Rocky Mountain Grateful Dead Revue to play in Steamboat
November 1, 2012
Steamboat Springs — In 1989, Jake Wolf was dragged kicking and screaming to his first Grateful Dead show by his cousin. He thought it smelled bad, and he didn't understand what the bassist was doing.
Now, the time-tested songs and jams of the Grateful Dead are not only a defining sound in his musical career, but also a tradition he hopes to pass on to the audiences he plays for and the young children he teaches in his School of Rock at Avon Elementary School.
"The first thing they yank are art and music and dance, and the only ones left to give them anything are the musicians," Wolf said about his work with local children through the public school system and as the director of education at State Bridge. He said he gets to give his students everything he never had.
"It's important to have a good balance of giving and taking. If you're not giving back, you should be, especially as far as the arts are concerned. It's an awesome feeling."
And that translates to stages in the Vail Valley and around Colorado that Wolf plays as the drummer for the Rocky Mountain Grateful Dead Revue.
The band features members of Dark Star Orchestra and former members of Colorado's Shakedown Street (both Dead tributes) and will return to the Ghost Ranch on Saturday after appearing there three years ago when the downtown venue first opened.
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Wolf, drummer for Shakedown Street for 15 years, assembled the group on Jerry Garcia’s birthday in 2005 and a revolving lineup finally landed on the current roster of Wolf on drums, Rob Eaton and Dave Kochmann on guitar and Jim Allard on bass.
Wolf said to expect a sound and experience not anything like Shakedown Street.
"I think that it’s the camaraderie on stage, everybody gets along on the stage," Wolf said. "It's not about one guy playing guitar and one band behind it. It's about everybody having a good time. There's a lot of love in our band, and that's paramount."
As the drummer, Wolf has to play two parts in one: the Grateful Dead's rhythm section was powered by Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann.
“I think ADD plays a great part in it," Wolf said. "When I got (to Colorado) and I started studying with the timpanist (of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra), he taught me lots of polyrhythmic subdivisions with my body. I could do four or five things at the same time. It took a lot of practice and listening to a lot of Mickey and Billy and combining those two parts. It was the backbone of Billy and a touch of the space of Mickey."
But it takes more than technical prowess to raise the Dead.
"You got to have a lot of heart and a background in playing it. The more you know these songs, the more you can play them and focus on the relationship between the crowd and the band," he said.
He said he walks through the crowd before shows and asks people what songs they want to hear. And he sees enthusiasm for the Grateful Dead's music is not lost on the younger generation, whose members maybe weren't dragged to shows as preteens. Mission accomplished for Wolf.
"I see more and more kids getting into than I have before, and it's great," he said.
To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@ExploreSteamboat.com