Best known for its Grateful Dead shows, the Charlie Fog Band is a five-piece rock and Americana roots band from Savannah.
Blending rock, blues, country, bluegrass and jazz, the band covers songs by artists as varied as Howlin' Wolf, Noah Lewis, Chuck Berry, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, The Band, The Beatles, the Grateful Dead and traditional Americana in both acoustic and full electric sets.
Members are Dan Berman and Greg Sonnenburg on vocals and guitar; Jim Todesca on vocals and mandolin; bassist David Westbrook; and drummer Mike Carr.
"I don't like using the term 'jam band' because of the horrible connotations," Berman says. "Anyone, even if they don't know the music we're playing, can see we're making music in the moment."
The band members are proud of their innovative approach to music. "We experiment in our improvisational parts of our shows," Berman says.
"I'm particularly fond of the John Coltrane school of thought," he says. "We're basically playing something in the key of B and taking it around for a walk for a while and seeing what happens."
"We're playing familiar songs, particularly by the Grateful Dead," Todesca adds. "What's different is the jamming part. We're not doing Dead tunes note for note."
The Charlie Fog Band will present shows July 12 and 13 at Molly MacPherson's Scottish Pub and Grill.
"The songs we tend to play happen to be more open, musically, than other tunes might be," Berman says. "The music gives you that kind of room."
Charlie Fog had its beginning when Berman and Sonnenburg began playing together in 2007. "He and I go way back," Berman says. "We were in 15-plus bands dating back to the mid-'90s in Charleston.
"We were doing acoustic duets," he says. "By chance, we met David one night and everything happened very quickly after that. He introduced us to Jim."
The full band has been together for two years, and all its members love the Grateful Dead.
"That's how the band gelled," Todesca says. "We were all familiar with Grateful Dead music."
The band's name comes from a character in a Grateful Dead song.
"Why did we pick that?" Berman says.
"Because nobody could handle putting together a name on our own," he says. "We like the name because it has a kind of Americana feel.
"Considering that Jim's the elder statesman of the band, we'll probably call him Charlie Fog," Berman says with a laugh. "His memory is probably the foggiest."
The band has been playing Molly McPherson's regularly every month, but having two nights in a row is a departure.
"We'll have the run of the place," Berman says.
"The word is out about us and the shows," he says. "We decided what better way to do two nights together than to do other stuff in addition to Grateful Dead music - some Dylan, some Johnny Cash, some Merle Haggard.
"We don't necessarily have a set list of tunes we practice and play," Berman says. "What it usually ends up being about 30 percent of the time is we play songs because of our interaction with the crowd, as far as the energy level."
Band members feel there are listeners out there who aren't familiar with their music, but would like it if they knew about it. "At Molly's on Congress Street, we get people who happen by," Todesca says. "We're trying to let people know we're playing Grateful Dead music."
It recently came to the band's attention at the Summer Solstice Music Festival that there are more Grateful Dead fans than they realized.
"Some of our band members were at the festival and ran into a lot of like-minded folks," Berman says.
"They were saying 'We didn't know you were all here,' and we were like, 'We didn't know you were all here, either.' But we probably have a good batting percentage as far as people coming in and enjoying what we're playing.
"There are a lot of shady kinds of bands I've seen in the bars in Savannah," Berman says. "I've been playing 20 years and we're not in anybody's garage. We moved out of that phase a long time ago."
Not all bands are willing to attempt Grateful Dead music.
"I've been here in Savannah for 12 going on 13 years playing guitar," Todesca says. "I've played with so many guys and we played songs by The Eagles and Jimmy Buffet.
"Grateful Dead tunes tend to be more complicated," he says. "There are people out there looking for that kind of music."
Not all listeners recognize Grateful Dead music when they hear it.
"There have been so many people who tell us during and after the shows they don't know the music we're playing, but they say they really enjoy it," Berman says. "We tell them it's the Grateful Dead and they're like 'Really?'"
No matter what the music, the Charlie Fog Band is going strong.
"The last two years, the Savannah music scene has been really good to us, and the venues have always had us back," Todesca says. "I think that speaks to the Savannah music scene."
IF YOU GO
What: The Charlie Fog Band
When: 10 p.m. July 12 and 13
Where: Molly MacPherson's Scottish Pub and Grill, 311 W. Congress St.