The first annual Grateful Garcia Gathering will be held July 30 - August 1 in beautiful Black River Falls, Wisconsin. This isn't just another summer gathering, it's a major part of the Deadhead and kind folks lifestyle, for it will celebrate and pay tribute to the life, art, and music of the legendary Jerry Garcia on his 62nd birthday! The Grateful Garcia Gathering, or "The 3Gs," will be held at the beautiful NCN-North Campground, which features 60 acres of gorgeous surroundings, a five-acre spring fed lake with sandy beaches, modern bathroom facilities with showers, as well as other deluxe accommodations. Campers will be able to park their car and have campfires at each individual campsite. There will be some awesome vendors on-site for you to check out, a friendly atmosphere, and an excellent musical lineup.

We've assembled together some of the finest regional and local bands to perform at The 3Gs. Here's the groovy line-up: Boney Fingers, Waterband, Jones Gang, Day Old Bread, Groovulous Glove, Northern Pines, Eternity, Southbound, Sundog, Green Situation, Floydian Slip, Bed, Northern Lights, The Form, Levitt8, Minglewood, Strange Neighbors, Grateful Gary and Friends, and special very appearance with The Dancing Bears!

The Grateful Garcia Gathering wouldn't be complete without a musical cohort and personal friend of Jerry's to be part of the festivities. Melvin Seals, the longtime vocalist and organist of the Jerry Garcia Band and JGB, will headline the 3Gs on August 1. Melvin Seals and JGB will be touring this summer to promote their new CD release Keepers of the Flame.

In a recent phone interview, Melvin Seals was very excited to talk about the new album. He also spoke of the importance of having such gatherings like the 3Gs, as well as bands that perform and further the music. Melvin said, "The new CD is actually the second night of performances we did (of two recordings) at the House of Blues in 1999 with the original JGB members that I started off with. We recorded enough material for a double CD set, but we only released the one CD on the House of Blues label. So, the second CD is actually the better performance material of the two that were recorded." Standout tracks recorded were "Don't Let Go," "Shakedown Street," "Fire on the Mountain," and "Waiting for a Miracle," to name a few. "I would like to mention that Keepers of the Flame is different from the House of Blues CD, titled Welcome to the World. I went back to the recording of the CD, and took everybody out minus Jackie LaBranch, Gloria Jones, and myself. I wanted to make it as close to the sound and the vibe that we all had together in creating the original music with Jerry. Since then, I've met John Kadlecik, lead guitarist and vocalist for Dark Star Orchestra. I brought John out and put him on all the tunes by replacing the original guitar with John. John brought out the 'Jerry Element' right into focus with my organ, the bass guitar, and Jackie and Gloria doing the background vocals. As for the vocal element, Ron Penque, my lead vocalist in JGB, sounds just like a younger Jerry Garcia. Together, we all do the best we can to keep Jerry alive in our own kind of way. A lot of folks ask, 'Why are you doing this?' I tell them I'm almost commissioned by Jerry to do this. He brought me into this world (the Deadhead world), he taught me this world, and now he asks me to keep it going. So, that is why I do what I do!"

When asked about Melvin's side project with The Mix (Melvin Seals, organ [JGB]; John Kadlecik, guitar and vocals [Dark Star Orchestra]; Kevin Rosen, bass [Dark Star Orchestra]; Greg Anton, drums [Zero], Greggs Eggs]; and Paul Murin, guitar [Phix]) he replied, "The Mix will start recording in May of 2004. Check out Tony Grifasi's Down the Road Entertainment for Mix tour dates in April." Melvin has a record deal with Rainman Records to start his new record, which we will be looking forward to hearing!

When asked about the importance of jam band music festivals and gatherings catering to the Deadhead/jam band community around the country, Melvin declared, "Well, as you know, the Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia are early pioneers of these types of gatherings. People are coming for the music, but they also come because everyone was there, like a convention of gathering of friends! Everyone just wanted to be where everyone was being and to have a great time! And, of course, you know that everyone wants to keep that kind of gathering and vibe alive!"

On reflecting back on the years with the Jerry Garcia Band, Melvin said, "I was once at an interview with Jerry when he was asked, 'What do you think will happen when basically you're not here?' And the one thing I remembered Jerry saying was that, "I hope the music will continue on, to oversee me, to continue on." That is why Melvin Seals continues to go out and mirror what the Jerry Garcia Band did on stage. "Jerry is not here, and we know that. But I was there to understand the music, and I look for musicians with the vibe and flare, to where you can close your eyes and feel the warmth that you felt with Jerry, because that's about all that's left," Seals said. "We don't want to lose it... so, the gatherings are very important, and it's important for bands like my own, and other bands to keep the vibe and the music going as Jerry hoped it would." Seals concluded by saying, "I'd like to ask the fans to come out and support us at the 3Gs and have a great time with your family of friends!"

Early Bird Special Weekend Passes for the Grateful Garcia Gathering are on sale are for $40 now through April, $45 in May, $50 in June, and $55 until July 28. Tickets will be available at the gate. For complete information go to Grateful Garcia Gathering.

Pete Kolesari
JamBase | Wisconsin
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[Published on: 3/23/04]

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