Phil Bianchi, who died on July 14 at the age of 51, helped make Sancho’s Broken Arrow, the bar he opened with his two brothers in 2000, a Cheers for Deadheads. He would give customers nicknames and make sure they knew they were welcome there.
“He was the educator of the Dead and the questioner of the Dead,” his brother Jay says. “Someone would come in and he would interview them as customers, like start talking to them and get to know what they were about and what songs they liked and all that stuff.
“He would test people, make sure they’re not faking it. They’re not telling us that they saw ‘St. Stephen’ in 1990 when the last one was ’83. It was the no-bullshitters club. Like, ‘Okay, tell me your story.’ And he’d get to know people and know their stories. Basically, Sancho’s is a place where a lot of the black sheep of society congregate. He made those black sheep feel welcome and embraced and feel the love of the Dead.”
For the brothers, that love of the Dead dated back to 1985, when Phil and Jay saw the band at Red Rocks for the first time and heard the Dead cover Traffic’s “Dear Mr. Fantasy.” The brothers also went to see the outfit at Red Rocks two years later when Bob Weir sang “Row Jimmy” and was making a rowing motion with his hands.
“It was like he was steering the whole thing,” Jay says. “We just looked at each other, and we were laughing, and we knew that was awesome, and we knew we were in concert together – our minds were in concert.”
Phil and Jay also attended a Dead show at Stanford University’s Frost Amphitheater in 1989, where Jay says the group played one of its longest shows of that year; Jay says that’s when their…
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