RED BANK: DEAD BANK, GRATEFUL AT GIG 200

Dead Bank guitarist Jim Willis, left, and bassist Nash Aliaga at Jamian’s, where the band was conceived six years ago. A photo of the late Jerry Garcia has a place of honor on the stage. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

[UPDATE, July 7: Forecast of rain postpones tonight’s Dead Bank show at the Dublin House. The band’s 200th gig will instead be tomorrow night (Friday) at the Dub, weather permitting.]

By JOHN T. WARD

The band’s name, echoing a moniker for Red Bank at its economic low of the 1980s, doesn’t exactly thrill local chamber-of-commerce types, Dead Bank guitarist Jim Willis acknowledges.

“We’ve gotten a lot of crap from the town about it,” Willis said last week. “They’ll never let us play any of their festivals because of it. But I just wanted to see another connotation for ‘Dead Bank,’ a positive one.”

The Grateful Dead cover band is an inarguably local phenomenon, and this week, weather permitting, Dead Bank’s “perpetual tour of of Monmouth Street” brings it to the backyard of the Dublin House Pub for its 200th show.

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RED BANK: DEAD ON LIVE AT THE BASIE

brianstrattonberkleeMulti-instrumentalist Marc Muller, at right above, leads Dead On Live at the Count Basie Saturday night. Steve Miller, below, takes the stage Tuesday. (Photo by Brian Stratton. Click to enlarge.)

The sonic legacy of the San Francisco Bay area casts its still-potent spell over the famous stage of Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre Friday night, sound-tracked by as dead-on a recreation of the Grateful Dead as you’ll find anywhere between Raceway Park and the Pyramids.

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RED BANK: A DEAD-ON TRIBUTE

dead-on-live-02Multi-instrumentalist Marc Muller leads his grateful jam-mates in a Halloweekend edition of Dead On Live, Friday night at the Count Basie — while “The Price Is Right LIVE” summons in November’s sweeps-month with interactive high-energy style.

All who doubt that the Dead walk the earth during the season of the Great Pumpkin should consult the arcane and eldritch works of Professor Marc Muller for the last word on the subject — as the multi-instrumental master (and Monmouth University faculty member) summons the thing known as Dead On Live for a special Halloweekend concert, this Friday at the Count Basie Theatre.

Set to rise at 8 pm, it’s a special double-header installment of the project in which Muller and his ace musician friends explore the history of the Grateful Dead with setlist-intensive scholarship and spirited jamming. Featured on the Mischief Night program will be a “Dead On Live with Strings” set in which members of the Monmouth Symphony Orchestra join the band for orchestrally augmented arrangements of Dead favorites, climaxing with the epic “Terrapin Station” in its note-for-note entirety.

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RED BANK: TRANSITIVE NIGHTFALL

DarkStarOrkDark Star Orchestra brings its jamband brand of symphony and scholarship to the Basie stage, this Thursday night. 

While the greater Red Bank green doesn’t lack for savvy channelers of the Grateful Dead (see PieHole’s own Jim Willis and his Dead Bank brethren, appearing Saturday at the Walt St. Pub), there exists an even deeper dimension of obsession — and it’s a plane of existence occupied by Dark Star Orchestra, the septet that ‘s made it their stock in trade to recreate specific concert set lists from the Dead’s thirty-year tour itinerary. Drawing from points on the road that can range from the Great Pyramid to Raceway Park and every pitstop between, the people of the Ork “seek out the unique style and sound of each era while simultaneously offering their own informed improvisations.”

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ANOTHER ‘DEAD ON’ ARRIVAL IN RED BANK

brianstrattonberkleeMulti-instrumentalist, session ace and educator Marc Muller (right) leads the latest edition of the DEAD ON LIVE project back to the Count Basie Friday night. (Photo by Brian Stratton)

Call it a lifestyle choice, a fad or a fashion. Reject it as something immoral and unnatural. But someone close to you — your niece or nephew, your letter carrier, the church elder, that soulmate you thought you knew so well — is a Deadhead, or something very much like it.

Unlike the Grateful Dead themselves — who just kind of improvised their way into one of the most enviable careers ever constructed of happy/sad accidents — the fans, whether musicians themselves or laymen, are a detail-intensive bunch for sure. Contrary to the get-a-bath stereotype, they’re the folks who make the trains run on time; the entrepreneurs and visionaries, the doctors and district managers, and almost certainly the IT techs who make sense of that often inscrutable machinery we’re all plugged into these days.

Here on and around the greater Red Bank green, we’ve got access to any number of Grateful Dead tributes and tributaries working the regional circuit — from projects like the borough-based Dead Bank and Mark Diomede’s venerable Juggling Suns, to Splintered Sunlight and Dark Star Orchestra, the well-traveled ensemble that dedicates each of its gigs to a specific recreation of a particular set from the Dead’s historical soundboard canon.

But if there exists an even more elevated plane of obsession, it’s the exclusive purview of Marc Muller — master multi-instrumentalist, sought-after session ace, adjunct professor at Monmouth University and the man whose Rock the Basie band-camp program has become a firmly rooted feature of the Count Basie Theatre schedule.

On Black Friday — a night when everyone from Santa to the Grinch is expected to be present and accounted for on the streets, stages and station stops of Red Bank — the 10-year veteran of Shania Twain‘s band returns to the Basie boards (in the company of special guest Nicole Atkins) with the latest edition of a project about which he says, “I don’t know if ANYONE has done this to the extent that I have.”

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