Unlimited Devotion Brings The Dead To A Grateful Blueberry Patch
Unlimited Devotion is one of Florida’s hottest Grateful Dead tribute acts and has been steadily making a name for itself in other areas. They performed a raging set in Tampa back in March with Roosevelt Collier, and now with the addition of St. Petersburg native Darryl “Funky D” Quesenberry as permanent member on the keys, they roared back into town with a weekend run, culminating Saturday at The Blueberry Patch in Gulfport. The Blueberry Patch is one of those remarkable hidden gems of venues. To say that there are few places around like The Blueberry Patch is like saying The Grateful Dead played a couple live shows. The Blueberry Patch was founded in 1977 by Dallas Bohrer as an art, music and literature retreat, and it has evolved organically over the years with contributions from anyone and everyone who felt the call to contribute. This is one of those venues where literally everywhere you turn there is some new dazzling piece of something to catch your eye. It’s the perfect setting for a band like this, and at 8 pm they took the stage, and they didn’t let up for the next three hours except for a short set break.
Unlimited Devotion consists of Al Zilinsky on guitar and vocals, John Zias on guitar and vocals, Dan DeGregory on drums and vocals, Joe Falconeri on bass and the aforementioned Darryl “Funky D” Quesenberry on keys.
The first set got off to a roar with opener “The Music Never Stopped.” This song, as many of the UD songs do, feature drummer Dan DeGregory on vocals. Dan has a great voice for this music, and he brings a great, clear but gritty tone to the songs.
The song choices were great all night. The band does a great job of curating setlists that have that great ebb and flow that really draws everyone in. There were great high-energy numbers interspersed with some of the ballads that gave everyone a chance to catch their breath or just close their eyes and get lost in the moment. Dan had the main vocal job all night, which left John Zias free to do what he does best – play guitar. His licks were spot on and hot all night.
Al Zilinsky did a great job playing rhythm all night, but from time to time he would kick on an effect and rip a few bars off or just have that perfect fill to punctuate a moment in the music.
Falconeri’s bass lines were something else. Joe clearly is not out to just mimic Phil Lesh’s bass playing; he is here to put his own spin on the low end of these songs, and he delivers a fantastic performance. His use of effects throughout the night, such as the first-set closer “Fire On The Mountain,” where his bass lines were extra fat with a heavy synth tone, worked great.
While much of DeGregory’s vocals make that role front and center, his drum work is equally impressive. Dan plays drums in a number of local bands, which is a testament to being one of those drummers that everyone wants and for good reason. Finally, adding Funky D on the keys rounds out the sound. Quesenberry comes from a heavy jam background, and he’s a great player for this kind of sound as he’s extremely talented at stretching songs out and letting them flow wherever it is they need to go.
The set flowed through hits such as “Cumberland Blues,” “Bertha,” “Cassidy” and more. Near the end of the first set, the band invited MFN’s own Matt Hillman up to play harmonica on the Little Milton song “That’s What Love Will Make You Do.” That song was played many times by the Jerry Garcia Band. The first set rounded out with a raucous “Scarlet Begonias” into “Fire On The Mountain.”
After a short break, they returned for a second set that started off with a wonderfully soulful rendition of “Cold Rain and Snow.” They kicked things into high gear right after with an extremely long rendition of the classic “Help > Slip > Franklin,” into which they also sandwiched the beautiful “Foolish Heart.” After that they invited St. Petersburg guitar legend Steve Connelly onto the stage for “New Speedway Boogie.” Connelly has been playing guitar for decades including touring nationally as well as running his own recording studio. After undergoing major surgery last year that saved his life, he’s now back with a vengeance, and his joy at playing again was on full display Saturday night. Due to a sound ordinance, the cutoff for music at The Patch is 11 pm, so things wrapped up with another great medley of “St. Stephen > China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider,” and the set was over. After much cheering and begging the band was able to squeeze in an encore of “The Other One,” a seriously unusual finishing touch and the perfect capstone for a great band making their debut at what has to be the most unusual music venue in the area.
Huge thanks to local photographer Kevin Tighe for graciously allowing us to use his pictures from the event.
You can listen to a recording of the show on Archive.org here: Unlimited Devotion at The Blueberry Patch 07/22/2017
Unlimited Devotion At The Blueberry Patch – Saturday July 22nd 2017
Music Never Stopped
Cumberland Blues > Bertha
Brown Eyed Women
That’s What Love Will Make You Do – Matt Hillman, Harmonica
Scarlet Begonias > Fire On The Mountain
Cold Rain And Snow
Help On The Way > Slipknot > Franklin’s Tower Intro Fakeout > Foolish Heart > Franklin’s Tower
New Speedway Boogie – Steve Connelly, Guitar
St Stephen > China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider
E – The Other One