Vermont musicians pay tribute to the Grateful Dead

 A group of musicians from northern Vermont gathered at Higher Ground to pay homage to the epochal jam collective known as the Grateful Dead on Sept. 8. This event, which occurs several times a year, featured a cycling company of deadheads dedicated to perpetuating the legacy of the renowned rock band. Pink Floyd echoed through the mostly unoccupied room prior to the show as a few guests indulged in nachos, beer and casual conversation. Conditions seemed less than promising when the show began nearly an hour later than expected. To say that there was a crowd would be a gross overstatement. It was about 45 minutes past the designated start time when a bearded man with a sizable mane appeared on stage with a guitar — this surely caught the attention of the patrons, who were rapidly accumulating as a mass of tie-dyed, Grateful Dead-garbed fans flocked toward the center of the room. Members of cover bands often strive to emulate their respective counterpart members of the bands which they tribute, so it may have been no accident that this guitarist was slightly reminiscent of the deeply celebrated Jerry Garcia. Circles of people sitting on the floor evolved into a nearly frantic cluster of dance as the band began with “One More Saturday Night,” a popular tune that was included in the original band’s usual repertoire. The set that followed seemed to be no less appreciated by the crowd, as the band got the crowd smiling and dancing with a respectable series of popular and unelaborated Grateful Dead songs. Askew from the tendencies of the original band, and most likely in an effort to maintain the attention of the crowd, the group did not jam on any one song for particularly long — this is not to say that they refrained from leaving space for solos, complementing one of the signature aspects of the Grateful Dead. The band had little to say on stage, at least in terms of banter between songs, and it seemed that all of the importance was placed upon the musical synergy occurring between members. Smiles and nods seemed to ensure the fluency of the performance, which in turn maintained the crowd’s chaotic presence. It seemed that there were some mixed undercurrents surrounding certain members of the crowd, as not everyone thought the band emulated the true essence of the Grateful Dead. “The band was definitely tight, but they seemed to lack a deeper sense of soul — it sounded almost mechanical,” first year Navah Stein said. This did not seem to inhibit festivities, as the crowd became increasingly enthralled in constant movement. By the end of the performance, fans had experienced a very organic rendition by some of northern Vermont’s more talented musicians. “The band truly brought the music to life,” longtime Grateful Dead enthusiast Keith Zuckerman said. “They played so tastefully — it was like I could close my eyes and feel the presence of the Dead.”