In the jam band scene, improvisation is the way of life. From Max Creek to the Grateful Dead, from Widespread Panic to Phish and all the bands in between, there is one common denominator, and that is a dedication to taking music to unexplored depths.
There’s no denying that the Grateful Dead were pioneers and innovators of what many would describe as stoner music, weaving together just about every genre of rock music and exploring the depths by jamming. It is intelligent, if sometimes droning.
This evening at the Putnam Den, Gratefully Yours, a Grateful Dead tribute band with a rotating cast of musicians, will start grooving at 10 p.m. Tickets are $12 at the door, and if you’re under 18, you will have to pay an extra $5.
Alex Mazur is the keyboardist, and the only member who always plays with the band. The cast for tonight is a jam band all-star lineup, with Vinnie Amico sitting in on the drums. Amico is a founding member of scene stalwart moe., a band based out of Utica with a devoted following. Adam Czolowski, who played with Amico in Sonic Garden, is in the lineup, as is Rob Schiff on rhythm guitar and Tom Pirozzi on bass. Burlington, Vt. based guitarist Zach Nugent will play the role of Jerry Garcia on lead guitar.
“It’s a pretty solid lineup,” Mazur said in a phone interview on Friday. “Vinnie, he’s a local guy (he lives in Albany) and he has been part of this scene for years. He’s a special, giving guy and he’s really into playing music. It’s very nice of him. He just likes to get out and play.”
Gratefully Yours is not your typical Grateful Dead cover band. The most well-known Dead cover act is Dark Star Orchestra, which picks a show from the Dead’s 30-year catalog and recreates it for the audience. Other tribute bands construct a set list based off what the band wants to play.
Mazur said his band plays what the audience wants to hear. Fans can head to gratefullyyours.net and build their own set lists, which the band then takes and performs.
“Every musical act depends on an audience,” Mazur, who lives in New Paltz, said. “We are taking it a step beyond that. When I used to see the Dead all the time, the audience was a huge part of the show.”
The band’s name is a reflection on Mazur’s sentiment. He said he looked into the name, found out that it wasn’t being used by another band, and decided upon it.
Mazur first say Jerry Garcia and the band in Colorado in 1979, ad has been on the bus ever since. Mazur is also a founding member of Albany band the Deadbeats, which covers the Dead and “stays true to the improvisational spirit,” according to Mazur. The Deadbeats play every Wednesday night at the Low Beat in Albany.
Mazur also spoke about the current state of the Grateful Dead. In July, the four living members of the band, along with Bruce Hornsby and Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio, are playing three sold out shows at Soldier Field in Chicago in honor of the band’s 50th anniversary.
“Jerry was a mediating force for the band,” he said. “The guys now seem to be at each other’s throats. I wish they could work together better.”
Mazur said he really enjoys the direction Gratefully Yours is heading, saying he thinks the band has a very positive future ahead of itself.