As tall bearded men try to covertly puff from hidden devices, a band rings the opening notes of its second set of the night. A singer steps up to the mic and is almost overpowered by the crowd singing along with every word. I start dancing, joining in the communal joy before the song starts to dissolve. Eventually, as we all know it will, the music gives.
The drums drop out entirely and the lead guitarist explores chromatic figures that veer in and out of tonality. Strangeness and familiarity blur—the structure remains recognizable, but the details, the texture and lead guitar motifs, seem to emerge out of the present moment. Everyone bearing witness is blissfully lost, some with eyes closed in a private state of euphoria, others responding with primal spins and waving limbs.
It’s a scene that fans have come to expect when they go see the Grateful Dead’s music played live—but tonight, at a small bar in Brooklyn, it’s in newer hands as the locals in High Time play these decades-old songs for a ravenous audience. They are one of a large number of groups opening a new chapter in the evangelism of these sounds, this way of being. The music they play is inherently a relic of the past, but these artists are doing what they can to keep this spirit alive, approaching the songbook in their own uniquely creative way and birthing a new folk form in the process. MORE