“It just seems so normal to me: A few times a year, [my mom, brother and I] would go out on the road with them,” Lesh says. “At the time, it was what we did as a family.”
Now 28, Lesh is increasingly playing the Dead’s music with his father, while also gigging with his own band, the country-rock five-piece Midnight North.
Lesh’s parents, Phil and Jill, own and operate Terrapin Crossroads, a California music venue/restaurant that Grahame plays at most weeks: Midnight North has a gig in the bar almost every Sunday, and he plays in various configurations with his dad, including Communion, the band that played the Merriweather concert.
On Tuesday, Grahame returns to the D.C. area for a Midnight North show at Gypsy Sally’s, part of the group’s first East Coast tour. The band, which formed in 2012, is promoting its just-released second album, “Scarlet Skies,” a mix of country and rock songs that Lesh describes as “cosmic American music,” a term coined by Gram Parsons that could also describe the Dead.
“Scarlet Skies” is indebted to the Dead — the album was mixed by one of the Dead’s sound engineers — but it stands on its own. Sure, Lesh’s jazzy, clean guitar tone could be compared with Garcia’s, and many tracks leave room for improv, but the Dead never wrote a song quite like “Stayin’ Single, Drinkin’ Doubles.” Sung by co-vocalist Elliot Peck, the live staple is an exuberant, twangy anthem with a tinge of sadness that could pass for a Kacey Musgraves tune.
“Country music in a nutshell,” Lesh says of the track.
Phil doesn’t play on “Scarlet Skies,” but Grahame did co-write the poppy “Lucky One” with his brother, Brian Lesh. After all, music has always been a family affair for the Leshes, something you could say Grahame is eternally grateful for.
“Every time we’re at Terrapin and I get to play with my dad, it’s awesome,” Lesh says. “Obviously, he’s just my dad and I love him but he’s also Phil Lesh, one of the best bass players of all time. It’s all wonderful, basically, on all the different levels.”
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