San Francisco, California
London, United Kingdom
Please note that the Black Mountain Boys will perform first.
The Dead live on – or at least the Grateful Dead’s spirited experiment in dance music as a source of elevated consciousness continues in many forms (see March 7 with Mickey Hart and African Showboyz). This second night of the Ashkenaz anniversary celebration, “40 Years Dancing for Peace,” features two more Dead-related bands: the Black Mountain Boys is a reunion of musicians who played old-time and bluegrass music with Jerry Garcia in pre-Dead years, and Wake the Dead is the beloved ensemble that mixes Dead tunes and Celtic dance pieces.
It could take a book, or at least a chapter in a music history book, to cover all the connections among the members of the Black Mountain Boys, whose only planned reunion show is here at Ashkenaz. The original group, formed down the Peninsula around the time the pre-Dead Warlocks were taking shape, consisted of very young roots music addicts who wanted to play bluegrass and found fellow travelers in each other: David Nelson, Jerry Garcia, Robert Hunter, Eric Thompson, and Sandy Rothman. The lineup for tonight’s special event is guitarist Nelson, mandolin player Thompson, banjo player Rick Shubb, Paul Shelasky on fiddle, and bassist Paul Knight, plus guest fiddler Suzy Thompson for some hot twin-fiddling numbers.
Nelson is a longtime favorite as leader of New Riders of the Purple Sage and his Ashkenaz visits in the David Nelson Band. Thompson is known for a multitude of bands including California Cajun Orchestra, Todalo Shakers, and Aux Cajunals. Shelasky was the first male in the original all-woman Good Ol’ Persons. Paul Knight plays bass with Peter Rowan and Laurie Lewis. The Boys will be playing such standards as “Barefoot Nellie,” “Dark Hollow,” “New Campton Races,” “Hot Corn Cold Corn,” “Diamond Joe” and many more.
The short, but fun history of everyone’s connections is given by Eric Thompson, who explains how tonight’s members, even those who were not official Black Mountain Boys, were always within a degree or two of each other: “David, Rick and I all shared a house in Palo Alto in 1965, along with Phil Lesh (he had just joined the Warlocks, I gave him his first bass lesson), and Pig Pen as well. If you are familiar with Dr. Humbead’s Map of the World (created by Rick Shubb, and easily Googled), you’ll note that King Neptune bears a strong resemblance to Pig Pen. Obsessive Deadheads will already know that me, Garcia, Rick, David and Butch Waller all had their first LSD trip together at that house. Rick and I had a band a couple of years later in Berkeley called the Diesel Ducks (with Hank Bradley on fiddle). Paul Knight lives in Pt. Reyes, and plays with many people, including Peter Rowan.” Fun history for sure, but tonight’s music takes those roots to a new level!
Wake the Dead is a good example of how nearly everyone seems to be a Dead Head, even in the Celtic community. Tonight the world’s first Celtic all-star Grateful Dead jam band makes its first Ashkenaz appearance since 2009. It’s a novel idea brilliantly executed, weaving Grateful Dead songs in and out of Celtic jigs, reels, and ballads. The Bay Area acoustic aggregation gets together too infrequently, but when it does the septet brings out the best in British Isles traditions mated to Dead favorites and obscurities (“Scarlet Begonias,” “The Other One,” “Liberty” among them). Led by singer Danny Carnahan, who also plays guitar, fiddle, and octave mandolin, Wake the Dead includes singer-guitarist Sylvia Herold (late of Cats & Jammers and Hot Club of San Francisco), bassist Cindy Browne, fiddler and uilleann piper Kevin Carr (Hillbillies from Mars), singer and multiple-string-instrumentalist Paul Kotapish (Hillbillies from Mars, Kevin Burke’s Open House), and Brian Rice on percussion. Founding harper Maureen Brennan will miss this show, but she’s still in the band!
When & Where
Ashkenaz Music & Dance Community Center
Ashkenaz is the East Bay's home to world music & dance... established 1973; nonprofit since 1997. We are always all ages! Kids 12 & under are admitted free unless otherwise noted.
All of our online ticket sales are will call. We will have a list of ticket buyers at the door; you do not need to bring a printout of your ticket/order confirmation.
Doors open 30 minutes before showtime, or 30 minutes before the dance lesson if there is one, unless otherwise noted.
Ashkenaz's Café opens when doors open and offers beer (draft and bottled), wine, kombucha, juices, sodas, coffee and tea, and snacks and light meals (all vegetarian, mostly organic).