Interlocking relationships knit together the three acts that shared the Blossom Music Center stage last night. Guitarist-vocalist Warren Haynes plays with headliner Phil Lesh and Friends. He also shares guitar duties in the Allman Brothers Band with Derrick Trucks, whose own Derrick Trucks Band opened the show.
There's a lot of shared musical DNA, too. All the bands have blues roots, vocals that rely more on emotion than polish, no-frills presentation and a propensity for expanding songs with instrumental jams.
The latter quality was most vividly demonstrated by bassist-vocalist Phil Lesh and his ensemble: Haynes, keyboardist-vocalist Rob Barraco, guitarist Jimmy Herring and drummer John Molo. It was more like they were expanding the jams by tossing in an occasional verse and chorus of a song.
Most of what they did had a frothy, aerated quality, similar in feel, not surprisingly, to Lesh's old band, the Grateful Dead, from whose repertoire much of the set was drawn. Just when it seemed they were going to bubble off into the ozone, they reanchored the set with a huge, rocking song like "Night of a Thousand Stars" from their new album, "There and Back Again."
That song featured Haynes on vocals, a welcome relief from Lesh's barely serviceable singing. But ultimately the set wasn't about the singing. It was about five top-notch musicians in search of a groove.
The Allman Brothers Band was the loudest, punchiest act on the bill. It kicked of its set with an organ riff from band co-founder Gregg Allman, a prominent part of the band's distinctive sound. The band's two drummers and percussionist provided a wall of rhythm that supported the soloing of Allman, Haynes and Trucks. Allman unleashed his mournful soul-rock vocals on such tunes as "Ain't Wastin' Time No More."
"Statesboro Blues," an Allmans staple, showed off the band's claim to fame: how it rocks up a stock blues riff into something that can bust through the roof.
The Derrick Trucks Band played a short, jammy, blues-rock set with a lighter feel than the Allmans' and showing some funk influences. Its female vocalist was underused, as most of the set was instrumental.