Friday, September 29, 2023

Driving that Train to the Madrid Dead Fest


Jerry Garcia has been gone these many years and the Grateful Dead’s recent reincarnation of Dead & Co. with Bob Weir, completed its final national tour this summer.

But local Deadheads can continue to get their fix of sublime guitar licks and extended space jams and harmonies aplenty as Grateful Dead tribute bands keep the scene alive.

Such is the case Sept. 23-24 with the Down to the Mine Festival in Madrid.

And perhaps there is no place more fitting for a weekend’s worth of non-stop music, twirling, dancing and positive vibes than Madrid, its Mine Shaft Tavern and the famous ballyard.

All will play a role in the music-filled weekend, said Lori Lindsey, Mine Shaft owner and general manager.

This a reprise of last year’s initial Dead Fest, a one-day affair that was extremely well attended, she said.

“I hesitate to say that it’s better, because we don’t know yet,” she said. “But it’s definitely got more acts. I thought (last year) went extremely well and I was really pleased with it. Everyone had a great time. Good energy. The music was live so it was like a Dead fest.”

National artist Peter Rowan headlines the Sept. 23 lineup on the Terrapin Stage, with the Albuquerque-based Lonn Calanca Band wrapping things on the Candyman Stage. Rowan is primarily a bluegrass musician and composer who plays guitar and mandolin, yodels and sings. The day will be more of a tribute the Dead’s folksier side.

Santa Fe mainstay Detroit Lightning, whose leader Josh Martin created the festival and is the primary promoter, will be the headliner Sept. 24, following Albuquerque’s The Deal.

Doubling down on the event seemed like a natural progression after last year’s success, said Tim Gallegos, The Deal’s lead guitarist and singer.

“It was extremely well attended,” he said of last year’s event. “The quality of the bands that performed was amazing. So many people came together and made it really feel like is used to feel at a Grateful Dead show. Going to the show, the whole vibe, it took you right back to the days that the Dead were playing. The people milling round, the vending area, the music going on, people dancing and hugging and reuniting. The whole vibe was amazing. People were talking about it for weeks after the last event.”

This year, because of the two nights, Martin was able to secure the town’s fabled Oscar Huber Memorial Ballpark for camping, which just adds to the ambiance of the event, Mitchell said.

“People who are into the Dead Head scene definitely camping is something that they would want to do and doing breakfast on Sunday morning as a community group will be selling breakfast burritos for a fund raiser. People will be here overnight and when people stay in Madrid, really love it and enjoy Madrid so it’s a win-win.”

With so many bands playing throughout the two days, one of the big issues is making sure the Dead’s full repertoire is represented.

“When it’s a festival, it’s important for the musicians and the fans to listen to the Grateful Dead with no repeats,” Gallegos said. “And so the first order of business is coordinating what they’re playing and what you’re playing and to be flexible and open-minded about what you’re playing.”

That really determines each band’s playlist, he said.

“It’s the primary driver of what you end up playing. So you end up trying to squeeze elements of an entire show into 90 to 120 minutes,” Gallegos said. “Your strong opening number, the polka (dance) numbers and then you’ve got a heavy jam, some space. You want to grab as many elements as you can. Everybody wants to do the big combinations: “Scarlett/Fire,” (“Scarlett Begonias”/Fire on the Mountain”) or “China/ Rider,” (“China Cat”/“I Know You Rider”) but we’ve actually come up with some new combinations of songs that we’re having fun with.”


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