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Hot Buttered Rum’s Aaron Redner: 10 Reasons Why Trey Anastasio is the Perfect Choice for “Fare Thee Well”

January 21, 2015

Aaron Redner plays fiddle, mandolin and sings in Hot Buttered Rum. Here he offers his thoughts on Trey Anastasio's participation in “Fare Thee Well: Celebrating 50 Years of Grateful Dead," in which the guitarist will join Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, and Bob Weir along with Jeff Chimenti and Bruce Hornsby at Chicago’s Soldier Field on July 3-5.

I will start by confessing I have a Grateful Dead tattoo on my back and have seen over 50 shows. I have also been to over 15 Phish shows over the years. Both bands' music have left an indelible mark on me and the recent news of the throwdown at Soldier Field in Chicago has me as excited as the next guy. Along with this announcement is the revealing of who will take the not-so-easy-to-fill shoes of Mr. Garcia.

Trey Anastasio.

We all read it and in our own way had a brief gasp that combined being surprised, recognizing the magnitude of the choice, instantly imagining what it will look like having these musicians on stage together, and (love him or hate him) a sense of a logical, inevitable, public mantle pass in an incredibly vulnerable and well-conceived way all the way from the casual fan to the fanatic to the music promoters themselves.

The following is a list of 10 reasons why Trey Anastasio is the perfect choice for playing guitar in the final Grateful Dead shows.

1. The wow factor... Admit it, the word wow came to your lips when you heard this. It is a bold stroke to bring on Mr. Anastasio but it had to have come from the band members naming the person who they think will most be able to take it to the hole and help lift them to the powerful heights that will be needed to satiate the fans in the audience who will come with both the highest and lowest expectations.

2. Respect. It exists all around. These shows are too sacred to only think like a publicist. Led Zeppelin recently played a show together and had Bonham's son play drums. He killed it. The show was amazing musically even if you didn't know the relation. Trey will approach these gigs with the utmost respect and we all have to respect the kind of pressure he will be under to make these shows as magical as we are imagining. I know he will learn the trademark licks and make them his own at the same time. Think the instrumental arpeggios in "Slipknot." He will rip it to shreds and we will be thrilled.

3. The "Feels like a Stranger" opener...Let's get on with the show....crowd goes ballistic and the last jam will give Trey the perfect opportunity to leave a crater in the stadium immediately.

4. The "Possum" they play with Phil singing lead. Easy tune for the Dead guys to learn and Bobby will play some great rhythm guitar to give the tune a distinct Dead-Phish Pheel.

5. The a cappella "We Bid You Goodnight" around a microphone to close the last show with arms around each other will be quite a picture. Rock photographers will abound.

6. Trey being his playful self in "Sugar Magnolia" will make that song hit hard...especially the B major jam at the end. Epic.

7. Phans. I imagine everyone will attend with the only intention being to have an unforgettable time. I see lots of cross-jambandlandia hugs and phorgiveness for not really giving Phish a chance. Old-timers prepare to be impressed by Trey's ability to flush out the dynamics of a song. Phish is one of the only other bands other than the Dead who really take things down to a pin drop and then back up to a roaring furnace. If you've ever doubted Trey's musicality than please call me after his solo in "Stella Blue" that will leave you in tears of nostalgia and hope.

8. Drums-Space. This will be worth sticking around for when Trey comes back onstage during "Space." I'm sure he's licking his chops at the prospect of leading the band through darkness and meaningful exploration and into the lightning bolt lick that begins I Need A Miracle....

9. The Merch. All right punsters...rev up those witticisms!! Phranklin's Tower? Phriend of the Devil? You know they're coming...

10. When it comes down to it, there isn't another player on the scene with the instrumental mastery of Trey that spans genres and has such a deep well of heroes he has been able to study, integrate, and share the stage with; who has shown the ability to pull through some serious troubles with drugs and come out the other side more athletic and lucid than ever, something Deadheads can cheer for. His sense of humor will shine through the seriousness of the occasion and perhaps he'll get his fingers on the setlists and push them in a direction we can only dream of!

I, for one, am rooting for ya' Trey! As a fellow musician, I can appreciate the excitement at, "getting that call" and I'll bet you exchanged some hearty high-fives with your friends when it came through. Good luck and have fun singing "Scarlet Begonias"!!