Grateful Dead Tribute The Wheel To Play Large Outdoor Concert At Frog Alley Brewing On April 25th
Socially Distant Show Marks The Return Of Larger Scale Events To The Capital Region
You can seemingly catch a Grateful Dead tribute band on any given night in any given town in America. The Capital Region is certainly no stranger to this phenomenon, with at least a handful bands in regular rotation at venues across the area. Just as the Dead reimagined their songs live on a nightly basis, each of these acts provide their own varying interpretations of the source material. It is both a testament to the enduring value of the Dead’s songbook and live ethos, and to the fans’ (many of whom never got to see the real thing) unquenchable thirst for not just the songs, but also those thrilling, unexpected moments that can happen in the music when delivered by the right group of players.
But what makes one GD tribute standout from the next? While many bands can play and aim to faithfully reproduce the sound so familiar to the legions of the devoted, capturing the feeling and inspired moments of musical transcendence can prove to be far more elusive. The Albany based GD tribute The Wheel is one of those bands that hits the mark. And on Sunday, April 25th, The Wheel will roll into Schenectady’s Frog Alley Brewing for a marathon outdoor show capping the NY Rock N Roots Earth Day 2021 Celebration.
A recent command performance at Albany’s Lark Hall in front of an audience starved for live music after a year in the doldrums showed that The Wheel can deliver the goods when needed. Their high caliber of musicianship is evident, but the feeling with which the music is played and the obvious camaraderie among the band members, and between band and audience, gives one the impression that this is a group that cares. The result is a compelling interpretation of the songbook, no matter if it’s a funky “Shakedown Street”, a face melting “Viola Lee Blues” or a poignant “Althea”. This is reverent stuff among the faithful, and The Wheel unquestionably honors the spirit for those searching for the sound.
The Wheel brings a big, danceable groove to the party (the Dead were a dance band after all ), driven by the deep pocket of rhythm guitarist and bandleader Andy Morse, bassist Dave Pallas, drummer Joe Sorbero and percussionist Pete Andriakos. They provide an unshakable foundation over which lead guitarist Bryan Gautie and keyboardist Rick Rothermel weave solo after evocative solo together with virtuosity and taste. Yet they are also capable of complex, interwoven conversations that display the nuance and dynamic range of the Dead’s music in quieter, more blissful passages, with Morse adding colorful flourishes on guitar ala Bob Weir and Pallas’s melodic bass holding it all together effortlessly. The band showed this range in one stunning, nearly hour-long improvisational segment at Lark Hall in which they navigated numerous musical peaks and valleys in a stretch consisting of Scarlet Begonias -> Fire on the Mountain -> Drums -> Space -> Supplication -> Help on the Way -> Slipknot! -> Franklin’s Tower without so much as taking a breath. The audience was completely engaged throughout, and the presence of special guest Jessica Bowen on violin only added to what was a truly uplifting evening of music.
Vocally, The Wheel possesses a diverse blend of styles, from Morse’s smooth, heartfelt delivery, Rothermel’s full-throated soul, Bryan Gautie’s Jerry Garcia-like tenderness to Jill Gautie’s soaring harmonies. It all adds up to a potent and electrifying musical experience that makes The Wheel a standout GD tribute in an endless sea of GD tributes. If you love Grateful Dead music, or just well-played improvisational music in general, do not miss this band.
Tickets for the Sunday, April 25th show are on sale now at www.eventbrite.com, and can also be accessed via Frog Alley Brewing and The Wheel Facebook pages. Gates open at 3pm. Showtime is 4pm to 8pm. Capacity is limited to 200 persons. All NYS COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines will be followed.