Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Dead lives on

From the Harwich Oracle:

The Dead lives onBy Don Wilding/ dwilding@cnc.comWednesday, October 26, 2005Big Rhythm Wine proudly carries on the tradition of The Grateful Dead, so much that the Cape-based cover band bills itself as "A Grateful Dead Experience." The set lists are chock full of obscure and popular Dead tunes alike; the space jam sessions go on forever and then drop into another song; and fans of the band tape their shows for bootlegs.

Bootlegs are a particularly big draw for "Deadheads," as fans of the San Francisco acid rock icons are known as. The biggest diehards can point to dates and venues that the band played, and point out what songs were played - and how the late Jerry Garcia may have played a certain guitar solo, the specific way that Bob Weir growled through an blues tune, or what percussion tricks Bill Kreutzmann and/or Mickey Hart pulled out of their sleeves.

Big Rhythm Wine knows this better than anyone in this era of post-Garcia Dead re-hashes, DVDs and CDs of countless shows from the 60's to the 90's, and Cherry Garcia ice cream. "Other guys in the band will be like, 'Let's do that song like 3/3/86, or whatever," says Harwich native Mike Pandiscio, BRW's lead singer, rhythm guitarist, artist, and web master. "It's amazing - these guys can rattle off dates from the top of their heads."

Pandiscio and the rest of BRW, which includes Harwich native / Brewster resident Pete Waters and Jason Roza of Harwich on drums, keyboardists Brett Ginter of Chatham and Dick Sage of Providence, bassist Paul Scarpino of Holbrook, and Garcia-style guitarist Jeff Martinson of Connecticut, will be hosting the second annual "Day of the Dead" (also known as "Dia de Los Muertos") Halloween and Costume Party at the Captain's Club in Dennisport this Saturday night. Cash prizes are on tap for the winners - last year's top costume was none other than "The Pot Fairy."

Right - the Pot Fairy. Only at a Grateful Dead show - or reasonable facsimile. That's where BRW comes in.

"The show is an excuse to have people get crazy," says Pandiscio, also known as "Marcus" to band mates. "You tell people 'Grateful Dead,' and you get a certain audience - the hardcore people, which is what this band is. They're all Deadheads, through and through."

Pandiscio, who also fronts the band Care Factor Zero, is "low man on the totem pole" when it comes to how many times he's seen the Dead (who actually played at the Pyramids in Egypt back in 1978) or the band's solo efforts live. Pandiscio has seen them over 60 times, with the first show being on April 7, 1987 at the Worcester Centrum. "I had a stepmother at the time who turned me on to her collection, and then I bought a copy of 'American Beauty,'" Pandiscio recalled. "It's been downhill ever since." Sixty times is a pretty impressive count for Dead shows, but that's nothing compared to Martinson, who's had the pleasure of viewing the Dead on 300-plus occasions.

Pandiscio, who turned 35 this month, once played in the Dead cover band Lazy Lightning, along with Roza and Harwich's Colin Stevenson, now the front man for Earth Junior. Sage's former band, the New Prophets, once opened for Weir's band, Ratdog. Martinson and Sage both played in the Connecticut Dead cover band Shakedown, and Martinson sat in on numerous occasions with Max Creek. Scarpino played in the Dead cover band American Beauty and was a guest guitar player for the Mighty Mighty Bosstones on their album "Pay Attention." Ginter, who offers up the styles of both Brett Mydland and Keith Godchaux, is best known as the ringleader of the Boston band The Kind.

The variety of Dead numbers on a BRW set list is impressive. Sure, they'll offer up the "hits" - "Truckin'," "Casey Jones," and "Touch of Grey" - but obscure tunes such as "Wharf Rat," "My Brother Esau," "Black Throated Wind," and "Jack A Roe," are in there too. "There's a few hard ones," Pandiscio concedes. "'Estimated Prophet' is tough because it's an exotic time signature (7/4), but we have done 'Terrapin Station.'" They've also taken on both "speeds" of "Friend of the Devil," the Robert Hunter / John Dawson / Garcia composition from "American Beauty" - there's the fast-paced version from the album, and the slower take that the Dead took to performing live in the 1970's.

So does Pandiscio have a favorite tune? "I don't have one that I don't like," he says. "There's plenty of songs that I've played in cover bands, but you'll never find me groaning about any of these."

BRW played a year of gigs at the Brewster VFW, but they're on the lookout for a steady 18-plus gig for once a month. The Dead Zone in South Yarmouth ("they're good people," says Pandiscio) has been a big boost for the band, as has the BRW web site at Fans can download the band's music, and also view features on their bio page, like "30 Questions."

Wherever BRW goes, the spirit of the Dead shows is always there - and that will certainly be the theme of the Halloween party this Saturday night in Dennisport - maybe it will be referred to as "10/29/05" in future performances.

"It's a family-type thing," says Pandiscio. "We don't know a lot of these people, but we're definitely connected, because we've done it for so long."

If you go ...
What:Second Annual "Day of the Dead" Halloween and Costume Party
Who: Big Rhythm Wine ("A Grateful Dead Experience')
When:Saturday, Oct. 29 - 10 p.m.
Where:The Captain's Club, 243 Lower County Road, Dennisport
Information:508-398-5673 or


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