This evening at Los Angeles’ Ace Hotel, musicians such as Hiss Golden Messenger, Billy Strings, Chris Funk (The Decemberists), Benmont Tench (Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers) and Jamie Drake will perform at Jubilee: A Celebration of Jerry Garcia. The event will also include a silent auction benefiting charities like The Rex Foundation, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Jerry Garcia Foundation. We asked some of those artists performing their own personal musical reflections and experiences with Garcia and the Grateful Dead throughout the years.
CHRIS FUNK [Decemberists]
I first came across the Dead in the ‘80s. My friend Jami was cutting school and going on “tour.” I was perked by kids who were devoted to anything, especially music. I soon got on that bus also. Upon digging deeper, I could soon see that Garcia had more to do with my Chicago area upbringing in punk clubs than the neo-hippie experience happening in the parking lot of Soldier Field, so to speak, which made me love this mysterious four-fingered guitar slayer who forgot verses and chords and could still fill a stadium. The musical message to me was a true artist with a voice, despite any ups and downs, sharing a very real experience.
BENMONT TENCH [Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers]
The thing is, everyone knows what a unique, inventive, and lyrical guitarist Jerry Garcia was. What excited me [about Jubilee] was the chance to help shine a light on what a great songwriter he was — the songs he wrote with Robert Hunter have a strong kinship with those written and sung by the members of The Band. Same country, maybe just a few county lines or a time zone over. They’re classics of American song. And we’re also showing where all this came from, the roots in songs by Mississippi John Hurt and writers whose names are long unknown. The traditions he learned from, and where they led him, in other words. Fantastic.”
My first memory of Jerry and the Dead is hearing the band for the first time while driving through the Arkansas mountains in my mom’s blue Pinto in first grade. It was, of course, “Touch of Grey.” And while I won’t be playing that song this Friday, to be part of this show with this lineup is like a dream.
To me, Jerry Garcia is a true guitar hero. He’s a master of improvisation and freedom in music. It’s really beautiful that all these amazing artists are getting together to have this gathering and honor Jerry by singing all the songs he taught us to love so well.