The Southern Callifornia Deadhead Family got together at the beautiful Irvine Lake Campgrounds to celebrate what would have been the 68th birthday of Jerry Garcia, the man who many of the attendees spent (or misspent) their youths following around. A weekend of reminiscing about previous Jerry moments, past birthday celebrations and catching up with old friends set the tone for the weekend. It was just like a Dead show.
Highlighted by the two night headlining Grateful Dead tribute, Cubensis, the Jerry Jam was not just a celebration of the life and legend of Mr. Garcia but rather a celebration of the music he inspired others to play. While the line-up did include the Jerry Garcia tribute, The Maykers featuring previous members of JGB David Kemper, Cheryl Rucker and Shirley Starks and Cubensis, the rest of the entertainment was a mix of original music and eclectic covers. All the artists had one thing in common, a love for the man who inspired a generation to break down musical boundaries and learn to JAM!
The first under-card standout at the festival was the always impressive GrooveSession. Hailing from the inland empire of Riverside, CA, the funk-tastic threesome of brothers Ronnie and Manny Sanchez with Sarven Manguiat kicked off the weekend by telling the audience “Don’t you threaten me with a good time.” They played a total of three sets over the course of two days and every set blew away the crowd. I got a chance to talk to Sarven and we can all look forward to a new GrooveSession CD this fall. They’ve got plans of heading to Europe, Australia and Japan in the not too distant future. Is the rest of the planet ready for a Session? I sure hope so.
Another Friday afternoon surprise, Old Californio, brought out an amazing set of original music. Highlighted by the amazing guitar work of Woody Aplanalp, Old Californio weaves a musical tapestry that blends the styles of Phish, Grateful Dead, Widespread Panic and String Cheese into a brand new blanket of unique jam rock. Nate LaPointe of Cubensis calls Woody his “inspiration” for pushing his guitar limits while they attended Cal Arts together. I don’t know where Old Californio has been hiding but I’m looking forward to seeing them again soon.
Friday night was night one of Cubensis’ triple header weekend. The Friday night crowd was treated to a fantastic two sets that included a killer Help->Slip->Franklin’s Tower, a tasty Whart Rat and finally culminating with a tear bringing Standing on the Moon encore. Setting the crowd up for a killer weekend of music, Friday at the Jerry Jam was a fantastic start.
Saturday’s day was kicked off early with the Dupp Brothers bringing out some morning bluegrass. Fiddle and Mandolin highlighted an otherwise overloaded band. Lots of musicians, not a lot of layers. While the songs they played were great and their musical talent was not in question, also not a question why they got the early main stage slot in the day. Rumble Fish filled the gap on the Cafe Stage while they got the main stage ready for the tribute to Jeff Beck, Business Hours. Featuring the amazing bass work of George Malek and the experimental keyboard work of Chris McKinney, Business Hours takes the incredibly challenging instrumental jam music of Jeff Beck and delivers it with a unique flair.
The Cafe Stage started to heat up following Business Hours with Barley Legal. Featuring the jammy guitar riffs of Cubensis’ Nate LaPointe and the Dylanesqe vocals of Jay Constable, Barley Legal has been moving up the musical ranks rather quickly rockin’ regular shows in Hermosa, Redondo and recently debuting in the OC at the Marlin Bar & Grille. A mix of catchy beach rock originals and covers of everything from Bob Dylan to Michael Jackson, Barley Legal knows how to have fun. The Jerry Jam performance included a special guest of Steve “Shag” Aguillar on keys/organ. Steve currently plays with D3 on a regular basis.
GrooveSession drug the crowd back to the main stage for yet another rockin’ set. Everyone in the place was ready for some Grateful Dead music. A beautiful Saturday at the lake. Temperature in the mid 70’s and a nice breeze, the crowds started to roll into Jerry Jam. Kicking off Saturday’s “Dead Set” was the Mo Gypsys feat. the weekend’s musical pimp, Nate LaPointe on guitar and the lovely and talented CeCe Sherman belting out the vocals. While the Gypsys mixed some Dead into their set, it really didn’t matter what was being sung, just that CeCe was delivering it with her soulfully buttery vocals.
Christine Vierra of Mama Pearl took the main stage next with her fabulous delivery of Janis Joplin music. Paying tribute to Jerry, Christine performed a smokin’ Smokestack Lightning. Vierra delivers Janis with the passion of the original. Time for some Hempstring Orchestra on the Cafe Stage. Fronted by the man behind the Jerry Jam, Ted Tesoriero, Hempstring Orchestra got the crowd warmed up with some JGB and classic rock standards. Receiving a rousing applause for not only a great set of HO music but for putting together an amazing event, Ted sent everyone back to the main stage for one of the two highlights of the weekend, The Maykers.
The Maykers are to JGB music what Cubensis is to The Grateful Dead music. Both Southern California mainstays in the Greatful Dead family, The Maykers have in their musical arsenal Dave Kemper, 11 year veteran of the Jerry Gacia Band, and Cheryl Rucker & Shirley Starks, back up singers for Melvin Seals & The JGB. Together with Cubensis’ Larry Ryan on Bass, the rest of the Maykers brought out a killer set of Jerry Garcia music.
Jet Wash filled the empty space between the Maykers and Cubensis with a so-so set of music. Jerry was in the air and there was no distracting the crowd from the fact that after hearing the Mayker’s great set, it was almost time for night two of Cubensis! Taking the stage around 7pm, Cubensis rocked us all out to two full sets of Grateful Dead music. A pause just around sundown for a fitting tribute to Jerry Garcia, the band and the crowd sang Happy Birthday followed by the release of hundreds of balloons into the night sky. As the helium filled orbs drifted up to heaven on the breeze, the air was all about Jerry and ne’er was there a dry eye in the place. I don’t recall the tune, but I sure remember the singer. Happy Birthday, Jerry!
Post show, I got a chance to wander back behind the stage and found an opportunity to jam with some of the players from the weekends bands. Nate LaPoite, Jason Carver (Barley Legal), Chris McKinney (Business Hours), George Malek (Business Hours), Larry and Tom Ryan (Cubensis) and I picked some Jerry tunes with about 20+ festival goers listening in as all of us sang in Jerry’s Birthday.
On August 12th, Ted and the Irvine Lake facility will host the 5th Annual Woodstock ’69 Festival, celebrating with tributes bands playing Crosby, Stills and Nash, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Grateful Dead and more.
More photos of Jerry Jam 2010 available on Shakedown News’ Facebook page. Stop by and take a look!