Warren Haynes Channels Jerry Garcia, Wity Symphony

Guitarist revives his Jerry Garcia Symphonic Celebration
Warren Haynes performs at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in August 2016.

In January 2016, Warren Haynes announced a revival of his Jerry Garcia Symphonic Celebration, where he and a band comprising drummer Jeff Sipe, bassist Lincoln Schleifer, and backup singers Jasmine Muhammad and Jacklyn LaBranch would do a one-week tour playing songs Jerry Garcia wrote and performed with The Grateful Dead. And they would be backed by the local symphony.

About one week before the show at Colorado’s famed Red Rocks Amphitheatre, the news broke that for that show, which took place on Garcia’s birthday, Haynes would be wielding Tiger, the guitar custom built for Garcia by luthier Doug Irwin.

Tiger, so named for the beautiful tiger inlay at the bridge, was the guitar Garcia played the most during his career in the Dead, and was the last guitar he played live. His regular guitar in 1995 was in the shop, and then his Rosebud guitar suffered technical difficulties, leading Garcia to play Tiger on the encore at Soldier Field in Chicago on July 9, 1995, the last show before his death.

Tiger was bought by Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay at auction in 2002 for close to $1 million (including commission), and hadn’t been played in public since Garcia. Irsay loaned the guitar to Haynes for the Red Rocks show. Haynes also used it a week later in New York City at Central Park SummerStage.

The sound crew for the show at Red Rocks also went old school with analog consoles. “At Red Rocks I had a [ATI] Paragon 4, and Slim [FOH engineer] was mixing on a Gamble EX56. The Colorado Symphony was fed through a DiGiCo SD7,” says monitor engineer Graham Mellor, who started working with Haynes’ Gov’t Mule in 2013. Bruce “Slim” Judd has been with Mule since 1989, and also worked with Haynes in the Allman Brothers Band before that.

“Dowlen Sound [DSI Event Group] provided the consoles and P.A. for the show,” adds Mellor. “It was really great to get back to our roots on analog for the evening, and there is nothing like the sound of strings and low brass through a good analog preamp like those on the Paragon. Those consoles have a comp built on every channel strip, so there was no outboard on the monitor end at all, except for the graphics. It was a pleasure mixing on it.”

The P.A. comprised Outline GTOs for the main hang, Outline Butterfly for the downfill, and proprietary wedges ported for high altitude, 15-inch speakers with a 2-inch horn bi-amped on B&C components.

“They use a proprietary subwoofer, which we had nine per side in a cardioid setup,” says Mellor. “At 6,400 feet, it’s hard to move a lot of air, so their subs are designed and built for use in low pressure. Some of the best-sounding low end I’ve heard at over a mile high!”

Mellor got stems from the orchestra console (high strings, low strings, high brass, low brass, woods, percussion, piano, harp) for his monitor mixing. “It’s a game of cat and mouse trying to find which microphones are too loud/soft and building a mix with the orchestra engineer every day is time-consuming, but fun. When it’s finally dialed in, it’s an amazing sonic experience.”

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