Words and Photos by Lewis J. Tezak Jr.
The Party in the Park Concert Series in Rochester NY was the meeting spot for a group of people affectionately known the world over as “Deadheads”. They gathered in anticipation to see the 7 Walkers perform. The crowd sparse at first began to fill in as the band appeared on stage. Those in attendance were a blending of old and new “Deadheads” waiting to experience the sounds the 7 Walkers were about to play.
The band is composed of former Grateful Dead drummer Billy Kruetzmann, Papa Mali on guitar/vocals, New Orleans legend George Porter Jr. on bass/vocals and Matt Hubbard, musician extraordinaire contributing on keyboard, harmonica, trumpet and backing vocals. Papa Mali, who recently had some health issues appeared on stage aided by a cane and performed a majority of the show seated, though this did not affect his performance at all.
The 7 Walkers sound is a blending of Cajun spiced dance music, delta blues and of course, an infusion of that San Francisco sound that any member of the Dead brings. The lyrics from their self-titled debut album in 2010 are co-written by Papa Mali, 7 Walkers, and longtime Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, the band’s self-titled debut earned high praise from critics and fans alike. The 7 Walkers consider this album an open love letter to the city of New Orleans.
The stage had a very unique setup, surrounded by massive tie-dye tapestries which were hung throughout the venue. These handmade Benjammin tie dyes are created brothers Benjammin, Jeremy, and Pauly who have been creating their world famous Benjammin dyes since 1991. These tapestries were enhanced by the lighting which changed the dyes colors throughout the show. The band started the evening with an intro jam that segued into “Bertha”, a Grateful Dead classic which was followed by “Hey Bo Diddle”, “Just Kissed My Baby”, “King Cotton Blues” all of which are from the 7 Walkers debut album. The band continued with a “Dead” classic ”New Speedway Boogie”, which transitioned into ”Sue from Bogulsa”. Many fans may have been disappointed at first that only a handful of Dead songs were being played but the 7 Walkers swiftly won the crowd over with their own brand of music.
Papa Mali known for his slide guitar, paired with the feverous drumming of Billy K made it very difficult to stand still throughout the show. Many in the audience began to dance freely about. George Porter Jr. brought the big bass sound that is evident in the 7 Walkers albums while Hubbard rounded out the sound with his multi-instrumental talent. The band continued on with a nice spacy jam that lead into the song “Smokestack Lightin’ ”, to the crowds delight. The band finished off the night with “New Orleans Crawl”, “7 Walkers”, “I Know You Rider” “Sugaree” and concluded the night with wonderful rendition of “Birdsong”. The crowd roaring with approval wanted more. After a brief break, the band returned to the stage for an encore performing “Going Down the Road Feeling Bad”. In the end, the only thing the 7 Walkers left behind were wonderful memories.
Setlist: Space -> Bertha, Hey Bo Diddly, Just Kissed My Baby, King Cotton Blues, New Speedway Boogie, Sue from Bogalusa, Smokestack Lightin’, New Orleans Crawl, 7 Walkers, I Know You Rider, Sugaree, Birdsong Encore: Going Down the Road Feeling Bad