Chris Harford, a central New Jersey musical institution, assembled his shapeshifting Band of Changes on Saturday for a special benefit concert. Raising money for another Jersey staple, hunger non-profit The Chubby’s Project, the intimate show at Hillbilly Hall in Hopewell brought Ween guitarist Mickey “Dean Ween” Melchiondo with Joe Russo’s Almost Dead bandmates Joe Russo and Scott Metzger along with double agent Dave Dreiwitz, who plays for both teams. Bassist Andrew Weiss, who produced Ween’s early albums and toured with them until Dave replaced him in 1997, also performed.

Bridging the gap between Ween and JRAD was bandleader Chris Harford, who started the freewheeling project back in 1992 (with an original lineup that included Deaner). The only thing constant in the Band of Changes is change itself, with the band becoming a revolving door featuring members of Ween, JRAD, Morphine, and others.

While change is a prerequisite for Harford’s backing band, the trio of JRAD members have become reliable elements of the formula. “He’s a guiding light,” Metzger told Relix back in 2018, shortly after Harford released Horn of Plenty, a live album featuring Russo, Metzger, and Dreiwitz.

The Grateful Dead enthusiasts have returned the favor early and often, inviting Harford to sit in at New York-area shows dating back to 2016 when they were still playing regular gigs at Brooklyn Bowl. Harford was even on hand for the infamous Jimmy Fallon sit-in at The Capitol Theatre on 2/23/20. As their list of side projects continues to mount (along with JRAD’s prodigious touring schedule), Russo, Metzger, and Dreiwitz’s appearances with the Band of Changes have become rarer, though they still make sure to pay their respects to a local legend when they can.

As for the other local legend, Mickey Melchiondo of nearby New Hope, PA, the guitarist never misses an opportunity to prop up the local music scene. A regular at John & Peters‘ The Invitational for nearly a decade, Deaner and his Brother in Brown Gene Ween brought Harford along with them on tour as an opening act back in the mid-2000s and covered a number of his songs early in their career.

Saturday’s setlist focused predominantly on Harford’s catalog of originals, an impressive cache that goes back over 30 years (all of which is available on his website for any price you choose—including free). The band did throw in a couple covers, including Talking Heads‘ “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” and Ween’s “Birthday Boy”, all sung by Harford.

Watch Chris Harford command his Band of Changes featuring Dean Ween, Joe Russo, Scott Metzger, Dave Drewitiz, and Andrew Weiss in a collection of videos from monihampton.

Band Of Changes – “Birthday Boy” (Ween) – 7/8/23

Band Of Changes – “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” (Talking Heads) – 7/8/23

Band Of Changes – “Render Me Still” > “Into Universe” – 7/8/23

Band Of Changes – “Does It Turn You On” – 7/8/23

Band Of Changes – “Hold Me, Hold You” – 7/8/23

Band Of Changes – “Joe Strummer’s Midnight Dream” – 7/8/23

Band Of Changes – “Blood Flow” – 7/8/23

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