Getting into the Mix
It’s got the makings of a control freak’s worst nightmare – a band of players who’ve never played together, performing a set list that doesn’t exist yet, coming together for the second time ever on a local stage.
But given the caliber of talent involved – and the well-established jamming skills each player brings to the table – tonight’s performance at the Half Moon by an ensemble known only as the Mix promises to be an exciting and musically rewarding experience.
Loosely created as a spin-off of Grateful Dead re-enactors Dark Star Orchestra, the Mix features DSO guitarist and vocalist John Kadlecik and bassist Kevin Rosen, plus friends Greg Anton (drummer for über-jammers Zero), keyboardist Melvin Seals of the Jerry Garcia Band and guitarist Jeff Pevar.
Pevar, best known for his work with Jazz is Dead, David Crosby’s CPR and Phil Lesh and Friends, says the group’s collective single degrees of separation from the Grateful Dead family should give fans an idea of the kind of music they’ll hear at this evening’s show. Oddly enough, he still doesn’t exactly know what the band will actually play – the group’s first-ever gig was last night in Aspen – but he promises an inventive and wildly engaging show.
“It’s a little strange as a concept, but I think even if we’d never even talked on the phone together, everyone involved has such a pool of talent that we’d be able to pull it off – or at least that’s what we’re hoping will happen,” Pevar says. “If you want to call it anything, we’re thinking “gang twang’ might be an appropriate label.”
Pevar says that much of the inspiration for the Mix comes from Glenwood Springs-area promoter Tony Grifasi, a friend of all the parties involved.
“Tony gave me a call and it seemed like a good idea – I’m friends with all of these guys,” Pevar says. “I’ve done some gigs with Melvin and the JGB, I’ve sat in with Dark Star Orchestra in the past and I’ve also worked with Greg and Zero … and I always look forward to an opportunity to playing with people like this.”
As open-ended an idea as the Mix might seem, Pevar says he has faith that he and his fellow players will be able to organically create a musical experience that fans will love.
“I quit high school to start playing music, and the way I look at it, this is like taking another class. It’s another opportunity to learn and re-learn everything I know about music. With this project, everybody involved brings their own story to the table. We may also be resorting to pure survival techniques – but I actually think there’s an advantage from the lack of logistical planning.”
Pevar says the Mix’s strategy is pretty simple – he and his fellow players will meet for a sound check and throw out some ideas, and be ready to roll by showtime.
“Everyone has some songs that we’re ready to perform, and it might just be as simple as saying, “let’s play this in G.’ It’s pretty clear that we’ll be playing some Dead and Garcia-type material, but the real idea is to see what emerges – John (Kadlecik) has a lot of songs from that genre that we’ll be working with.”
And while that might be a recipe for disaster for less talented players, Pevar and his jam-trained crew say they’re up to the challenge.
“Whenever I play music, the song is simply the plot for the jam and the source for expression, so we’re not too worried. If this project continues, I think we’ll be doing mostly original material, but in reality, we haven’t had any time to prepare, so we’ll see what happens. “
Originally from Hartford, Conn., Pevar now splits his life between the coasts, as well as keeping a home in Boulder. He comes to the Mix fresh from some production work with the newly reunited subdudes and a tour with the Machine, an equally intriguing jam project which combines Pink Floyd material with a Grateful Dead-inspired aesthetic.
“Depending on the night, we call ourselves “Grateful Pink’ or “Dead Floyd’ … and that’s been a lot of fun. I get to play with Matt Abts and Johnny Neal – we did a gig in Denver last week and had a good time. I’m also looking forward to more work with Crosby – we’ll be playing a benefit with Neil Young this fall.”
The Mix hits the Half Moon Saloon in West Vail tonight at 10 p.m.