The Grateful Dead always did know how to throw a New Years Eve bash, and this year two of the founding members did just that. Bob Weir and his band RatDog, and Phil Lesh and his friends joined forces and turned the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco into a big old party.

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After the death of Jerry Garcia, the Grateful Dead’s lead guitar player in 1995 ,the Grateful Dead officially stopped playing and touring as the Grateful Dead. Over the last 13 years, they have reformed in various ways, including touring under the name The Other Ones, and  more recently as The Dead. (The Dead will take to the road again in 09 for a Spring tour.) While the Grateful Dead no longer tour, Weir and Lesh have both been out playing in their own bands, Bob Weir & RatDog and Phil & Friends. Both these bands have developed their own following with new fans who are too young to ever has seen the Grateful Dead.

This made for a great two day concert experience, and a great party for everyone present.

The 12/30/2008 show started off with a set by the Jackie Greene band.

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The Jackie Greene band was followed by a set from Bob Weir and RatDog.

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The first surprise of the night followed the RatDog set when Bob Weir, was joined by Phil Lesh and drummer Jay lane for a short set while the stage was being set for the Phil & Friends set.

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Phil’s band then took the stage to close out the 12/30/08 show.

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The energy in the air for the New Years Eve show was like a physical presence outside the venue and the San Francisco City Hall was a great backdrop for the fans outside and an excellent opportunity to try out my first HDR attempt. 

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The 12/31/2008 started with the Jackie Greene band again. They delivered a great set of music, and with Jackie on guitar and harmonica the resemblance to a young Bob Dylan was uncanny.  

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After the Jackie Greene Band set, it was time for Phil & Friends to take the stage.

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After the Phil and Friends set ended, Phil was joined by Bob Weir and drummer John Molo for a short set while the stage was being set for Bob Weir & RatDog.

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Soon Bob and the band had the whole place jumping.

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RatDog left the stage at 11:20 to get ready to bring in the new year.

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Now over the years, the Grateful Dead have ushered in the new year in a lot of different ways and this year was to be no different. At 11:50pm, two groups of young woman started dancing on either side of the stage and with mere minutes left in 2008, a giant terrapin turtle was slowly lowered in front of the stage. The turtle was then slowly turned around so that the audience could see the countdown clock on it’s belly.

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As the countdown reached 1, balloons started to drop from the ceiling as the band started into the Grateful Dead classic Sugar Magnolia.

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The rest of the night, we were treated to set by a combination of both Bob Weir & RatDog and phil & Friends all playing together. 

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From a photography point of view, these shows were a challenge. I needed to ask myself the same questions over and over again. What is the best spot to take in the scene? Is it better to get a close up of the band, or the whole stage? What is the best spot to capture the ballon drop? What about the final band bow?

As you can see from the images, I spent a lot of time running between the photo pit and the balcony and soundboard. 

The full gallery from the 12/30/2008 show is HERE.

The full gallery from the 12/31/2008 show is HERE.

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Later this week I will cover the workflow needed to sort, edit the images from ten musical performances in two nights quickly enough to have the images ready for the web with 24 hrs. Selected images are now being used on www.rat-dog.com

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