The American Beauty Project
Giving new meaning to the oft-uttered phrase Deadheads on Wall Street, over the weekend New Yorks World Financial Centers Winter Garden hosted two free tributes to the Grateful Dead dubbed the American Beauty Project. Part of the biannual New Yorks Guitar Festival, Saturdays performance featured an eclectic mix of musicians offering a complete reading of Workingmans Dead, while Sunday found a different group of musicians reinterpreting American Beauty.
Though the all-star ensemble shied away from the Deads trademark extended jams, few performers stuck to the arrangements. Railroad Earth stuffed a bit of the traditional Casey Jones into the Deads variation of the tune, while Ollabelle offered a more rocking version of Uncle Johns Band with the aid of Larry Campbell. For many Campbell proved to be the weekends MVP, playing fiddle, pedal steel, and guitar with over half the weekends acts, including Jim Lauderdale, Andy Statman, and Tony Trischka. The multi-instrumentalist also fronted his own ensemble both nights consisting of Teresa Williams and fellow Phil Lesh collaborator Rob Barraco (the trio offered Dire Wolf on night one and Attics Of My Life on night two). Other standout performances included the Holmes Brothers version of High Time, Catherine Russell successful take on New Speedway Boogie, Jay Farrars colorful Candyman, Toshi Reagons boogie variation of Box of Rain, and Jorma Kaukonen and Barry Mitterhoffs stripped down version of Operator.
In the left field department, Dar Williams and Dan Zanes led a world music combo through Ripple, while psychedelic-folk group Espers offered an extremely experimental version of Till The Morning Comes. Downtown New York stalwarts the Klezmatics and Sex Mob also offered spacey instrumental interludes, with drummer Calvin Weston sitting in with the latter ensemble. Both evenings concluded with all-company runs through some of Jerry Garcias favorite covers: Knockin’ on Heavens Door on Saturday and Goin Down the Road Feeling Bad on Sunday. Saturdays performance was one of the most crowded Winter Garden history, forcing security to close the free performance space for the fist time in the venues history.