For the past twenty years, Gathering of the Vibes has kept the spirit of the Grateful Dead pulsating through the veins of New England. The festival was started the Summer Jerry died as a way to celebrate the man and his legacy. Two decades later, on what would have been Captain Trips’ 73rd Birthday, Warren Haynes assembled a handful of the finest collaborators on the jamband circuit to serve as his Seaside All Stars during a headlining Superjam that somehow managed to give everyone what they expected while simultaneously defying expectations.
In light of Jerry’s birthday being simultaneously celebrated with the festivals 20th anniversary, expecting a Dead-themed Superjam didn’t exactly require a stretch of the imagination. Haynes famously took Jerry’s lead duties over while touring with The Dead in ’04 and ’09. Jackie Greene (guitar) first made it onto the radar by playing with Dead bassist Phil Lesh, and he was joined by Branford Marsalis (sax) who famously sat in with the Grateful Dead a handful of times in their later years. Joe Russo used to keep rhythm for Phil and Bobby in Furthur and now hosts his own Dead tribute act, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead. Russo brought along Marco Benevento on keys, who currently plays with JRAD, and has collaborated with Russo since they were kids. The low end was kept steady by none other than George Porter Jr. of The Meters, a bassist who toured with Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann as part of 7 Walkers.
From the get-go, Haynes and his Seaside All Stars made it clear this was going to be a cover-heavy set, but not a single Dead tune made the cut. A “Solomon’s Funky Marbles” jam started things off in a slow tempo that allowed each member to take a brief solo that effectively introduced themselves to the audience. Dr. John’s “Walk On Gilded Splinters,” and “Dreams” (written by Greg Allman) were both tunes Hayne’s has been playing for years but the crowds jaw collectively dropped when they kicked into Radiohead’s “Karma Police.” Before getting to the refrain (“For a minute there, I lost myself”) the Seaside All Stars segued straight into the spastic closing stanza of “Paranoid Android,” a multistructured masterpiece of a song that is only a few tracks before “Karma Police” on Radiohead’s OK Computer.
“Dreams” was one of the tunes The Allman Brothers Band used to extend into space-jam territory, but at Vibes, the Allstars stretched their legs the most on a lengthy cover of “Africa” that George Porter Jr. made famous with The Meters decades ago. Eric Krazno from Lettuce joined in on the tune and stayed until the end of the set, even though Lettuce was supposed to take the stage during the start of his sit-in. From there the group jumped back into “Paranoid Android” before seguing backwards into “Karma Police” again, then closing things out with Sly & The Family Stone’s “Africa Talks To You.”
The most anticipated set of the weekend may have disappointed in regards to its lack of Dead-based material, but the VibeTribe still got close to two hours of familiar tunes and a few that were completely unexpected. Even less likely than this crew dipping into Radiohead’s catalogue was the way they used it as the bread of their cover-set sandwich. The familiarity of the tunes between players likely made the collaboration easier to put together and allowed for seamless transition between improvised solos and structured song sections. Warren Haynes Seaside All Stars were true to the spirit of the Grateful Dead without having to pander or be obvious, which might be an even better tribute than another set of Dead could have been.
Warren Haynes Seaside All Stars, 8/1/2015, Gathering of the Vibes
Set: Solomon’s Funky Marbles Jam > Road Runner > Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Karma Police > Paranoid Android jam, River’s Gonna Rise* > Walk On Gilded Splinters > Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys > Dreams > Tough Mama > Get Out of My Life Woman# > Africa# > Karma Police# > Africa Talks To You#
Warren Haynes (guitar, vocals)
Jackie Greene (guitar, keys, vocals)
George Porter Jr. (bass, vocals)
Marco Benevento (keys)
Joe Russo (drums)
Branford Marsalis (sax)
* with Nigel Hall, piano and vocals
# with Eric Krasno, guitar