Bob Weir - vocals, acoustic guitar; Guests: Rob Wasserman - upright bass on "Easy To Slip" & "Cassidy"; Stan Franks - lead acoustic guitar on "Cassidy"; Mickey Hart - percussion on "Cassidy"
For nearly four decades, the Seva health service organization has served people around the world who are struggling for health, cultural survival, and sustainable communities. A Sanskrit word meaning "selfless service," Seva was co-founded in 1978 by Dr. Larry Brilliant, Dr. Nicole Grasse, Ram Dass (former LSD pioneer Richard Alpert), and Hog Farmer and Woodstock icon Wavy Gravy (aka Hugh Romney), along with many dedicated individuals from the spiritual, music, and public health communities in and around Berkeley, California. Seva's fundraising efforts have been directly responsible for restoring eyesight to millions of people suffering from cataract blindness in India, Nepal, Tibet, Cambodia, Bangladesh, and throughout the African continent. Seva additionally has created programs to support agricultural and refugee relocation work in Guatemala and helps to combat health issues among Native Americans.
Wavy Gravy has been directly responsible for organizing benefit concert fundraisers in support of Seva's programs, and nobody has been more successful at mobilizing the musical communities than he. One of the most memorable benefits occurred in conjunction with Seva's 20th Anniversary in 1998, when David Crosby, Graham Nash, Jackson Browne, members of the Grateful Dead, Odetta, Iris DeMent, Dan Bern, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, Charlie Musselwhite, John Trudell, and various supporting musicians and friends took the stage of the intimate Berkeley Community Theater. Performing several hours of primarily acoustic music that featured plenty of extraordinary collaborations, this benefit, billed as Sing Out For Seva, would not only raise nearly $70,000 for medical aid in Third World countries, but also provide attendees with a musical experience not soon forgotten.
Bob Weir's contribution to the evening's festivities was no exception. After joining Ramblin' Jack Elliot for a duet on the Dead's classic "Friend Of The Devil" to conclude Jack's set (also available here at Wolfgang's), Weir begins his set by dipping way back in his repertoire. Initially performing solo acoustic, Weir kicks off his portion of the show with a rare performance of the blues-based "K.C. Moan," a song dating back to his pre-Grateful Dead jugband days with Jerry Garcia in Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions. One of many songs that they copped off of early 1960s Jim Kweskin & The Jug Band albums (but actually dating much further back to the Memphis Jug Band, who initially wrote it), this is an enjoyable glimpse into one of the root elements of the Grateful Dead's sound.
Following "K.C. Moan," Weir invites one of his main musical collaborators, Rob Wasserman, to the stage. Adding his distinctive upright bass stylings to the proceedings, Weir and Wasserman tackle "Easy To Slip," a song written by Little Feat front man Lowell George. Quite unlike the studio version recorded for Weir's Heaven Help the Fool album, this intimate acoustic take has a direct intensity that is far more interesting and provides Weir and Wasserman the space to stretch out a bit and improvise. Wasserman's upright bass work is typically outstanding here, and this extended performance receives a warm reception from the Berkeley audience.
For the set conclusion, Weir invites the extraordinary East-Bay guitarist Stan Franks and Mickey Hart to join him and Wasserman onstage. Franks had distinguished himself as a diversely talented guitarist, performing with the likes of jazz trumpeter Don Cherry and rapper Tupac Shakur and initially came to Weir's attention through his work in the extraordinary David Murray Octet. Franks would become a key element in the post-Grateful Dead Other Ones configuration, but this performance allows listeners the rare opportunity to hear him on acoustic. Performing one of Weir's most beloved songs, "Cassidy," this is a sizzling take that has Weir and Hart providing a rhythmic base that allows Franks and Wasserman to take full flight.