Saturday, November 5th at the Putnam Den had the Capital Region feeling pretty grateful. Luckily enough, there isn’t a lack of Grateful Dead cover bands or jam-centered music in town. That doesn’t mean, however, that the New Paltz natives, Skeleton Keys, can’t draw a decent crowd to lend a listening ear to career-spanning tunes pulled directly from the Dead’s catalogue.
The night showcased the harmonious talents of Skeleton Keys, complete with Alex Mazur of fellow Dead aficionados, Gratefully Yours. Chances are you’ve probably seen them, or some variation of them previously at the Den or The Hollow in downtown Albany. The keyboard-based, electronic exploration took listeners through two sets of music that lasted into the late hours of Sunday morning. Things kicked off a bit late but instantly let loose the second the six-piece stepped on stage with keyboard wizard sit-ins. Just last Wednesday, the same venue saw a room packed with Dopapod faithful’s adorned in Dead and Phish gear, eager to see what their joint tour with Pigeons Playing Ping Pong would bring.
You can say once you’ve seen one Dead cover band show, you’ve seen them all. To an extent that could be true, but Skeleton Keys made sure to spice up the night with set breaks and solos in all the right spots. Two percussionists, one manning a drum kit and the other on hand drums, two keys players, one bassist and a vivacious singer took den-goers through an authentic rendition of 1976’s Steal Your Face tune, “Sugaree.” The second song of the night found its way into an extended jam that ended with a captivating hand-drum solo.
On November 5, 1979, the Grateful Dead brought fourth the famed matchup of “China Cat Sunflower” into “I Know You Rider” during their show at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. Fast-forward to 2016, and the Skeleton Keys pulled out another approved combination. As things wrapped up, Mazur led the group into what seemed like a tease of “Fire on the Mountain.” After being played in full, the Shakedown Street hit then segued into “Scarlet Begonias” which found most people up on their feet with a drink in hand.
The Saratogian nightlife staple will host a number of stimulating shows in the coming months. On Nov. 19, returning favorites Pink Talking Fish will take on a performance of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon juxtaposed with Phish’s rock-opera “Gamehendge,” all while sprinkling Talking Heads songs in between. A special Thanksgiving Throwdown will take place with Eastbound Jesus on Nov. 23 and the Capital Region’s own Formula 5 will throw down with Tauk on Dec. 8!