Local Limelight: The Garcia Project – Creating The Jerry Garcia Band Experience

The Garcia Project, based in Saratoga Springs, NY, is a faithful conduit for the music of Jerry Garcia Band, conveying emotional resonance through the music that Jerry Garcia fans have known for decades. The Garcia Project includes Mik Bondy on guitar and vocals, and Kat Walkerson on vocals. A cavalcade of musicians join them in various lineups,including Greg Marshall, Jordan Giangreco (The Breakfast, Viral Sound) and Scott Guberman rotating in on keys, Dan Crea, David Alderman and Fred Wilkes on bass and Bob McKeon, Aaron Martin and Brian Sayers on drums on any given night. While the lineup can change from show to show, it’s always The Garcia Project!

Additionally, Mik and Kat perform the songs of the Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia Band tunes in their our own arrangements, as Acoustically Speaking.

Kat Walkerson has a truly soulful voice, displaying great energy with her passion pouring out from her vocals. A kind soul that brings a warmth to any room she performs in, her voice is a perfect compliment to Mik’s, who is The Garcia Project’s “Jerry”, a part he plays with humility and focus on the music to channel the spirit of the Fat Man. In paying tribute to Jerry, Mik has made two guitars and replica speakers and equipment to bring about the true Garcia sound. Previously, Mik was in the band Tapestry for over 20 years. Recently, Mik and Kat have performed with Melvin Seals and the guys from JGB Band.

Pete Mason: How does The Garcia Project channel the sound and spirit of Jerry Garcia Band?

Mik Bondy: Everyone in The Garcia Project loves the music that the Jerry Garcia Band created. We are all huge fans of Jerry. And much like us, the folks that come out to share in the experience are huge Jerry fans too. This makes the synergy between the musicians and the audience very strong, right from the start. Couple that synergy with professional, seasoned musicians that really want to provide and recreate a Jerry Garcia Band experience and really care about the music and the performance of it – and you have the recipe. We also study the music and the various eras, we build instruments and rigs that mimic the sound and styles. We always do a group huddle before we perform a show and thank Jerry for the music and ask his blessing on what we are about to create with the people. We fell very blessed and are thrilled that folks keep coming out and enjoy it as much as we do. Its really all about the love of the music.

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PM: What sets The Garcia Project apart from the other well know Jerry Garcia Band act, Melvin Seals and JGB?

MB: Melvin Seals and JGB are great friends of ours. Kat performed with Melvin and JGB a few times back in 2010-2011. Both Kat and I recently performed with Melvin and members of JGB up in Saranac Lake, NY and Melvin Seals performed as keyboard player for The Garcia Project last year (and will again this year) at Jerry Jam, the best Jerry festival in the Northeast. We really love and respect Melvin and the JGB band.

Melvin Seals has his own new arrangements of songs and writes his own custom set lists. The Garcia Project has been recreating classic Jerry Garcia Band shows and sets and attempts to perform in the same style and tempo as each show and era. Each era has it’s own flavor.  We recently did a 77 show at Mexicali Live that there was no recording of the original JGB show, so we pieced together the show from other recordings from the year for reference and then performed it in that style. Both bands have very unique sound and we love what we both add to the scene.

Listen to the whole Mexicali Blues show where we recreated JGB Nov 16, 1977

PM: Why the music of Jerry Garcia Band? Why not Grateful Dead songs?

Kat Walkerson:  Our love for the Grateful Dead is equal to our love of Jerry Garcia Band. If not for attending Grateful Dead shows, we wouldn’t have known about Jerry Band. Even back when Jerry was around, JGB was much lesser known and attended. It was something special that you were lucky to stumble upon. We feel that the Jerry Garcia Band catalog is an extraordinary collection of wonderful songs. Many of them are songs not original to the Jerry Garcia Band. They were songs that Jerry picked out because they were special. Adding to that, he mixed them all up, rearranging them and making them the style of music that is Jerry Band. We all agreed and loved them too. And we loved what happened to us as a community when we gathered for this music. This music creates a special space, a fertile ground where positive things grow. Love, friendship, community, healing, forgiveness, progress in general.  Jerry Band is a love and connection fest of the purest nature. We always say “The Grateful Dead is like Saturday night, and Jerry Garcia Band is like Sunday morning”. What is created and experienced when we all gather and enjoy this music together is something that  should continue.  So, as we love the grateful dead, and play some whenever we can fit it in, we focus on the Jerry Band catalog. Like the Grateful Dead, there is also decades worth of this music, so many great musicians rolled through the band in (30?+) years. There is so much to hear and enjoy. We want to do our part to make sure this music gets and stays out there.

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PM:Is there a certain year or era of Jerry Garcia Band that you particularity enjoy the most? Why?

MB: I really love all of the eras, really. But the 1977-78 Jerry Garcia Band shows have been firing me up recently. I love the tempos and the arrangements.

KW: All equally

Bob McKeon: Late 1970s and late 1980s.

Dan Crea: 1978 with Donna and Maria.1977 counts too but there was no Maria, and I’m a big fan of hers.  I like the open space that Keith left between his notes and how his sound kept the mix nice and open.  Great “Lonesome’s” in this era!

PM:  Where do you think you’ll be in five years?

MB: We would love to travel and take the music of Jerry Garcia to many more people around the world. With the right team, I could see us touring and playing venues all around the world.

The Garcia Project Tour Dates:
February 15 – Garcia’s at The Capitol Theatre, Port Chester, NY
February 22 – WSG String Band and Blessed and Gifted, Spaceland Ballroom, Hamden CT
March 22 – The Cannery Music Hall, Southbridge, MA
April 5 – Arch Street Tavern, Hartford, CT
April 19 – 420 Celebration at The Oneonta Theatre, Oneonta, NY
July 25 – Jerry Jam Music Festival, Bath, NH, with Melvin Seals on Keys. The festival runs July 25-27.

Acoustically Speaking Tour Dates:
February 1 and 22 – Opening for The Garcia Project
February 21 – Franklin’s Tower, Albany, NY
February 28 – West Mountain Ski Resort, Queensbury, NY
March 28 – Franklin’s Tower, Albany, NY

Keep up on everything The Garcia Project on their Website, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages.