Benmont Tench Playing (Grateful) Dead


This week, keyboardist Benmont Tench confirmed his first appearance as a member of Phil Lesh & Friends will take place at three upcoming shows at The Capitol Theatre in March. While that will be Tench’s debut performing with the Grateful Dead bassist’s ever-evolving lineup, the talented Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers keyboardist has proven over the years that he has a strong knowledge of the Dead’s repertoire.

In 2014, Tench spoke about the Grateful Dead in an interview with Relix. Here are Benmont’s thoughts on the Dead from that interview:

I love the Grateful Dead. My first experience with the Dead was that I’d heard all about them. I’d heard one or two things on the first few records and it didn’t really do it for me, but I kept hearing how great they were live. So I went to a Miami Pop Festival and they played. They were on early in the morning and I made sure to be on the grounds in time to see them because it’s the legendary Grateful Dead, and they were awful. But I knew enough about what they were up to that I said to myself, “Oh, they weren’t good today because they’re trying something new every day and you can’t catch it every time.”

So I kept my eyes on them and when I got Workingman’s Dead, I obsessively listened to that. They’re a model to follow because the interlacing of the guitars is beautiful, the guitar work is lyrical, the groove is fantastic. It’s very creative and they sing from the heart. They don’t always hit the note, but they sing from the heart. And the songs: Above all, it doesn’t matter what you are if you don’t have songs, and the Grateful Dead have really good songs. It’s a very unique songwriting style and you can’t get away with writing like that unless you really have it down. They’ll stretch the chords and the chords will keep going and things won’t repeat, so you can’t really get a hold on it but it still flows and makes sense. It isn’t just fucking around just for the sake of, “Look, I can do something that’s a different chord here.” Everything flows, it’s all organic, and that’s a real gift that [Jerry] Garcia and [Robert] Hunter had with each other.

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers incorporated the Grateful Dead classic “Friend Of The Devil” into a few of their live setlists. A recording of their cover performed in February 1997 at The Fillmore in San Francisco was included on the group’s Live Anthology box set. Here’s video of “Friend Of The Devil” from The Beacon Theatre in 2013 captured by ScottieloveTP:

Friend Of The Devil

Back in December 2012, Tench performed alongside Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir at Jonathan Wilson’s Merry Minstrel Musical Circus held at The Troubadour in Los Angeles. The Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell also participated, as did singer-songwriter Jackson Browne and others. Here’s their rendition of the Dead staple “Going Down The Road Feeling Bad” via ikepgh and “Dark Star” (Tench is out of frame) via blisstanger:

Going Down The Road Feeling Bad

Dark Star

Tench recently participated in a pair of events that featured the music of the Grateful Dead. In September of last year, Tench again joined Weir at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna in Monterey, California for a celebration of Porsche’s 70th anniversary. Others onstage that day included Dhani Harrison, The Heartbreakers drummer Steve Ferrone, as well as bassist Nikolai Fraiture of The Strokes, guitarist Brian Bell of Weezer, bassist Noah Harmon of The Airborne Toxic Event and keyboardist Josh Giroux. Here’s William Kuykendall’s footage of the Dead’s “Touch Of Grey” and another version of “Friend Of The Devil”:

Benmont was also part of the house band at the all-star Jubilee – A Celebration Of Jerry Garcia concert held at The Theatre At Ace Hotel in Los Angeles last March. Joining tench in The Jubilee House Band were multi-instrumentalist Sean Watkins of Nickel Creek, guitarist Tyler Chester and drummer Jay Bellerose. The evening featured Mike Campbell, Stephen Malkmus, Margo Price, Sam Bush, David Hidalgo, Josh Ritter, Amos Lee, Willie Watson, Molly Tuttle, Hiss Golden Messenger, Billy Strings and others. Watch highlights of Ben playing Dead below:

Margo Price – Casey Jones Captured by rb1229

Hiss Golden Messenger – Loser Captured by rb1229

Amos Lee – Black Muddy River Captured by Paul Giza

Tour Dates for
Benmont Tench