As soon as The Garcia Project took the stage at the Putnam Den on February 1st, you knew it was going to be a mystical evening. The crowd was a mix of old hippies and new hipsters, from dreadlocks to backward hats, from women in long skirts twirling as they danced to men in jeans and suspenders, it was an eclectic mix. There were bikers, office workers, students and retirees. It didn’t matter who was enjoying the groove – they were smiling and taking in the good vibes. And who could blame them, the music of Jerry Garcia is timeless, and The Garcia Project has taken the time, energy, and their talents to master that sound.
From the first notes of the night, “Sugaree”, the dance floor was full and people were singing along. The set went on and songs went off to spectacular jams, only to be pulled back into the pleasing duo of Mik Bondy and Kat Walkerson on vocals. In math, there is a theory that the sum of two parts can not be greater than the whole. Thankfully in music, that logic is thrown out – because while Mik and Kat are great singers on their own, they are better together.
When you looked to the stage and you weren’t noticing Mik intently staring down at his guitar, much like Jerry used to do, or Kat’s exaggerated facial expressions as she sang her heart out, you noticed the light show. The Garcia Project brought along a Macbook, a projector, and a light guy (Dutch Masterson)- a perfect combination to set the mood. The psychedelic scenery covered the large stage and then some. Intricate designs and other visual effects graced the backdrop as the band played on.
The Garcia Project is obviously a tribute band to Jerry Garcia Band. A tribute band is quite different than a cover band because they don’t merely mimic the songs, but rather the whole sound and feel of the band. That can mean using the same brand of instruments, similar amps and modifiers, and even looking like the original band. As a fan of the original band, you go and enjoy the show knowing that this is the closest you are going to get to the real thing. It transports you into the past and into an atmosphere that is reminiscent of an historic vibe. Luckily that vibe is still alive in those like minded individuals around you at a show like this one at the Putnam Den. In order for a tribute band to be successful, fans need to look at them as the authority on the artist they are emulating. The Garcia Project pulls it off effortlessly. Don’t believe it? Go see them live and then go check out old YouTube footage of The Jerry Garcia Band. Listen to how Jerry plays off Gloria Jones and Jackie LaBranch and compare that to Mik Bondy and Kat Walkerson. Listen to the jazz influenced bass of the legendary John Kahn and feel the similarities of The Garcia Project’s own Dan Crea.
The Garcia Project is the whole package starting with the incredibly talented Scott Guberman on the Hammond B3 organ and Leslie speaker. Aaron Martin sets the pace on drums. The masterful guitar work of Mik Bondy, himself, fills the role of Jerry on guitars and vocals. The night was song after song of a delightful mix of Garcia classics and a few covers – some made famous by the Grateful Dead, and some lesser known but carrying that same Garcia vibe. The dance floor stayed packed all night, especially during the livelier tunes and the long jams that took you to another time.
The Putnam Den pulled out another great night of music and Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia fans, both young and old, had a great experience that took them into the night.
Set 1: Sugaree, Tore Up, They Love Each Other, He Ain’t Give You None, Tough Mama, Evangeline, Strugglin’ Man, Second That Emotion
Set 2: Lonesome and a Long Way From Home, Mission In the Rain, Breadbox, Positively 4th Street, Don’t Let Go, Midnight Moonlight, Sisters and Brothers, Tangled Up in Blue, Deal
Encore/Grateful Dead Set: Half Step, Shakedown Street, Eyes of the World, Cumberland Blues