This Friday and Saturday, March 4 and 5, Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor will be taking audiences on a long, strange trip during two nights featuring the music of the Grateful Dead.
Fans can expect a wild variety of musical styles—the Grateful Dead were known for shifting effortlessly between the blues, R&B, country, psychedelic and boogie. They were also known for indelibly stamping each of those styles with that trademark Grateful Dead spaciness—a light touch and a sort of cheerful carelessness that, some people say, resulted from the use of controlled substances. The sound is unmistakable, and not easy to maintain, even when sober.
But performing the shows at Bay Street will be veteran players from some of Long Island’s best-known Grateful Dead-style bands, so the music will sound as authentic as possible. Among these musicians is guitarist and singer Michael Schiano of the HooDoo Loungers, who began playing the Grateful Dead’s music more than 40 years ago.
“Joe Lauro (bassist for the HooDoo Loungers), Howard Silverman and I started a Grateful Dead band in 1972,” recalls Schiano—theirs was the first Dead band on Long Island. Lauro and Silverman are joining Schiano at the Bay Street shows, along with members of Loki, Unbroken Chain, and Dead Music All-Stars in what amounts to a summit of Long Island’s most Dead-icated musicians.
Schiano plans to perform a mixture of all of the things that made the Grateful Dead a legendary band. They will play some of the epic jams the group was famous for (they were the original “jam band”), but they will also perform more concise renderings of some of the Dead’s most beloved songs.
“We’re going to do ‘Friend of the Devil,’ ‘Brokedown Palace,’ some of those very pretty country-ish songs,” Schiano promises.
Pedal steel and mandolin player Bob Grado will also be on hand, maybe allowing the band to venture songs like “Dire Wolf” or “High Time” from the Dead’s classic album Workingman’s Dead.
Now that the Grateful Dead have retired, shows like these coming to Bay Street will be the only way for people to get a sense of what it was like to hear the band live. For Schiano, it’s a critical issue.
“The Dead were always about the live experience—it made the band unique.”
He’s looking forward to giving people a taste of that right here in Sag Harbor.
Visit baystreet.org for more info and tickets ($25 in advance, $30 the day of).