It’s tough to keep up with the all of the Grateful Dead-inspired acts on the scene these days. Some bands like to take the music in new directions, while others in the Dark Star Orchestra tradition are all about recreating setlists and moods of specific shows.
The Garcia Project is firmly in the latter category, covering complete setlists of the Jerry Garcia Band from 1976 through 1995. Led by guitarist Mike Bondy who looks a little like a youthful and trim Jerry, The Garcia Project quickly got down to business this past Wednesday night, April 24th at Brooklyn Bowl. Opening the first of their two sets with “I’ll Take a Melody” off of Garcia’s 1976 Reflections, Bondy’s guitar summoned listeners from the bar and the bowling lanes to the front of the hall. Within minutes of the opening notes, people had gathered near the stage and were dancing and swaying the same way Deadheads did decades ago.
Other notables from the Reflections album included “Mission in the Rain” and “Catfish John” mixed between Jerry’s takes on standards such as “Mystery Train” and “Lonesome and a Long Way From Home.” One of the great things about the Jerry Garcia Band’s shows was their range, demonstrating Garcia’s eclectic tastes. This particular set list featured the R&B favorite “The Way You Do the Things You Do” and the reggae classic “The Harder They Come.”
Bondy’s playing and custom-made guitars come remarkably close to matching the tone of Jerry’s sound. Vocalist Kat Walkerson is the Garcia Project’s Donna Jean Godchaux, and bassist Dan Crea is equal parts Phil Lesh and John Kahn. There has been renewed attention in recent years on the Jerry Garcia’s Band legacy as part of the overall Grateful Dead oeuvre, with Melvin Seals furthering the JGB tradition of which he was part, and notable guitarists such as Steve Kimock reinterpreting Garcia’s classic days with Merl Saunders. Add the Garcia Project to the list of talented musicians keeping Jerry’s magic alive.
Check out a beautiful gallery of photos below courtesy of photographer Lou Montesano.
For a full list of The Garcia Project’s upcoming tour dates, ticketing, and more information, head to the band’s website.