On January 26th, 2013, Joe RussoMarco BeneventoScott Metzger, and Dave Dreiwitz from Led Zeppelin tribute project Bustle In Your Hedgerow teamed up with their buddy Tom Hamilton to play a special Grateful Dead show at Brooklyn Bowl as Joe Russo’s Almost Dead. The response to the gig was so ecstatic that they booked another, and then another. They played residencies at the Bowl, they grew out of the bowling alley to bigger venues, to national tours, to amphitheaters, to festival headlining plays.

On January 26th 2013, Fare Thee Well had not yet taken place. Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, and Bill Kreutzmann weren’t yet storming stadiums around the country with Dead & Company. John Mayer was still working up his first rendition of “Althea” to drop into one of his own shows. Furthur was winding down. Phil Lesh‘s eventual love affair with The Capitol Theatre was in its infancy.

The music had never stopped, but the next verse was unclear.

Today, the sound and spirit of the Dead are thriving. The band’s iconic songbook still rings out in prestigious rooms around the country, played by revitalized veterans, invigorated new faces, and seasoned disciples alike. Joe Russo’s Almost Dead has been an undeniable factor in that new Grateful Renaissance, a crucial thread in a tangled web of interpretations continuing to move the story forward nearly three decades on from Jerry Garcia‘s passing.

On January 26th, 2023, ten years after the first JRAD concert, Russo, Benevento, Metzger, Dreiwitz, and Hamilton returned to Brooklyn Bowl—a room they had played nearly 30 times in the interim—to celebrate the 10th birthday of a band that was meant to play one show. They took the stage on Thursday night not as a fun idea for a special occasion but as a towering presence both in the Dead universe and in the live music world at large.

They’re still just a cover band, though, right? Sure, fair enough, though you could argue a similar case for any modern Bob Weir project. The Grateful Dead proper have been gone for some time, but their light still burns brightly. The league of world-class talents keeping the band’s songbook alive has grown in numbers, but all of them are tending to the same flame.

Weir himself would likely agree with that notion: Midway through Thursday’s first set, the Grateful Dead guitarist/vocalist materialized on stage at Brooklyn Bowl to play “Jack Straw” and “The Music Never Stopped” with JRAD—to the apparent surprise of most of the band. On a night honoring ten years of Joe Russo’s Almost Dead—a modern love letter to the creations of Weir and his cohorts—Bobby stopped by to offer his stamp of approval, to co-sign their ongoing contributions to a tale he started telling over half a century ago.

Is it still a cover band if the guy who wrote the songs is on the stage? Maybe. But maybe it’s something bigger, something deeper. They used to play for Freaks Ball. Now, on behalf of the Grateful flame, they play for life.

The show’s second set barreled forward with uninhibited creativity and energy. Highlights abounded as the band rendered classics like “Shakedown Street”, “Truckin'”, and “Althea” in powerful fashion—maybe even more so than usual thanks to Weir’s lingering aura in the room.

A potent “Viola Lee Blues” hinted early and often at a shift to “China Cat Sunflower” only to veer back on course at the last second each time. A supercharged “Terrapin Station” featuring Stuart Bogie on saxophone provided a properly enthralling exclamation point. Nods to other influences wove in and out, too, from a stunning version of Pink Floyd‘s “Breathe” with other assorted Dark Side Easter eggs scattered throughout to a rumbling “The Other One” laced with thematic Led Zeppelin interpolations like “Ten Years Gone”.

The members of Joe Russo’s Almost Dead are now old hands at finding new magic in timeless tunes. JRAD scrambling the brains of a maxed-out crowd at Brooklyn Bowl—or anywhere, for that matter—is a tale as old as… well, a tale as old as JRAD. Ten years on, Joe Russo, Marco Benevento, Scott Metzger, Dave Dreiwitz, and Tom Hamilton have managed to hold on to the spark that ignited this band, and the greatest story ever told feels a little greater because of them.

Joe Russo’s Almost Dead’s 10th anniversary celebration continues this weekend with a sold-out three-night stint at The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY. Livestreams of all three JRAD Capitol Theatre shows are available to order via FANS. For livestream details, head here.

Check out the setlist (Box Score pending), videos, and a full audio recording of Joe Russo’s Almost Dead’s 10th birthday show at Brooklyn Bowl featuring special guest Bob Weir below. Scroll down for photos from the performance via Bahram Foroughi, Ken Spielman, and Andrew Blackstein. Read Live For Live Music‘s full coverage of JRAD’s 10th-anniversary run: Sunday | Saturday | Friday.

Setlist: Joe Russo’s Almost Dead | Brooklyn Bowl | Brooklyn, NY | 1/26/23

Set One: Tennessee Jed, Till The Morning Comes, Jack Straw [1], The Music Never Stopped [1], Let It Grow

Set Two: Shakedown Street, Truckin’, Viola Lee Blues, Althea, The Other One [2], Breathe (Pink Floyd) [2], Terrapin Station [2]

Encore: Just Like Tom Thumb Blues

Joe Russo’s Almost Dead – Brooklyn Bowl – Brooklyn, NY – 1/26/23 – Full Audio

[Audio: Papaphunk]

Joe Russo’s Almost Dead w/ Bob Weir – “Jack Straw” – 1/26/23

[Video: monihampton]

Joe Russo’s Almost Dead w/ Bob Weir – “The Music Never Stopped” – 1/26/23

[Video: monihampton]