The Garcia Project brought a crowd from near and far with some people coming simply out of nostalgia and a desire to spend New Year’s Eve reveling in the spirit of Jerry Garcia, but everyone, including those not previously familiar with the Garcia Project, left Oneonta having had a real good time this New Year’s Eve. The Garcia Project typically covers a Jerry Garcia Band show from years past, giving the audience something to think about during the set.
Complete with “wall of sound” banners bordering the stage, and drummer Bob McKeon positioned front and center on stage, a true recreation of the Jerry Garcia Band experience began. As soon as the first set started with “How Sweet It Is”, the dance floor immediately filled up, but when “Run for the Roses” came on, that’s when the crowd really got into the groove, and the band seemed to play off of that, with bassist Dan Crea asserting himself on this one. “Struggling Man” featured drummer Bob McKeon crisply and cleanly landing on the upbeats, with guitarist/vocalist Mik Bondy playing some of Jerry’s well-known triple-time guitar riffs. The first set closed out with a more obscure cover of “Ain’t No Bread In The Breadbox”, followed by classics “My Sisters and Brothers > Deal”, which left the crowd wanting much more as the night continued.
Before the show and between sets, as part of the ticket price, a buffet meal was provided, which gave the audience time to refuel and chat with like-minded reflective fans. Many a conversation was overheard about various Jerry stories experienced by most in attendance at this show. While the Oneonta Theatre typically serves only beer and wine, they often offer up a specialty drink, which tonight was a tasty tropical bay breeze to help everyone get through the cold night.
The band returned to the stage for a “wildcard” set of tunes leading up to the midnight hour. The mini set started off with a hopping version of “Mississippi Half Step Uptown Too-Da-Loo”, followed by a boogie/blues-style “Mystery Train”, and ended with a driving rendition of “Cumberland Blues” with a rocking organ send-off by Greg Marshall, who had a real mastery of the keyboards, especially the Hammond sound of which he seemed to have a true command. Mik invited the audience to join the band in the downstairs theater to watch the Times Square Ball Drop on the big screen (a champagne toast was also included in the price of the ticket, by the way), and then to head back upstairs to “party like it’s 1999”!
After the festive NYE countdown and ball drop, Mik’s mom proudly brought out the first of two huge cakes they had brought for the occasion, and handed out pieces to the crowd; the sugar rush definitely helped at this hour, as the band still had a whole second set to play! (Apparently, the Jerry Garcia Band show the band chose to play tonight was a request from an audience member and they just decided to run with it.)
The first two songs of the set were perfect examples of how impeccably balanced the four instrumentalists are. The audience really got into the beautiful harmonies between Mik and Kat Walkerson, with lots of slow dancing going on during one of this evening’s more romantic tunes, “Shining Star”. “Waiting for a Miracle” featured some great ascending then descending progressions, and the band really started to funk it up during this tune. Bassist Dan Crea really got to shine during “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”, which is a song that often has a somewhat monotonous bass line. It was hard to believe that some of the notes he was pulling out of that bass were actually coming from his instrument! He went way beyond the range of notes typically heard on the bass. “Evangeline” was a swingy number that had many audience members doing the twist. Another example of the spot-on harmonies between Mik and Kat was showcased in “Don’t Let Go”, and the set ended with a perfect, slightly funky cover of “Let’s Spend the Night Together”.
Following the end of the second set, the band revealed the Jerry Garcia Band show they covered, and the show was (drum roll please) … 11/12/91 at the Philadelphia Spectrum! Expressions of recognition could be heard throughout the crowd. The encore was a particularly lullaby-like rendition of “(What a) Wonderful World”, and The Garcia Project decided to throw the crowd a bonus double encore of “Lonesome and a Long Way From Home” to send us on our way. The Garcia Project truly gave everyone in attendance at the Oneonta Theatre on New Year’s Eve a night to remember, giving us the opportunity to bask in the all the glory Jerry was kind enough to share with us for all those years.
Set 1: How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You), And It Stoned Me, He Ain’t Give You None, Run For The Roses, Struggling Man, Ain’t No Bread In The Breadbox, My Sisters And Brothers > Deal
Set 2: Bright Side Of The Road, Shining Star, Waiting For A Miracle, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, Evangeline, Don’t Let Go, Let’s Spend The Night Together
Encore: (What a) Wonderful World, Lonesome and a Long Way From Home