One of the several hundred things I didn’t manage to mention in my Grateful Dead feature this week was the role played by Neal Casal in Fare Thee Well, as composer of interval music which felt beamed in from the middle of a particularly serpentine jam at the Fillmore circa 1968.
Before witnessing the excellence of Trey Anastasio in action, Casal was my dark horse pick as Garcia sub for these shows, chiefly thanks to his work in the Chris Robinson Brotherhood – the one band I’ve encountered, these past few years, who seem to most effectively channel the possibilities presented by the Dead. A few weeks ago, I also came across this amazing set by Phil Lesh And Friends featuring Casal; a Fare Thee Well Pre-Compression warm-up, with a focus on the same heavy ’60s repertoire that dominated Night One in Santa Clara.
By some serendipitous karma, just as I was finishing my Dead piece, a new album prominently featuring Casal turned up at the office. “Pacific Surf Line” is by a band called Gospelbeach that features the Beachwood Sparks’ Brent Rademaker alongside Casal, and it’s a knowing but hugely enjoyable attempt to cut a vintage path between Topanga Canyon and Marin County.