Listening Local: Cape Band Aims to Raise the Dead
By: LUKE VOSE, May 21, 2014
Jerry Garcia may no longer be with us but the songs of the Grateful Dead are alive and well here on the Cape. Grateful Dead tribute band Better off Dead, comprising Andrew Lowenstein and Curt Morris, is a part of that tradition. They play every Thursday from 6 to 9 PM at The Beach House in North Falmouth. I had the pleasure of speaking with Andrew Lowenstein recently about his journey as a musician and how he came to this project.
Luke Vose: Who or what inspired you to start playing music?
Andrew Lowenstein: There was a little bit of it in my family growing up. My grandmother taught piano and her brother was in the Boston Symphony Orchestra as a violinist. So I was encouraged to play. I started with the clarinet and then in high school picked up the guitar. I was always pretty obsessed with music. It came pretty naturally, not so much playing but being a listener. I listened a lot, intensely. I think that’s important. One of the reasons you can make a good sound is because you know what it sounds like. That carried over to when I started playing in bands late in high school and in college.
LV: How did Better off Dead start?
AL: We always danced around the idea of playing more Dead tunes but not really wanting to give into it all together. Writing original music and sprinkling in some covers that you liked playing was always the model. This was in a way giving into it finally. I was a big fan. I saw the Dead a ton growing up.
LV: You saw The Grateful Dead live?
AL: Oh yeah sure, a hundred times. My first show was Worcester ’83 and I never looked back. Once I saw them the first time and it clicked with me it was like, “How can I see as many Dead shows, play as much guitar as possible and still stay in school?”
LV: Why do you think the Grateful Dead’s music had endured so long?
AL: I think the concept of how the music is played lends itself to being recreated in a way that’s not stale. We are now at the point where the first wave of jam bands are senior citizens, like the Allman Brothers, who are a living, breathing embodiment of working and transitioning at the same time. It’s like how you can still go see the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Tommy Dorsey band and the Count Basie Orchestra. When B.B. King moves on, the B.B. King band will still play, to honor the music. The same goes for the Dead. The music is going to live on in all types off Dead band creations. The players are interchangeable to a degree and they add their style but the music lives on. It’s like we now have jam band standards as well as all the great jazz ones. There’s a whole generation of Dead Heads who never saw Jerry [Garcia] but they can feel it. Phish will be the same way. It’s an institution built in such an organic way that it’s not just pop music, it’s part of American culture.
Come to The Beach House Thursdays from 6 to 9 PM where they are keeping the Dead very much alive. Starting mid-June, Andrew can also be found at Pilot House in Sandwich every Friday from 5 to 8 PM.