Dead Ends Live celebrates the jam band culture of the Grateful Dead
After 24 years Mark and his brothers Paul and Sean, all of whom switch instruments on the regular, are adept at the telepathy that makes this high-wire live performance work. With the lineup rounded out by multi-instrumentalist Sean Brewer, bassist Ryan Holmes and keyboardist Jason Kodie, they’ve been a constant at small festivals around the province. As proud standard bearers for the near genre-less music that flows from the Grateful Dead, the McGowans often find themselves at a loss for how to describe themselves musically to interested observers.
“We’re like, ‘OK, let me let me list off seven to 10 genres here,” Mark chuckles. “That’s what we enjoy. We don’t want to be pigeonholed into one thing, and there’s a flavour for everyone.”
Aside from genre collisions, Kadlecik notes that the improvisational aspect is harder than it might look on the outside.
“Being able to make it up doesn’t just mean you do whatever you want,” he says. “You have to learn the rules within the boundaries within which you make it up. It’s actually a lot more work than just memorizing a passage in a song, it’s memorizing a whole set of boundaries that you can work with, and then making it up on the fly within those boundaries.”
Chris & Sally Jones, Dead Ends Live Edmonton March 18, 2023
I had planned on staying for more music, but the opportunity to catch-up with a number of bluegrass pals was too appealing, and by the time that had wound up- it felt like bed time…and now I find myself wide awake.
Kudos to Peter North, his team of organizers and volunteers, and all the artists and sponsors who came together to present Dead Ends Live, and we hope we can attend more shows the next time around.
Dead Ends Live channels Grateful Dead's
jam-band spirit with inaugural festival
jam-band spirit with inaugural festival
Expect surprises and fresh, acoustic inventions. For instance, Solon explains they’re doing Me And My Uncle, a Mamas & Papas tune the GD covered regularly, a tune he knows from his childhood. The tune can “dictate how we perform it,” as Solon puts it.
Jeremiah McDade recalls he was aware of the GD growing up, and even more familiar with offshoots like Jerry Garcia’s largely acoustic collaborations with dawg music’s David Grisman.
“We’re doing four or five of the Grateful Dead tunes that really resonated with us,” adds Jeremiah, “putting our own spin on them and backing up other people. It’s an opportunity to delve deeper.”
Joe Craven's Curiosity
It’s hard not to enjoy Joe Craven, one of those rare multi-instrumenalist singers who seems to do it all (he’s packing a mandolin, fiddle and percussion.
As a past collaborator with David Grisman and Jerry Garcia he’s a natural for Dead Ends Live, but as a player and educator, his most valuable commodity could be creative curiosity“I love diversity, and the inter-connectedness of all music is a fascinating thing for me,” Craven explains. “It’s sort of the family tree model of music and that helps me move laterally across the board, going from Hendrix to Earl Scruggs, to Tito Puente to Thelonious Monk. I believe in the leave-no-genre-behind policy.”
Soloing next to Stephane Grappelli or David Lindley or heading up his own bands, Craven can reinvent a folk classic in the style of jazz or rock or hip hop. Convincingly.
His organic development started with discovering Jimi Hendrix at 13. Craven explains, “I asked my dad for a guitar and an amp the size of mom’s refrigerator.”
After garage-banding through high school, he discovered acoustic roots music, bluegrass and Americana. Giving up guitar for mandolin, he wound up joining David Grisman’s band.
Based in California since the early 1980s, he calls himself “musically illiterate for music on the page” but the self-taught virtuoso has a great ear, razor-sharp intuition, and an avid sense of humour that gets him frequent emcee duties.
Craven recalls discovering the GD on record in the basement of his Atlanta high school pal, REM’s Peter Buck. Years later he was in Grisman’s band when they opened for the GD.
“In the beginning, I wasn’t getting it,” Craven recalls. “So much of it was about the communal experience of being in this tribe at the shows. But eventually, I came to really appreciate the songwriting partnership of Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter. Later on, I was blessed to work with the Garcia-Grisman project and get to know Jerry better.”
Craven respects the songs along with the GD’s jam-band legend and his love for improvising, insisting, “I’ve always loved re-inventing music.”
Find the full lineup and festival details at www.deadendslive.com