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Published: 2015/01/29
by Chad Berndtson

John Kadlecik and the Birth of the Golden Gate Wingmen

John Kadlecik’s been involved in Grateful Dead circles long enough now that the “noise” doesn’t faze him. Furthur may be defunct, and he’s not in the lineup for the Grateful Dead 50th anniversary celebration in Chicago, but that’s hardly kept him from remaining a regular Phil Lesh friend and writing original music to play solo or with one of his Washington DC-area bands.

The newest project on Kadlecik’s radar is Golden Gate Wingmen, which combines him with former Furthur bandmates Jay Lane and Jeff Chimenti and adds Reed Mathis to hold down the bass and some of the vocal duties. The band’s initial run of gigs last fall went so well that they played New Year’s in Colorado and are set for a brief California tour that kicks off this Saturday, January 30. (He’s also back with Phil for a run of shows at Terrapin Crossroads Feb. 13-15, in a lineup including Stanley Jordan.)

Here John K checks in on the Wingmen, Trey Anastasio in the Jerry role, and staying positive in the face of so much “Fake Jerry” Internet trolling.

So tell me about Golden Gate Wingmen. Our audience is aware of your associations with Jay, Jeff and Reed so it’s not exactly a surprising lineup. But how did this band come together?

John Kadlecik: Well, let’s see. I was looking to do a little solo tour as an experiment back in November, and the first one was going to be at Terrapin Crossroads. They put me in the Grate Room and then it was, well, I need to get a band together. It turned out that Jeff, Jay and Reed were all available and they were more or less the first people I thought to ask. So we got together.

I came up with the name and everyone liked it. I didn’t know if it would be anything more than one show, but it was encouraging that other people were into it. We got an offer to do a couple of shows over New Year’s in Colorado, and it happened the guys were available then too. So then we thought, let’s do a California run.

Do you anticipate more Golden Gate Wingmen shows?

We won’t add to this run, no. But everyone seems pretty enthusiastic about doing this and playing as many shows as we can. Hopefully we’ll have more soon. As we’ve done a few of these I think we’ll start to bring in songs from everybody else, too.

From the setlists so far it seems like you’ve focused on your material as well as the expected stuff from the Dead and Jerry catalogs so that’s exciting to hear. Do you think you’ll write new original music with this band, too?

Hopefully, yeah, as much as Jeff, Jay and Reed are interested. As for me, I’ve really been champing at the bit to get a project going with multiple writers. At first it made sense for me to do some sort of Jerry Garcia or Dead related thing with the various people in that scene, and then I wrote a bunch of fresh stuff last year that felt right. As soon as it looked like this had legs, we also got Reed singing some lead vocals. I’m kind of hoping we can keep expanding this.

You’ve played with Jeff and Jay in Furthur and other contexts. How long have you known Reed?

Actually a long time. It was really rare for Dark Star Orchestra to take on an opening act let alone one that went on the road with us, but Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey did that with us over the whole leg of a tour. I want to say that was 2000, 2001 or so. They were this bunch of young kids from Tulsa, it was very fun. We did one particularly memorable mashup with them joining the whole band for a drums and space segment at All Good that year.

I remember the last time we chatted, about a year ago, you had just come out of that prolific writing period. It sounds like you’re starting to find homes for these new songs.

Yeah, we’ll see. Some of those songs aren’t all that appropriate for this project, some art. Some will remain studio songs, some are songs I might give to other people. I’m open to collaborative writing too, and I’ve been working with a particular writer.

Indi Riverflow, if I recall?

Yes, that’s right. But yeah, I had this huge burst this time last year. Again, it’s been a matter of making space for it and figuring out what gets my attention.

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