Vince Welnick is no stranger to the jam band world. Welnick first gained notoriety as a founding member of the theatrical rock band The Tubes, and later playing keys with Todd Rundgren. But he is probably best known for his stint in the father of all jam bands, the Grateful Dead. He joined the Dead in 1990, after the death of keyboardist Brent Mydland. During his tenure with the band, he introduced several new songs into the set lists and pushed the band to succeed, especially at a time when they seemed to be running solely on inertia as the Grateful Dead Touring Machine. The Dead ceased to exist in 1995, a decision made after the passing of Jerry Garcia. Since then, the surviving members have regrouped to tour under various identities, most recently as The Dead. But except for short stints in Bob Weir's Ratdog and the Mickey Hart Band, Vince has not participated in these post-Grateful Dead groupings. Nevertheless, Welnick continues to make exquisite music, first with the Missing Man Formation, and then with a slew of other Dead-influenced bands, most notably Chicago's Grateful Dead maestros, Terrapin Flyer.

Vince Welnick with Terrapin Flyer
By Karen Wegrzyn
For those unfamiliar with Terrapin Flyer, they are a well-known band from the area, notorious for their "dead"-on jams, vocals, and musical approach. Their history with Welnick goes back to Summer 2001, when they were asked to be Vince's backing band for a Madison, WI cable access television show called the "Sundog Show," (hosted by Tim "Sundog" Corcoran), over Labor Day weekend in 2001. "We had about 30 minutes to rehearse beforehand and then played on live television for an hour that day," remembers Doug Hagman, rhythm guitarist for Terrapin Flyer.

The recent Terrapin Flyer/Vince Welnick mini-tour began with a Mardi Gras show on February 24 in Chicago at the Boulevard Cafe, also home to a weekly Sunday gig for the band. In fact, Terrapin Flyer formed out of this weekly jam at the Boulevard Cafe. "The jam brought in many musicians and Terrapin Flyer is the cream of the crop," Hagman said. Terrapin Flyer, which is composed of Kris Nowak (lead guitar), Dave Burlingame (bass), Daon Hufnus (drums), Jim Farmer (drums), Dan Moulder (keys), and Doug Hagman (rhythm guitar), has been together for over three years and played gigs all over the Midwest.

Vince Welnick live with Terrapin Flyer
By Karen Wegrzyn
For the Mardi Gras show, the Boulevard Cafe was festooned with beads and other classic Mardi Gras d├ęcor. "This gig was planned as a chance to get many of our friends a chance to jam with Vince and to just have a good time on this holiday," said Hagman. Numerous musicians, including former members of Dark Star Orchestra and The Deadbeats, joined Terrapin Flyer's two and a half-hour set. After the Mardi Gras performance, Vince and Terrapin Flyer played three additional Chicago dates and a date in Rockford, IL. I was lucky enough to attend the Rockford show at L.T.'s on February 26, where my brother and I were able to meet Vince and get our picture taken with him. This was a real highlight, considering Vince's musical history and association. He proved to be a very kind man and made it obvious to everyone in attendance that he truly appreciates the music and his audience, which numbered about 60 people that night.

The show started with a rousing version of "Viola Lee Blues," and the energy level simply did not drop throughout the night. First set highlights included "Golden Days," Vince's poignant tribute to Jerry Garcia, a solid "Scarlet Begonias" > "Fire on the Mountain," and a very spacey "Let it Grow" > "Jam" > "Let it Grow" to close the set. The latter was performed without Vince. After set break, Vince launched into "Way to go home" and "Samba in the Rain," two of his originals he performed with the Grateful Dead. The set also featured a ferocious "Other One" sandwiched between "Love Me Two Times" and "Crystal Ship" by The Doors. This show was well played throughout, complete with Dead standards, choice covers, solid jams/segues, and terrific harmonies. "Rockford was a blast, we were treated very well and had a genuinely wonderful time," Hagman stated.

Terrapin Flyer proved to be an excellent band and the addition of Vince Welnick on keys/vocals raised the bar several notches. They are all truly great musicians, and their vocal harmonies were terrific together. Vince's playing and vocals were very solid and he seemed to thoroughly enjoy playing with Terrapin Flyer. The feeling was shared with the band too. "Making music with Vince is always a pleasure... he's an excellent musician who really steps up our playing and energy," Hagman said. "We all enjoy being and making music with Vince," he added, "not only because of his fantastic musicianship, but because he is a genuinely nice man who is fun to hang out with."

February 26th, 2004 at LT's in Rockford, IL

Viola Lee Blues, Jack Straw, Golden Days, Scarlet Begonias > Fire on the Mountain, Sisters and Brothers, Mama Tried, Althea, Let it Grow > Jam > Let it Grow

Long Way to Go Home, Samba In the Rain, Watchin' The Wheels, Love Me Two Times > Other One > Drums > Crystal Ship > Other One, Standing on the Moon, Lovelight > Not Fade Away, Baba O' Riley > Tomorrow Never Knows

E: Help on the Way > Slipknot! > Franklin's Tower

Thanks to all those who came out to support Vince Welnick with Terrapin Flyer. Judging by the success of the recent gigs, a future collaboration between the two is definite. "We're looking into some dates together for later this spring and summer," Hagman said.

Pete Kolesari
JamBase | Illinois
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[Published on: 3/11/04]

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