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Bands Will Help Fans Connect With the Dead

Saturday's Groove Fest lineup will offer plenty of Jerry Garcia vibes on the shores of Lake Casitas.


There may no longer be a Grateful Dead now that there is no Jerry Garcia, but there are still plenty of Deadheads. The Groove Fest: A Ripple in Still Water is this weekend's stopover for the Deadheads on that endless tour.

If the subtitle confuses you, let me clear things up. In addition to the grooving and smoking that can be found at any Deadhead Fest, this one offers rippling in the form of actual water: The event will be held in one corner of Lake Casitas, near Oak View, featuring bands from noon until dark, more or less.

And those scaring the fish to the other side of the lake have a definite Dead connection. Vince Welnick, former keyboard player for the Grateful Dead, and his band Second Sight will headline. Also on the bill is Dose Hermanos, a keyboard duo and a play on words, plus blues from Teresa James & the Rhythm Tramps, Deadhead-friendly rock from Mr. Ectomy, and roots rock from Tombo Combo and the Organix.

And if 30 years of live versions of "Sugar Magnolia" isn't soundtrack enough for anyone's long, strange trip, taping is not only allowed at Groove Fest, but encouraged. The usual weird, cheap stuff will be offered for sale, including all the food and tie-dyed apparel that you can't wear to the office unless you have a really cool boss.

It's not Jerry Garcia's birthday or the anniversary of anything, but probably just a damn fine day to hang out at the lake and hear some tunes, as if Jerry's Kids need a reason for a party.

And by now, all the pink Deadheads should have healed from the sunburns they incurred at the Further Festival in Ventura on Aug. 1. Unlike Ventura, Ojai has real summers every year, so expect temperatures to be around 95 degrees.


Also, unlike the recent Ventura gig, camp sites are available and beer will be sold. The suds will be micro-brewery beer from Northern California and called, get this, Groovy Ale. How will the vibe be at this one? Put your money on "groovy," according to Welnick, who has done this before.

"With the Grateful Dead, I did a lot of these outdoor gigs," he said. "A gathering of the tribes is great. I hope we do these things more often."

Second Sight will make its SoCal debut, having thus far caused dancers to spin exclusively in the Bay Area only. It's an all-star outfit featuring Welnick and Bob Bralove on keyboards, Henry Kaiser as resident guitar god, Bobby Strickland on horns. Mark and Paul Van Wageneingen are "the Dutch Masters of Rhythm."

Welnick, a local from Forestville-- "a place that's not by anything and has no street lights, no police department, no nothing"--thinks Second Sight is, well, Deadhead-friendly.

"It's a jazz confusion band that does mostly instrumental songs. We diversify as we go along, and Bralove has a good handle on stuff that's far out that you can still twist to," he said, adding that with the two of them "you get double your pleasure on keyboards. We take songs and structure them slightly, kind of like John Coltrane, and every song varies every time we play it, depending on how we feel. It's a cool thing--lots of jamming going on, and a definite groove factor."

Gee, who does that sound like? It sure doesn't sound like the Tubes, the band with whom Welnick spent most of his career. The Tubes, obnoxious and brainy rockers from the Bay Area by way of Phoenix, made 10 albums, then self-destructed.

Forever remembered for wise-guy front man Fee Waybill, a wildly theatrical stage show and songs such as "White Punks on Dope," the Tubes had their fun according to Welnick.

"The Tubes made a lot of albums, were on 'Solid Gold,' but we never made any money touring," he said. "In fact, we lost money on every tour we ever did because we spent all the money on the shows.

"We made five albums with A&M and had basically the same deal with Capitol. But when we got dropped, we couldn't find new label support for us to lose more money. Then Fee took off his platform shoes and went solo. Big mistake. We kept playing without him, but the gigs just tapered off."

Left looking for another gig, Welnick toured with Todd Rundgren before he passed an audition and joined the Dead in 1990, replacing the late Brent Mydland. Welnick well remembers Sept. 7, 1990, the date of his first gig with the Grateful Dead.

"I only had 10 days to rehearse, and I learned something like 100 out of 140 songs," he said. "Anyway, when it started it was scary, but they did write a set list for me. There was this huge audience, and I didn't have a lot of preparation, but after I did a solo everyone cheered and I figured 'Hey, they like me.' "

The Dead had fans that routinely gave the band standing ovations for just showing up late and standing there. At Dead gigs, Deadheads threw balloons and kisses; at Tubes shows, they threw other stuff.

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