Full show audio. Taped by Fred Nicolois. Use the arrows to toggle between songs. Why not listen to the show while you’re reading the review?
In the few short years since they formed, Golden Gate Wingmen have quickly become one of the must see bands for fans of not only the Grateful Dead, but also jam bands in general. The four members have played with numerous original Dead members so the easy assumption is to classify them as a Dead tribute, but as their recent show at the Sherman Theater in Stroudsburg, PA on Friday, April 12 proved, there’s more to them than just the Dead.
Throughout the last few years, the Wingmen find themselves playing the Sherman as part of their annual Spring Tour, and with each stop it seems the band continues to delve deeper into the catalogues of artists who have grown to be accepted into the current jam scene. The most iconic of which is Bob Dylan, who was represented numerous times at the most recent show, beginning with the opening number, “It Take A Lot to Laugh, It Takes A Train to Cry.” Sure, Jerry Garcia covered the song dozens, if not hundreds of times during his life, and Dylan toured with the Dead, but again, Golden Gate Wingmen are not trying to be a Dead tribute. They are paying respect to the artists and scene that have become affiliated with the Dead’s legacy in 2019.
Not saying the Dead wasn’t represented in Stroudsburg. After all, with the four musicians – guitarist John Kadlecik, bassist Reed Mathis, keyboardist Jeff Chimenti, and drummer Jay Lane – being in bands with Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, it’s almost impossible to not dip into the groups legendary cannon of material, including a Mathis led “Cassidy” early in the first set. While it may be easy to perform two sets of cover material, Golden Gate Wingmen prefer to leave room open for some original material, as Kadlecik has a nice amount of his own material, including the poignant “Hard Highway” which was a solid fit early in the evening.
A darker reworking of the Dylan classic “Queen Jane Approximately” with Mathis on vocals was easily the highlight of the first set. If Wingmen shows could showcase anything about Mathis – other than his brilliant low end bass playing – it’s that he has a good understanding of Dylan’s music and is open to interpreting it in ways that haven’t been done before. Lane’s solid and sometimes offbeat rhythm lead the outfit through the track, with Kadlecik and Chimenti complimenting each others’ solos throughout. When he wasn’t singing, Mathis utilized an octave pedal on his bass which allows him to solo in an almost guitar tone rather than bass. It’s something that has become a staple of GGW shows since their inception. “Tin Roof Shack,” a bluegrass number penned by Tony Rice and Peter Rowan, was given a bluesy reworking by Kadlecik and proved to be a nice tempo change.
“It’s Alright,” a groove heavy blues number penned by Kadlecik and former band mate Eric Olson was a nice lead in to the first set closer, a standard run through the Grateful Dead’s Top 40 hit, “Touch of Grey.” While the song could be a “take it or leave it” number to the Dead’s fans, the performance at the Sherman was lively with Chimenti – someone who was unfamiliar with the Dead’s material when joining RatDog in 1997 – adding his own unique twist to the original Brent Mydland penned keyboard fills throughout the song.
Dylan songs played almost as prominent of a role in the Stroudsburg set list as the Dead, as was the case with the second set opener, “When I Paint My Masterpiece.” Yet again, the free feel of the bands improvisation gave the song new life, rather than the slower mostly acoustic standard runs that Weir made famous over the last few decades. As an ode to his days with RatDog, Lane provided a high pitched harmony to the song’s ending chorus. It’s something that fans of the band have come to expect and most always leads to appreciative applause at the songs conclusion.
Eliciting some of the loudest crowd participation of the evening, the quartet jumped directly into a straight forward version of the Dead classic “Bertha” which once again showcased the tight call and answer soloing of Kadlecik and Chimenti, with the latter adding some lavish organ layering to the upbeat version. With Mathis once again flawlessly handling vocal duties, Dylan material made another appearance, this time in the form of the somber “To Ramona.” The cut was highlighted by some brilliant electric piano work from Chimenti, who has garnered copious amounts of respect in the extended Dead scene due to his understanding and adaptation of the music associated with the band.
Jumping back into the Dead’s catalogue, the outfit welcomed the psychedelic juggernaut “Dark Star” to the night which allowed for some freeform jazz explorations from the band including some of the loosest drumming of the evening from Lane. After the ending jam, Kadlecik fired up his Mutron pedal for the funky “Shakedown Street,” which had the large crowd dancing along to what some have called “disco Dead.” The song is always fun to hear in concert, but with so much other great material played that night in Stroudsburg, it gave some people the chance to go to the bathroom or get a beer. Not saying the version wasn’t enjoyable, but again, the shows high points seemed to be the non-Dead material.
Mathis returned to the mic for (what else?) the last Dylan song of the evening, the emotional “The Man In Me.” Kadlecik provided some excellent guitar work on the nearly 50 year old song, which gave new life to the number with Chimenti once again adding some brilliant electric piano during the middle jam. Ending the set proper with an energetic version of Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away,” the band was almost drowned out by the crowd who were shouting along with each line.
In the biggest surprise of the evening, GGW chose to encore with “I Feel Like Dynamite,” a driving soul number made famous by late New Orleans singer King Floyd. It wasn’t familiar to many in the crowd, but that seems to be what Golden Gate Wingmen do – they introduce new music to people that may never have heard it, but still pay homage to their roots in the extended Grateful Dead family. It’s a recipe that has worked since their inception. Every time the band goes on tour, social media groups always tend to have comments like “Golden Gate Wingmen are the best offshoot band out there. Prove me wrong.” After Friday’s performance in Stroudsburg, it would be a tough task to do.
It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry (JK)
Lazy River Road (JK)
Hard Highway (JK)
Queen Jane Approximately (RM)
Tin Roof Shack (JK)
It’s Alright > (JK)
Touch of Grey (JK)
When I Paint My Masterpiece (JK)
Midnight Bay* (JK)
To Ramona (RM)
Mile Away Jam >
Dark Star > (JK)
Shakedown Street (JK)
The Man in Me > (RM)
Not Fade Away (all)
E: I Feel Like Dynamite (JK)
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