The Garcia Project at VooSwar in Atlantic Beach January 29, 2022

Words and photographs by HAMBONE SPARKLEWELL

First, some context.

Between 1965 and 1995, The Grateful Dead played 2314 concerts, more or less. For better or worse, as the band gained some forms of power and momentum, they lost others, and their broadening appeal resulted in tours that, by the ’90s, resembled a series of three-ring circuses. There were times that it seemed that only “one in ten thousand (had) come for the show.” 

It got big, complicated, and messy, by the end. 

Jerry Garcia Band was a more nimble outfit, playing smaller venues and playing a “purer” repertoire, a mixture of underexposed Garcia songs and melodic covers of reggae, Dylan, R&B, soul, gospel, jazz, funk, and blues, curated in part by his steady bass player, John Kahn. 

Jerry Garcia Band

Between 1975 and 1995, the Garcia Band played 860 or so shows, depending on whether you count alternate lineups and early and late shows that were ticketed separately. They were my favorite band.

Following Garcia’s death in 1995, devoted GD/JGB listeners were forced to redistribute their attention, and the clear winner has been the GD/JGB Songbook, a shapely and varied body of work that has now, very clearly, become a legitimate part of the Great American Songbook. 

The GD/JGB songbook is now the province of Dead & Company, Phil and Friends, Phil’s Family Band, Wolf Brothers, Billy and the Kids, and all their jam band cousins and spin-offs: Kimock, Oteil, Scofield, Hornsby, Constanten, Phish, Feat, Mule, Derek, Tuna, the present JGB, DSO, Circles Around the Sun, and many others in every humble venue, garage, campsite, etc.

 

Now, to the point. 

Saturday night, Sparklewell had his first chance to see The Garcia Project, a band devoted to honor the music of the Jerry Garcia Band by recreating select shows, for over a decade. (Many thanks to Tom Laws of Get Laws’t Entertainment and VooSwar for hosting this show.) Hambone is in the process of trying to finish a book, and he has advised that most of his premium adjectives are currently unavailable. Nonetheless, he was quick to issue the Sparklewell Seal of Close Enough to The Garcia Project.

The Garcia Project – 01.29.22. 📷: Hambone Sparklewell

With faithful arrangements and period-correct gear and a dynamic ensemble use of conversational dixieland-style improvisation, space, and crescendo and diminuendo, the Project brought the Electric Church treatment to an exceptional show originally played by Garcia’s band in Santa Barbara on February 5, 1977. 

The Garcia Project – 01.29.22. 📷: Hambone Sparklewell

Kat’s vocals on “Stir It Up,” Dan’s loping bass solo on “Simple Twist of Fate,” Smiley’s keyboards, and Mik’s graceful channeling of the singing and playing of Garcia lifted up a roomful of new believers. 

Highly recommended. 

 

Jerry Garcia Band – Santa Barbara – 2-5-77

SET ONE: Sugaree, Catfish John, Mystery Train, Simple Twist Of Fate, Stir It Up, That’s What Love Will Make You Do, Don’t Let Go, How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)

SET TWO: I’ll Take A Melody, They Love Each Other, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, The Way You Do The Things You Do, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, Midnight Moonlight, Tore Up Over You, Tangled Up In Blue

Encore: My Sisters And Brothers

The Garcia Project – 01.29.22. 📷: Hambone Sparklewell

 

 

 

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