If you walked in to the Abbey Pub for Terrapin Flyer's Wednesday night jam on May 8th, you may have noticed something strange after the first couple of songs. If you stuck around for the second set, and were well-versed in Grateful Dead history, you surely would have put the pieces together and realized that the band was "recreating" the storied 5/8/77 Barton Hall Grateful Dead show on the occasion of its 36th anniversary.
The idea of the band adding a "theme" for a night during this residency wasn't new. They had used previously Wednesday nights to build sets around classic Dead Albums (Workingman's Dead and Wake Of The Flood have both gotten the treatment), that even utilized additional guests on horns, harp, and lap steel to fully represent the sounds of those albums.
The band began their weekly residency earlier this year, and are beginning to explore more creative ways to keep the experience fresh for the audience. "People like to have a reason to go out and we are trying our damnedest to give them one," explains Terrapin bandleader Doug Hagman. "We are trying to show people we are working hard to give them a reason to come and to see what we've got going on."
The strategy seems to be working, as crowds are getting noticeably larger for some of the Wednesday gigs. The late spring and summer will remain a fertile period for experimentation, and in the most crowd-friendly way possible: under the unsubtle branding of FUMR, the band will play Free Until Melvin Returns, eschewing the door charge until Melvin Seals rejoins the band in June.
Each FUMR show will have a unique flavor. Tonight's gig will be a tribute to the Grateful Dead of the 80s. Next Wednesday will tackle the 90s (an interesting proposition for a band who cut their teeth playing with Vince Welnick). During the last week in May, in the midst of the Stones' three-show Chicago run, Terrapin Flyer will offer an all-Stones set on May 29th.
The following Wednesday (6/5) falls in the middle of a four show swing through the Midwest with Melvin, and JGB will be front and center that night as they run through the beloved Jerry Garcia Band double live album with the guy who supplied the organ on those tunes. They will also play a weekend (Saturday June 7) gig at the Abbey with Melvin.
Later on in June, Mark Karan will rejoin Terrapin Flyer and Melvin for its first ever East Coast run. Plans for July, include recreating the Live/Dead with original player Tom Constanten.
What's next for the residency? Doug suggests theming nights around specific Grateful Dead years (1972 and 1985 come to mind) without the DSO-like recreation of actual shows. Perhaps a Bob Dylan night will be in the cards. Hagman muses, "Hopefully, we can take it a lot further with something way outside the GD mainstream. Wavy and I have threatened doing a Devo night!"