Jerry Garcia died 20 years ago, thus ending the “long, strange trip” of the Grateful Dead. The band died with the irreplaceable Garcia.
But the music – and the “deadhead” culture – lives on.
In honor of the 20th anniversary of Garcia’s Aug. 9, 1994, demise — and his Aug. 1, 1942, birthday — the Miners Foundry Cultural Center is presenting Jerry Bash 2014, a community celebration of music, food, drinks and art from 4 to 10 p.m. Saturday at Pioneer Park in Nevada City.
Headlining the family-friendly festival is Nevada County’s own DeadBeats, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary reunion as a premier Grateful Dead cover band. The current members of the band have invited past DeadBeats members to join the celebration of the legacy of Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead.
Many of the bands to be featured Saturday contain current or former DeadBeats players, including Achilles Wheel, T-Buck & the Bad Dreams, and The Cheatin’ Buzzies.
While there are no ex-DeadBeats in the young Santa Cruz/San Francisco band Scary Little Friends, they will kick off the concert with a surfs-up psychedelic/Southern roots sound reminiscent of the Grateful Dead tradition.
DeadBeats – beyond the Grateful Dead
Calling the DeadBeats a Grateful Dead cover band actually does the band an injustice. It might be more accurate to call them a Grateful Dead uncovered band.
Although they definitely sound like the Grateful Dead, they don’t try to duplicate the Grateful Dead. They play their own versions of the Dead’s songs — and perform their own originals as well.
“We play in the same style as the Grateful Dead,” explained guitarist Paul Kamm, an original member of the DeadBeats.
What distinguishes the DeadBeats is the “sanctity of the song,” said drummer Mark McCartney.
Also, in the tradition of the Dead, “We play a different show every night,” added drummer Gary Campus, also an original member.
Campus is credited with conceiving the DeadBeats — which was a Day One hit when they sold out the then-Mad Dogs and Englishmen Pub in Nevada City in 1994. They’ve been playing to full-house crowds ever since.
One of the reasons the DeadBeats pack them every time is that they play so infrequently, only a few times a year, usually at the Miners Foundry.
“The Miners Foundry has almost been our living room,” said Campus. “We have a good relationship with them.”
Although Jerry Bash 2014 is a Foundry-sponsored event, this is the first time they’ve staged a show at Pioneer Park. But it’s not the DeadBeats’ first Jerry Bash at the park.
“We did a free show about 16 years ago,” Campus recalled.
Completing the DeadBeats’ Saturday lineup will be originals Tom Menig (guitar) and Eric Menig (bass). The current keyboardist is Glenn Tucker. Additionally, several DeadBeats “alumni” might sit in, Campus said.
Another reason that the DeadBeats don’t play all that often is that most of the other members play in other bands.
For instance, right now, half the members of the DeadBeats play in Achilles Wheel, which is currently enjoying success from Tahoe to the Bay Area, not to mention the recent WorldFest and the upcoming Strawberry Festival.
Kamm and the drumming team of Campus and McCartney make up Achilles Wheel along with Shelby Snow on six-string bass and Johnny Mojo on guitar.
The high-energy, roots-rock jam ban inspires a gotta-dance vibe.
With so much DeadBeats influence in the band, Achilles Wheel is going to be careful not to tread on the DeadBeats sound, said Snow.
“We might do a few Jerry Garcia Band songs in honor of Jerry, but no Grateful Dead.
“This concert is about the DeadBeats reunion,” he stressed.
Besides, the Wheel has its own songs, having just released their second album “Stones to Sand.”
“Who knows what we’ll play” said Snow with a shrug. “We don’t use a set list. All I know is that we will kill it.”
Because of Achilles Wheel’s reputation for killing it, T-Buck & the Bad Dreams has been scheduled to play before the DeadBeats as a “palette cleanser,” joked Tom Menig. Menig plays with T-Buck & the Bad Dreams along with former DeadBeats drummer Robbie Kopp.
Gretchen Bond, executive director of the Miners Foundry, announced Monday, the concert schedule is as follows:
4-5 p.m. Scary Little Friends
5:15-5:45 p.m. Cheatin’ Buzzies
6-7 p.m. Achilles Wheel
7:10-7:50 p.m. T Buck & the Bad Dreams
8:10-10 p.m. DeadBeats
Of course, this is a festival in tribute to the spirt of Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead, so things may not go exactly as planned – because the DeadBeats insisted they have no real plan.
“Every song’s a party,” promised Campus.
It’s going to be “a family-friendly concert experience where people can bring a picnic dinner, share a blanket with friends, and dance into the night on the soft grass,” said Bond.
There is a suggested donation for admission.
“It’s a suggested $20 donation, but we’ll take whatever people feel moved to donate,” Bond said, noting a $5 donation for kids.
Tom Durkin is a freelance writer and photographer in Nevada City. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.