This year marks the 20th anniversary of JamBase. Part of the yearlong celebration includes the 20 For 20 series featuring 20 lists focusing on 20 notable topics and events of the JamBase era. The lists were compiled by current and former JamBase staff members and contributors, music industry professionals and other experts. Stay tuned for more, as the series continues throughout the year and we look back at two decades of encouraging fans to Go See Live Music!
Previous 20 For 20 Lists include Standout Debut Albums By Jam Acts, Pranks & Gags Played By Jam Acts, Festivals We’ve Lost, Memorable Reunions, Farewells Of The Past 2 Decades, Longest Jams & Standout Improvisations, Fan Sites, Memorable Halloween Concerts, Bands Covering Phish, Post-Grateful Dead Bands and Holiday Songs from the past 20 years. Next up is a look at 20 Supergroups formed during the JamBase era.
The dictionary defines a “Supergroup” as, “an exceptionally successful rock group or one formed by musicians already famous from playing in other groups.” Since the 1960s, supergroups like Cream, CSNY, Blind Faith and others helped firmly establish the concept within the fabric of rock ‘n’ roll. In the decades that followed, scores of musicians from various backgrounds have come together for projects ranging from full-fledged rock bands to one-off glorified jam sessions.
The supergroup concept has been embraced with regularity over the past two decades by members of the jam scene and its periphery participants. The collection of collectives below presents groups comprised of familiar improvisers along with musicians associated ranging from independent to pop and associated with Americana, jazz, blues, hip-hop and beyond.
Oysterhead | 2000
[Video Credit: Stewart Copeland]
With three musicians at the top of their instruments — Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio, Primus bassist Les Claypool and The Police drummer Stewart Copeland — Oysterhead has been a beloved institution for almost 20 years. A live performance from the band is also a beloved event because it’s so rare.
Oysterhead formed around the 2000 New Orleans Jazz Fest when promotional company Superfly asked Claypool to put a band together for a one-off gig for the Superfly Presents series. Claypool immediately thought of Anastasio on guitar and the pair then contacted Copeland. After performing at the Saenger Theater in New Orleans on May 4, 2000, the trio would go on to record a stellar album, The Grand Pecking Order, the next year. It showcased not only the musical prowess of the band but also their songwriting abilities. Trey, Les and Stew toured around the record but soon had to return to their day jobs.
So, it was a thrill for fans when the band announced that they reunited five years later for the 2006 edition of Bonnaroo (also partially put on by Superfly). And then, once again, the ethereal group floated away.
Earlier this year, the lauded trio announced they will show a little love over Valentine’s Day weekend 2020 when they will play two nights at the 1stBank Center in Broomfield, Colorado. They also have a pair of shows planned in California in April and they will deliver headlining sets at Sweetwater 420 Fest and The Peach Music Festival.
If history is any indication, catch them when you can.
Electron | 2000
[Video Credit: Chris Cafiero]
Formed by the Disco Biscuits’ bassist Marc Brownstein for a pair of shows in 2000, the music that came out of the rehearsal sessions formed the basis for the Disco Biscuits second rock opera, The Chemical Warfare Brigade. Realizing that the project had potential, Brownie recruited his Bisco band mate keyboardist Aron Magner and former Brothers Past current JRAD/Ghost Light guitarist Tom Hamilton and later, after a stint by Joe Russo behind the kit, rounded out the band with drummer Mike Greenfield of Lotus.
The supergroup has since become a jam scene favorite and has given the Bisco members and their comrades a creative outlet outside of their main gigs. The band has stayed active over the years and recently played shows at The Ardmore Music Hall near Philly as well as in nearby Harrisburg.
Vida Blue | 2001
[Video Credit: ChakaHahn]
When Phish decided to take a break in 2000, the four members focused on their various solo projects. For keyboardist Page McConnell, that was the electro-tinged trio Vida Blue, named after the famed baseball player.
Page put together the all-star trio featuring The Allman Brothers Band and Aquarium Rescue Unit bassist Oteil Burbridge and Funky Meters drummer Russell Batiste when the musical prowess of both artists stood out to the Chairman Of The Boards after seeing their respective bands. The group released their self-titled debut in 2002, giving way to a subsequent summer tour, providing those longing for the more groovy side of Phish a home.
Shortly after the album came out, Page spoke to JamBase about the formation of the group. Here’s a portion of that interview with Adam Gensler:
JamBase: Let’s talk about the evolution of the band.
Page McConnell: Well, I guess Phish went on hiatus in the fall of 2000. And I took some time off, thought about what I might want to do and with whom I might want to work and what my next project might be like.
JamBase: Were you sure at that time that the project would be musical in scope?
PM:I thought so. Yeah. Maybe not immediately, but before long I knew that that was what I wanted to do.
So I started writing songs a little bit and trying to put together lists of people with whom I might want to consider working. But I wasn’t in a huge hurry. I really did want to relax for a little while and unwind. So I did really, for about a year …
JamBase: And you knew that at some point something would spark your interest …
PM: … I hoped that that would be the case …
JamBase: …And you’d realize it when it happened?
I guess that’s what I thought. I wasn’t thinking forward too much. I was just relaxing—trying to process everything that had been happening for the last 15 years or so.
I started to work on a couple of little side things and realized that I wanted to not only be involved in side things that were parts of other people’s projects, but that I wanted to do my own thing.
That probably happened at some point in the spring. And then I really started seriously considering what that project might be.
Soon after that, I ran into Oteil [Burbridge]. Hadn’t seen him in a while. He was a friend of mine from back when he was playing in the Aquarium Rescue Unit. We used to play with those guys ….
I saw Russell [Batiste] playing with the funky Meters at Irving Plaza not too long after that.
JamBase: When you thought about with whom you wanted to play, were you of the mindset of, “It would be great to play with Oteil,” and “It would be great to play with Russell” or were you thinking more holistically about how the three of you might interact?
PM: In putting together lists of people with whom I was considering working, I did try to come up with different combos of what might work and what the chemistry might be. And when I arrived at this trio, I did think that I would like to play with both of these guys and this should be interesting chemistry. And I really enjoy both of these guys’ playing a lot and I think they would play great together.
So it was more of a holistic feel. And it all came together pretty quickly because about two weeks after seeing the Allman Brothers, I saw the funky Meters. So it came together in kind of a hurry.
I actually talked to Russell the night when I saw the funky Meters. I told him that I was thinking about doing something, “Could I give you a call?” At the time, I knew him just a little bit. Not well at all.
So I called him and made the arrangements. It took a little while to get the schedules together …
The trio would issued their sophomore record, The Illustrated Band, in 2003 with help from The Spam Allstars. While Vida Blue continued to tour even when Phish reunited in late 2002, they curiously did not resume after Phish seemingly called it quits for good in 2004.
The band elated fans when they announced a new album in 2018, their first in 15 years. Crossing Lines arrived in September of 2019 and the group, with newly added member Adam Zimmon on guitar, embarked on a short fall tour around the record.
McConnell and company also recently announced tour dates for spring 2020. It appears — for the time being — Vida Blue is back.
The Word | 2001
[Video Credit: muzline]
Current Members: John Medeski (keyboards; Medeski Martin & Wood), Robert Randolph (steel guitar; Robert Randolph & The Family Band), Luther Dickinson (guitar; North Mississippi Allstars), Cody Dickinson (percussion; North Mississippi Allstars), Chris Chew (bass; North Mississippi Allstars)
The seeds of The Word were planted in 1998 when Medeski Martin Wood brought North Mississippi Allstars on tour for what was the latter’s first run of shows. MMW keyboardist John Medeski and NMA guitarist Luther Dickinson shared a common fondness for the traditional gospel style rooted in “sacred steel guitar” playing. The pair spent hours together listening to Arhoolie Records sacred steel compilations.
Around that time, pedal steel guitarist Robert Randolph — who developed his virtuosic playing style at the House of God Church in Orange, New Jersey — played his first public performance outside the church. The gig was opening for North Mississippi Allstars at New York’s Bowery Ballroom — and Medeski was in attendance.
Soon after, Randolph, Medeski and the North Mississippi Allstars recorded the group’s debut album, The Word, which was released in 2001. Randolph previously described the experience to JamBase:
Well, I think early on then – which is actually the first time I had been in a recording studio trying to be a part of something like that – to me, it was kind of like, you know, I actually had a job then, a nine–to–five, (chuckles under his breath.) I was an assistant paralegal at a firm in Roseland, New Jersey. I remember going to the studio and meeting these guys, cause I hadn’t met them before then. The Allstars and Medeski had this vision of doing a gospel record that was sort of in the vein of those first two sacred steel recordings. They got a hold of me and found out I lived in New Jersey and Medeski at the time lived in Brooklyn.
So The Allstars flew up here, and they had a show at the Bowery Ballroom and so we just kind of used that time to record this record. I had no clue really what was going on; like, “OK, what do you want me to play? Let’s see …” That’s really what it was. They were like, “We heard you do this thing on that record … What else do you play? Let’s play on that.“ So we just kind of played on that kind of thing, you know?
A tour commenced that year in support of the album and the supergroup reunited occasionally in the years that followed, appearing aboard Jam Cruise in 2010 and at Bonnaroo in 2005 and 2012. Eric Krasno filled in on bass for select shows in 2014.
The Word’s second album, Soul Food, was released 14 years after their debut. The band toured in 2015 in support of the album. Here’s Randolph describing making Soul Food:
But this [new album] now was more of like we’ve been recording, we’ve been traveling, we’ve been doing this and that, so it was kind of like, coming in with guns blazing right. “OK, let’s rock, or let’s get down.” You know?
It got to the point where we had done the first sessions in Brooklyn, at the Brooklyn Recording Studios – which is one of the greatest studios to track at – and we did the second sessions down in Memphis at Royal Studios, which is Willie Mitchell’s old place where all the Al Green stuff was recorded. And that studio, they didn’t remodel, it looked exactly the same as when Al Green recorded “Love and Happiness” as it does right now. Same gear, same mics, same drums.
By the time we got to Memphis, after the first day – after the second morning – I had to tell those guys, “Listen, we can’t play anymore, we’ve got 25 songs here we’ve got to sift through, we need to finish.” (Laughs) Because every time we sit down and play, “Oh, let’s do another song, another thing, another and another.” And every song was just as good as the next one. “We’ve got to finish so that we can give the people music to listen to. We’ll put all these other things out there as exclusives, but let’s not play anymore”’ Which speaks to all this creative energy.
Cody had written specific songs, Luther had specific songs, Chris Chew had songs, Medeski had all these ideas, I had ideas. So we would have just kind of kept going. Some ideas were ideas maybe I had for The Family Band, or Medeski for MMW. But then we all said, “OK, let’s bring it into The Word thing,” so it worked. For example, “New Word Order” which Cody had specifically written for The Word. He got the chord changes from listening to Martin Luther King’s (sings in tune with chords of the song Soul Food “New Word Order”) “Free at last, free at last, Thank God almighty, we are free at last.” That’s where the chords come from.
The Word continues to be an ongoing project for Medeski, Randolph and the Dickinsons. The band (without Chew, who left NMA) performed in New Orleans in April 2019.
Colonel Claypool’s Bucket Of Bernie Brains | 2002
[Video Credit: Sjekkie Slokkie]
Colonel Claypool’s Bucket Of Bernie Brains is one of the most talented and serendipitous of Les Claypool’s many side projects (see: Oysterhead above). The band formed on a whim when Praxis frontman Bill Laswell couldn’t make a set at Bonnaroo 2002. But the other three members of Praxis — the late great keyboardist Bernie Worrell, shredding guitarist Buckethead and renowned drummer Bryan “Brain” Mantia — wanted to play the inaugural year of the now famed festival and Les Claypool obliged.
Claypool, scheduled to appear at the inaugural Bonnaroo with his Frog Brigade during a Primus hiatus, got Buckethead, Bernie and Brain together for a quick jam and Colonel Claypool’s Bucket Of Bernie Brains was born. The band played Bonnaroo without any songs but the chemistry was electric and word began to spread about the project. The quartet decided to book some shows in the Bay Area, where Primus and Praxis are from, and it became evident that the legendary group needed to get into the studio.
“We just showed up and start playing,” Claypool told MTV in 2002 about the Bonnaroo set and series dates that followed. “They were completely improvised. We didn’t even know what key we were going to be in from moment to moment. We went in there and started throwing pasta at the walls, and it turned out great.”
The group’s only album, 2004’s The Big Eyeball In The Sky, contained material which the band culled from listening to recorded shows, their debut at Bonnaroo included. Colonel Claypool’s Bucket Of Bernie Brains embarked on their most recent tour with the multi-instrumentalist Gabby La La in 2004.
Bustle In Your Hedgerow/Joe Russo’s Almost Dead | 2003
[Video Credit: Relix]
Current Members: Joe Russo (drums; Benevento/Russo Duo), Marco Benevento (keyboards; Benevento/Russo Duo), Scott Metzger (guitar), Tom Hamilton (guitar; Tom Hamilton’s American Babies), Dave Dreiwitz (bass; Ween)
Bustle In Your Hedgerow and Joe Russo’s Almost Dead are two acts, which share four of five members, that each were formed for what were supposed to be one-off tributes to Led Zeppelin and the Grateful Dead, respectively. However, the powerful sounds these ensembles created at their debuts couldn’t be contained to just one night and they still continue to perform through the present, though Bustle gigs are much more sporadic.
The birth of the two acts dates back to August 29, 2003 – former Wetlands booker and Rocks Off founder Jake Szufnarowski’s 30th birthday. Jake had the Benevento-Russo Duo perform aboard the Half Moon for a Rocks Off boat cruise to celebrate the occasion and for the second set, drummer Joe Russo and keyboardist Marco Benevento were joined by RANA guitarist Scott Metzger for a frame of (mostly) instrumental Led Zeppelin covers. “The word was that the now-trio had rehearsed the crap out of the material and it showed all the way through. This was no simple jog-through a few covers kind of set, but was rather a full-contact, burn the final drops of summertime oil experience,” wrote JamBase contributor Aaron “Neddy” Stein in a review of the cruise. “Joe, Marco and Scott took a quartet plus’ worth of music and transformed it into a three-man tour-de-force. While Scott took the guitar parts and Joe took the drums, Marco was free to reinterpret both the bass and vocals and miscellaneous and his arrangements were blissful experiments in redefining classic rock and roll.” The trio became a quartet with the addition of Ween bassist Dave Dreiwitz and took on the Bustle In Your Hedgerow moniker for a series of Led Zeppelin tributes in 2005. Bustle was most active from 2007 – 2009 but have played together as recently as October 2018.
Joe Russo’s Almost Dead came together in a similar fashion as Bustle. Russo was asked by organizers of the annual Freaks Ball, an event put together by members of the tastemaking e-mail list the NYC-Freaks, to put together a tribute to the Grateful Dead for a concert at Brooklyn Bowl in New York City on January 26, 2013. The Furthur drummer recruited Metzger, Benevento and Dreiwitz as well as guitarist Tom Hamilton to perform as “Joe Russo’s Almost Dead.”
“JRAD took many of the songs they played on that fateful evening to ground never covered by any other Grateful Dead tribute act, or band in general for that matter, and the audience really appreciated it,” JamBase’s Scott Bernstein wrote in a remembrance of the group’s first gig. “The vibe leaving the venue was of ‘did that just happen?’ and it became clear right away keeping Joe Russo’s Almost Dead as a one-time performance would be a disservice to music fans.” Russo and company did return to the stage on December 27, 2013 at The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York for their second show and by 2015 were embarking on full tours. Joe Russo’s Almost Dead now have over 200 shows under their belts with dozens of concerts scheduled for 2020.
Dragon Smoke | 2003
[Video Credit: Jam Cruise]
Originating from the notorious late night jam sessions that are always a highlight of the New Orleans Jazz Fest experience, Dragon Smoke has become an institution of the many after-hours “Superjams” that take place during the famed festival. Dragon Smoke arose in 2003 when four of New Orleans finest musicians got together to jam at the renowned Dragon’s Den: Ivan Neville, Eric Lindell, Rob Mercurio and Stanton Moore.
Keyboardist Ivan Neville’s legendary last name is synonymous with New Orleans and along with singer-songwriter and guitarist Eric Lindell, leads the band vocally over the NOLA funk groove of Galactic rhythm section made up of drummer Stanton Moore and bassist Rob Mercurio.
Dragon Smoke’s fiery chemistry was such that the quartet has branched out beyond the Crescent City, playing a few shows on the West Coast. But a Dragon Smoke sighting is still very much a rare New Orleans delicacy.
Stockholm Syndrome | 2004
[Video Credit: MoBoogie]
Current Members: Dave Schools (bass; Widespread Panic/Hard Working Americans), Jerry Joseph (guitar; Jerry Joseph and The Jackmormons), Eric McFadden (guitar; Eric McFadden Trio (EMT)), Wally Ingram (drums), (keyboards; Gov’t Mule)
While skillfull songwriters themselves, Widespread Panic has always championed the music of other songsmiths as well. One of the artists the band covers the most is singer-songwriter Jerry Joseph. Some of Panic’s most associated songs are in fact Joseph-penned numbers like “Climb To Safety,” “North” and “Second Skin.”
So it was no surprise when WSP bassist Dave Schools (who makes another appearance on this list) teamed up with Joseph in 2004 to form Stockholm Syndrome — naming the project after the psychological phenomenon when a kidnapped person or persons become enamored with their kidnapper(s). Schools and Joseph rounded out the group with more all-stars in guitarist Eric McFadden, highly sought after drummer Wally Ingram and Gov’t Mule keyboardist Danny Louis.
While Stockholm Syndrome began as a recording project, the band subsequently toured around their 2004 debut album, Holy Happy Hour. Stockholm Syndrome would continue to tour sporadically and released a live EP recorded at Streetlight Records in Santa Cruz, California in 2010 ahead of their final studio release — Apollo, inspired by redwood trees and recorded in a converted chicken coop — in 2011.
G.R.A.B. | 2006
[Video Credit: miket5567]
In the mid-2000s, a young duo was carving out a name for themselves in the jam scene and beyond with their interesting instrumentation and willingness to experiment. So it was natural that drummer Joe Russo and keyboardist Marco Benevento caught the attention of a musician who has always espoused similar qualities.
Phish bassist Mike Gordon teamed up with the Benevento/Russo Duo, in 2005 when Phish’s future was unknown.
Looking to get in on the fun, Gordon’s Phish band mate, guitarist Trey Anastasio, recruited Mike and The Duo for his Bar 17 solo album. Buoyed by the chemistry, the newly formed quartet hit the road with Phil Lesh & Friends in 2006 beginning with a legendary Superjam at Bonnaroo 2006 that saw Phil Lesh sitting in with Gordon, Russo, Anastasio and Benevento for a number of Grateful Dead classics.
Thus, G.R.A.B. was born. While the band would conduct their own headlining tour later that summer featuring setlists comprised of Anastasio solo material, The Duo originals and choice covers, an appearance at 10,000 Lakes Music Festival would be the quartet’s last show.
Brain Damaged Eggmen | 2006
[Video Credit: Umphrey’s McGee]
Current Members: Brendan Bayliss (guitar; Umphrey’s McGee) Marc Brownstein (bass; The Disco Biscuits), Jake Cinninger (guitar; Umphrey’s McGee, (keyboards; The Disco Biscuits), Kris Myers (drums; Umphrey’s McGee)
Brain Damaged Eggmen peformances have been scarce since the ensemble debuted aboard Jam Cruise in January 2006. Formed during a period when the Disco Biscuits and Umphrey’s McGee were solidifying a friendship between the bands that lasts through the present, BDE consists of UM’s Jake Cinninger, Brendan Bayliss and Kris Myers with tDB’s Marc Brownstein and Aron Magner.
Another Brain Damaged Eggmen show was held in August 2006 as part of a Lollapalooza late-night concert at Chicago’s Vic Theatre. Additional BDE performances took place at Caribbean Holidaze in Jamaica in 2007 and the 2012 Summer Camp Music Festival in Chillicothe, Illinois.
Not only a supergroup, the collective is also a tribute act, with their setlists made up of The Beatles and Pink Floyd covers.
“The band’s only goal is to respectfully and tastefully pay homage to two of their biggest influences, The Beatles and Pink Floyd,” read part of the announcement confirming the most recent BDE performance, which was when they headlined the 2018 Resonance Music & Art Festival in Thornville, Ohio.
The WMDS | 2007
[Video Credit: evenstev]
Although he’s enjoyed a stellar solo career, Keller Williams has a knack for putting together great bands spanning numerous genres. But of all his various side-projects, the one that perhaps best embodied the spirit of the jam scene in its fusion of rock, jazz, reggae, disco and more is The WMDS.
The quartet features longtime Keller collaborators Keith Moseley of The String Cheese Incident on bass, renowned guitarist Gibb Droll and drummer Jeff Sipe whose resume includes Trey Anastasio, ARU and more.
The all-star band was active between spring 2007 and fall 2008. The group hit the road during that time from which they culled a three-disc live album and DVD. While all the members have naturally floated back to their various projects, the band, or versions of it, still occasionally reunite, especially around Williams’ annual Colorado mountain event Keller & His Compadres.
Monsters Of Folk | 2009
[Video Credit: Anxl Sunlight]
In 2004, M. Ward, Bright Eyes‘ Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis and My Morning Jacket‘s Jim James toured together. The run of shows was promoted as “An Evening With: Bright Eyes, Jim James And M. Ward” but became affectionately (and unofficially) known by fans and participants alike as the “Monsters Of Folk” tour.
It wasn’t until 2009 that the self-titled debut Monsters Of Folk album was released. Made in spurts during sessions held in Malibu, California and Omaha, Nebraska, the resulting 15-track album featured writing by all the “monsters” in the band.
At the time of its release, the band described the process of making the record:
It was never a question of where or how – it was just when. We knew we wanted to record an album after seeing that we had good chemistry on tour. I think we were all curious about what we could do if we went into the studio and recorded original songs. And now we have a built-in platform, which is Mike’s studio in Omaha.
We did it three parts. The first session we did at Mike’s and my studio in Omaha, basically in Mike’s back yard. We built it a couple of years ago; we took all the money we ever made and created a really nice studio. That was cool because it was very low key. There’s great equipment but it’s really like our house. We did the first session there and we did the second session maybe three months later in Malibu, at a studio called Shangri-La, which is kind of old-school – The Band, Neil Young, all kinds of people recorded there.
Having our studio in Omaha has helped me hone in on my skills as an engineer, and in particular, as a mixer. It’s also helped make the process more efficient, with three studios and with a guest house connected to them. We were able to create music in a variety of spaces, whether it was jamming out ideas in the guest house, where Jim and Matt stayed, or rehearsing and/or tracking some stuff in the B studio while we got other work done in the A room.
It is such an amazing experience to be able to watch the way that other people work in the studio. The way their minds solve problems and build from the ground up. Our voices are so different and some of our ideas are different, but we all share a profound love and joy for music and the creation of music and we all have a deep respect for each other in our similarities and our differences.
A tour in fall 2009 in support of the album remains their only tour to date. The band reconvened for the Austin City Limits Festival in 2010 and taped an appearance on the festival’s namesake live television program.
The Roots’ 2010 album, How I Got Over contained a reworked version of the Monsters Of Folk track “Dear God (sincerely M.O.F.).”
Ward brought out James and Oberst at a concert in July 2016 for a rendition of the Monsters Of Folk song “Whole Lotta Losin.’” The same trio shared the stage month later at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in San Francisco, again performing “Whole Lotta Losin’” and the fellow album track “Say Please” during Oberst’s set.
Incidental Animals | 2013
[Video Credit: JamBase]
Current Members: Kyle Hollingsworth (keyboards; The String Cheese Incident), Lebo (Dan Lebowitz), (guitar; ALO), Steve Adams (bass; ALO), Dave Brogan (drums; ALO), Jennifer Hartswick (trumpet; Trey Anastasio Band)
Incidental Animals membership can be expressed by trio of three-letter intitials: SCI, ALO and TAB. Those familiar with the jam scene will recognize those as The String Cheese Incident, ALO (Animal Liberation Orchestra) and Trey Anastasio Band.
The jam alphabet soup featuring covers, SCI and ALO tunes and selections from the members’ solo catalogs was first served during a short tour in November 2013. The middle night of the three-show East Coast run saw Hartswick’s TAB band mate Natalie Cressman make the group even more super by adding trombone throughout the performance. Incidental Animals only played one additional show in 2014.
In May 2015, Incidental Animals put together a four-show West Coast run that began with two nights at Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael, California. Phil Lesh, the venue’s owner and Grateful Dead bassist, sat-in with Incidental Animals at Terrapin along with other guests such as Nicki Bluhm, Ross James, Pete Lavezzoli and Alex Koford.
The same Terrapin Crossroads performances were the site of the Songs Of Their Own taping for JamBase’s celebration of the Grateful Dead’s 50th anniversary. Hollingsworth, Brogan, Adams, Lebo and JHa held another Incidental Animals set at the 2016 Hangtown Music Festival.
Hard Working Americans | 2013
[Video Credit: HWAmericansVEVO]
Current Members: Todd Snider (vocals), Dave Schools (bass; Widespread Panic), Duane Trucks (drums; Widespread Panic), Chad Staehly (keyboards; Great American Taxi), Jesse Aycock (guitar), Daniel Sproul (guitar; Rose Hill Drive)
Singer-songwriter Todd Snider recruited Widespread Panic bassist Dave Schools and (soon-to-be WSP) drummer Duane Trucks, Chris Robinson Brotherhood guitarist Neal Casal and Great American Taxi keyboardist Chad Staehly to record a set of songs picked by Snider. The band’s resulting 2013 self-titled debut album (made at Bob Weir’s TRI Studios in Mill Valley, California) put their stamp on 11 tunes originally written by the likes of Randy Newman, Lucinda Williams, Hayes Carll, Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings and more.
After touring, the following year the band issued the live album, The First Waltz, consisting of many of the same songs from their previous studio release. Steel guitarist Jesse Aycock was brought into the group and appeared on the live LP.
Snider relied on his own words for the supergroup’s sophomore studio album, Rest In Chaos, which was written and recorded by the “band on the road, live in six different studios.” Hard Working Americans released a second live album, We’re All In This Together, which was recorded live during their 2016 tour in support of Rest In Chaos.
Casal (who died in 2019) left the group in 2017 and guitarist Daniel Sproul joined the mix.
Golden Gate Wingmen | 2014
[Video Credit: The Hamilton Live]
Tied together by the silver thread of the Grateful Dead, Golden Gate Wingmen showcase not only a deft understanding of the Dead canon but also tout their own songwriting abilities. United by former Dark Star Orchestra and Furthur guitarist John Kadlecik, GGW features an all-star cast of longtime Dead collaborators including Dead & Company keyboardist Jeff Chimenti and Ratdog drummer Jay Lane as well as renowned bassist Reed Mathis of Tea Leaf Green.
The chemistry seemed to crackle from the minute that Mathis, Chimenti and Lane backed Kadlecik during one of his shows at Terrapin Crossroads in the fall of 2014. The group decided to stick together and have toured ever since as fixtures in theaters and festivals alike.
Much like the Grateful Dead themselves, GGW runs on a potent mixture of psychedelic rock, Americana, funk, blues and jazz. Here’s a 2015 JamBase review of a GGW gig in New York City written by Chad Berndtson:
These four guys have been playing music in this vein long enough that they could fake it, easily. John, Jay, Reed, Jeff: they know the territory, they’re all aces, give them some sturdy originals, Dead tunes, Jerry staples, let ’em run wild, crack some smiles, call it a day. But a funny thing’s happening on the way to creating a casually interesting side project: Golden Gate Wingmen is a band, with its own personality, well familiar to the associations its various members have made, but not quite like any one of them.
Technically, this wasn’t their first New York show –the band played a semi-private gig the night before. But the sold-out, sweaty Cutting Room still fell like the first, much-anticipated East Coast arrival since those good notices followed their November 2014 debut. And if up until early in the second set, Golden Gate Wingmen were merely making a good time of things, they finally arrived at a version of “Crazy Fingers” in the second set -later to morph into a groovy-soul version of “Ripple” -that saw everything really click, making clear their full potential.
What’s that phrase we use? “A tale of two sets?” This one had the straightforward first frame, punctuated by Dead tunes -“Brown Eyed Women” and “Terrapin Station” -that served to remind just how this music comes to these players and that they can draw on its powers as a collective, not just a patchwork of musicians steeped in Dead. A cover of Bob Dylan’s “Tomorrow Is A Long Time” was also a highlight, with earnest Reed Mathis vocals to boot. Again, what you expected: all members flexing throughout, with John Kadlecik and Jeff Chimenti painting sometimes near the margins, sometimes in the center of the canvas, no one person owning the stage.
But much later, at show’s end, the first set felt like an an hour-long statement of what they might be able to do and the second set delivered on that promise -game upped, in all directions. Kadlecik’s “Hard Highway” kicked things off with portent, and then came the “Crazy Fingers” > “Ripple” sequence, in which the members held a beautifully patient, all-the-time-in-the-world-to-do-this pace, fed off the excitement of the crowd, and then watched Mathis steal the whole thing: grooving, underpinning, darting around corners, and then stepping into the spotlight for actual, honest-to-goodness bass solos that pulled the groove off its mark and toyed with it a bit without sounding gratuitous.
Mathis is one X-factor in the Golden Gate Wingmen, doing a little bit of everything, locking in with drummer Jay Lane, knowing both can handle a malleable pocket, and also playing the aggressor, at least as much of a lead instrument presence as Kadlecik. Another other X-factor is their slyly eclectic catalog: after “Ripple,” for example, came a new Kadlecik original, “Golden Wings,” serving up a nice dose of folk-rock ahead of the band’s well-worked-through version of The Police’s “Walking In Your Footsteps” that foamed around its edges and then melted into a long jam anticipating, and then yielding to, “Dark Star.”
Give these guys a chance. What you think you’re getting from them is that first set version of “Brown Eyed Women”: straightforward, upbeat, ever-so-slightly messed-with thanks to its inclusion of an aggressive bass solo. What you’re actually getting is the second set: wider, deeper adventure from guys who could pull up way short of where they ended and still have received applause, but went that way because, well, they just can’t help themselves.
I’m With Her | 2014
[Video Credit: Live From Here]
I’m With Her was born of a spontaneous performance that took place in 2014. The folk trio of Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek), Aoife O’Donovan (Crooked Still) and Sarah Jarosz described their unexpected formation, explaining:
After years of crossing paths in their intersecting scenes, the three musicians came together by happenstance for an off-the-cuff performance at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in summer 2014. The very same day, a mutual friend texted them with a last-minute request to open a show that night at the Sheridan Opera House.
“We had two hours to prepare for a 30-minute set and we said, ‘Let’s do it, let’s skip margaritas and rehearse,’” O’Donovan recalls. “We worked up six or seven songs in the bathroom, and then went on to this crazy-energetic crowd at one in the morning. I’ll never forget how amazing that felt.”
Mixing gorgeous vocal harmonies and expert musicianship, the threesome toured in 2015 with setlists made up of their respective solo catalogs and other covers. The tour led to writing sessions later that year. The group enlisted producer Ethan Johns for their debut album, See You Around. Portions of the record were written during an eight-day stay at a farmhouse in Vermont. Recording sessions were held at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios near Bath, England. The album was released on Rounder Records in early 2018.
Subsequent successful tours followed the release of the album, which featured 11 originals and a Gillian Welch cover. I’m With Her was named International Folk Music Awards 2019 Artist Of The Year and the trio earned Duo/Group Of The Year recognition at the Americana Awards 2019. Their song “Call My Name” earned Grammy Award nominations for Best American Roots Performance and Best American Roots Song.
Dead & Company | 2015
[Video Credit: Dead & Company]
Current Members: Bob Weir (guitar; Grateful Dead), Mickey Hart (percussion; Grateful Dead), Bill Kreutzmann (drums; Grateful Dead), John Mayer (guitar), Jeff Chimenti (keyboards; Golden Gate Wingmen/), Oteil Burbridge (bass; The Allman Brothers Band)
Since the disbanding of the Grateful Dead in 1995 after Jerry Garcia’s untimely death, a number of Grateful Dead incarnations have popped up over the years. But one of the most enduring has been Dead & Company.
While the supergroup — consisting of three of the surviving “core four” members of the Grateful Dead in guitarist Bob Weir and drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mikey Hart — along with guitarist John Mayer, The Allman Brothers Band bassist Oteil Burbridge and longtime Ratdog keyboardist Jeff Chimenti, Dead & Co. confirmed their first tour in fall 2015 shortly after the Grateful Dead’s 50th anniversary Fare Thee Well shows.
Now, with five years under their belt, D&C has been around as long as Furthur — another long-lasting Dead-related group. With a New Year’s run on the books for 2019 and the band’s destination Playing In The Sand concerts scheduled for early 2020, Dead & Company show no signs of stopping.
Prophets Of Rage | 2016
[Video Credit: Resurrection Fest]
Current Members: Tom Morello (guitar; Rage Against The Machine), Chuck D (MC; Public Enemy), Tim Commerford (bass; Rage Against The Machine), Brad Wilk (drums; Rage Against The Machine), B-Real (MC; Cypress Hill), DJ Lord
Prophets Of Rage were the result of a collaboration between members of Rage Against The Machine, Public Enemy and Cypress Hill. After confirming their involvement, RATM‘s Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk, P.E.‘s Chuck D and CyHill’s B-Real along with DJ Lord made their live debut at Whisky A Go-Go in Los Angeles in May 2016.
That year saw the supergroup (named after a P.E. song) release their debut EP, The Party’s Over, and embark on the Make America Rage Again Tour.
The members of RATM had previously been part of Audioslave with Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell, which was founded in 2001 following Rage’s breakup. An Audioslave reunion took place in January 2017 at Prophets Of Rage’s Anti-Inaugural Ball at the Teragram Ballroom. The first Audioslave performance in over a decade proved to be Cornell’s final appearance with the group in the wake of his suicide in May 2017.
Prophets Of Rage’s self-titled debut album came out in September 2017. The band returned in 2018 with the single “Heart Afire.” POR put out the single “Made With Hate” in June 2019 and followed in September with “Pop Goes The Weapon.”
Just months later, in November 2019, Prophets Of Rage announced the end of the project. The news came in the wake of the apparent Rage Against The Machine reunion happening in 2020.
“I want to say thank you to the fans that supported Prophets Of Rage for the time we’ve been rocking together. It’s been an honor to rock stages and people of all ages with these guys,” BReal wrote on Instagram. “It’s been a great time and great memories in a short time. Rockin along side of Chuck and Tom has been amazing to say the least. It was fun while it lasted and I hope we left a big impression and that the music has been a source of inspiration for those that needed it. That was the purpose we got together. So I say to y’all stay informed, stay engaged and fight the good fight.”
“It was about doing something greater than self. 2020 keeping [Zach de la Rocha’s] spot warm for [Rage Against The Machine] and powering a 👊🏿statement for 1000 days was a honorable truth mission in the hours of chaos from the jump…,” Chuck D wrote on Twitter. “And so the bands rock on….”
The Highwomen | 2019
[Video Credit: The Howard Stern Show]
The first hint of The Highwomen’s existance came when Amanda Shires “accidentally jumped the gun” during a January 2019 interview. Shires initially indicated the project would include Brandi Carlile and Margo Price. Following Shires mea culpa, the formal announcement of The Highwomen came in March.
Price ended up not being part of the project. Maren Morris and Natalie Hemby were revealed to be part of the group and recording sessions that yielded the band’s self-titled debut album.
Named as a reflection of The Highwaymen supergroup that was made up outlaw country legends Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson, The Highwomen genesis was detailed by Carlile who told Rolling Stone:
The whole idea started with Amanda Shires. Like we were basically hanging out and we got to know each other, became fast friends, fell in love, and she said we should start like a political movement. She was like, “Yeah. We can call it The Highwomen.” She’s like, “And not high like high, but like exulted.”
Recording sessions for The Highwomen were held with producer Dave Cobb at the renowned RCA Studio A in Nashville. The album also features Sheryl Crow on background vocals and bass, vocalist Yola, Cobb on acoustic and electric guitars, guitarist (and Shires’ husband) Jason Isbell, Carlile’s band mates bassist Phil Hanseroth, guitarist Tim Hanseroth and drummer Chris Powell, as well as former Gregg Allman Band keyboardist (who has collaborated with Shires) Peter Levin.
“Anyone can be a Highwoman,” Carlile stated. “It’s about banding together, abandoning as much ego as humanly possible, holding one another up and amplifying other women every chance we get. Shoulder to shoulder. One push, one love.”
Upon its release, The Highwomen reached the Top 10 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart. The Highwomen made a few promotional appearances and performed a set at 2019 Newport Folk Festival and the members of the group have joined each other on stage a number of times.
Emerald Quintet | 2019
[Video Credit: RhythmTube]
Current Members: Skerik (saxophone), Stanton Moore (drums; Galactic), Andy Hess (bass; As The Crow Flies), Robert Walter (keyboards; The Greyboy Allstars/Mike Gordon), Scott Metzger (guitar; Joe Russo’s Almost Dead)
One of the newest supergroups to grace the scene is the wildly talented Emerald Quintet. As is the case with a few bands on this list, Emerald Quintet formed around the New Orleans Jazz Fest in 2019. The year marked EQ members drummer Stanton Moore (Galactic) and saxophonist Skerik’s 20th (“emerald”) anniversary performing at the famed festival.
Moore and Skeirk rounded out the Emerald Quintet with Joe Russo’s Almost Dead guitarist Scott Metzger, Grey Boy Allstars/Mike Gordon keyboardist Robert Walter and bassist Andy Hess. The Jazz Fest slot went well and the band would regroup for another festival throwdown at High Sierra as well as a performance in Anchorage, Alaska.
The band must have been feeling it and announced a handful of 2019 fall tour dates including plays at Ardmore Music Hall near Philadelphia, Brooklyn Bowl in New York City and Cervantes’ in Denver to close out the run.