Twiddle at Terrapin Crossroads, by Joshua Huver

Twiddle (photo: Joshua Huver)

Following their opening set for ALO’s final Tour D’AMour stop at The Fillmore on Saturday February 25, the four piece jam band from Vermont known as Twiddle announced a very special, last-minute surprise show to take place the next day.

As if the announcement, a $10 headlining appearance at Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael, wasn’t big enough on its own, the cheap ticket was also supposed to allow attendees to bear witness to the proprietor of TXR, Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh, to sit in on a song as well.

While there is certainly no shortage of Lesh appearances any given week at TXR, it was significant to many in the ever-evolving world of improvisational heavy jam-band music, of which the Grateful Dead are credited for popularizing.

The truth behind the appearance, however, is much simpler than any symbolic passing of torch that many phans and twiddlers wish to ascribe to it. In April, Twiddle is touring their home Northeastern market and the Midwest and they’ve invited Midnight North to open the tour. Midnight North is fronted by Grahame Lesh and its members frequent the Sunday evening Terrapin Family Band / All Star Band / whatever their vibe is on that Sunday.

Terrapin Family Band at Terrapin Crossroads, by Joshua Huver

With Twiddle in town already, Grahame invited the band to Terrapin’s Sunday show simply because he is a big fan and excited to share the bill with them in a few months – a familial and welcoming gesture that is often associated with the open, free spirited and inviting nature of the Dead. Although Phil was onboard to sit in,it was announced only hours before the show that he in fact would not be able to attend due to travel complications.

But the show must go on, and it was nonetheless an incredible night with two talented groups of musicians with a handful of unexpected guests that made their way to the stage.

Opening the show was a rendition of the Terrapin Family Band featuring Grahame Lesh, Connor Croon and Alex Jordan of Midnight North with Dan “Lebo” Lebowitz of ALO.

Terrapin Family Band at Terrapin Crossroads, by Joshua Huver

For just over an hour on Sunday evening, TXR was treated to a strong, jam-heavy selection of Dead staples – both original and their wheelhouse of covers, like “Everyday” or The Band’s “Ophelia”. Following a ripping guitar back-and-forth between Lesh and Lebo, the mood ground to a halt for a slow take on The Beatles’ “I Feel Fine” halfway through the set. Lebo sat down for some lap steel slide action near the end of the set, but stood back up for the set closing “Tennessee Jed”.

By 9:30, Twiddle had taken the stage. The four piece band consists of drummer Brook Jordan, bassist Zdenek Gubb, ivory tickler Ryan Dempsey dual-wielding multiple keys and lead singer and guitarist Mihali Savoulidis.

They opened their eight song set with “Earth Mama” for its 100th play ever according to fan-powered statistics site The next two songs, “Syncopated Healing” and “From Dusk Til Dawn” each appear on the band’s latest disc, PLUMP, released in December of 2015.

Lebo joined the action on stage during “Dusk Til Dawn” and remained on stage for the next two songs: “Every Soul” also off of PLUMP and “Latin Tang”, a song that was written by Billy  Comstock, the band’s former bassist who left the band to pursue music education. Todd Stoops, keyboard wizard for the Electric Beethoven also joined the stage for some out of this world organ flair on “Every Soul”. Check out the video below:

Following the legacy of his predecessor, current bassist Zdenek Gubb’s first original composition for the band titled “Doinkinbonk!!!” off of their 2011 release Somewhere On The Mountain came next. One of the band’s earliest compositions, “Subconcious Prelude”, from their 2007 debut Natural Evolution Of Consciousness followed.

To end the set, the band welcomed the younger Lesh onstage for a thrilling rendition of the Grateful Dead tune “Eyes Of The World”, with each verse being handled by a different member. Early in the song, Stoops snuck back onto the stage to join in wth his signature splashing organ tone. Check it out for yourself below:

After a few brief minutes for an encore break, the band, with Stoops in tow, paid homage to the connective and ethereal magic of the space and moved into “Hattie’s Jam” > “When It Rains It Pours”. Dedicated in memory of Hattibagen McRatt, an influential friend and mentor to Savoulidis and also the namesake of his daughter, the two songs are rarely played without each other.