A groovy Stranger kicks off the show before one of the highlights of the first half, a sweet Friend of the Devil. On the FOTD, Brent adds some delicious backup vocals and zesty licks on top of Jerry’s already tasty delivery. A song later, we get a nice Ramble on Rose before a solid Brother Esau. The short - and a little tepid - first set ends on a high note with a scorching Deal.
While the band is tuning up for the second set, Bobby suggests to the crowd that, on their way out, they might want to stop by the booth to oppose reopening Three Mile Island. Or, he deadpans, “you also might want a radioactive volcano here, whatever.” From there, the troubles of the world are set aside, and the band launches into their fifth-ever Hell In a Bucket. But the set - and the entire show - really takes off with the China>Rider that comes out next. The China Cat is euphoric as Jerry lights off on some bright, airy runs with Bobby adding depth and shading. The boys shoot through the transition into Rider bringing all the energy of the China Cat and then some. A juicy PITB follows filled with some thoughtful, inventive jamming, building to a frenetic section before rolling into a discordant and eerie spacey section to set up the rhythm devils. Billy and Mickey then take the reins and pound their way off into ever deeper realms. As the boys come back on stage, they head into a Spanish Jam that, with its ectopic otherworldliness, might as well have started out on Mars. By the end, though, Jerry is absolutely soaring while Bobby and the drummers have brought things back to the Iberian Peninsula. Then a pregnant pause resets everything, and the band launches into a powerful Miracle. The high-octane version segues onto more somber ground with a heart-wrenching, but dazzling Stella. From there, the boys head off down the dusty track with GDTRFB, regaining all the energy of Miracle and taking that into NFA to see the set out. Finally, a luscious Brokedown encore caps the night.
The evening’s show took place on City Island, a one-mile long stretch of land in the middle of the Susquehanna River. More than a few heads recall walking across the metal bridge, looking down into the roiling river below while tripping balls, setting the stage for the rest of the day’s festivities. As anyone alive at the time surely remembers, a nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island, outside of Harrisburg, suffered a partial meltdown in March of 1979. For a few tense hours, officials feared that a massive radiation leak endangering people throughout the Mid-Atlantic might occur. Fortunately, that did not come to pass and, by 1982, the corporation that owned the plant as pushing to reopen the second reactor at the plant, which had not been affected by the meltdown. Despite overwhelming opposition from locals - and Bobby’s plea - the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission granted the license, and the plant operated through 2019.