We’ve seen a lot of Dead tribute bands. I would elect to say that even some of these bands that contained original members from the Grateful Dead should be dubbed “tribute” bands as well. But, that’s probably a debate for another day.
Whether you are a certified “Head” or just a casual Dead imbiber, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead will do more than almost steal your face, they will melt it right off! They did just that on January 2nd at the venerable Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY (Separate posts to come on ‘The Cap’ and surrounding pre-concert favorites along with helpful tips).
Joe Russo added a ton of oomph to Furthur with a drumming style that was far more power forward vs. the original sound and stylings of the Dead. However, the style did not stray too far from the Dead’s roots, being that Furthur contained two, surviving members.
That’s where there’s nothing ‘almost’ about this Dead tribute as Joe Russo fully embraces loud rock drumming, adding a completely new sound and style to Dead classics. All the other members play up to this force as well, which creates their own, unique wall of sound.
The crowd was warmed up by The Speakeasy Jazz Babies playing traditional, New Orleans-style jazz (that actually included Dave Dreiwitz’ Mom & Dad in honor of Dave’s 50th).
This acoustic set was a perfect appetizer and only allowed Joe Russo’s Almost Dead to contrast it in full form. You had sweet and touching, followed by sweaty and no apologies!
Let’s not call it an updated sound or not classic either, that’s too harsh. This is just something we haven’t seen done on this scale before. Sure, there is most certainly a hard rocking Dead cover band out there playing ‘Dead Thursdays’ at your local watering hole, but Joe Russo’s Almost Dead is actually hitting and delighting mass theater crowds with their take on the Dead.
And don’t worry too much about this being a heavy metal Dead. The guitar tones and level of distortion still sit well within the Dead’s traditional sound. The keys and bass are a bit outside the traditional lines in terms of volume and tones, but they only left a positive effect on the Dead classics they played.
There’s no doubt that musical influences have something to do with this more power forward tribute to the Dead. Outside of Dave Dreiwitz, best known as the bassist for Ween, Marco Benevento (piano/keys/organ), Tom Hamilton (guitar), and Scott Metzger (guitar), all clock in under 40 years old (i.e., I would wager a bet that there’s more Zeppelin and 80’s hard rock baked into these boys vs. bluegrass and other roots music).
Regardless of the crowd’s age span and possibly own diverse influences, everyone embraced what Joe Russo’s Almost Dead were bringing on the stage. Whatever stones the band threw, we threw back harder, only enlivening the performance.
If you’re in the New Haven area, you’ll have a chance to witness Joe Russo’s Almost Dead in all their glory at College Street Music Hall on February 11th. For more on College Street, check out this past post.
-The Sweet and Sweaty
The Capitol Theatre
149 Westchester Avenue, Port Chester, NY, 10573
Pre-concert favorite for drinks: The Rye House
Pre-concert favorite for dinner: El Tio