Wed, 09/08/2010 - 4:12 pm

Dear Dead Heads:

In 1980, the Grateful Dead needed a director to shoot the planned multi-city broadcast of their Halloween show from Radio City Music Hall.   They brought a guy named Len Dell’Amico out to San Francisco for an interview, and he managed to navigate through one large Hell’s Angel and some fat, potent spliffs sufficiently well to persuade Jerry Garcia that he was the guy for the job.  The result was Dead Ahead, which went on to become a platinum home video.

A couple of years later, Garcia reached out to Dell’Amico to suggest that they do another video, which evolved into a second major success, both commercial and critical, So Far.

By then, 1988, it was clear that the band would be needing video reinforcement at their larger shows, and Len signed on as the band’s “video guy” into the early ‘90s.  His first major show was the band’s Madison Square Garden benefit for the Rainforest, and the experience left Len thinking about the environment for a good long while.

After finishing his work with the Dead, he went on to produce concert films and music videos for people like Sara Vaughan, Herbie Hancock, the Allman Brothers, Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt, Ray Charles, and Carlos Santana.

But like any filmmaker, what he really wanted to do was to make a story-type movie.  And now he has, a rough little beast of a story called Everything Must Go, which combines slacker comedy and a looming environmental disaster, one consequence of that 1988 benefit.

Everything Must Go is yet another weird installment in the ongoing saga of the Grateful Dead’s larger impact on America.  Watch it! …and tell folks about it.

For more information and to buy the DVD, go to

Tue, 10/19/2010 - 9:20 pm

Dear Dead Heads:

In 1964, Jerry Garcia and his buddy Sandy Rothman packed up a tape recorder and took off for the American South on a bluegrass pilgrimage. One of the groups they most wanted to see was “Jim and Jesse” (McReynolds), of Dothan, Alabama. They saw them, and they had a ball.

Jim and Jesse went on to legendary status in the bluegrass world with more than 45 years at the Grand Ol’ Opry, Grammys, and membership in any Hall of Fame that means anything to this music.

And the world spins round, and now Jesse (alas, Jim is no longer with us) has completed the circle with Jerry by recording a tribute to the Grateful Dead’s music, Songs of the Grateful Dead – A Tribute to Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter. Superbly assisted by David Nelson, Stu Allen, and some incredible Nashville players, he’s cut 12 classic Dead songs, from Black Muddy River and Ripple to Franklin’s Tower and Standing on the Moon. And to top it off, there’s a brand-new McReynolds-Hunter tune called Day by Day.

It’s wonderful stuff. Jesse sounds like a Southern version of Jerry if he’d lived so long, and sings these songs like the master he is. His mandolin playing is fabulous, and the other players and singers are just right.

This is going to knock your socks off. Listen and you’ll agree.

Very best,

Dennis McNally

For more info, go to: or

Tue, 10/09/2012 - 9:47 am

Concord Records is going to have a contest – or more precisely a drawing – and give away a total of six box sets.  To enter, all you have to do is send in your name and mailing address to You’ll have from now to November 12th to enter, with five winners being picked and announced on November 13th.  As a bonus, we’ll have an early winner chosen and announced on Halloween – it’s an official Dead Head holiday.  Your reward, even before any of the box sets get given out, will be a free download of Jerry & Merl’s “Keeper,” one of the highlights of these shows.Keystone Companions/The Complete 1973 Fantasy Recordings, recorded live on July 10 and 11, 1973 at the Keystone club in Berkeley, California, beautifully captures the magical musical friendship of keyboardist Merl Saunders and guitarist Jerry Garcia. The Fantasy Records lavish four-disc set, scheduled for September 25, 2012 release on the heels of the 70th anniversary of Garcia’s birth, includes seven previously unreleased tracks, a special booklet featuring vintage photos; liner notes by Grateful Dead expert David Gans; and a poster, coaster, button, and “scratchbook” (replicating the design of the original album’s promotional matchbooks).The sterling band featured Saunders on keyboards; Garcia, guitar and vocals; John Kahn, bass; and Bill Vitt, drums. Virtuoso David Grisman added mandolin to Bob Dylan’s “Positively 4th Street.” The mix of songs ranged from Saunders originals to covers of songs by Jimmy Cliff, Junior Parker, Holland-Dozier-Holland, Rodgers & Hart, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Don Nix and Dan Penn and Dylan.San Francisco-born keyboardist Merl Saunders had been writing and performing in New York before returning to the West Coast.  Producer Nick Gravenites offered him studio work that included playing with guitarist Jerry Garcia, already at the helm of one of the world’s most popular rock bands, the Grateful Dead.  “Garcia reminded me of [jazz guitarist] Eric Gale,” Saunders recollected, “Anything he played was very musical. He knew how to do a rhythm on any kind of tune — gospel, blues, jazz. I was amazed.”Saunders also helped Garcia expand his harmonic knowledge and even showed him some Art Tatum runs. “He taught me music,” Garcia said of his friend.By December 1970, a weekly jam session featuring Saunders, Garcia, Kahn, and Vitt had become a weekly gig at San Francisco’s Matrix. Of course Garcia was already a major figure in the musical counterculture as lead guitarist for the Dead, so he kept this new band low-key — so much that it never really had a name (although it was referred to as The Group at times.) As Garcia said, “I couldn’t take the pressure of being a double celebrity. It’s a drag just being it once.” (That didn’t stop the itinerant Garcia from having a third band as well, Old and In the Way, with David Grisman, Peter Rowan, and Vassar Clements.)Live at Keystone, originally released as a double LP, was recorded by Grateful Dead associates Betty Cantor and Rex Jackson; all four artists are credited as producers. Additional material was released as Live at KeystoneVolumes 1 & 2 in 1988. Keystone Companions/The Complete 1973 Fantasy Recordings assembles the original recordings and presents them, remastered, in the order in which the songs were performed at those two shows. The repertoire spans blues, rockabilly, jazz, funk, Broadway, Motown, two Bob Dylan songs, and Jimmy Cliff’s immortal “The Harder They Come.” Some songs appear twice, providing the opportunity to hear how the band kept it loose and fresh. 

As Gans notes, “This music is as exciting and satisfying 40 years later as it was on the day it was made.”On the collection’s September 25 street date, Fantasy Records will also reissue, on multi-color double vinyl LP, the first Saunders/Garcia album Live at Keystone.

Mon, 11/19/2012 - 11:38 am

Steve Kimock, one of Americas most original and innovative guitarists will be performing with his band at Stage 48, New York’s newest concert venue.Performing with Kimock will be Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bernie Worrell, co-founding keyboardist of Parliament/Funkadelic (and a performer with Talking Heads), percussionist Wally Ingram (David Lindley, Sheryl Crow) and bassist Andy Hess (Gov't Mule) - a truly exceptional band.But then the evening will be kicked up a notch when some “very special guests” stop by to jam and raise money for “STAGE 2”, a fund raiser for victims of super storm Sandy.For one night only, in addition to regularly priced tickets, we will be selling tickets at special “STAGE 2” fundraising prices:Let’s Get Rid of the Blues - $50At this level you get a poster signed by Steve Kimock and the band.Let’s Rock Some Lives - $100This level gets you a signed poster and a picture with the band.Let’s Raise Some Roofs - $250And at this level you get the opportunity to sit in on the sound check , you receive a signed poster, and you get your picture taken with the band.Doors open at 6pm and the show starts at 7pm.STAGE 48 is located at 605 West 48th Street, New York, NY in the heart of Hell’s Kitchen.***Steve Kimock was originally scheduled to perform at Stage 48 December 8, 2012.  Due to a delay in the opening of the venue that date has been changed to February 23, 2013. People who purchased tickets can either get a refund or use the ticket for the new date.For additional information, go to

Mon, 01/21/2013 - 2:36 pm

Steve Kimock and his friends Bernie Worrell (Parliament/Funkadelic, Talking Heads), Wally Ingram (David Lindley, Sheryl Crow) and Andy Hess (Gov't Mule) will bop around the Northeast in February.

Mon, 09/29/2014 - 11:23 am

They’ll be fresh off DSO’s Fall Tour, but they can’t resist making music together, so Mattson/Barraco & Friends with Skip Vangelas is pleased to announce a holiday season 3-night run of stirring psychedelic electricity!

With collaborative jam discoveries developing over the last four years, guitarist Jeff Mattson (Dark Star Orchestra, Donna Jean Godchaux Band, Zen Tricksters) and long-time musical collaborator keyboardist Rob Barraco (Dark Star Orchestra, Phil Lesh & Friends, Zen Tricksters) will be joined by DSO bandmate bassist Skip Vangelas (Dark Star Orchestra, Border Legion) for a run of some of their favorite haunts.

The mini tour kicks off with a show at the new 89 North Music Venue in Patchogue, LI (12/11).  They’ll also make a stop at MexiCali Live (12/13) and wind up – fittingly – at Garcia’s at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY (12/17).

With Rob’s son Tom Barraco on drums, the quartet will showcase original music and an exploration of the classic songbooks that inspired them with a touch of Grateful Dead sprinkled in.


Jeff Mattson - Guitar

Rob Barraco - Keys

Skip Vangelas - Bass

Tom Barraco - Drums


Thursday, Dec. 11th, 7:30 PM:

 89 North Music Venue

 89 North Ocean Avenue

 Patchogue, NY 11772



Saturday, Dec. 13th, 9:00 PM:            

MexiCali Live

1409 Queen Anne Rd.

Teaneck, NJ 07666

 (201) 833-0011  


Wednesday, Dec. 17th, 9:00 PM:       

Garcia’s at the Capitol Theatre

149 Westchester Avenue

 Port Chester, NY 10573-4549

  1. 937-4126.


For more information:

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 8:52 am

Steve Kimock will host a special tribute show to Jerry Garcia in several Northeast cities featuring an all star cast of musicians from the Grateful Dead universe including Zero bassist Bobby Vega, Jerry Garcia’s drummer Bill Vitt, Furthur/RatDog keyboardist Jeff Chimenti, Dan Lebowitz of ALO on guitar, and Kimock’s own son on drums, John Morgan Kimock. The band will focus on the roots and R&B wing of Garcia’s vast repertoire.

When he first arrived in the Bay Area in the mid-‘70s, people thought he sounded a bit like Garcia.  Actually, Kimock hadn’t really listened to the man at that point.  He reflected, “I wasn’t trying to sound like Jerry, I was failing to sound like Roy Buchanan.”  So hearing Garcia’s own debt to Buchanan in the Keystone material suggested a special run to pay homage to Garcia and those that came before by playing the material of Garcia and Saunders (along with Kimock’s own catalog) – something Kimock is ordinarily quite careful to avoid. 

These venues may not offer the same funky, grungy ambience the Keystone bars offered, but the music will most certainly be up to standard and fill it with the spirit of Jerry Garcia.  

Tour Dates:

Wednesday, March 11thGypsy Sally’s, Washington, D.C.

Thursday, March 12thBaltimore Soundstage, Baltimore, MD

Friday, March 13thGramercy Theatre, New York, NY

Saturday, March 14thThe Met, Pawtucket, RI

Sunday, March 15thArdmore Music Hall, Ardmore, PA

Thu, 03/05/2015 - 10:30 am

The kitchen table that members of the Grateful Dead once gathered around to drink coffee and consider the day.  The desk from the band room at 5th and Lincoln.  Jerry Garcia’s last reading material.  The original oil paintings on which Rick Griffin based the 1990 tour poster.  Stanley “Mouse” Miller’s original “Golden Road” fan club poster.  The original lyrics, in Robert Hunter’s handwriting, of “He’s Gone.”

To paraphrase William Faulkner, “The past isn’t Dead (well, yes it is), it isn’t even past.”  If Dead Heads can send in many tens of thousands of responses and millions of dollars in money orders to attend the band’s “Fare Thee Well” concerts in Chicago July 3-5, God only knows what they’ll do to permanently own genuine, intimate fragments of the Dead’s own past.

On April 11 and 12, 2015, Donley Auction Services in Union, IL, will conduct a juried online-only (although there will be a few invited guests) auction of these remarkable objects and many, many more.

Further information is available at

But wait, there’s more:

Jerry Garcia’s personal William Morris chair (decorated with a Rolling Stone portrait of him).  Never-before-seen photographs from the three 1978 shows in Egypt.  Much more rare and remarkable Rick Griffin and “Mouse” Miller artwork.  The “Soto List,” the historical seed that led to the legendary Deadbase.

Fri, 04/03/2015 - 1:52 pm

There’s been a new development in the Grateful Dead Family Jubilee auction (

Mickey Hart has made two extremely generous donations – one’s an incredible gift basket of signed books and drumsticks and lots of other stuff that will be an add-on to the drum kit he gave to the son of a band employee many years ago that’s being auctioned

The second item is an artist’s proof of his painting “Beam Man.”

For both the gift basket and the painting, all proceeds (no auctioneer’s commission) will go to “Hidden Wings,” the autism charity Mickey’s partnered with.

Own something fabulous, give to charity.  What’s not to like?

Mon, 05/16/2016 - 5:00 pm

Philadelphia roots music leaders Mason Porter will kick off their summer with a brand new release on Friday, June 3rd.  Heart of the Mountains, their second EP in two years, showcases the band’s rapid growth and momentum. A fine companion to 2015’s Key to the Skyway, the band builds on the themes of traveling and adventure, this time with an emphasis on nature and personal discovery.

The title track “Heart of the Mountains” was inspired by the writings of John Muir, American naturalist and early advocate of US wilderness preservation. Mason Porter will be releasing the EP in conjunction with the National Park Service’s Centennial celebration and will be collaborating with the NPS on several events this year.

The EP was produced by Brian McTear at Philadelphia’s Miner Street Recordings. Musically, the EP is the band’s most far-reaching effort to date, truly taking the listener on a journey. The EP starts with the up-tempo rock-grass of the title track “Heart of the Mountains” and “See America.” The mood shifts to the easy-going folk of Tim Celfo’s “Box of Answers,” showcasing the band’s signature vocal harmonies. Next follows a powerful arrangement of the traditional ballad “Shenandoah” delivered by guitarist Paul Wilkinson. The scene morphs again with the surreal textures of Joe D’Amico’s “You and I.” The album concludes with “Yosemite,” an instrumental which highlights the musicianship of each band member, especially the drumming of Evan Smoker and beautiful textures of violinist Sarah Larsen, providing a sampling of the exploratory ensemble-based improvisation that has become a cornerstone of the band’s live performance. 

Heart of the Mountains marks the sixth release from Mason Porter and continues the arc of musical development begun in 2008, and has included Thunder in the Valley, Story of the Rifle, Home for the Harvest and last summer’s Key to the Skyway.  Each new record has brought the band new fans and critical acclaim, and with growing support from AAA, Folk and Jambands radio and press, has expanded their touring base nationally. 

That expansion continues this summer and fall with dates throughout the Northeast, including a partnership with the National Park Service to celebrate their Centennial in Philadelphia in August on Independence Mall in front of the Liberty Bell.  The band will wrap up their summer touring with their second annual Midnight Mountain Music Show music and camping festival in Blakeslee, PA September 16th and 17th.

Thu, 07/07/2016 - 12:17 pm

Established in 2015, Midnight Mountain Music Show is a music festival presented by the Philadelphia band Mason Porter. This year’s festival will take place at Peaceful Woodlands Family Campground in Blakeslee, PA on September 16th and 17th.

Taking the name from one of their songs, the festival will host a variety of American Roots acts from rock to folk, country, bluegrass and everything in between. The MMMS festival will also features a chili cook-off, kids’ activities, vendors and more.

In addition to 2 nights of the host band Mason Porter, first round artist’s announcements include Tom Hamilton's American Babies, Coal Town Rounders, The Wallace Brothers Band, No Good Sister, Chris Grunwald and the Slow Response, Ladybird, Valentina and Sunshine Superman and The Groove Merchants.

2016 Midnight Mountain Music Show
September 16th and 17th
Peaceful Woodlands Family Campground in Blakeslee, PA
Tickets and details:
Full weekend with camping starting at $65

Mason Porter
Tom Hamilton's American Babies
Coal Town Rounders
The Wallace Brothers Band
No Good Sister
Chris Grunwald and the Slow Response
Valentina and Sunshine Superman
The Groove Merchants

Sun, 11/20/2016 - 4:19 pm

Of all the many approaching Bay Area rock anniversaries, few can rival The Last Waltz of November 25, 1976.  Between the evening itself – the SF Opera’s set from La Traviata, the incredible range of guests, and The Band itself -- and Martin Scorsese’s epic film, it was simply one of the great music history moments ever.  This Thanksgiving will mark the 40th anniversary...

One classy way to celebrate will be the Rex Foundation’s concert with the Ramble Band (Amy Helm, Larry Campbell, Theresa Williams – once the late Levon Helms’ band) at the Fillmore Auditorium on December 3rd (well, Winterland’s long gone, after all).  What’s the Grateful Dead’s Rex Foundation got to do with The Band, you say?

Glad you asked.  The connections run deep.  Early in 1969, as the songwriting duo of Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia were on the cusp of the creative explosion that would result in Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty, Robert Hunter spent some very special quality time with The Band’s first album, Big Pink.  You can hear the influence.

And so over recent years there’s been a considerable cross-band friendship, with Amy, Larry, and Theresa taking part in the American Beauty Project, and then this spring, when the Rex Foundation gave Levon the Ralph Gleason award in honor not only of his playing but his long involvement in community-based musical events.   Now it’s time for the Dead Heads to make them welcome…it will be a special night.

Purchase tickets here!

Wed, 03/15/2017 - 11:34 am

Dave Hunter, a visionary poster designer who has created work for Metallica, the Neville Brothers and Dr. John, Les Claypool and many more, is a gifted artist who is currently fighting for his life with brain cancer.  Fortunately, he has many friends, among them Steve Kimock, for whom he has created considerable art. 

On Friday, May 12th, Steve Kimock & Friends, featuring Steve Kimock (Zero, the Other Ones) Jeff Chimenti (Dead & Co.), Bobby Vega (Zero, Sly and the Family Stone), John Morgan Kimock (Mike Gordon), and Leslie Mendelson (Bob Weir), plus very special guests, will take the stage on Dave’s behalf.

Opening for SK&F will be the band Disreputable Few, made up of Los Angeles area musicians who recently backed Bob Weir in several appearances at this year’s NAMM show.  Divine and illuminating visuals will be by artist Jonathan Singer.  The inestimable Wavy Gravy will serve as master of ceremonies. 

There will be a silent auction and a poster art show. 

We can’t get through life alone. “Art and Soul” will not only be a joyous celebration through elevated music, but a healing experience that not only Dave but all attending can share in. 

Thu, 03/30/2017 - 1:35 pm

Steve Kimock, the protean improvisational guitarist whom Jorma Kaukonen (Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna) recently tabbed “arguably one of the greatest guitarists alive,” is pleased to announce a new series of concerts in June that will celebrate the release of two singles (the complete album will be released in the fall).  This current phase of songwriting comes in the aftermath of his acoustic explorations in the album Last Danger of Frost.  In the wake of Frost, he and the members of the band that toured behind it found themselves creatively inspired, and new material has been crystallizing and recorded at Bob Weir’s TRI studios. 

The first single is “Sagan,” which includes the voice of the visionary astrophysicist himself.  It is written by Steve’s son, percussionist John Morgan Kimock.  “Variation,” co-written by Steve and Leslie Mendelson, will be the second single. 

Producer Dave Schools (Widespread Panic), said of “Sagan” that “It’s an exemplary and daring experiment that takes real musicians interacting, aided and abetted by modern day processes in electronic music.  It’s very 21st century, yet it never loses sight of five people sitting in a room in a circle interacting musically… which is very rare.”  “Variation,” he said, is “where Steve Kimock takes you around the world with his deft orchestration of pan global stringed instruments and Leslie Mendelson’s vocals take you places.  And again, it’s all done within the safety zone of five musicians in a circle playing music together.” 

KIMOCK will have the same personnel as toured behind Frost – Steve, John Morgan, Leslie (multi-instrumentalist), and Bobby Vega (bass). 

Expect beauty…and fireworks.

Kimock June 2017 Tour Dates:

6/1 Thurs.         Rams Head Onstage, Annapolis, MD

6/2 Fri.              Levitt Pavilion Steelstacks, Bethlehem, PA

6/3 Sat.             Outpost in the Burbs, Montclair, NJ

6/4 Sun.            Brighton Music Hall, Brighton, MA

6/8 Thurs.         YMCA Boulton Center for the Performing Arts, Bay Shore, NY

6/9 Fri.              Ardmore Music Hall, Ardmore, PA

6/10 Sat.           Club Helsinki, Hudson, NY

6/11 Sun.          Higher Ground, South Burlington, VT

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 11:51 am

This album is called 50 in celebration of the fifty years that have passed since “Country” Joe McDonald put out his first recording in 1965.  Since you may have noticed that it’s now 2017, you will not be surprised that there’s a story here.

Though his music comes from many places, Joe came out of a folk scene that generally recorded live – and pretty quickly.  So he was shooting for a 2015 release when he went into the studio with the legendary Tubes drummer Prairie Prince and his band (James DePrato, guitar and stringed instruments; Diana Mangano, vocals; Blair Hardman, bass).  Then the music took hold, and he began to see multiple new possibilities.  He returned to the studio.  About 27 times, actually.

Here we have a veteran (in both senses) musician taking stock of himself with a long career behind him – and taking a major new approach to his art.  The lyrics remain plain and direct, meditations on aging and loss, especially lost love, and the meaning of important things.  But they often come in surprisingly lush and lovely musical beds.  It adds up to a powerful package.  In a time in which communication is buried under surreal political distortions and a cyberworld that buries us in information that ultimately tells us little of value, here is sharp, considered wisdom.


“Round and Round” –- rather dark lyrics – “People come and people go we’re born and then we die” – set to an elegant, beautiful tune.

“I Don’t Think So” – Borderline bitter end-of-love song that’s downright energetic and danceable.   

“Poppa and Momma” – combines a ripping guitar lead and a rolling rhythm with Joe’s commitment to what’s important – “Serving and working and using my mind.”

“Sadness and Pain” - opens sounding like a Pink Floyd mini-symphony before going on to talk about “walking out the door.”

“Black Fish” – a folk song commentary on Orcas – with beautiful almost-flamenco style guitar picking. 

“Silent Rage” – snarling rock song that’s as punk-angry as the Sex Pistols ever were.

“Daughter of England” – classic McDonald political fury, wrapped in a big envelope of soaring voices and guitars…she’s “sitting on a weapon of war.”

“Compared to Florence” – the pain of inferiority…made even sharper by country steel guitar licks.

“Era of Guns” – a McDonald folk song movie of contemporary American life…in the era of guns.

“I’m Free” – a folk-rock declaration of autonomy.

“Where Did the Time Go” – a waltz looking back on a long life where once we were all young stars, with good advice: “cherish today, it’s all that we know.” 

“Seashore Symphony #2” – the joker in the deck, a collaboration with Bernie Krause.  An instrumental collage of natural seashore sounds with ethereal voices and guitars.

“Roseeann” – an a-capella lullabye and farewell.

You can hear “Black Fish” and “Where Did the Time Go?” at

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 5:07 pm

The Owsley Stanley Foundation is pleased to announce the release of Doc & Merle Watson: Never the Same Way Once – Live at the Boarding House – May 1974. “A legend recording a legend,” is how Doc Watson’s long-time bassist T. Michael Coleman describes these rare live recordings of the American bluegrass giant by counter-culture icon and concert sound pioneer Owsley Stanley (known as Bear to his family and friends).

They will be available in stores on June 23rd, but can be purchased now at

“Bear had tagged these shows as among the gems in his Sonic Journal archive, in both the quality of the performances and the quality of the sound, which is why we chose them as the first project to develop since his passing,” said Starfinder Stanley, Owsley’s son and President of the Owsley Stanley Foundation. Owsley, who died in Queensland, Australia in 2011, left an archive of over 1,300 recordings covering diverse artists and idioms. Known as Bear’s Sonic Journals, they served as working tools as he innovated his live music recording and sound production techniques, still widely used today.

This landmark recording is the first box set of Doc Watson live recordings to be released.  It captures previously unreleased material from a fertile period in Doc Watson’s career for which live recordings are rare.

The stellar performances were captured by Owsley’s renowned live recording techniques. The audio quality rivals that of his Old and In The Way album, which is still among the highest selling live bluegrass albums of all time; indeed, these shows were recorded at the same venue just eight months later.  These vivid tapes were restored and transferred to the most exacting audiophile standards, utilizing state-of-the-art Plangent Process techniques to remove subtle timing distortions created by the recording and playback devices.

The album debuted recently at the 30th anniversary of MerleFest, the premiere bluegrass festival, named after Merle Watson and hosted in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. It is available now exclusively at as a 7 CD box set covering four nights of shows, with 32 tracks available for digital download.  The box set features a 16-page booklet of liner notes including new work by Watson collaborators T. Michael Coleman and David Holt.  A broader release, as well as audiophile format vinyl and analog tape releases of single nights from the run will follow on June 23.

About The Owsley Stanley Foundation 

The Owsley Stanley Foundation is a 501c(3) dedicated to the preservation of “Bear’s Sonic Journals,” Owsley’s archive of more than 1,300 live concert soundboard recordings from the 1960s and 1970s, including recordings by Miles Davis, Johnny Cash, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Fleetwood Mac, Janis Joplin, and more than 80 other artists across nearly every musical idiom. All proceeds from the development of the recordings further the continuing charitable purpose of preserving Bear’s Sonic Journals and perpetuating Owsley's legacy.

To learn more, visit the Owsley Stanley Foundation at or on Facebook at or email us at

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 5:47 pm

There’s no better way to celebrate the release of new recorded music (Satellite City, produced by Dave Schools, will be out in October—more on that later) than to go play it.

We’re pleased to announce that KIMOCK will commemorate their album release with a November tour featuring Steve Kimock, guitar; John Morgan Kimock, drums; Leslie Mendelson, vocals, multi-instruments; Andy Hess, bass.  Initially assembled to perform the music of Steve’s acclaimed solo release Last Danger of Frost, KIMOCK has catalyzed an extraordinary burst of song-writing creativity that has yielded a new record, Satellite City.

It’s gorgeous music, weaving together Steve’s exquisite tone and inspired melodies, John Morgan’s superb time-keeping as well as inventive samples and ambience, Leslie Mendelson’s elegant voice, and Hess’s rock-solid bass.

This is going to be special.

11/1 Weds.              Daryl’s House, Pawling, NY

11/2 Thur.                Highline Ballroom, NYC

11/3 Fri.                   Swyer Theater, Albany

11/4 Sat.                  Flying Monkey, Plymouth, NH

11/5 Sun.                 Met Café, Providence, RI

11/6 & 7                  Off

11/8 Weds.              World Café, Philadelphia, PA

11/9 Thurs.              Kent Stage, Kent, OH

Pre-sales from will begin September 6th.  Public sales will begin September 12. 

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 8:23 am

Two years ago Steve Kimock spent a winter’s retreat in a barn with lots of acoustic guitars and an engineer making Last Danger of Frost.  To present this new music on tour, he created KIMOCK, with his son John Morgan Kimock on drums, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Leslie Mendelson, and old mate Bobby Vega on bass.  In the process they found themselves inspired to write lots more songs, which gives us Satellite City, which will be released October 27th

They went into Bob Weir’s TRI studios with producer Dave Schools of Widespread Panic and laid down nine tracks -- the title song, which sets Kimock’s splendid guitar against Leslie Mendelson’s beautiful voice in a mystical dream state, a lovely cover of “Waiting for a Miracle,” and seven more originals. 

“Satellite City,” the first single, will be available September 27th at iTunes, Amazon, and  You can hear it at   

They’ll hit the road to support the album on November 1st (see below).

Here’s the first response:

I first heard Leslie Mendelson doing "Satellite City" live with Steve Kimock last year, and I've been hoping for an album track ever since. I finally got my wish, and it's worth the wait. This is wonderful stuff.

Deborah Grabien, No Depression

Pre-order the album and receive the first song instantly:



A limited edition autographed vinyl and CD of the new release will be available directly from the band. Anyone who preorders in the Kimock Store will be automatically entered to win a chance to meet up with KIMOCK for an hour on the upcoming tour, plus 2 VIP tickets, and ultimate bundle. Pre-order now HERE:


11/1 Weds.              Daryl’s House, Pawling, NY

11/2 Thur.                Highline Ballroom, NYC

11/3 Fri.                   Swyer Theater at The Egg, Albany

11/4 Sat.                  Flying Monkey, Plymouth, NH

11/5 Sun.                 Met Café, Providence, RI

11/6 & 7                  Off

11/8 Weds.              World Café, Philadelphia, PA

11/9 Thurs.              Kent Stage, Kent, OH

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 11:40 am

Steve Kimock – aka “the guitar monk,” as Relix put it—needs little introduction; he’s been one of the top-flight psychedelic guitarists of his generation, a founder of the whole concept of jam bands.  He’s played with all the living members of the Grateful Dead, Jorma Kaukonen, the late co-founder of Parliament/Funkadelic, Bernie Worrell…you name it. On October 28th he’ll release a new album, Satellite City, produced by Dave Schools, and there’s no better way to celebrate such an event than to go play it.

After a November tour, Steve will return to the road for a special visit to Colorado in December, adding Jeff Chimenti on keys to the original lineup he organized to perform the music of his acclaimed solo release, Last Danger of Frost:  Steve on guitar; John Morgan Kimock, drums; Leslie Mendelson, vocals, multi-instruments; and Andy Hess, bass. That group catalyzed an extraordinary burst of song-writing creativity that has yielded Satellite City.  

It’s elegant, beautiful music, weaving together Steve’s exquisite tone and inspired melodies, John Morgan’s superb time-keeping as well as inventive samples and ambience, Leslie Mendelson’s lovely voice, and Hess’s rock-solid bass.  Now add the especially joyous chemistry between Steve and Jeff Chimenti’s splendidly inventive keyboard work, and you’ve got Steve Kimock and Friends.

In addition to the new Satellite City material, they’ll be playing the rocking dance-band groove that has characterized Steve’s work with Jeff for some years.  A splendid time is guaranteed for all.

December 15    Cervantes, Denver

December 16    Cervantes, Denver

Tue, 01/02/2018 - 4:01 pm

Skull and Roses is a celebration of community, a community generated by the music of the Grateful Dead.  Our music.

Somebody asked Uncle John what being a Dead Head was all about.  He smiled and said, “When you want to be fully alive, an individual but also tied at the heart within a rich, vibrant family, somebody who wants to have a lot of fun and probably dance, too – then you’re a Dead Head.”

Come on along or go alone, then find your way home to Skull and Roses at the Ventura County Fairgrounds April 6, 7, & 8, 2018.

Snuggled up to the blue Pacific Ocean in that funky bowl full of memories that many thousand Dead Heads can still feel, taste, and remember, there’s going to be a veritable Grateful Dead garden.

The music will run from Friday through Sunday, with various bands presenting a wide set of interpretations of Grateful Dead music.  The headliners —unique for such a situation—will play full shows on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings.  Performances will not overlap.


The Golden Gate Wingmen (John Kadlecik (Furthur, Dark Star Orchestra), Jeff Chimenti (RatDog, Dead & Co.), Reed Mathis (Tea Leaf Green, Billy and the Kids) Jay Lane (RatDog).

Stu Allen (Phil Lesh, JGB) and Mars Hotel.  (Veterans of Jerry Day in San Francisco)

Melvin Seals and JGB (15 years with the man himself).

Cubensis (Los Angeles’s own, legendary Dead interpreters with 4,000 shows under their belt.)

Also:  Moonalice (John Molo, Barry Sless, Pete Sears, Roger McNamee),  David Gans (the solo + electronica approach to the canon), Roosevelt Collier (a brilliant sacred steel player ripping up Dead music), Shred is Dead (Jerry Garcia meets Jimmy Page & such), Alligators (because a Dead festival without Pigpen would not be right), Grateful Bluegrass Boys (their form taken from Jerry’s own musical history), Shaky Feelin’ (young Jam Band approach to Dead music), Jerry’s Middle Finger (honoring the Jerry Garcia Band).

Tickets will be available in three phases: Early Bird: beginning today and running through January 29 -- $69 for a three day camping & music pass.  Outrageous Deal! – 50% off.  January 30 – February 26:  On Sale One: $83.97, 40% off.  On Sale Two:  February 27 to April 2: $97.97, 30% off.   At the Door:     $139.95.  There will also be one and two-day tickets in varying permutations.

RVs will be welcome, but there will be no RV power hookups – camping will be as it was with the Grateful Dead.

The “Shakedown Street” market will be represented in ways you never dreamed of – clothing, mind-body-spirit, artisan goods, and memorabilia will be available.  There will also be vending from cars and blankets in the campground.  The Food Court will feature many cuisines; we promise that your stomach and taste buds will be happy. Adult beverages, too.

The music of the Grateful Dead wasn’t just assorted songs – it became a full, detailed language, one that musicians can speak and Dead Heads can dance to.  It was so fertile that it generated an entire subculture, one that shows no signs of flagging.  The question before us is how the language will carry on into the next generation.  Skull and Roses will present the language largely in the day time, in the rhythm of the earth that is the bowl at Ventura.   

The spirit of the Grateful Dead doesn’t just endure; it thrives.  And in April it will blossom. 

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 6:18 am

As you may have noticed, Grateful Dead music has assumed a life of its own, and the joy it brings, the community it generates, is not only enduring, but also thriving.  And so Dead Heads can return to one of their favorite show sites ever, the Ventura County Fairgrounds, on April 6 through 8 this year to take part in Skull and Roses, a gathering to celebrate Dead-Head-edness and listen to the Golden Gate Wingmen (John Kadlecik, Jeff Chimenti, Jay Lane, Reed Mathis), Stu Allen and Mars Hotel, Melvin Seals and JGB, Moonalice, Cubensis, and a dozen other players of the Dead’s music, with flavors ranging from heavy metal (Shred is Dead) to Bluegrass (Grateful Bluegrass Boys) to Punk (Punk is Dead) and lots more.  The promoter is a Dead Head and gets it, and is really after community – prices are more than reasonable, and it’ll be a sweet scene.

Skull & Roses Festival

David Gans recently remarked that G.D. music was its own language, one that the musicians who play it can speak (and, I added, that Dead Heads can dance to).  So I’m talking here with three of the musicians who will perform at Skull and Roses.

Skull & Roses Festival | Ventura, CA | April 6-8

Since the key element in the event is enjoying our common heritage as Dead Heads, I thought I would talk to the musicians about their relationship to the Dead’s music, which has become its own genre.  There will be three more interviews next month about this time; we lead off with three classic Dead Head players:  John Kadlecik, Stu Allen, and Craig Marshall.

John Kadlecik co-founded Dark Star Orchestra, and went on to play in Furthur.

John K: I picked up the guitar around 1984.  I’d been studying violin for about five years.  I was kind of one of those weirdo kids who taught himself everything.  I taught myself how to read music when I was seven.  I took that into sight-singing music – I was in a family that was going to church every Sunday, which was boring as hell except it gave me a chance to learn sight-singing harmonies off the hymnals.  … it was a nightmare things that my step mother dragged us into, one of those evangelical things with a four hour service every Sunday.  …

John Kadlecik

When I was playing guitar, I dove into everything, and at that point, Led Zeppelin was the big draw.  As a kid, I was into the Beatles, which was really, sadly really unpopular in the ‘80s.  … The Grateful Dead were kind of around everywhere but I didn’t have anybody to turn me on to it until my first semester in college, at Harper College, a junior college in the Chicago suburbs.  I was a music major and dropped out as soon as I started getting gigs.

It was a drummer friend who turned me on to the Dead, who’d also turned me on to pot and LSD, who said, “You gotta listen deeper than “Casey Jones” and “Truckin’.”  He played Europe ’72 and Mars Hotel for me, and somewhere between “China Cat Sunflower” and “Unbroken Chain” I was hooked. I’d kind of been into this idea of new age music, but something that was a little dirtier—I liked the new age ideas, the new consciousness, really, but new age music isn’t really the same thing as new age philosophy.  I was looking for some new kind of rock and roll, and then I saw the Dead, and realized that they’d been doing it.

John K

I was looking for loose ends and unburned trails in music, and there they were …in my high school years I had been all through transcribing solos from dozens of guitarists, but I’d intuited that it was what was in the hands that makes the tone, as opposed to gear, ‘cause I couldn’t afford gear (laughter).

It was really seeing them live a year later in 1989 and realizing that ‘oh, this is what it’s about.’  The live show is what it’s about.  The songs are just snapshots for a keepsake for the year.  Everything was growing and had its own bleeding edge, every song had its own bleeding edge for the moment. 

John Kadlecik

But my first show where I got to see them was the spring of 1989 at Rosemont Horizon.  Went to the first and third shows and the middle show I was home going “What the hell am I doing here?”   

So I was going, “how do I integrate this into what I’m doing?”  I had a band called Uncle Buffalo’s Urban Mountain Review, which had a regular weekly house gig in downtown Chicago, a punk hippie acoustic trio, I played mandolin and violin in it, I didn’t even play guitar. Then there was Hairball Willy, and when it blew up, the opportunity to join a local long-running Grateful Dead tribute band, “Uncle John’s Band,” came my way, and I jumped on it. 

It was like my first full-time music gig.  But after a year, I was kind of disappointed.  They had dialed themselves into the North Shore Chicago yuppie scene so much that there wasn’t much I could do.  Hits, no long jams, no blues, no ballads…thirty songs a night in three one hour sets.  Half the band had only seen the band once, and they weren’t even sure if they liked the band, but it was a good gig.  A lot of guitarists playing Donald Fagen-type rock-jazz fusion stuff.  Really tight, but didn’t understand what I called the “getting lost and found jam.”  That’s what I called what the critics used to call noodling. 

One of the things I had done in Hairball Willie for kicks one time once was to cover a whole Grateful Dead second set and had a contest, getting people to figure out what set it was.  It sort of struck me then that it would be a fun framework for a Dead cover band, a way to keep the applause hounds and money grubbers from burying the core roots music, the blues and folk music, and the ballads and the psychedelic jam… a way to create our own postgraduate study program. And that was the birth of Dark Star Orchestra. 

John K | Wanee Festival

We’d get together on Tuesday nights every week, pick a set list, study what we could about it, and really the study approach wasn’t so much as find a show and try to transcribe it, as find three or four different versions of each song from the same year and figure out what hangs together about it. Really it was like, ‘what if they would take one of their shows and see what it would be like if they played the same set again the next day.’

To my mind Grateful Dead music is very intentional, they crafted a full-blown language like bluegrass or reggae, and yet somehow made it – managed to put it in a bigger box, while still incorporating elements of different idiomatic forms, like blues – “that’s definitely this thing, and here’s why.” 

John K | Gathering of the Vibes

There’s always been a thing of taking a song from a writer and doing it in their own style.  There’s also the other side of it, there’s people who – say do a Grateful Dead song in a bluegrass style, you know, is no different from doing a bluegrass song in a Grateful Dead style.  There’s an arranging character that happens with the Grateful Dead.  A lot of musicians play parts together – really that comes from big band – but the polyrhythmic thing, which is really what Dixieland was, is what I’m after.  I’ve heard David Crosby refer to the Grateful Dead as electronic Dixieland.

Improvisation is a huge territory, and almost everyone that plays any of the traditional forms –reggae, bluegrass, country, klezmer – or whatever are improvising.  That’s my frustration with the jam band label.  Beyonce’s band, when they play live, jam the fuck out of those tunes.  To me, “jamband” is the sanitization of psychedelic rock.  It’s just supposed to be music for the mind.

John K | Jerry Jam | Bath, NH

I try to explain to people I meet casually what the Grateful Dead is about – people who have no idea who they are.  And I say they’re kind of like the American Rolling Stones, if you need a pop culture metaphor to understand their significance. They were the emergence of rock music as an adult art form.  They were there at the beginning, transforming it from teenybopper music to a real American art form.  And they’re really woven into the tapestry of Americana.  There are hobos that still hop freights, and they might not know G.D. very much, but they do know “Ripple” and “Friend of the Devil.”  I followed the hippie movement underground into the Rainbow Family.  And in that scene, they refer to something called the heart song.  An individual expression thing, your personal ultimate expression song.  And to me, in many ways, the repertoire of the Grateful Dead, the body of songs is in many ways collectively the heart song of the American experience.

Dennis McNally: I first heard Stu Allen in 2005, at the “Comes a Time” Rex Benefit at the Greek Theatre that celebrated Jerry’s passing 10 years later.  I hadn’t heard JGB in a while, and was running around doing my job when I suddenly heard someone singing a Jerry song in a voice that sent chills up my spine.  I’ve been listening to Stu ever since.  He played with JGB for seven years, and now fronts Mars Hotel.

Stu Allen | Northwest String Summit

Stu Allen: I was born in Savannah, and raised in Louisville, Kentucky.  I was 15 when I picked up the guitar -- thanks to my parents for giving me my first one. I was inspired by the guitar-heavy music I listened to -- Hendrix, Clapton, Led Zeppelin.  I got lessons once a week at House of Guitars in Louisville. 

My first exposure to Grateful Dead was probably “Touch of Grey,” when I was in the 8th grade.  Since it was the ‘80s, it was the MTV age, so the song was inextricable from the video – I remember the video being very funny, they were the Grateful Dead and there they were as skeletons playing, and that was interesting.  And the song was good, but it didn’t fire off a spark just yet.

Stu Allen with Melvin, Greg Anton, and others in San Fran

And then the Dead came to Freedom Hall in Louisville in 1989.  The show was great, and what I remember talking about the next day was the keyboard player being – I didn’t know Brent’s name – “That keyboard player was on fire.  He was really electrifying” – but the mind blowing part of it for me was the Dead Heads.  Driving through the lot – “What is going on here?!?” – and then in the hall, I went out through the lobby to go to the bathroom and people are dancing all over the place, in the halls, and everything they were wearing – “Hang on, what is going on here?!?”   So that moved the ball forward a little bit…

(I recalled a Louisville show that engraved itself on my own memory because the quite-enormous parking lot for both Freedom Hall and the Stadium was hosting the Dead Heads, a Jehovah’s Witness encampment, and a motorcycle show, everyone getting along famously.)

That was later, in 1993, because in ’89 at my first show there was camping in the lot, and then right after that it was – right after that – it was no more, and so as a young Dead Head I felt kinda cheated out of that whole experience.  “We have to drive after the show now?  Come on!”  And I also remember coming to Freedom Hall in ’93 and seeing all these tents set up and I felt doubly cheated, because it was the biker rally.  They were allowed to camp, and I was “Hey, come on!” 

So after the first show, I didn’t see them for a couple of years, so it was about trading tapes, listening to them with friends and talking about the music, what makes one moment or another great.  And having your perception and about music evolve. 

Stu Allen | photo by Alan Sheckter

As a player, I was jamming with guys in the first year.  I was in a band or two in high school, nothing that we ever recorded, didn’t make any records or anything. Until college -- I went to St. Olaf College, in Northfield, Minnesota, south of Minneapolis -- I was in an acoustic group, Blue Man Jive, made a record, made a lot of great original music, and that lasted from ’91 to ’96.  At the same time, I was hanging out with the guys from the Big Wu, who were also out of St. Olaf. 

Moved up to Minneapolis, and one day the phone woke me up.  Frist there was this guy, a member of Blue Man Jive, “This is what I think I heard on the radio,” that Jerry was dead.  And I’m still waking up and trying to figure it out, get my bearings.  Then my friend, who I was listening to tapes with and going to shows with in high school, he says, “Just wanted to make sure you’d heard.”  That’s when I knew it for real.  

Stu Allen (right) with JGB Band

And that seemed like the time to start playing Grateful Dead music – there weren’t any more shows.  Someone else was putting a band together and saw a classified ad in a weekly, The City Pages, in Minneapolis, “Grateful Dead:  Forming cover band. Need all instruments but bass.”  We ended up calling it the Jones Gang, which we took from a show at Colgate College in 1977, where they had trouble with the monitors or something, and to fill in the time, the band started introducing themselves as the Jones Gang.  “On guitar, Jerry Jones.  On guitar, Bob Jones.”  One of them was Julius P. Jones” but I don’t remember who or why.  But the double meaning was that the band was now gone and we were all now jonesing for the music.

 I lived there until the end of 1998, and then went to Boston to go to Berklee College of Music, and was there for four years, until 2002, then out for a year.  And then a guy I’d played with a couple of times in Minnesota by the name of Jeff Cierniak who was in Melvin’s band, called me because Ron Penque was leaving the band.  He was the bass player who sang the tunes.  And Jeff was playing guitar, but didn’t sing.  So they’d lost really two guys, and they thought, “How are we going to find a bass player who sings this stuff?”  Melvin threw up his hands and was going to cancel the tour, as I understood it, and Jeff was “No no, we’ll come up with something.  I’ll call this guy I know from Minnesota, and I’ll switch to bass.”  So Jeff played bass on that tour.  And I filled in, and was with him for seven years.

Melvin with Gloria, Jacklyn, Pete, Oteil and Stu Allen | photo by Alan Sheckter

My first gig with Melvin was – he hired me sight unseen – so I met Melvin in the alley behind the bar at the first gig I did with him.  And that gig went great.  I hadn’t really concentrated on the JGB material, so I felt I was lucky that I had 12 shows to get up to speed.  By the end of it, I was on board. 

People ask me about the difference between Jerry’s playing with JGB and Grateful Dead, and it’s hard to answer.  It’s different music, and so you play something that works with that music.  There’s fewer players, and you might think there’s more freedom, but there’s also more space to fill.  Since there’s more players in the G.D., there’s more listening and responding – there’s more to interact with.  And Phil is playing off the beat, and Kahn is playing on the beat, so Garcia’s playing might emphasize the beat more with the G.D. and be more free to play off of it with Kahn. 

Stu Allen

Playing with Melvin was inspiring.  He can really lift the vibe, the energy of a tune, and then continue to escalate when you think you’re all out, and just keep bringing it up.  He can also bring it down to some beautiful places. 

Instead of wanting to do a radical re-interpretation of G.D. music, I kind of take it to the opposite – I like to do other music in the style of the Grateful Dead.  At our Tuesday nights at Terrapin, we’ll take other classic tunes and play them more like Grateful Dead style, find places to stretch out. 

Stu Allen (right) with Keller Williams' Grateful Gospel | Northwest String Summit

But the Grateful Dead ethos just seems to not only go on but get bigger.  I mean, how powerful was Fare Thee Well?  It was really something, being back in there after all those years, and you gotta think it was incredibly powerful for people who were never there and had been listening to the music for two decades and then they finally make it in to a show!  It gives me goose bumps to think what that must have been like.

Being a Dead Head has gone viral.

Dennis McNally: Craig Marshall is the lead guitarist for Cubensis, Los Angeles’s legendary Grateful Dead band—more than 4,000 shows, more than 25 years of playing.

Craig Marshall

Craig Marshall: I was born and grew up in Hawthorne, in South Bay, the Los Angeles area.  I couldn’t go to the Beach Boys’ alma mater, I had to go to Leuzinger High School in Lawndale, which was closer to my house. The guitar thing started when my folks were approached by a door-to-door salesman.  He was selling a piece-of-crap guitar and a 10-inch amplifier combo, and it included free lessons, for $400.  And they bought it for me, because they knew I wanted to learn guitar.  It was 1967, and I was a freshman in high school. 

The lessons that came with the guitar happened a block away on Hawthorne Boulevard, and I went to exactly two of them.  The instructor was an old hippie guy – he had long hair, some kind of hippie clothing, a tie-dye or something -- teaching the lessons, and he mentioned the Grateful Dead to me, saying “you gotta check these guys out.  You gotta go see these guys.”  When I went up for my third lesson, the old hippie was no longer there, so I said, ‘Well, I’ll see you later.” Never had a lesson since.  But he’d advised me to get the first album, their only one at that point.  Sure would like to thank that guy.

Craig Marshall

In those days, record players had a switch where you could drop things from the normal 33 rpm to 16 3/4 rpm…which effectively dropped the playback of the record one octave lower.  So I would sit there and listen to Garcia’s licks at half speed, and I would copy those licks, and then work on trying to bring them up to speed.  So I always have claimed that virtually, Jerry Garcia taught me how to play guitar, because that’s how I learned to play guitar – essentially self-taught by listening to Garcia on those albums at half speed. 

There was no way I could play “Beat It On Down the Line” the way Garcia did it, unless it was at half speed, or “Cold Rain and Snow” or something like that.  Eventually, I gained some facility – I was able to play, and that was my learning experience.  I never got into music theory or anything like that, but I can play just about anything I want to by ear, and I’m happy with that.  I would have loved to have been able to read sheet music, or know a bit more about theory, but so far, so good.

Craig Marshall

My first Dead show was November 11, 1967, at the Shrine Exposition Hall, here in L.A.  One of the reasons I went was not only for the Dead but that I was a big fan of Blue Cheer, and they were on the bill, along with Buffalo Springfield, believe it or not.  What a bill, when you think about it today. I can’t remember who headlined.  The poster read, “Amazing Electric Wonders.”

I went with high school friends, meaning we were high and we had a great time.  And that’s when I got on the bus.  I especially remember the light show – the Exposition Hall was a rectangular building with a balcony that went all the way around, and in one corner they had a strobe light.  And they had a three-way sound system – a stack on both outer sides and one in the middle.  And two stages, so one band would be setting up while the other was playing.  I remember not dancing much, maybe for reasons of inebriation.

Craig Marshall

I knew right away that the Dead resonated with me – I might have gone to the show a Blue Cheer fanatic, but I left a Deadhead.  I said, “I’ve got to explore this” – so I just wore that album out.  I went to the Newport Pop Festival the next year.  I came up close when the Dead was playing, and during “Feedback” they were all facing their amps and bringing their guitars right up to them, causing that wonderful howl that they did – I was enough of a guitar player to know that this was pretty crazy, creating feedback instead of avoiding it, for musical experimentation.  They also had this one beat that kept showing up in so many songs, great for dancing…and I remember thinking that I’d like to re-create this scene, but it would take me to 1987 to get to that place and form Cubensis.

I saw the Dead whenever they came to LA – once I saw them at The Bank in Torrance, which was really intimate, maybe 300 people.  It was just a warehouse, I think they built electronics there during the day, and then at night it turned into this concert place.  They had an amazing 360-degree light show that was projected from a platform hanging from the ceiling.  Eventually the police closed the place down, but they had some great shows there.  I saw Pink Floyd there as well. I remember going to Compton Terrace in Arizona and seeing them on some Indian land in those early days.  But I was a single father and had kids and a job, so I couldn’t go to many shows in San Francisco.  I remember a Chula Vista show that I loved.  I saw as many shows as I could, though. 

Craig Marshall

I graduated high school in 1970, went to El Camino College majoring in journalism, and then my girlfriend got pregnant and I had to get a job quick.  Found one at the post office during Christmas rush, and they told me if I showed up every day, and worked hard they’d keep me, and I turned out to have a thirty- year career there as a letter carrier, delivering mail house to house on foot.  The band was working, and sometimes I’d get to bed after playing a show at 2:30 and get up at 6:30am to work 10 or 12 hours.  It was a little taxing some times.

Before Cubensis, I had two bands, a Top 40 band called Widow, and also an acid rock band called Green Mourning.  We played around with not much success, but it was fun.  Eventually a group of us were not happy with the frequency with which the Grateful Dead made it to L.A.  I think the LAPD gave them a hard time too, which didn’t make them feel welcome.  So for our own amusement, we started a band consisting of a friend of my brother’s, my sister’s boyfriend, a kid who lived in front of the rhythm player, a skateboard kid with a mohawk who played bass.  We formed a six-piece Dead cover band, just for our own amusement, just getting high and playing music in somebody’s garage.  Soon folks started asking us to play parties, and we had a club gig or two, then a festival gig, and all of a sudden we were playing all over the place.  And we’re still doing the same thing today.  It’s just grown to bigger proportions, with a far bigger audience.

Craig Marshall

I was the lead player, but I don’t sing Jerry’s parts – I sound like a frog.  Other people were happy to take the singing parts.  Richard “Chester” Lawson was the rhythm player.  He was a Northrup employee.  Brian Lerman was the skateboard kid/bassist.  We had two drummers, one of which was Gene Aulicino, my high school buddy who I went through Boy Scouts with, and C. W. Causer, was the other drummer, who was my sister’s boyfriend.  And we had a fellow named Tim Greutert on keyboards.  And that was the first band. 

We did OK.  We called ourselves “Sugar Cubensis” (a takeoff on “Sugar Magnolia” and sugar cubes used for taking acid.  At some point, some people who were looking for Björk’s band the Sugarcubes were showing up at our shows and getting really pissed that we weren’t them, so we cut it to just Cubensis.  The name was C.W.’s idea – we were sitting around a fire on a camping trip and he came up with it.

For the Dead, losing keyboard players has been the curse, but for us, the drummer position has been the hot seat.  We’ve lost three drummers to cancer.  Gene first, and then C.W. last year, and also Steve Harris.

Craig Marshall

We got our first club gig up at Club Dead in the Valley, thanks to promoter Kenny Kulber, and then it just kept growing.  Our biggest gig so far was around 7,000 people at the Hermosa Beach summer concert series last year.  We once had about 3,000 people at a show at the Libby Bowl in Ojai with Vince Welnick appearing with us.

One of the things that attracted me to the Dead’s music was that there were no admission dues to be paid, you were automatically a member of the club just by your desire to be in the club.  There weren’t any qualifications – you didn’t have to look a certain way or think a certain way.  If you were kind, you were in.  As musicians who play Grateful Dead music, there’s just no better thing than to incite happiness in people, get them dancing and enjoying themselves and getting away from life’s troubles for a while. 

The Dead’s music is wonderful.  It’s varied, it’s got something for everybody.  As you well know, the Dead played country, rock, jazz, improvisational stuff…  and it’s almost like they left a little space in the middle of the songs for bands like us to do our improvisations. Like in the middle of “Eyes of the World,” there’s a perfect place to jam—they used it, we use it, DSO uses it. 

Craig Marshall

Let me tell you the story of the one time I met Garcia.  In 1990 we were going to see the Dead in Eugene, Oregon, and our flight stopped over at San Francisco International, and there he was in the gift shop.  My girlfriend went up and got an autograph and a hug…but I wasn’t going to bother him, because I figured everybody was always pestering him, but I knew I might not get another chance, so I went up and thanked him for all the good music. I said I was in a band called Cubensis and he nodded his acknowledgement of the name and what it meant.  Then I revealed that we played all Grateful Dead music and he laughed in mock surprise and said, “Oh, yeah? So do we!”

I went on to ask him about his guitar effects and he launched a long dissertation about how he set up his effects, much of which was lost on me because I kinda got stage fright at that point because I was talking to “the man”, my favorite guitar player, but hopefully I absorbed some of it on some level.  Anyway, I asked him how he felt about us playing his music and he said, “As long as you do a good job of it, go for it.”  And nobody could dissuade me from doing it after that, because I received his permission in a way that completely satisfies me.

Fri, 03/16/2018 - 10:48 am

Something really remarkable happened at the Fare Thee Well shows in 2015.  Instead of being a goodbye, it was a re-ignition, a passing of the torch in some ways.  Although Jerry was always quick to point out that it was Dead Heads who created themselves, the phenomenon of Dead Head-ism was focused on the band for the first 30 years.  And it was fairly fractured for the next twenty, with some liking some iterations, and others, not.  And the musicians aren’t done, whether it’s Dead & Co. or Phil and Bobby’s recent duo, or the future outings of Billy and Mickey.

But it’s fairly evident that the energy of Dead Heads, instead of dying away as, to be honest, I had sadly expected, is growing.  The locus is not the band but the music, which has become a stand-alone genre that is played coast-to-coast.  Which is the rationale for the Skull and Roses Festival, April 6 through 8, Ventura County Fairgrounds.  There will be musicians you know—Golden Gate Wingmen (John Kadlicek, Jeff Chimenti, Jay Lane, Reed Mathis), Stu Allen and Mars Hotel, Melvin Seals and JGB, Circles Around the Sun (Neal Casal, Adam MacDougall, Dan Horne, Mark Levy), Cubensis, David Gans—and those whom you likely have not—Roosevelt Collier, Punk is Dead, Shred is Dead, Stephen Inglis, Nine Mile Skid.

great lineup @ Skull and Roses

There’ll be drum circles and a tasty Shakedown Street and, what the hell, the Pacific Ocean thrown in.  The promoter is a Dead Head and has one agenda; to keep the scene thriving and growing.  Tickets are modestly priced, there’s camping in the parking lot the same way it was in the 1980s, and a seriously good time is on the horizon. Go to for tickets.

Marcus Rezak is the lead guitarist of Shred is Dead.  The band was so warmly received at the first Skull and Roses they were invited back.

I first picked up the guitar when I was ten years old, actually.  I found it in my mom’s closet.  I started playing and fell in love right away; there was just something about it, it got my interest going.  I was self-taught for the first few years, just listening to music and getting guitar magazines, stuff like that.  And I hung out with friends who played, which was a big inspiration.  Then I started getting lessons from a few great teachers.  Around the age of 14, I discovered a teacher who was really into the Dead and improvising by the name of Jon Gram5, that whole concept was new to me at that point, and he got me going in that world. 

Marcus Rezak | Denver, Colorado | photo by Melissa Bailey

In high school (Highland Park), I was into alternative rock, ‘60s rock, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, Rolling Stones, the Beatles – pretty much psychedelic rock bands.  And of course the Dead was something I was getting more and more into, too.  I got into the jazz band in high school, and that got my mind going in another direction.  In between classes, I’d be in the courtyard playing Dead songs on acoustic guitar, escaping the mundaneness of school.  I started reading music in the jazz band, but credit my advancement to my guitar teacher at the time, Aaron Weistrop.  I had double knee surgery when I was 17, and while recovering, I intensively self-taught myself music theory via books, and got into Berklee School of Music in Boston.  Spent four years there, had some amazing teachers, hung out with some incredible players, other students, and graduated in 2006 cum laude. 

I primarily studied jazz at Berklee, but I was also playing a lot of funk with people, jazz influence on top of rock, fusion, more avant-garde music styles rather than anything pop or mainstream.  I was just working hard to get myself better as a player.

Even before I graduated, I knew I wanted to be on the road performing.  My band ended up on a bill with another band that happened to be from Chicago, 56 Hope Road, and we hit it off, and they wanted me to join them as soon as I finished school.  So I had that lined up, and ended up playing like 150 shows a year like right off the bat.  They actually won some jam band “most shows in a year” award.  I really cut my teeth with them.  I got to take everything I’d learned and apply it on a nightly basis in a crowd setting.  The other musicians in the band really helped push me, especially the drummer, Greg Fundis, who I still play with today, different projects.  He’s in a huge Led Zeppelin tribute band, called Led Zeppelin II. 

After a couple of years touring, I decided to start my own group in Chicago with three other musicians, all of whom also went to Berklee.  We were called The Hue.  We were like an instrumental progressive rock jam group, kind of – we had a lot of influences from heavy metal to jazz to all kinds of stuff.  We did a bunch of stuff with Umphrey’s McGee, after shows, and they sat in with us, that was the kind of people we were looking up to back then, and the people I now play with.  We had two albums, Unscene and Beyond Words, and yeah, that group did some great music together from 2008 to 2012.

Marcus Rezak

Toward the end of that group, a band called Digital Tape Machine got started.  And that band was based out of Chicago with members of Umphrey’s McGee, primarily Joel Cummins on keyboards and Kris Myers on drums.  And we originally planned on it as a studio project, but the music was great and people were really interested, so we decided to take it out on a live basis. DTM played for about five years, consistently doing big festivals like Electric Forest, All Good, Summer Camp, Bear Creek, and more.  We recorded two albums, Be Here Now and Omens.  It was electronic-based, so it was performed as a band plus electronic production.  We played a lot of great shows together—you never know, we might play again.  But during that time, I also (laughter) went and did a master’s degree in jazz at DePaul University—luckily, they were really flexible about my schedule.  Had a great time there, Bob Lark and Bob Palmierei were particularly great teachers there. 

And that takes us up to pretty much the last couple of years, where I’ve been more doing my own projects.  I started a group with Arthur Barrow called Cosmic Playground—Arthur was Frank Zappa’s bassist for many years, he was on Joe’s Garage and You Can’t Do That On TV and Tinsel Town Rebellion and a bunch of others.  That’s been really fun, doing Frank Zappa shows with him and several other of the former members – Chad Wackerman on drums, and Robert Martin on keys and saxophone and vocals.  So I got to play the Frank Zappa role with those guys and had fun learning from them.  Arthur’s been very key in taking me under his wing and showing me how Frank taught him and how they worked together, and that’s been an invaluable experience.  Playing live between Arthur and Chad, I’ve felt like I was doing justice to Frank Zappa...

There’s been other side projects, but the main thing I’ve been focusing on, other than my debut album of original music coming out this year, is Shred is Dead.  My first exposure to the Dead was a hat with the Rosebud logo on it—I was like 13 at a summer camp—and I asked about it and the guy said it was from the Grateful Dead, “You never heard of the Grateful Dead,” and I said, “No.”  He had a bunch of tapes, so he turned me on to what they meant.  I got into it, and soon after I got pulled in by, I’m pretty sure, “Scarlet-Fire” from Cornell.  My uncle was a great Dead Head back in the day, and he used to play guitar for me when I was a little kid, I don’t even remember it, but I saw pictures.  So that was my first experience. 


And then all through high school, I listened to a lot of Dead, Howard Wales and Jerry Garcia, different stuff than just pure Dead.  I’ve always had that influence— playing free and open.  I wanted to get back to that, after playing a lot of really constructed music, really arranged.  And then Fare Thee Well came to Chicago, and the whole town was excited, the vibes were amazing.  And I had a vision of doing a pre-show for that whole weekend on Thursday night.  So I booked a show at the Emporium in Wicker Park, Chicago, and got a bunch of my musician friends to come down and play the show. 

It wasn’t called Shred is Dead but it was based around doing the Dead’s music in a progressive jazz, fusion-y and electronic at times way, different from the way anyone else was doing it, in a non-traditional way.  And it went really, really well.  Fareed Haque (Garage Mahal) was playing guitar also, Todd Stoops (Raq, Electric Beethoven), Steve Molitz who played with Phil & Friends, Greg Fundis was on drums, and Joel Cummins from Umphrey’s McGee came down too.  So it was a really great night, and the vibes were really high.  And it kinda got me thinking.  I really loved playing the music, and I wanted to do more of it.

I started thinking about how to make it happen—I started taking a look at the arrangements and the songs that I really loved, and started putting a band together.  The next ones after that were a few shows on the East Coast, I can’t remember what we were calling it, maybe Without a Net.  Reed Mathis was on some of those. 

Then I decided to make it an actual group, made arrangements and rehearsed people, and named it Shred is Dead, and the first show we did was at Skull and Roses last year.  We’ve done a bunch of shows since then.  We opened for Melvin Seals & JGB in L.A., and in a couple of places in Chicago, with Jay Lane in Denver, did one with Cubensis at the Lighthouse, and we have some more coming up in Denver at Be On Keys April 2 and 27.  Oregon.  And then Skull and Roses, where we’ll have the Grammy-winning Cuban percussionist Raul Pineda (a Chucho Valdés associate) performing with us.  And I’ve got plans for an album that’ll be Shred is Dead emulating the Dead in a way that’s different.  It’s been really fun to brainstorm on, see how to make the music different. 

Marcus Rezak

Ventura’s super-vibey to play in.  You know—palm trees and blue skies, it’s just a great place.  There’s a nostalgia factor, which I love. 

Marcus also shared some links:

Full Show -

Estimated Prophet ( Dub Style ) -

Row Jimmy-

Roger McNamee sings and plays rhythm guitar and bass in Moonalice.  He is an activist on the subject of the threats to democracy and public health in social media, a strong supporter of poster artists and the founder of the Haight Street Art Center.

I first became aware of the Grateful Dead I think in 1968, when I was about 12, when my older brothers – I had an older brother 12 years older, and one ten years older, both hugely into the Dead, and I really worshiped my brothers.  The Dead played the RPI Field House (I grew up in Albany) sometime in the late ‘60s, and my brothers went to the show.  One of them was out of college and had seen the Dead numerous times in New York City, the other one had seen them both in New York, and I think maybe New Haven.  But they played locally, and that’s when they came onto my radar.   

Roger McNamee | photo by Alan Sheckter

So in 1971, I changed schools, and there was a kid at the new school who had a reel-to-reel tape deck, which his parents had just given him.  I didn’t have any money, I didn’t have any stereo stuff.  But he had it, and he had just recorded American Beauty and Workingman’s Dead on it, because they were brand-new albums.  And he played them every single day, and I saw him a lot, and I just heard those albums over and over, and I completely fell in love.  And he also had a poster that was a Kelly and Mouse poster on his wall, and I fell in love with the art, too.   

Before this, in 1969 my brothers went to Woodstock and they came back and they were just going crazy.  So I’m growing up in this environment and it’s just a rite of passage to go on tour.  For me, the breakthrough came in the summer of 1973.  In the spring of 1973 I read in Rolling Stone or the Village Voice that there’s going to be this festival at Watkins Glen Racetrack, “Summer Jam.”  It’s going to have the Allman Brothers, who I’d already seen a couple of times, it’s going to have the Band, and it’s going to have the Dead.   For all intents and purposes, these are my three favorite touring bands of that era, although I’d only seen the Allmans.

The tickets were $10.50, and for me, that was a huge amount of money.  I went and stood in line at Ticketron, which was inside the Macy’s at the mall where I grew up.  I got a ticket, and I persuaded my best friend to go, and my mother said, “You can’t go to this thing, not unless you get some mature person to go.”  So I talked to my older brother Dan, and he said, “I’m all in. My girl friend and I will drive you; we’ll all go to the show.”

We get in their car, and we’re getting on to the New York State Thruway at Albany and the hood blows up and comes off of one of its hinges, and we haven’t even left town yet.  So we find a piece of rope, tie the fucker back down, and get on the Thruway and head west.  My brother knows this guy who lives really near Watkins Glen, so instead of going and camping out, which would have been better because we would have gotten the Soundcheck, we stay in the barn of this guy who lives right near.  And we drive up the next morning, and the traffic jam is over.  We’re coming from the other side, we literally park the car at the gate. We probably walked 50 feet before we handed in our ticket.  We were probably the last people to hand in their tickets because pretty soon everybody’s getting in for free.

Roger McNamee

So I get in there, and we get perfectly situated between the speakers, next to a plastic tarp covering a bunch of plastic bottles of water.  We brought some entertainment products, in my case shall we say a member of the larger Grateful Dead family, and it was one of those days, I’m 17 years old, they come out and start with “Bertha,” and I have in head in this altered state that every song is going to be “Sugar Magnolia.”  I go back and look at the set list and it was in many ways the greatest set list of any show I ever saw.  They played forever.  It was the proto-Wall of Sound, and it was complete magic.  Then the rain comes and fortunately we have the tarp next to us so we’re able to stay sort of dry, and it goes away, the Band finishes.

My one encounter with Jerry:  1975, I’m a sophomore in college, Jerry Garcia Band comes to Woolsey Hall in New Haven.  I’m working on the school newspaper, and I’m going to cover the show and interview Jerry. It’s with Nicky Hopkins.  And Nicky is shall we say not at his best. They practically carried him onstage for the sound check.  Sound check runs way long, and they have hardly any time for dinner. Big Steve and Jerry come out, I’m the only one out there, and Big Steve goes, “I’m really sorry, but there’s no time to do an interview. But here’s Jerry Garcia.”  Jerry goes, “Hey.”  I go, “Hey.”  That was my entire conversation…

I moved to San Francisco, and I was there from ’76 through ‘78.  It was a time when my girlfriend decided that the thing she was going to deprive me of was everything I loved, starting with the Grateful Dead.  So I miss all those shows…

I finally go back to college, and I have a new rule:  I’m never going to go out with another woman who will not love the Grateful Dead, baseball, and skiing.  So I meet this woman who was a grad student getting a Ph.D. in music.  And I invite her to our first date, to go see the Jerry Garcia Band at the University of New Haven gym.  We might as well check off one box right away.  She’s getting a Ph.D. in music theory and her first reaction is, “What instrument does Mr. Garcia play?” She’d missed a lot of stuff.  We had a ball.  We go to 10 shows on the spring tour out of a possible 14, so we check that box off.  We go to a baseball game and in the third inning I go to the bathroom and she scores balls and strikes while I’m gone, and I go, “’I’ll teach the woman how to ski,’ and we’ve been married ever since.”  (laughter).  Thirty-eight years and we celebrate that Jerry Garcia Band show every year. 

Roger with Jorma | photo by L. Paul Mann

In 1998 I get the call about Terrapin Station (the original concept was a Dead museum/playground/performance site).  I said to the guy that I wouldn’t talk with him unless Peter McQuaid (then President of Grateful Dead Productions) or a member of the band calls and tells me it’s something they care about. They have strong feelings about outsiders and I’m a front of house Dead Head, I’ve never been backstage.  An hour later, Peter called, and I said “Why me, I don’t know anything about real estate,” and he said, “You’re a Dead Head and you know about investing, and we don’t have a lot of Dead Heads who know about that.” OK, I’ll take some meetings.

This was the first time I started to meet members of the band.  We went to this thing at Bel Marin Keys.  It’s me and Peter on chairs, and Parish and Ram Rod in the front row.  There were probably about 40 people there. And they’re trying to decide if I’m OK.  “How do we know you’re really a Dead Head.”  “I’ve been to a couple hundred shows.” “Lots of people do that.”  “Well, how many of you guys were in Telluride when Jerry had to do the restart of “Brokedown Palace”?”  And only about a quarter of the people there had been there.  “How many of you were there in Hartford in ’86 when Phil did the “Earthquake Space”?”...Parish and Ram Rod came up to me afterward and they almost patted me on the head and said, “Son, I think you’re going to be OK.” 

So I spent three years working on stuff like that with the Dead and had this life-changing experience of being a Dead Head who got to meet and interact with the band, got to be a board member of the Rex Foundation, an opportunity to help out, like with the Archives.

The notion that you can have a whole festival like Skull and Roses dedicated to these things—you know the music will be great, but even more importantly, it’s the scene.

Moonalice | photo by Alan Sheckter

We (Moonalice) just played three shows in L.A. with Cubensis.  Our band was put together to be original music for Dead Heads, music that Dead Heads would like.  On this run, we played one venue for the 19th time with Cubensis.  The place was packed to the rafters. I’ve been on a mission to make the world aware of the dangers of social media, and that’s been draining—so to be back on stage with my tribe, it was like going from Kansas to Oz (from sepia to Technicolor). 

What always amazed me was the diversity of Dead Heads.  I mean the crunchy Granola thing has always been there, but the scene is open to everyone.  You could bring to the show whatever you brought, but when you were there, you were part of the family.  The diversity was part of what made it work. 

David Gans was a Bay Area player and music journalist who became nationally known as the host of the “Grateful Dead Hour” radio show.  He tours regularly as a solo artist and has sat in with almost everybody. 

I have been a musician since I was a child.  I started playing the guitar when I was 15, and I was already into a trajectory of writing my own music, following musicians like Elton John and Cat Stevens, when I got turned on to the Grateful Dead in 1972. 

David Gans | photo by Michael Bachara

I was living with a high school buddy, and we were writing songs together.  He’d been trying to persuade me to go see the Grateful Dead for a couple of years.  And I didn’t think I was going to be interested in it because I looked at their record covers and I saw that they had a song called “Ripple” and I thought it was a song about cheap wine.  Then they had a song called “Cumberland Blues,” and I wasn’t that into the blues and they had a song called “New Speedway Boogie” and I really thought that boogie was the least interesting kind of music there was so I didn’t think I was going to like it.

So I took what turned out to be a gigantic dose of LSD and rode up to San Francisco with my buddy and climbed up into the last row of Winterland – we got there really late, so it was already underway, and there were no seats.  We wound up literally in the last row, and it must have been 120 degrees, the place was packed.  And I was just blazing on this huge amount of acid, so it all just went by in a roar. 

But little bits of it stuck to my mind, so when I got home, I started listening to the records and picking out the things that I’d heard.  It turned out that it was “Bertha,” it was “Black Throated Wind, it was Bob’s guitar on “Greatest Story Every Told,” little things kind of etched themselves in my mind, and when I went and heard the songs they came from, I got really interested and excited.  It turned out that their music was much more interesting than I thought it was going to be, and much more along the lines of what I was doing – really amazing songwriting. 

Which really just showed me that looking to write a hit single was not the path for me, that this kind of songwriting was much more interesting and rewarding.  And then over the years I started understanding what they were doing in between the songs, too.  So within a couple of years I was pretty deeply into this, and that coincided with the beginning of my journalism career.  So when I was writing for music magazines, I started writing about the Grateful Dead, too.  And that led me to being introduced to them and interviewing them and stuff like that.  It really was the insistence of my collaborator that I go check it out and the strength of the acid (laughter)…and just the fact that there was this incredible charisma coming off the stage, too.  Even from that distance I could tell something amazing was happening.

David Gans with Mountain Girl & Alan Trist | photo by Michael Bachara

So when they came back in August (1972) we waited on line overnight to buy tickets at the San Jose box office, and we went to Berkeley Community Theatre for four shows in five days and we just got to watch them play, to be in that room with that incredible communal vibe, and be in that place where the thing was happening that was so deeply affecting people, and the commitment of the guys on stage, and the power of the songs  -- “Tennessee Jed,” and the thing about it was that there was this space between the notes, and I got to watch Bob and Jerry interacting, the way their guitars intertwined, it expanded my awareness of what guitar playing was, too. 

So really the Grateful Dead just kicked open this entire wide universe of stuff, and I started listening to the songs, where they got them – between the G.D. and Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen, I got interested in country music -- and it just took care of itself from then on.  I didn’t even start figuring out the community part of it for several years after that – I went with my buddy.  I moved to Berkeley in ’74 and started playing Dead music with some guys up there, and that expanded my consciousness of what it was about.  It really was that 1972 stuff that made a lifer out of me.

The GD Hour began in the fall of 1984 when Dave Marshall at KFOG started a set of specialty shows every night at 10  – there was a reggae show, a new-age show, and one of them was the Dead Head Hour, with M. Dung as the host.  And he started relying on a few local guys, like (the late) Paul Grushkin, Richard Raffel, and I to help him by providing material.  Dung was seriously overworked – he had the morning drive show, too, getting up at 3 a.m., plus he had the Sunday night Idiot Show.  So he really welcomed the help. 

And I got really really into it – I was dating another KFOG DJ at the time – so I was spending time at the station.  So I started helping him produce pieces of the show.  Then I appeared on the show in February of 1985 to promote my book, Playing in the Band, and I produced a little documentary called “Greatest Pump Song ever wrote,” because I had stories from Hunter, Weir, and Mickey about the making of “Pump Song,” which became “Greatest Story.”  So the station was happy to have me involved, and I was enjoying the hell out of doing it, and over the course of 1986, they asked me to take over responsibility for the show.  And Dung boy was glad to see it happen, because he was so overworked. 

David Gans

So I wound up being given sole responsibility for it, and again, without making any plans whatsoever, the show took off nationally.  I got a call from WHCN in Hartford, Connecticut, asking if they could carry the show.  A classic rock station in San Diego asked if they could carry it.  And the coup de grace was when WNEW-FM (New York City) asked if they could carry the show.  And I went ‘Oh my God, this could really be something.’  So I called Jon McIntire and asked him for his advice, and he said, “Seems like a good idea, let’s take it to the band.’

And so I went to the band and laid out the case for it, and everybody said fine.  Phil in particular was in my corner, he said ‘You know the music, go for it,’ and they gave me access to the vault.  So I, without ever intending to, became a radio producer.  It led to a year in commercial syndication, which did not go particularly well, and after that I took back control and started working with public radio.  And it’s been half my day job ever since.  None of it was planned, but very much in the Grateful Dead tradition I followed inspiration and instinct into a variant.  [hard to hear that word.]

When I started touring, I couldn’t afford to take a band on the road, so I went as a solo act.  It was a lot of fun, but it was a very limited format for a guy who wanted to be jamming on stage.  I bought a looping device, which enabled me to play a lot more guitar in a solo setting, and once I had that pedal on the floor, I started getting ideas.  

But the other nice thing about my current traveling life is that I get to hook up with lots of musicians as I go around the country   I really feel like a spiritual and musical child of the Grateful Dead, not so much in the specifics of the vocabulary but in the approach to making music.  There’s a continuum between improvised music and composed music and spending time in that world between composition and improvisation is deeply rewarding. 

David Gans | photo by Jamie Soja

Another part of the continuum is between what I call the dogma playing and the interpretation playing.  Dark Star Orchestra being the absolute best of dogma playing, where they replicate the Grateful Dead’s approach brilliantly and faithfully, and they’ve got that end of things nailed down.  It’s not anything that I would want to do – I prefer to be over at the other end of interpretation, but again, where people sit along the lines between the two is great, and it makes for –- the idea of a whole convention of people playing Grateful Dead music isn’t nearly as boring as you might think if you don’t know this stuff.  It really is a great way to look at it, a myriad of different approaches to it, rather than a bunch of people all enacting the same thing. 

I think Fare Thee Well caused it all to gel, and gave a lot of people the opportunity to realize, “Look at this!  There really are tons of us still.”  I run into a lot of people bringing their kids to shows.  One of the remarkable things about my musical travels is that I’m playing with young musicians who weren’t born or were in diapers when Jerry died, and they’re deeply into the music. 

I remember when Blair and I interviewed Jerry in ’81, and I said to Jerry, “I think this music is immortal and will outlive the men who made it.”  Blair sort of cringed a little bit but… it turned out to be right, and it’s the songs.  God, I hope Hunter knows how this is going.  The songs are going to be played and sung more now than ever.  Every town I go to has Grateful Dead musicians in it, and good ones, too.  The sheer number of musicians who are keeping these songs moving forward is a wonderful thing, and it’s a testament to the power of it, and to the accuracy of our observations back in the day!

David Gans and friends | Portland, OR

Dennis McNally was the Grateful Dead’s publicist from 1984 to 1995 and worked for Grateful Dead Productions and RatDog after that.  He published his history of the band, A Long Strange Trip, in 2002. 

My very fine editors suggested that since I was telling these musician’s stories of their conversion to Dead Head-edness to you, I should share my own.  We’ll skip over the musical instrument part, since you’re not interested in very bad junior high school violin playing, and get to me and the Dead. 

In the spring of 1967, I was a high school senior in a small town in Maine.  I didn’t fit in—on reflection, not many people really do—and my refuge was the public library, where I did a lot of reading.  I still remember the pictures from the Be-In (January 14, 1967) of Jerry wearing his Uncle Sam top hat.  It sure looked interesting, but I didn’t have a clue what it would mean to my future.

That fall I was a dj at my college radio station, and came across the Dead’s first album, and “Morning Dew” entered my life with a vengeance.  Along with Billie Holiday and John Coltrane, it was a regular in my rotation.  For some odd reason, though, I lost touch with the band for a while, and it wasn’t until the fall of 1971, in graduate school, that I met the guy who walked me across the threshold of Dead-dom. 

Chris was a really, really brilliant mathematician, and also the only guy I knew of where I lived who smoked dope.  I was truly impoverished, and when I apologized for not having any weed to share, Chris would reply, “Hey man, dope is like manure.  It only does some good if it’s spread around.”  In addition to being kind, Chris was a true Dead Head:  we listened to them and only them, Hot Tuna being the only permitted exception.  I might add that this was before tapes were common, and I’m talking about records here.

Dennis McNally

On October 2, 1972, along with a bunch of friends up from the Bronx, Chris took me to my first concert, at Springfield Civic Center, and when we got there, told me to open my mouth.  I owe Chris (rest in peace) a very great deal.

He’d also given me a good shove in the direction of working on a book about Jack Kerouac, and by 1973 I had conceived a grand plan to write the history of underground culture in America after World War II in two books:  Volume one would be Jack Kerouac and cover the ‘40s and ‘50s, and Volume two would be the Grateful Dead.  It took some doing and a lot more time than I counted on, but eventually, that’s what I did.

Of course, I didn’t have clue number one about how I was going to get the members of the G.D. to go along with this idea—for starters; their telephone number was unlisted.  I published the Kerouac book (Desolate Angel) in 1979 and sent copies to Garcia and Hunter, and then more or less waited.  That fall I sold the idea of writing a piece on Dead Heads and New Year’s Eve to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Sunday magazine—I figured I could introduce myself to the band that way—and in January of 1980, I went to interview Bill Graham, since his number was in the book. 

And that’s where Dead Head synchronicity started to kick in.  Bill’s secretary was a member of the tribe named Jan Simmons, and after a great interview with Bill, who loved talking about the Dead and Dead Heads, she said, “You know, you ought to talk with Eileen Law at the Dead office.  Here’s her number.”  Eileen, being the complete sweetheart that she was and is, came to work on a Sunday (I was working a regular job), and we talked for a couple of hours.

“Dennis McNally speaking at GBB Fest 2017

Long story short, the Dead announced their 15 night run at the Warfield Theatre, the Chronicle ran my story, Eileen included me in a group of Dead Heads who met Jerry, Tom Davis, and Al Franken as part of what would be the video of the Halloween at Radio City show, Dead Ahead, and when I met him, I asked Jerry if he’d seen the Kerouac book I’d sent him.  You have to understand that Kerouac was a life-long hero and role model for Jerry, and yes, he’d read it, and was, ahem, enthusiastic about it.

So enthusiastic, as a matter of fact, that a couple of months later he sent Rock Scully (publicity) and Alan Trist (music publishing) to meet with me.  They said, “Jerry says why don’t you do us?”  (Do a biography of the Dead.)

Which seemed like a good idea to me, having been dreaming of it for seven years. 

I spent the next three years (1981-1984) very happily digging away.  I found Phil’s music teacher at College of San Mateo (who had a tape of Mr. Lesh in the CSM jazz band, both playing and the composer of pieces).  I dug up lots of Jerry folk and bluegrass music, getting to know Rodney Albin, one of the great people in Jerry’s early life (and I was lucky – we lost Rodney in 1985).  I found Gert Chiarito, who ran the “Midnight Special” show on KPFA that Phil engineered and Jerry played on.

And I went to lots of Dead shows, both in the Bay Area and further away.  Eventually, the crew decided I could be tolerated, and I spent more time on stage (seriously, a tough transition – it sounds better out front).  I spent lots of time at the office, talking with people and seeing how it all worked in business terms.  And overall, I managed not to piss off anybody too terribly much, which was important, because in the world of the G.D., just because Jerry had an idea didn’t mean everybody was going to jump up and salute. 

Dennis with friends and family

One day in June, 1984, Mary Jo Meinholf of the office staff sat up at a company meeting and said, “What are we going to do about the media?  They call, and nobody returns their calls (Rock had gone away to get healthy), and they annoy me.”  And Jerry said, “Get McNally to do it.  He knows that shit.  Send him up to my house, and I’ll tell him what to do.”  So I went up to his place for my job training.  He said, “OK, first thing is, we don’t suck up to the press.”  I think I even wrote it down.  And then he said, “Ah, that’s enough.  Here, toke on this.”  Nice training.

I tried to keep working on the book while being a publicist, but it was impossible.  It was the greatest job I’ll ever have, but I’m not joking when I say that it was 60 hours a week when we were off the road, and more when we were on.  I put the book on hold, but kept a notebook in my pocket to write down the interesting or funny stuff I saw, and there was plenty of that:  Jerry and Vice President Al Gore discussing John F. Kennedy’s desk (Bill Clinton had gotten it from the Smithsonian), Jerry talking with Tony Bennett before a San Francisco Giants baseball game, Phil encouraging Brent when B. brought up the idea of playing “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” Branford Marsalis playing like a god, and on and on.

All of which was summed up one disgusting day in Washington D.C., at RFK Stadium.  Disgusting because of course if we were playing at RFK it was summer time, and summer in DC invariably meant 100 degrees and close to a 100 percent humidity and we—staff and crew—were out there for 10 or 12 hours.  We were leaving the stage and heading for the vans back to the hotel, and Ram Rod, the crew chief and one of the greatest men I’ve ever known, said, “At least it’s not a real job.”  And it wasn’t.  It was at times more stressful and gritty and challenging than a “real job,” but it wasn’t just a job.  Instead, it was an amazing adventure, an incredible opportunity to serve a higher purpose, a chance to help save the world.  (Well, we tried, honest).

Dennis McNally backstage at GBB Fest 2017

We couldn’t save Jerry – or he couldn’t save himself – and that sucked, but along with all Dead Heads we honored the music, and I’m really proud of that.  See you down the road, maybe even at Ventura.

Mon, 07/02/2018 - 1:56 pm

The strangest thing happened; Grateful Dead music became its own genre, a language spoken by musicians across the country (and danced to by Dead Heads, same).  Each band plays it its own way, but Live Dead ’69 has certain advantages.

One is that it focuses on the band’s most legendary era, 1969-70, when it was the fulfillment of what psychedelic music could be.  The other is that it features Mark Karan (guitar, 12-year veteran of Bob Weir’s RatDog), Tom Constanten (the only living Grateful Dead-member keyboardist), guitarist extraordinaire Slick Aguilar (David Crosby and very long-time Jefferson Starship veteran), and bassist Robin Sylvester (RatDog).

This tour will reach into 1970, when the Dead began “An Evening with the Grateful Dead” concerts that included their spinoff band, the New Riders of the Purple Sage.  The show will open with the band as New Riders, including Mike Falzarano, a member of the Riders for the past decade and more.  And so we’ll bring you Live Dead & Riders ’69.

More info to come; there will be East Coast dates during “The Days Between.”

Band Bios

Over the years, Mark Karan worked with Dave Mason, Delaney Bramlett, Huey Lewis, Jesse Colin Young, and the Rembrandts before connecting with Bob Weir and settling into the lead guitar slot with RatDog, which would then headline shows at Bonnaroo, the New Orleans Jazzfest, and the Fillmore Auditorium.  He led a very successful long-term residency at Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley, where he’s been joined by Huey Lewis, The Mother Hips, Roy Rogers, and ALO.  His band Mark Karan’s Buds includes Robin Sylvester, Wally Ingram (David Lindley, Eric Burdon), John Molo and J.T. Thomas (Bruce Hornsby) and more.  He says of Live Dead ’69, “We’re not trying to recreate the music of the GD.  Sometimes it sounds similar, and sometimes it sounds quite different.  Slick’s coming out of a different background, the rhythm sections are mutable, and I sing out of an R & B background, so I don’t sing like Jerry.  What we’re doing is honoring and celebrating this music in our own way…and we have fun.”

Tom “T.C.” Constanten met Phil Lesh at an entrance examination to U.C. Berkeley’s music department.  When T.C. remarked of modern Stockhausen-style composition that “Music stopped being created in 1750 but began again in 1950,” Phil knew he had a lifelong pal.  Late in 1968 T.C. ended his military obligations and joined the Grateful Dead, where he spent the next year-plus helping a weird band get much (musically) stranger.  Having studied in Germany with Luciano Berio and Karlheinz Stockhausen among others, he brought some of the methods of the avant-garde to a psychedelic band – wedging coins and other items into piano strings (“prepared piano”), using colored noise he’d prepared in Europe on Anthem of the Sun, and dropping a gyroscope on the piano sounding board…which really woke up their recording engineer.  He was at the heart of that era of the Dead’s music.

Mark “Slick” Aguilar spent the ‘70s as the house guitar player at TK Studios in North Miami, where he recorded with KC & the Sunshine Band and Betty Wright, Benny Lattimore, and Bobby Caldwell, among many others.  After a spell on the road with KC and later Wayne Cochran, he moved to the West Coast, where he joined Buddy Miles’s band, and then in 1982 hooked up with David Crosby.  He says of David, “He taught me how to get out there and be a pro.  I was a kid, and he took me out in the world.  He was really generous to me – he opened up his home in Mill Valley to me.  When you work with him, he’s the sweetest.  And musically, he’s brilliant.”

After a very long career with Paul Kantner and Jefferson Starship, and playing with the likes of Carlos Santana and Gregg Allman, he’s landed in Live Dead ’69, and is having a ball.  “I love playing for Dead Heads – they love that music and they all want to dance, which is so cool.  Starship audiences, Crosby’s audiences – they just look at you.  And the Dead Heads all know the lyrics – I mean, young kids know St. Stephen”!  It is the coolest music to play, because you can take it where you want to go.  And working with Mark is great; we’re both lead players, so it’s not like Jerry and Bob, but it’s gotten to the point where we can finish each other’s sentences.  I’ll start it and he finishes it, and vice versa.  Most of the jams, we’re both soloing, but it works because we both listen – you really do have to listen to jam.”

Robin Sylvester grew up in London and began his life in music in the high-level London Boy Singers, chosen by Benjamin Britten, singing at Covent Garden among other prestigious places, while also listening to his local pub band, the Kinks, or other future greats like the Yardbirds with Spencer Davis Group opening, at the legendary Marquee Club, or the Syd Barrett Pink Floyd, at UFO.  He picked up the bass at that time, first acoustic then electric, and his path was set, but first he found work as a recording studio engineer. A 1974 U.S. tour with vocalist Dana Gillespie hooked him on life in the states, and a session with Rory Gallagher at the studio where Workingman’s Dead was recorded brought him to San Francisco, where he settled.  He played with Marty Balin in a couple of bands, toured with Billie Preston, and then partnered with the great sax man Steve Douglas on many, many sessions.  In 2003 he got a phone call, and RatDog had its new bass player, and Robin got to learn what he called in an interview, “the great American songbook, really.  The Hunter and Barlow tunes have so much depth and there are so many ways to play them….”

Working on the Phil & Friends repertory model, Live Dead ’69 has employed a number of drummers.  This tour will feature Joe Chirco.

Joe Chirco knew he wanted to be a drummer from the age of three.  Long Island born and raised, he attended his first G.D. show at Passaic, NJ, then many more at home.  He studied percussion with Charles Perry, who worked with Mickey and Billy on Terrapin Station.  Charles took him to a concert at Nassau and introduced him to M & B, which got Joe a seat behind the drum risers for the show – “It changed everything I thought I knew about drumming.”     An extremely diverse and versatile percussionist, he has played in funk, world beat, reggae, jazz, blues, and jam bands over the years.  In 1997 he joined the Zen Tricksters for a four-year stint, which put him squarely in the G.D. world.  Working with Donna Jean Godchaux and Jeff Mattson took him even deeper.  He’s worked with David Nelson, Mark Karan, Melvin Seals and Terrapin Flyer, and Bob Weir at a benefit.

Tom Constanten will be forced to miss the first shows of the tour, and sitting in on keys will be Scott Guberman.

Scott Guberman grew up on Long Island, seedbed of DeadHeadism, and first encountered the Dead at a 1988 Madison Square Garden concert that, psychedelically aided, rocked his world.  Being a keyboardist, it was Brent Mydland’s brilliant modern touches that caught his attention.  He joined the East Coast G.D. band circuit and eventually played Hammond B-3 with Tom Constanten and then Vince Welnick.  A 2015 visit to Terrapin Crossroads brought him to Phil Lesh’s attention, and he’s become the house keyboardist there and a regular player with Lesh.  He also preforms regularly with Stu Allen, Robin Sylvester and Mark Karan, and just about everyone else in the wider circle around the Bay Area.

Michael Falzarano has been a working guitarist and vocalist for over 45 years, most notably in Hot Tuna, the famed offspring of The Jefferson Airplane, and in the seminal cosmic cowboy Grateful Dead spinoff The New Riders of the Purple Sage.  He also founded the Memphis Pilgrims, a Memphis-style rock ‘n’ roll band in New York City, and has two  current projects, The Englishtown Project and Live Dead & Riders 69.

His third solo recording, We Are All One (Woodstock Records), featured such illustrious guests as Vassar Clements, Melvin Seals, Buddy Cage, Jorma Kaukonen and Garth Hudson.  His most recent release is I Got Blues for Ya (Hypnotation Records/Woodstock Records).  Falzarano has also appeared live or recorded with greats from Bob Weir to Paul Simon to John Lee Hooker to Jesse McReynolds to Pinetop Perkins.  There’s no room for the complete list!

Mon, 07/23/2018 - 10:14 am

In the past few years since Fare Thee Well, as Grateful Dead music has morphed into its own genre, what bands play and how they play it has become an interesting series of choices.  Do they want to play it straight, or do they want to interpret it through a filter (heavy metal, Celtic, Bluegrass, Hawaiian slack key guitar, etc.)?  Do they want to emphasize the material the band played when they first became Dead Heads, or do they want to sample around?  Good argument-starter:  Is the best year 1972, or 1977, or 1989?  Or fill in the blank...

Or, if you’ll listen to me (and it’s not the year I started going to shows), you’ll get very, very interested in 1969.  They would become better musicians in future years, better song-writers, and their material would become much more sophisticated and cover a far wider range, but the psychedelic jazz-rock fusion that peaked that year was a particular form of Grateful Dead that would never be matched.

And thus Live Dead ’69, the band.  It features Mark Karan (guitar, the Other Ones, 12 year veteran of Bob Weir’s RatDog), Tom Constanten (the only living ex-Grateful Dead-member keyboardist), guitarist extraordinaire Slick Aguilar (David Crosby and very long-time Jefferson Starship veteran), and bassist Robin Sylvester (RatDog).

This tour will reach into 1970, when the Dead began “An Evening with the Grateful Dead” concerts that included their spinoff band, the New Riders of the Purple Sage.  The show will open with the band as New Riders, including Mike Falzarano, a member of the Riders for the past decade and more, to be followed by a full set of Grateful Dead from that very special year.  What’s not to like?

August 1, Weds.  THE FOUNDRY AT THE FILLMORE, Philadelphia


August 2, Thurs.  THE HAMILTON, Washington, DC


August 3, Fri.  13th ANNUAL BEAR’S PICNIC FAMILY REUNIION, Blain Picnic Grounds, Blaine PA


August 4, Sat.   STARLAND BALLROOM, Sayreville, NJ  08872


August 5, Sun.  THE SPACE AT WESTBURY, Westbury, NY 11590


Tue, 08/07/2018 - 8:13 am

Well, I know you already have plenty of G.D. t-shirts.  But if you want to cherish a juicier piece of Grateful Dead history, an item that’s never before been seen and is literally once-in-a-lifetime, then you’ll want to tune in on Saturday, September 8th, at 10 a.m. Central time, HERE.  The success of last year’s audience has inspired various former G.D. employees to clean out their closets...

Would you like a costume (one of those duster overcoats the band wore) from the “Throwing Stones” video?

How about a check (sorry, cancelled!) signed by Jerry Garcia?

Jerry check!

A gold record, backstage passes, laminates, incredibly rare posters, original artwork from Stanley “Mouse” Miller...

This will be the second Grateful Dead auction put on by the Donley Auctions people of Union, Illinois.  Randy Donley has been conducting auctions for more than thirty years, and holds 12 to 15 theme auctions a year, with an enviable reputation for quality, accuracy, and reliability. Their first GD auction, which included the original lyrics of “He’s Gone,” the last book Jerry ever read, the original copyright on the name Grateful Dead and a whole lot more, was a roaring success.

You get the idea.  This isn’t going to happen many more’s your chance to own a piece of history.

Wed, 08/22/2018 - 6:39 pm

The news of the GD memorabilia auction (September 8th at 10 am central time) has brought more amazing items out of storage to be offered.  Do you want Jerry’s 1988 Bay Area Music Awards “Guitarist of the Year” statue?  A first printing of the very first “Skull and Roses” Avalon poster created by Kelley and Mouse (with thanks to Edmund Fitzgerald, who designed the artwork for an edition of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayam)?  Fare Thee Well laminates?

p.s.  Out of concern for family feelings, the Garcia death certificate has been removed from the auction.

Check it all out at

Mon, 08/27/2018 - 9:36 am

Join us at beautiful Stafford Lake Park in Novato for Sweetwater in the Sun, the first Sweetwater Music Hall Festival, a full day of live music, food & drink, and family fun.


Bob Weir, Steve Kimock & Friends

The Skiffle Players

Jennifer Hartswick Band

Maggie Rose

Jerry Joseph & Steve Kimock Duo

Kids Grove Stage with music from:

Little Folkies Family Band featuring Irena Eide

Arann Harris & the Farm Band

plus face painting, magic, and arts & crafts!

Rain or shine. Lineup subject to change.

Wed, 11/28/2018 - 9:31 am

“Dixie Chicken.”  “Sailin’ Shoes.”  “Fat Man in the Bathtub.”  “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now.”  “Time Loves a Hero.”  “Willin’.”  “Oh, Atlanta.”  “All That You Dream.” Little Feat has created its own version of the Great American Songbook, and boy, can they play those songs.  As great as the records are, there is nothing like live music—this is, after all, the band that created one of the two or three greatest live albums ever, Waiting for Columbus.

Back in 1969, Lowell George met Bill Payne, and not long after, they had a band. Richie Hayward came in on drums. Lowell tried Paul Barrere on bass—not a successful experiment—but in a couple of years Paul joined on his proper instrument, the guitar.  Over the next few years, Kenny Gradney emerged to be the right bass player and Sam Clayton took the percussion seat.  Lowell George passed, and eventually Bob Dylan’s guitarist Fred Tackett joined the family.  Illness stole Richie away in 2010, and his former drum tech, Gabe Ford (nephew of Robben and a member of Robben’s band), took the seat.

For this particular tour, Feat is pleased to be joined by the Ramble Band Horns (Erik Lawrence, Steve Bernstein, and Jay Collins)…serious punch!

They mixed their native Los Angeles rock with New Orleans gumbo, funk, jazz, rock, soul and boogie.  The critics cheered and the audiences danced.  So many miles, so many shows.  The fire still burns bright, and the 50th is an anniversary you just can’t ignore, as Paul Barrere noted:  “What an honor to be associated with Little Feat celebrating our 50th anniversary together. The love and respect we’ve received from our peers and fans tells me just how worthwhile our music truly is. Here’s hoping we get to see you at one of our stops on this momentous 2019 tour. Come celebrate with us 50 years of creating our own unique songbook.“

Or, as Bill put it:

“50 years

A blur and blend of memories and elastic time

The sky was the limit

 a sorrowful tune rising to a chorus of joy

 a dance with a thousand steps

unruly in its cadence suggestive of timidity and fearlessness

Forever horizons brought to a standstill

Reignited with love and passion

Another chance to play music on our terms

50 years of dreams realized and shattered

Kept alive in our hearts

Kept alive by danger and luck

With an insistence on quality and exploration

providing an alliance and handshake to

band, friends, fans, and family alike

50 Years of Little Feat

Time Loves a Hero”


It’s time to roll another one.

March 7, Thurs. Warner Theatre, Washington, DC   Presale:  11/28, On Sale: 11/30

March 8, Fri. Beacon Theatre, New York City with the full Midnight Ramble Band (Larry Campbell and Amy Helm).  Presale:  12/5,  On Sale 12/7

March 9, Sat. Scottish Rite Auditorium, Collingswood, NJ   PreSale: 11/28, On Sale 11/30

March 11, Mon. Harvester Performance Center, Rocky Mount, VA  Presale:  11/27, On Sale 11/30

March 12, Tues. Atlanta Symphony Hall, Atlanta, GA  Presale:  11/29, On Sale 11/30

March 13, Weds. Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, Asheville, NC  Presale:  11/29, On Sale 11/30

March 15, Fri. Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, TN  Presale:  11/29, On Sale 11/30

March 18, Mon. King Ctr. for the Performing Arts, Melbourne, FL  Presale:  11/28 & 29, On Sale 11/30

March 19, Tues. Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, FL with Buddy Guy  On Sale:  11/30

March 20, Weds. Florida Theatre, Jacksonville, FL  On Sale:  11/30

March 22, Fri. Pembroke Pines City Center, Pembroke Pines, FL  On Sale 11/29

March 26-30 Melia Braco Village Resort, Trelawny, Jamaica with the Ramble Band and Lucinda Williams (sold out)

Thu, 01/10/2019 - 6:07 pm

Becoming a Dead Head was and still is a remarkable thing, much richer and more complex than simply deciding to like a band.  It means becoming part of a community, a family of kindred souls.  It’s about celebration but also about learning – new music forms, whether it’s obscure blues or chanting monks or … everything.

Which is why, almost 24 years after Jerry Garcia passed, there are more Dead Heads than ever before.  And why they continue to gather – the excellent example being the Skull and Roses Festival, in the legendary home of Dead concerts, Ventura County Fairgrounds, April 5-7, 2019.  Featuring Oteil & Friends -- Oteil Burbridge (Dead & Co.) John Kadlecik (Further), Scott Metzger (JRAD), John Morgan Kimock (Mike Gordon), and Weedie Braiman (Mr. Unique) and JGB with Melvin Seals, Skull and Roses will have more than a dozen bands playing Grateful Dead music in every way imaginable…and then some:

Grateful Shred, one of the emerging younger bands; Fragile Thunder with David Gans, acoustic and Hawaiian slack key stylings; Wake of the Dead (Celtic Dead), Cubensis (Los Angeles’s Dead Head heart for thirty years)…and much, much more.

There’ll be camping, good food and drink, drum circles, dancing in the streets, and surprises, oh my yes – more on that later.  A splendid time is guaranteed for all.

Check it out at -- prices are reasonable to start with, and 25% off until February 3rd….see you in Ventura!

Thu, 01/31/2019 - 6:11 pm

The Grateful Dead – New Riders of the Purple Sage – Marshall Tucker Band concert on September 3, 1977, is a special moment in the Dead’s legendary career.  The largest concert in New Jersey history, it drew well over 100,000 fans to hear the Dead in spectacular form (and after a three-month break necessitated by Mickey Hart’s car accident and broken shoulder).  Not just the Dead: as Mike Falzarano toured with the New Riders a few years later, most shows would include someone saying that they’d seen the Riders at Englishtown.

Eventually, he concluded that he really ought to pay tribute to the event.  In May 2018 he assembled old friends from the Zen Tricksters – Tom Circosta, Klyph Black, and Dave Diamond – and Scott Guberman from Phil & Friends.  They booked a one-off show at Brooklyn Bowl, and both band and audience had such a good time that one show became thirty, with more dates coming in weekly.  “Go Figure,” Mike says.  It’s been fun from the beginning, and still is.  Each show has big slices of music from the concert in a relaxed, festival-style program, playing two full extended sets of a mix of Dead, Riders, and Marshall Tucker.

Englishtown Project

The lineup will include Mike Falzarano (rhythm guitar, Hot Tuna, New Riders of the Purple Sage), Rob Wolfson (lead guitar, Dead Center Allstars), Tom Circosta (guitar, Zen Tricksters), Klyph Black (bass, Zen Tricksters), Dave Diamond (drums, Zen Tricksters), Clare Maloney (vocals), and Mookie Siegel (keyboards, Phil & Friends).

On February 16th, the Englishtown Project will play at The Boulton Center, 37 West Main St., Bay Shore, Long Island. 


Wed, 02/20/2019 - 12:02 pm

Since the Grateful Dead has always cherished weirdness as a super-positive adjective, it’s not totally surprising that the post-Dead scene should have the weirdest possible outcome….namely, instead of fading away, Dead-Head-ism is growing just as it always has.  Now, it turns out, Dead Heads are fans of the music even more than the band, so that who’s playing the music is mostly a matter of taste and choice. Which is the understanding behind Skull and Roses, a festival of Dead music in one of the Dead’s favorite venues, the Ventura County Fairgrounds, April 5-7, 2019, featuring Oteil and Friends (including John Kadlecik), JGB with Melvin Seals, Grateful Shred, Stu Allen and Mars Hotel, L.A.’s own Cubensis, and lots more. In addition to playing lead and singing the vocals for JGB, Zach Nugent will have his own “Disco Dead,” as well as a trio called Reckoning with Stu Allen and Dave Hebert…. So talking with him about how he came to be the musician he is and why he’s perfect for Skull and Roses was a pretty easy choice.  For more on Skull and Roses, go to  See you in Ventura!

Zach Nugent:

By the time I graduated high school, I’d lived in 19 houses.  We were retail gypsies, really.  I was born in Connecticut and lived there until I was nine, and then we moved up to Vermont and bounced around the state.  I’ve lived there ever since.  My parents are big music followers, they’re Dead Heads as much as anything else, and they exposed me to a lot of music, from bluegrass to classical to reggae to Grateful Dead, and everything else.  But my first real prominent musical memory is riding around in my Dad’s car—a VW—listening to a bootleg, a semi-production bootleg that was called Acoustic Masterpiece.  And it was an acoustic Dead show from like ’93 or ’95.  Both my parents loved it, my mom especially, that’s her special Dead soft spot, Grateful Dead acoustic stuff, Reckoning or whatever.  And I remember riding around in my Dad’s car and we had a cassette of Acoustic Masterpiece.  So from a really young age, it’s always been Jerry in my ears.

photo by Rich Gastwirt

I started playing piano when I was five and then violin and then clarinet, but none of it stuck.  I loved music and I knew I’d play an instrument, but none of them really meant anything to me.  A lot of the music I listened to, bluegrass and reggae, was guitar-driven.  Guitar started resonating with me – I liked the power that comes with it, but also the versatility.  So when I was 12 my folks rented an acoustic guitar for me at Hanover Strings in Hanover, New Hampshire, just across the river from where we were living, near Norwich, Vermont.  I think it was $19 a month, with an option to buy or whatever.  My parents loved music and were really supportive, so it didn’t take much arm-twisting to get a guitar out of them.  I remember I went home that day, I remember right where I was, I can picture everything, and I learned “Ripple” first. 

We lived off the grid multiple times, no running water or electricity, and that was one of those times.  So, we got the guitar in Hanover and went home, and I remember the futon I was sitting on, I remember my parents coming and going and being stoked that I was playing “Ripple.”  It was a snowy winter day, and I grasped it pretty fast, and my folks were really pleased.

I dove pretty deep into the Old and in the Way bluegrass thing, and also Tony Rice and Clarence White, and really got into bluegrass for a couple of years.  Before that I got into classical and took some lessons – those were the only lessons I ever took – but then it was bluegrass, and flatpicking, and the summer between my freshman and sophomore year in high school, a few of the faculty at my school had a bluegrass band and the guitar player was moving to Alaska.  So, they asked me to join the band., the Fogey Mountain Boys.  That was the first time I played with other people for real.  We played gigs, and I was getting paid, and that was great. 

Zach Nugent - photo by Rich Gastwirt

Then the guitarist moved back from Alaska, so I was out of the band, and then my driver’s ed teacher at another high school – I had to log driving time with him, two students at a time for a couple of hours.  By now it was 2006, and the digital music thing was happening, and I was downloading stuff from like crazy.  I made my Dad a binder of 300 Dead CDs for Christmas one year, and that was what I was mostly doing.  So I started bringing my own binder of Dead CDs on these drives, and it turned out that he was a total Dead Head – Vermont, after all – and when I finished Driver’s Ed, he disclosed to me that he was a very obvious drummer.  So, we got together with some friends of his and formed a band called Dead Man’s Hand, as in Wild Bill Hitchcock, Aces and Eights.  And we gigged pretty heavily – a few weekends a month – for the next three years.

Then around 2010 the bass player John Wakefield and I started Cats Under the Stars, doing JGB stuff.  So, we found a couple of serious guys, and Cats kept on going – different formations, lots of different members, of course, and by 2016 I was the only original member, but it kept on.  And by 2016 we were playing pretty seriously and pretty regionally.  I first met Melvin at a small festival which is awesome, and I still play there every year in Bath, New Hampshire, called Jerry Jam.  It’s so cool, and JGB still plays there.  It’s got a great vibe.  And Melvin would sit in with other bands, and Dan Webb, who runs the festival, made it his mission to connect us, and we played together.  And we hit it off both musically and personally.

Zach Nugent - photo by Alan Sheckter

I asked him to play with Cats for some short tours, half a dozen runs over 2014-2016, and then he gave me the call to join JGB.  It was about a week and a half before Jerry Jam in July 2016, and he said, “I think I need a new guitarist, and I’d like to try you out at Jerry Jam and that’ll be your audition.”  It was a little wonky – the endings are different, the forms are different, but overall, it was great.  And our next show was Jerry Day in San Francisco, August 3rd or whatever – in front of several thousand people with like Jerry’s family, Trixie and Mountain Girl and Annabelle, like overnight. 

Playing with JGB has been awesome.  Melvin is a great player, obviously, and such a mature player.  The connections and networking and the people I’ve gotten to play with, and the rooms I’ve gotten to play in, are all so cool, it’s all dream come true stuff.  When it comes down to it, I’m a guitarist, and I want to be good at my instrument, and one of the most valuable things is the maturity Melvin’s given me.  I feel good about what I did before, but this is the next level. He’s really good at saying “Don’t do that” in a really nice way.  He’s been doing it forever, and hey, he’s the hand that shook the hand, and it’s so nice to get that direction from him.  It’s great, and it continues to happen all the time.

Zach Nugent with JGB | photo by Rich Gastwirt

Being a Dead Head is an interesting phenomenon.  There’s your classic ‘Head with lots of tie-dye, and a lot of people think “hippie” when they see tie-dye.  But I don’t wear tie-dye, and I’ve never smoked weed, so I don’t conform to things that your average citizen would assume are important.  But what I like about Dead Heads is that you go to a Dead show and you know you’ll see a 15-year-old next to a dentist next to a grandfather next to a hippie who’s high as they can be next to a middle-aged woman.  I just love that the demographic has no edge or boundary – it’s everybody.  People from all walks of life are Dead Heads and it’s such a cool community to be part of, such a great family.  I love how much love Is passed around amongst almost all Dead Heads.  Being a Dead Head is being a member of a family that’s moving forward and has everybody’s interests in mind so much of the time.

Playing in Ventura is just crazy.  The first year we were walking around the fairgrounds, ‘cause that’s where we played, and I was digging it. It was cool, and there was obviously a vibe.  But last year they moved the stage into the bowl, to play on the racetrack, with those palm trees and the ocean in the background – there’s so many pictures of the Dead there, it’s legendary.  It was crazy in the best way to be playing on that stage. It’s so iconic.   And I loved the “Wall of the Sound” behind it. 

Sun, 03/03/2019 - 12:37 pm

When John Rider helped form Max Creek in 1971, he envisioned not just a band, but a community to welcome and embrace people who couldn’t quite fit in— people like himself, who found the mainstream to be an uncomfortable and constricting place. He saw Max Creek, he said recently, as “a vehicle for the dreams of musicians, artists, poets or anyone else with a vision.”  Nearly 50 years later, that dream endures.

45&Live, thirteen songs culled from eight sets played in their 45th year, is strong, meaningful music.  Max Creek is fronted by veterans John Rider (bass), Mark Mercier (keys), and Scott Murawski (guitar), and since 2012 has been backed by Bill Carbone (drums) and Jamemurrel “Jay” Stanley, whose next-generation status affirms the timelessness of Creek’s musical direction, even as audience members introduce the band’s music to their children.

Set One:

“She’s Here” (Scott) is a blues inflected screaming rocker that Scott swears was inspired by putting new strings on his bass.  When he recorded something to check it out…he found a gift.

“Sadie” is a delightful romp, half boogie-woogie and half bluegrass.  Written by T. Michael Coleman and recorded by Doc Watson, it’s about a sweet daughter.  Having been recently blessed with one, Mark fell in love with the tune.

“Devil’s Heart (John) is about four different folks John has known, and leads to a killer jam and groove. 

“I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” (Dylan) is sung by Bill, who took the arrangement from a Rolling Thunder Revue rehearsal.  To my ears, it’s about half of a fifth of whiskey past Dylan’s original—rowdy and right.

“Emerald Eyes” (Scott) is a beautiful romantic shuffle that leads into a spectacular, fabulously stretched out jam.  It was, Scott tells us, “inspired by a vision I had about a previous lifetime of a very good friend of mine who's since passed… the vision itself was rather elaborate and describes some sort of 18th or early 19th century small family attempting to settle in the wilderness while surviving multiple calamities and challenges of the times as well as not surviving some of them, and waiting for their impending reincarnation.”

“I Got My Mojo Workin’” (Mark) is a standard written by Preston Foster and made famous by Muddy Waters.  Mark was looking for a voodoo song for a Halloween show, and he chose a winner.  It’s got some incendiary guitar and a wonderful bass sound. 

Set 2

“Into the Ocean” (Jay) was written in Costa Rica at a Max Creek Jungle Jam after Jay witnessed a disturbing incident when a server at their hotel, a beautiful and kind woman, sat down to talk with him and was immediately fired.  As a black man growing up in the U.S., Jay related not only to the struggles of people in the third world to find meaningful livelihoods in a beautiful land, but also the reality that beauty and suffering are not separate.  As a melody, the emphasis is on the beauty—it’s gently exquisite; the lyrics drive the politics. 

“Willow Tree” (Scott) is a reggae-influenced love song based, says Scott, “on a TV commercial for conservation that was promoting planting trees at certain milestones in your life, like having children, and watching the tree grow along side whatever it was.  I thought that was a great idea and though I never planted a tree, I did write a song about it.”  Sweet as hell, with lovely guitar and keyboard solos in the middle.

“Peaceful Warrior” (John).  The tune feels more warrior than peaceful, with an opening reminiscent of late ‘60s Rolling Stones.  John tells us that it was “written after reading Dan Millman’s book Peaceful Warrior.  The concept is that you have a peaceful heart but at times you are called on to be a warrior. Those values that have faded from your life will be ‘coming back again’ when you become that warrior.”  The instrumental passage is definitely warrior quality, a rocking slash and burn attack that builds into a major musical statement.

“After Midnight” (J.J. Cale) is sung by Mark.  It’s a classic song we’ve all heard a million times, but as Mark notes it’s “adapted to Max Creek’s style with a lively keyboard intro, a country/bluegrass inspired two beat, and an open R & B jam at the end.”  Let me add that it features some seriously ripping guitar work running up inspired keyboards.

“Emotional Railroad” (Scott) is a terrific love song with a reggae bounce on top of a driving rock beat.  It was written, Scott reports, “on one of our seven hour drives home from some shows in Rochester, NY, all in my head.  I couldn't wait to get home and record it!  It's my favorite melody to sing, too.”  Bill and Jay deliver a highly danceable groove, Mark serves up a superb keyboard solo, with Scott wrapping the musical package.

“Said and Done” (Mark).  This formidable musing about power and who really runs things in our lives echoes early Dylan in point of view.  Mark tells us that “This is a song that hugely changes meaning with each passing year, ranging from extremely personal to a commentary on the state of things. The original idea came years ago, long before 9/11, when I ran into a friend outside of Lupo’s in Providence who was in the middle of a heated political discussion while waiting to get into our show there.  I asked what was going on, and she angrily turned to me and shouted, “Don’t you know that this country is run by old white men.?!?” I started musing on this and pictured in my mind a secret gathering of heartless, powerful political and corporate giants that would take place annually in a mountain cave to determine, a la Vonnegut, the future course of mankind. And I wondered, while they would suspiciously celebrate their accomplishments with each other, if any of them ever had a heart or a love, or, as they grow old, a longing for what they might have been if not for their climb to power. Sadly, this has turned out to be truer that I could have imagined.”

“Midnight Special” (Traditional, associated with Lead Belly; Creedence Clearwater Revival had a hit with it).  Sung by John.  Max Creek, in its early days, had a Creedence/CSNY-inspired country/folk influence that exists to this day. This is one of the first songs that the band learned in 1971.   Said Bill the drummer, “In my seven years with Creek, we’ve only played this song once, and here it is. They called the tune, turned to me and just said ‘you’ll hear it,’ counted the intro, and off we went.”

45 features a few songs from the 70s, but they’ve evolved, and they’re nestled comfortably amongst the contemporary selections, voices, and even raps, of the new guys. And the improvisations—of which there are plenty—reflect the deep history, shared language, and veteran sensibilities of the band while exhibiting a flavor and pop that isn’t at all like “back in the day.”

Ask Murawski how the band has lasted 48 years and he’ll tell you, “we ride to gigs in separate cars.”  There’s something to that. But watch Creek in action and you’ll see a different truth—they’re a family with connections far too deep to uproot. Linda Cournoyer, the band’s lighting czarina and the designer of all its album covers and merchandise, has been with them since 1978.  DJ the sound man has been with the group off and on since the 80s, Mike the tour manager since the mid 90s, and many of the traveling fan family look back to their first shows in the early 80s, or at least heard about those years from their parents. And truly nothing has seen more action than pianist Mark Mercier’s touring briefcase, which may or may not have lyrics and receipts from the band’s first gigs in it somewhere.

There’s a patina that art gets with the endless polishing of age, a richness of intuitive interaction that takes time to get to.  You can hear it in 45 & Live.

Upcoming Shows:

Friday March 29

The Barn at Levon Helm Studios

Woodstock NY

Friday April 5

The Colonial Theater

Pittsfield, MA

Friday April 19

Infinity Hall

Hartford, CT

Friday May 10

The Met

Pawtucket, RI

Sat May 25

Strangecreek Campout Music Festival

Greenfield, MA

Sun, 03/17/2019 - 1:04 pm

I get asked a lot about the current crop of young (as in, never saw Jerry Garcia live) Dead Heads and whether they’re “real.”  And no question, they are.  They get the music, the code of ethics behind the music, the reason we do this stuff.  There is, however, one thing that reveals the passage of time.  Many—not all, but quite a few—members of the younger generation suffer from P.D. – Pigpen Deficiency.

This is not true of Chris Mitrovich, the founder of Skull and Roses (at Ventura Fairgrounds April 5-7 this year, and you should buy tickets now –  When I first met him, I knew I could trust him when he remarked that “Every Dead Head gathering needs some Pigpen.”  Which brings us to the story of the Alligators, and Pete Carona.  They are the antidote to P.D., and you’re going to want to see them….so let’s talk to Pete.

The Alligators @ Skull & Roses Festival

My family moved from New York to the San Gabriel Valley, Southern California, when I was in the 4th grade, and everything changed.  I’ve been really blessed to come from a really musical family.  My parents and my brothers were real proponents – my Dad was in a doo-wop band in the ‘50s, in Brooklyn, and my mom loved the band.  She waited on line at a record store where they were doing a signing, and the rest is history.  And I ate it up – from very early on, I listened to everything there was on the radio.  My early favorite band was Kiss, and my father took me to see them at the (Madison Square) Garden when I was nine years old, and it was a life-changing experience; I got a taste of over-the-top rock and roll and never looked back. Then I got to California, and everybody, including me, was nuts for Led Zeppelin.  The Dead came a little later on, in high school, and when it hit, it hit hard.

I don’t play an instrument, and I don’t claim to be a great vocalist – I’ve got this gritty Bob Seger/ Lynyrd Skynyrd approach, but my main strength, which I’ve taken from all these things I’ve listened to, is performance, putting on a big, high-energy show --- finding individual people in the crowd, tuning into them, locking in to make sure that everyone is grooving on the same page.  I bring the bottle of Jim Beam onto the stage and just go full tilt.  We bring an energy that you don’t see in most other bands.  I’m a concert junkie still, I go to two or three shows a week.  All the Dead & Company’s, reggae and blues – I just suck it all up as much as I can.

The Alligators | Ventura, CA

My first band was a punk rock band called Annihilation.  That was in 9th grade.  Then I went to high school, and that’s where I met Chris Mitrovich, the founder of Skull and Roses, and we became best of friends to this day.  We started out deep in the punk rock scene.  Within six months we started a punk rock fanzine, we were interviewing bands, then we put on shows…and it reminds me of the Dead scene in certain ways.  It had a real DIY vibe to it, it was all people you knew doing everything.  Along the way, we stumbled in with the stoner music guys at school, and they started sharing tapes with us.  The Dead had been on my radar, but then we met these guys and the tapes…it was kind of game over at that point.  We still loved the punk scene, but once the Dead came in it took us on a whole new journey.  From then on, we started hitting Dead shows in the ‘80s, and we started bringing more and more friends of ours into our scene – we always had a big scene, the Arcadia/San Gabriel Valley thing, we traveled in packs, 30 or 40 of us, and it just grew.

Irvine was the first one.  Before that, we had been immersing ourselves in the tapes and getting super excited.  There was this Atlanta ’85 tape that somebody loaned me – it was the only thing I listened to for days.  They do this “Scarlet”-“Touch of Grey” second set opener – I must have played that thing a billion times and then we were just drooling for a show.  Chris got a head start on me, he went away and caught some show, I’m not sure where, and my band, the Insultors, (still my band after 30 years!)  was playing that night so I couldn’t get away – and when he came back, I could just see the glow on him.  So, the first one I got to was Irvine.

The Alligators | photo by Steve Kennedy

And then I was in the freak show.  Thousands of people camping out, eating, smiling, loving, music from every tape coming from every corner of the parking lot. It was just pure ecstasy.   I remember we pulled our van right in, and I got out and the first person I met, he called himself St. Paul, and he handed me a donut, and then he said, “On the eighth day, God created Jerry Garcia.  Welcome to heaven.”  I still get goosebumps…And then the music started!  We were experimenting with psychedelics, which was kind of new to me, because I was always a whiskey guy…and, of course, psychedelics and the Dead kinda go together, the colors, the sights, the sounds...  I remember a “Wharf Rat” from that first show that completely melted me; After the encore, I remember the lights came on, and I had a smile that I just could not get rid of.  And we went back out to the parking lot, and I realized I’d found a new tribe. Most of our friends were all experiencing it for the first time, and we all gelled with it.  At that point, we were off, and then it was show after show.

And then the Europe tour – it was one of the funnest times of my life.  That’s always been one of the things I loved most about the band.  Not only are you meeting new people along the way, but you’re seeing the world, you’re traveling, and what better way to travel than at the end of the day you get to go see your favorite band?  There were six of us that wanted to go, and I couldn’t afford to go, really.  So, I hit up a friend of mine who was in business, and he said “Here’s $2,000.  Go have fun and represent Arcadia, and you have a year to pay me back.”  So I took it.  And four or five months later I paid him back.

The Alligators

Some nights we camped out in the park, some nights in youth hostels, some nights we threw some money in and stayed at a nice hotel.  And once again, just meeting the European fans – and in some places, the shows seemed really small and intimate.  It was an experience like no other.   There was a certain “Dark Star” there, and it was one of the nights where we got to get up pretty close.  It was getting really spacey, down and deep and dirty, and then Bruce Hornsby got out his accordion and Jerry sort of looked at him...that might just be in our minds, too.

I went to a bunch of colleges—I was never really focused too much—but finally got my degree in communications, and I’ve been a TV producer for Fox for the last 20 years.  I make 20 and 30-second promo commercials for the station.

The Alligators

How the Alligators came about is a funny story.  Chris had been coming to see my band for forever, helping out in every way, so when he put together the first Skull and Roses we were behind him 100%.  He had such a great approach to it, and on the banners and ads for the first one, he kept talking about “48 Bands for Three Days.”  About three weeks away from the start, somebody couldn’t pull it off, so now he only had 47 bands.  And it bothered him; he really wanted to keep it as he’d said, at 48.  He’s very attention-to- detail-oriented.  We were talking about it, and we thought, well, we could put a band together, but there’s already dozens and dozens of bands playing straight-up Grateful Dead, but we wanted to do something special, and somebody said, “What about Pigpen?”  And I had that whisky rock-and-roller kind of approach, so I said, “We can give that a go.”

Me (PetePen) and Jason (J.J. Gator) on bass kind of assembled a bunch of guys from the neighborhood who’d played in a million different bands, and then we found a couple of guys to fill out the lineup with a local Craig’s list kind of thing.  We have a real eclectic bunch.  One guy’s been in reggae bands his whole life; now he’s McSwamp, who does vocals and is our d.j.  Another guy, our percussionist, Tommo, was always an REM-Smiths-alternative college rock kind of guy. Our rhythm guitarist, Stevie Ravioli, comes from a heavy metal, Judas Priest Iron Maiden kind of background. Steve Kim-Chee Warrior came in on lead guitar, Scottie Gator on drums, and Berkee Gator on keys.

Pete Carona | The Alligators

But all of us liked the Dead, it’s just our bands weren’t always that focused on it.   We put it together strictly to fill that void.  So, we told Chris that we had his 48th band together.  And then he told us our time slot, which caused us to fall on the ground laughing, because he told us the band that had cancelled was due to play at 6 a.m. on Saturday.  “Is anyone going to even be there?”  But of course, we played, and it was unbelievable.  We started off with “Good Morning, Little Schoolgirl,” and we did a really long spacey intro to get people up before we kicked into it.  And little by little, people started getting out of their tents and trailers—it wasn’t huge, it was like 40 or 50 people. 

But we got mid-way through our set, and we were doing “Smokestack.”  And it was misty and cloudy, and right in the middle of the jam, we didn’t even notice, but 50 feet behind us were train tracks, and right in the middle of our jam came the morning train, just howling by, and it was just perfect.  And we just got such a wonderful response as we came off the stage, and even though we’d thought of it as a one-off to help Chris, and before you knew it, all the people were saying to us “Where do we see you next?”  So we rolled with it, and every show we play, the crowds keep getting bigger and bigger, and more and more people—not to compare us, but in a strange way it’s like a microcosm of the Dead, where they all came from different influences, and we’ve had people jump on board to fill all the roles—the Owsley role, the crew,  the sound guys, the merch guys.  It’s probably like that for all the bands here at Skull and Roses. 

Pete Carona | The Alligators

I gotta say that an absolute Pig purist might have reservations about us—I mean, the music is all Pigpen all the time, but we’re trying to bring our own trip to it too, so sometimes we’ll use their songs as a base, but then we can jam into a “New Speedway” or “Other One” and then bring it back to Pigpen—not lyrically, but musically.  And we really do have a show, it’s a party, like Pigpen crossed with Mardi Gras.  And taking the Alligators out and around has been amazing, you really do find out how big a tent the Grateful Dead really is.  People just come out of the woodwork.  It’s an honor to tap in to the Dead this way, and all we wanted to do was kick up the party a few notches, and that’s what we’re doing...

For more on the band, go to 

Tue, 05/28/2019 - 9:27 am

Steve Kimock, guitar wizard and the man Jorma Kaukonen labeled one of the best guitarists alive, first came to notice with Zero, the legendary Marin County jam band from the ‘80s.  Then came the post-Grateful Dead Furthur tours in the ‘90s, and he currently leads Voodoo Dead among other combinations.  But for a good long while—25 years!—Steve Kimock & Friends has been his primary outlet.  It’s a hell of a band, and in September they’re going to take a short jaunt around the Northeast to celebrate. 

Joining Steve is Jeff Chimenti (Dead & Company) on keys, Reed Mathis (Tea Leaf Green) on bass and vocals, and John Morgan Kimock (Mike Gordon, Oteil & Friends) on drums. There will certainly be guest players.

SK&F plays everything.  Tender ballads and psychedelic crashbang, music suitable to meditate by and deep improvisation that sounds like electric versions of John Coltrane, swampy funk grooves and crystalline rock and roll.

Jorma’s not a b.s.-er and he wasn’t kidding—Steve is one of the remarkable musicians of his generation.  Not to be missed.

Tour Dates:

Sept. 25 Weds.                   Ridgefield Playhouse, Ridgefield, CT

Ticket Link:


Sept. 26 Thurs.                    Cabot Theatre, Beverly, MA

Ticket Link:


Sept. 27 Fri. (early show – 7 pm)    Le Poisson Rouge, New York City

Ticket Link:


Sept. 28 Sat.             Ardmore Music Hall, Philadelphia, PA

Ticket Link:

Fri, 05/31/2019 - 6:31 pm

Los Angeles is bursting with musicians, but few can boast resumes on the order of Paul Ill (bass, vocals), Mark Tremaglia (guitar and vocals), Randy Ray Mitchell (guitar, vocals), and Dan Potruch (drums).  Live and in the studio, they’ve played with such artists as Linda Perry, Courtney Love, Mick Taylor, Matt Sorum, Daniel Lanois, Jackie DeShannon, Elvin Bishop, Warren Zevon, Donna Summer, Billy Bob Thornton, Deron Johnson, and Keb’ Mo.

In the trade, they are what is called “first call” players, and they deliver without fail.  After years of perfecting their craft at the service of others, they craved a band of their own, which became The Disreputable Few.  The Few was fun, and began to build a reputation.  They released Ain’t Who I Was and got an excellent response.

But then the Few backed both Bob Weir (Grateful Dead) and Butch Trucks (Allman Brothers Band) at special events, and something ignited in their collective musical brain.  Along with the originals that they were coming up with, they started finding extreme satisfaction in sandwiching Dead and Allman Brothers songs together – “One Way Out” into “Bertha,” “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” into “Dark Star.”  They tried it out in public, and the audiences went bananas.

And so we bid a fond farewell to The Disreputable Few and introduce you to Uncle Duane’s Band.  They’ll knock your socks off.  They’re touring the South in June, and will pop up at your neighborhood music hall sometime soon.  Their first release, Uncle Duane’s Band, will come out in July 16, 2019.

Do not miss this.

The Seven Sons Tour, with Tyler Boone, sponsored by Boone’s Bourbon

June 1, Sat. - Rebirth Festival, Austin Parish/Empire Control Room, Austin, TX

June 2, Sun. - Bottle and Tap, Baton Rouge, LA

June 3, Mon. - Blue Canoe, Tupelo, MS

June 4, Tues. - The Nick, Birmingham, AL

June 5, Weds. - The Basement, Nashville, TN

June 6, Thurs. - Wicked Weed, Asheville, NC

June 7, Fri. - The Creek Stage at the Rookery, Presented by the Big House Museum, Macon, GA

June 8, Sat. - The Rooftop Bar, Georgia Theater, Athens, GA

June 9, Sun. - Vinyl, Atlanta, GA

Thu, 06/27/2019 - 5:45 pm

Goose is an indie-groove band from Connecticut.  Rick Mitarotonda is the guitarist-singer-songwriter up front—his tunes are folky and hummable, and the man can shred.  Peter Anspach on guitar and keys joins Trevor Weekz on bass and Ben Atkind on drums.  They all can play, and they like to go to very deep space places.

On June 26th they released their latest single, “All I Need,” recorded and mixed at Factory Underground in Norwalk, CT, and mastered by Grammy Award-winning engineer Emily Lazar (Paul McCartney, Beck, Foo Fighters, John Mayer), with assistance by Chris Allgood at The Lodge in New York City.  Their first release, a CD called Moon Cabin, came out in 2016.  In the interval, they’ve honed their chops and done some serious growing, opening for Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Spafford, and Aqueous.  This summer will see them at major festivals like Domefest, Summer Camp, Beanstalk, Peach Fest, and Resonance.

This is a band on the rise.

artwork by Jason Piperberg

Here’s how you can hear “All I Need”:

Wed, 08/21/2019 - 5:31 pm

Thirty-five years ago, having met when Steve Kimock auditioned for former Grateful Dead members Keith and Donna Jean Godchaux’s Heart of Gold Band (which already had Greg Anton as its drummer), Greg and Steve recorded an album, Greg on drums and piano, Steve on guitars and bass.  Then they started a band to play the music. Having gone through many, many names, Greg asked Steve how many were left on the list to consider: “Zero” was the answer, and Zero became the name of one of the finest jazz/rock fusion “jam” bands ever. 

35 is a pretty hefty anniversary, and definitely worth celebrating.  On November 22nd, Greg and Steve, with Melvin Seals (JGB) on keys and Pete Sears (Jefferson Starship, Hot Tuna, Moonalice) on bass, will kick off Zero’s 36th year at the Great American Music Hall

They went years without a vocal, creating such instrumental-only gems as Here Goes Nothin (1987), Nothin’ Goes Here (1990), and the live Go Hear Nothin’ (1991).  A casual conversation with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter sent the band in a new direction, and they added vocalist Judge Murphy and produced the classic Chance in a Million

Greg Anton

As bands will, Zero came and went.  After their incendiary set at the 1999 30th anniversary Oregon Country Fair, the Fair manager said, “You guys want to be on the 50th anniversary bill?”  “Sure,” and they shook hands….and this past July, 20 years later, Zero returned to the Country Fair stage.  “Both Pete and Melvin,” said Anton, “used the word magic to describe it.  We worked, as Zero does. One thing Steve and I have is a work ethic.  We played five hours before each of the two shows‚ because the songs needed to be honored.  The songs have developed so many moves over the years, and we were in touch with them.” 

There’s zero chance that they won’t be ready to do it again at GAMH.  Be there…or you’ll be missing out.  There will undoubtedly be special guests….there are rumors about a saxophonist to succeed the late, wonderful Martin Fierro, for instance…and few would be surprised if there are other shows as well. 

Tickets on sale Friday, August 23, at 10 a.m. pacific, at

Fri, 09/13/2019 - 8:40 am

The bubbling stream of songwriting and recording creativity that began for Steve Kimock with Last Danger of Frost and progressed through sessions with John Morgan Kimock and Leslie Mendelson on Satellite City shows no signs of quitting.  Next up is a single called “While We Wait”— a sumptuous, elegant, romantic instrumental, beautiful as only KIMOCK (Steve on lap steel, guitar, and (!) piano, Spencer Murphy on bass, John Morgan Kimock on drums, kalimba, piano, and synthesizers) can make it.  Written by Steve and produced by John Morgan, it’s quite simply gorgeous—all the more remarkable because the initial source of the song was the bittersweet joy Steve experienced in visiting with a friend who didn’t have much time left.

Steve’s playing creates a unique space, one not conventionally occupied by the average mind.  As John Morgan put it, “You cannot identify what you are hearing, which is really exciting to me. I try to run with the ‘UFO’ vibes and let that creep into the production.”  Commenting on John’s production work, Steve replied, “I don’t know how he does it.  He takes pieces I’ve done and creates something new…his process is fascinating.”  The other-worldly magic of Steve’s guitar meets its match with John Morgan’s studio alchemy.

"The feeling inside this tune is patience, life, a prerequisite to waiting.” - Steve Kimock

“While We Wait” will be released September 13th, premiering on, and will be available everywhere in cyberworld:




Wed, 10/02/2019 - 9:56 am

Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart once remarked, “We’re not in the entertainment business, we’re in the transportation business – we move minds.”  That spirit led to a connection between band and audience so profound that it developed into a subculture.  At the University of the Road, Dead Heads actually studied what was going on, whether it was tapers analyzing the finest sound system ever assembled, literature majors contemplating some of the most sophisticated lyrics in rock history, or musicologists studying the vast array of sources for the Dead’s considerable body of work.

All of which makes the Dead the ideal topic for Steven Van Zandt’s (the E Street Band, The Sopranos) Rock and Roll Forever Foundation (RRFF), whose goal is to create a 21st century school curricula based on popular music as a way of empowering teachers and engaging students.  In recent years they’ve devised 160 lesson plans at levels from elementary school to AP high school covering social studies, language arts, STEAM and music based on artists from the Beatles to Beyonce.  It’s legitimate material endorsed by national education organizations, and it’s all free at

Just by way of example:

Beat Culture and the Grateful Dead (High School English)

●      Students engage with excerpts from several "Beat" writers and consider how the Beat worldview both influenced and was reflected in the Grateful Dead's music

Feeling the Vibrations (Elementary/Middle School STEAM)

●      Using the Dead's history of catering to the needs of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Fans, students explore the science of sound as vibration and learn basic sign language

Jerry Garcia, Addiction, and Intervention (Middle/High School Social Emotional Learning)

●      Students use clips from LST to confront the idea of infallibility and learn intervention strategies developed by the Mayo Clinic

Loudspeakers, PA Systems, and the “Wall of Sound” (Elementary/Middle School STEAM)

●      Following an introduction of Augustus Owsley "Bear" Stanley and the Wall of Sound, students construct simple but functional speaker cones

1960s Counterculture (High School English/Social Studies)

●      Students explore the 1960s Countercultural Movement in Haight-Ashbury by examining the early career of the Grateful Dead and reading journalistic accounts of the neighborhood at that time

Deadheads and Reagan's America (Middle/High School English/Social Studies) 

●      Students consider the idea of the family as it applied to the Deadhead community and the conservative values promoted by President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

The Original "Going Viral" (Middle/High School General Music)

●      Using the history of Grateful Dead tape trading, students explore the concept of virality beyond its current internet-related connotations 

Wed, 10/09/2019 - 1:30 pm

Dear Friends,

As many of you know, for the past several years I have been dealing with liver disease. When we finished the second leg of our 50th Anniversary Tour, I was beginning to develop some edema, which has been making some things a little more difficult. It has been a bit of a roller coaster as I go through the treatments my medical team has prescribed, and I have had good days and not so good days. Lately, the not so good days have been more common. I have met with my team at UCLA and they have told me that what I am experiencing is common and treatable. However, the timing is not ideal, as they have directed me to stay home in October while they fine-tune the treatment in order to get me back to where the good days are the norm. 

Needless to say, I am beyond disappointed as I was really looking forward to the shows in October. This whole year has been a musical dream come true and none of it would have been possible if not for the enduring support of all of you, the Feat Fans!

Fortunately, the shows will go on. I have no doubt the band is going to rise to the occasion. As a band, for over 50 years we have always had each other’s backs and I know they will continue to put on the best possible show each and every night.  That’s the way we roll.  I am also very appreciative that Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams (from October 7 to 24), and Scott Sharrard (October 26 and 27) are able to fill in for me. I can’t think of any musicians better suited to take on the guitar seat than Larry and Scott. Most of you know Larry, and you may have heard Scott while he was with Greg Allman’s band.  He is one hell of a slide player for sure. Together with the band, they will take the music to some great places.

My plan is to follow my doctor’s orders and sit tight, but I have every intention of getting back to Jamaica in January and rock'n on the beach with all of you. Until then, keep your sailin’ shoes close by… If I have my way, you’re going to need them!

Very best wishes, Paul

Sat, 12/14/2019 - 12:43 pm

Andy Logan is a Dead Head, a serious guitar collector, and a filmmaker—more on those subjects in a minute.  He’s always dreamed of owning a Jerry Garcia guitar, but since “Wolf” recently went for $1.9 M., the odds seemed slim. 

Still, he took part by telephone in Tuesday’s (12/10/19) Bonham’s auction, setting a figure of $400,000 as his limit to buy Jerry’s legendary “Alligator,” which he played from May 1971 to late 1973 (in other words, all of Europe ’72). 

The bidding reached $400,000, and he figured he was done.  But when the auction representative said “It’s 420 to you,” he couldn’t resist.  “I guess I have to say yes to 420.”  The rep laughed, agreed, and placed the bid.  There were giggles from the crowd, and then all Andy could hear was silence in the room—there were no more bids.  The auctioneer declared him the winner at $420,000, the audience in the room clapped and cheered, and Andy found himself leaking some tears of joy.

homage to Jerry's guitars

There’s lots more to the story.  Andy’s guitar collection is, in fact, a Grateful Dead Guitar Library which contains a model of the guitars used by Jerry and Bob for every year from 1965 to 1995.  Like any good librarian, he loans them out.  So when DSO recreated the Dead’s 9/8/83 Red Rocks show recently, they used one of Andy’s axes to get the right tone.  When Phil Lesh & Friends recreated all thirty years of the Dead in 2015-16 at Terrapin Crossroads, and when Stu Allen and Mars Hotel did the same at Ashkenaz in Berkeley…you get the idea.  He’s also hired luthiers to build replica G.D. guitars, and given them to most of the best-known players in the Dead-oriented band world, including Rob Eaton, Jeff Mattson, Stu Allen, Zach Nugent, Mik Bondy, Alex Jordan, Dave Hebert, Garrett Deloian, Keir Anzelmo, Evan Jones, Nate LaPointe and Daniel Marc. 

He also owns two guitars that Jerry commissioned from Steve Cripe, who built Garcia’s “Lightning Bolt” and “Tophat” instruments.  Alas, Jerry checked out before he could take delivery, and Steve passed on a year later.  Since 2013, Andy has loaned these out to Jeff Mattson (DSO), Stu Allen (Phil Lesh & Friends), Kenny Withrow (Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, Forgotten Space), Adam Terrell (Assembly of Dust), Mik Bondy (The Garcia Project), Alex Jordan (Midnight North), Zach Nugent (Melvin Seals & JGB), Garrett Deloian (Jerry’s Middle Finger) and Craig Marshall (Cubensis). 


In addition to “Alligator,” on Tuesday he won the bidding for the Martin D-28 that Garcia played on the Festival Express in 1970.  As with the rest, it’s his intention to get them into top-performing shape and then make them available for loan so that they can do what they were made to do.

Andy is also producer of a new not-for-profit documentary on the musical legacy of the Dead, The Music Plays the Band.  Directed by Jake Cunavelis of Mt. Mansfield Media, it will be out in 2020.  All profits from the film will be split between the Rex Foundation and a soon-to-be-launched nonprofit that will further the aims of the G.D. Guitar Library.

homage to Weir's guitars

If Andy has anything to say about it, the music will never stop. 

Mon, 01/06/2020 - 10:30 am

About five years ago, Robert Hunter, sweet be his memory, sent his old friend David Nelson a stack of lyrics.  David’s written music for several of them, some of which were on the David Nelson Band release Once In A Blue Moon.

The DNB finished another song, “Movin’ Right Along,” but for whatever reason—perhaps because it seemed so very intense—it sat and waited.  And on September 23rd, Robert himself moved along to wherever we’re all going, and it seemed appropriate to share it with you.

Although the song is about a character who clearly isn’t Robert, it’s also hard to avoid the thought that Robert was contemplating his own mortality in “Movin’ Right Along,” since it’s filled with images of war, strife, and death:  “I have died for liberty, fought heavy hard and long / I have died in poverty, moving right along / I’m about to blow this joint so listen to my song / I have died to prove a point, moving right along.”

Hunter was busy and productive until very near the end of his life, and lord only knows how many lyrics he left behind.  But in the circumstances, “Movin’ Right Along” will be a special testament to his power as an artist and the love and overwhelming respect that his audience has had for him for these many years.

“Movin’ Right Along” will be available on January 22, 2020, from ITunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon, Pandora, TikTok, and just about any other digital music platform you can think of.  It is available for preorder now at those sites.

Wed, 01/22/2020 - 4:14 pm

Skull & Roses returns for its 4th year celebrating the music and community of the Grateful Dead at the Ventura County Fairgrounds (California) from April 2-5, 2020. A new ticket category, GA Plus, was introduced this year for 500 lucky fans, which will offer many great perks including exclusive opportunities throughout the weekend to attend intimate performances, rare interviews, and more in the GA Plus section of Hunter’s Lodge, a comfy, indoor space located just outside of the arena.

This is the initial lineup of a very special series, so stay tuned as more artists are added!

Intimate performances by Steve Kimock, Jackie Greene, John Kadlecik, Grahame Lesh & Elliot Peck, Holly Bowling, Doobie Decibel System feat. Jason Crosby and Roger McNamee & more.

Interviews with Steve Parish, Melvin Seals, Dennis McNally, Jay Blakesberg, Roger McNamee & more.

Slideshow “Between The Dark and Light”, The Grateful Dead photography of Jay Blakesberg.

Grab your tickets and secure your accommodations (hotels or off-site camping) for what is sure to be an EPIC weekend as we celebrate the music and community of the Grateful Dead!

Enjoy All The S&R Perks With GA Plus:

  • Complimentary access to Thursday Night Kickoff Party featuring live performances from Stu Allen & Mars Hotel and Rooster Conspiracy.
  • Access to our S&R Lounge Tent inside the arena.
  • Pit Access and VIP Viewing for all Live Performances.
  • Attend Intimate Performances and Interviews with Musicians, and more as described in our announcement above.
  • Access to private cash bars.
  • Air-conditioned restrooms.
  • Complimentary bottled water.
  • Full-service bar.