Portland, Oregon got an injection of some SoCal vibes when Mapache and Grateful Shred stopped by Mississippi Studios on Thursday, August 16. The L.A.-based groups played to a crowd curious to see what these relatively recently-formed ensembles had to offer.
Mapache is a folk duo, featuring guitarists and vocalists Clay Finch and Sam Blasucci. These guys are only in their mid 20s, but they’ve been playing together since high school (with a brief hiatus when Finch went to college and Blasucci went on a mission trip to Mexico), and it shows in their effortless harmonies and blended guitar parts. Their music brings to mind the the late 60s and early 70s acoustic groups. Their style is reflected in the covers they choose, such as Townes Van Zandt’s “Loretta” and their set-closing run through Peter Rowan’s “Lonesome L.A. Cowboy.”
It’s a sweet, gentle delivery made for attentive audiences. Fortunately, the intimate Mississippi Studios tends to draw a respectful audience. By the time Mapache was halfway through their set, they seemed to have the audience fully engaged. An extended guitar jam at the end of “In the Morning Light,” from their self-titled 2017 debut full-length album, brought a voracious round of applause from those in attendance. It’s refreshing to see young musicians with a high level of talent stick to their convictions and let the audience come to them organically.
Finch and Blasucci came back a little later with electric guitars as part of Grateful Shred. Portland has a pretty high saturation when it comes to Grateful Dead cover bands. Dead & Company and Joe Russo’s Almost Dead also recently played within easy driving distance, so people were rightfully hesitant when considering spending money on this regionally unknown band. But, thanks in part to some well-produced online videos, lots of folks decided to give it a shot. Judging from the reaction, they were glad they did.
Having Circles Around The Sun bassist Dan Horne on board sure didn’t hurt, either. Holding down a rock-solid groove let Blasucci and Finch, as well as vocalist/guitarist Austin McCutchen, weave their vocals and guitars into an enveloping kaleidoscope of sound. The six-piece unleashed their considerable talents with a free-spirited approach, delivering two sets that captured the vibe and sound of early 70s-era Grateful Dead. By the end of the show, it was easy to see why, after only having been around since 2016, Grateful Shred has already toured the country and headlined rooms like New York’s Brooklyn Bowl.