered. Spirits remained high long after an excellent, satisfying show.
While RatDog heads to North Carolina next, moe. goes to South Carolina. Visit these links for complete tour and band details: