Two recent concerts brought the Dead to life
Separated by the harbinger of cold rain, but united by Jerry Garcia—a duo of weekend concerts evoked the spirit of musical community.
The Kuumbwa Jazz Center let its hair down on Friday, Oct. 22 when Deadheads gathered to raise funds for the UC Santa Cruz Grateful Dead archive. With chairs pushed to the side, the dance floor filled quickly with community members dancing to Santa Cruz Dead clone band Slugs and Roses—while outside, Dead archivist Nicholas Meriwether slung GD merchandise like a tour rat selling grilled cheese sandwiches in a parking lot. Nitrous tanks were absent, but dreadlocks, tie-dyes and patchouli were in abundance.
Members of the seminal Santa Cruz Banana Slug Band held down the Jerry Garcia and Phil Lesh positions, with Airy Larry shredding the lead guitar and Doug Dirt dropping the bombs on bass. Keyboardist Dave Faulkner (whose other band Shady Groove will be opening for Dead drummer Bill Krutzmann’s 7 Walkers at Moe’s Alley on Oct. 29) brought the vibrant color while lead singer Michael Sammet poured his soul into the vocals. Virtually speaking, it was a holographic heyday.
The next night, Saturday, Oct. 23, the crowd across town at Moe’s Alley was thick with harvest haze by the time the Mother Hips took the stage. After 20 years of road work, the Hips are a frizzle frazzle of dizzle and dazzle performing like a quartet of grizzly bears awakened from hibernation and ready to feast. Tim Bluhm, recently coming off tour with Grateful Dead drummers Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart in the Rhythm Devils, sported a Garcia button on his guitar strap—so it was a pleasant surprise when the Hips’ set was peppered with Dead classics “Easy Wind” and “Friend of the Devil.”
Few bands have the ability to produce sterling studio albums and play live dynamic shows. The Hips’ 2009 Pacific Dust is mesmerizing—their other dozen releases have enough brilliant tunes to soundtrack endless variations of movies.
The Hips were recently joined onstage by Bob Weir at a Rainforest Action benefit show and there seems to be a Dead current coursing through the band. Billed on the poster as “indie rock pioneers”—the band seems ready to embrace the jamband culture. On the other hand, one of things that has kept the Hips so iconic over the years is their stubborn unwillingness to allow themselves to be pigeonholed to a certain genre. For a band that could easily cowboy-up for a night at the Grand Ole Opry and turn around and demolish the punkish vibe at, say, Bottom of the Hill—there seems to be no hurry for the Hips to sign-up to any particular camp.