For the last three-plus years Joe Russo has been discovering the music of the Grateful Dead from an interesting position: behind the drumkit of the Phil Lesh and Bob Weir-fronted Furthur. Russo admits to not being very familiar with the Dead’s songbook when he got the call to play drums in Furthur, but after all this time he’s up to speed. With that in mind he recruited four of his best friends to play two sets of Dead covers this past Saturday night at Brooklyn Bowl as Joe Russo’s Almost Dead.
[All Photos by Andrew Blackstein]
With Almost Dead we got a chance to see how the music of the Grateful Dead would sound if Russo called all the shots. For the gig, which was part of this year’s Freaks Ball, the drummer recruited keyboardist Marco Benevento, guitarists Tom Hamilton and Scott Metzger and bassist Dave Dreiwitz. Outside of Hamilton, those in Almost Dead make up the Led Zeppelin tribute act Bustle In Your Hedgerow. From the time the quintet took the stage it was clear a lot of thought and more importantly practice went into the debut of Almost Dead. These guys absolutely nailed nearly everything they played. You don’t play a perfect version of The Eleven, as they did, without running through it a dozen times.
Not only were the renditions of the composed sections spot-on, but the jams were wild and adventurous. It was as if the late ’60s “Primal Dead” tackled tunes from throughout the Grateful Dead’s career. Unlike Bustle, Almost Dead featured vocals with Hamilton, Russo and Metzger capably handling that task as even the harmonies were sweet. There was a rawness and energy to the band’s playing that was unlike any Dead cover band I’ve ever heard. As I tweeted at Russo, “If you leave Almost Dead as a one-time project it will be a crime against humanity.”
In this day and age it’s tough to find consensus on anything, yet everyone I’ve talked to who witnessed the quintet’s debut had the same take I did – two otherworldly sets of music that stand as one of the best post-Jerry performances of the Grateful Dead’s music. Every bold statement you can think of can apply to Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, but now you don’t need to take my word for it as a recording has surfaced.
With that we want to share photos from the concert, thanks to Andrew Blackstein, and download links to recordings of Almost Dead.
- SBD/AUD Matrix: FLAC Set One, FLAC Set Two, FLAC Torrent, MP3 V0 and Live Music Archive (Thanks to Levisnuts and Justin M. For Their Work)
- FOB Four-Track Audience Recording: NYC Taper – FLACs, MP3s and Streaming
- Videos: Joe Russo’s Almost Dead – Viola, Brown-Eyed Women and Eyes
Set One: Bertha, Althea, Jack Straw, Deal > Mr. Charlie, Brown-Eyed Women, Tennessee Jed > Shakedown Street > China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider
Set Two: Estimated Prophet > Eyes of the World > Help On The Way > Slipknot! > Franklin’s Tower, St. Stephen > The Eleven > The Other One > Viola Lee Blues
Encore: U.S. Blues
Here’s a full gallery of snaps from Joe Russo’s Almost Dead @ Brooklyn Bowl…