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Savannah’s Charlie Fog Band pays tribute to the Grateful Dead

  • The Charlie Fog Band
 

Savannah’s Charlie Fog Band pays tribute to the Grateful Dead

10 Oct 2017

If you missed your chance to see one of the most prolific live musical acts to ever rock a stage, or are hoping to relive some youthful adventures, the Charlie Fog Band has a ride you’ll want to take.

Formed by Daniel Berman rather accidentally in 2011, the Charlie Fog Band is more than just a tribute/cover band. They are a group of musicians who each made personal attachments to the music and ethos of the Grateful Dead.

They will celebrate portions of the Dead’s exhaustive catalog with a monster, full-band live show Oct. 14 at Tybee Post Theater that could course in any direction throughout the night, much in the same way the original jam band did it.

The Charlie Fog Band — a name derived from the song “Tennessee Jed” — began when Berman and his buddy Greg Sonnenburg were tooling around in Charleston and Savannah as a duo and in various cover and original bands for years. In 2007, they began playing Savannah as an acoustic duo.

“I turned around and all of a sudden, there was a guy playing mandolin with us,” Berman recalled. “Then there’s a guy playing acoustic bass, and then we got a percussion guy. I thought, maybe we should try electric. So we moved to electric.”

Over the years, Charlie Fog has seen several lineup changes — including the loss of Sonnenburg, who moved back to Texas — and shifts on occasion back to acoustic shows, depending on the venue. The majority of their shows are electrified these days. They tour regionally, playing Atlanta and Jacksonville throughout the year.

When it comes to choosing a set list, there isn’t a specific formula. It’s rather off the cuff for Berman and his current Deadheads: Jim Todesca on rhythm guitar and vocals, Peter Roaman on bass and vocals, Billy McIntosh on drums, Ryan Grady on percussion and Hugh McLaurin on keys.

“We haven’t gotten into ‘We’ll do this show from this date,’ kind of thing, from beginning to end,” Berman explained. “We try to stay in the vein of the whole Grateful Dead thing, where the set lists are generally different every time we play. It’s determined on a group basis by ‘Hey, what do we feel like playing tonight?’ It’s pretty loose like that.”

The gents in Charlie Fog like to pull from different eras and live shows for their own incarnation of the Dead’s tunes. If they hear a particular riff or instrumental part from say, the 1966 show at the Fillmore in San Francisco, they will work to incorporate that into their own live set, thus creating a rather distinctive tribute to a band that was quite unique.

“Everything that would be considered an instrumental part of the song is generally going to be all us,” Berman said. “Sometimes we find ourselves, hey, here we are, we’ve modulated into this key. Someone will hit a riff, and it will get everyone’s attention and we’ll start working into that song. It’s pretty much all right then and there, just like the Dead.

“I’ve always told folks, in my opinion, the Grateful Dead was a jazz band that played rock music,” Berman said. “A lot of stuff that we do is rooted in that. Theoretically, you’re doing more jazz stuff in a rock forum.”

The Tybee show is a chance for the Charlie Fog Band to experiment in a theater atmosphere, somewhat of a rarity for them in Savannah.

“At Tybee, it’s really cool,” Berman said. “It gives us an opportunity to do a full Grateful Dead theater show. There will be two sets and a set break. The first set will be about an hour and a half and two hours on the second set.

“We’ll have a drum segment, because we have two drummers. We’ll have the light thing going on. We’ve been practicing and working on some new material. Some Dead tunes that we haven’t played in a while, or never played. There will be a few of those coming out; full electric madness.”

For Berman and his current company of Deadheads, the music of the Grateful Dead, which they’ve all experienced live, was life-changing. Berman was drawn in by the range of music the Dead experimented with. From country to jazz, to blues, bluegrass and rock, The Grateful Dead were an original outfit of musicians who truly appreciated music from a variety of sectors. That ethos is continued in the Charlie Fog Band.

“For me, personally, being a guy that always wanted to play music, the first time I saw them live, I said that is the most fun I’ve ever seen,” Berman said. “That’s got to be the most fun in the world, right there. You don’t have to wear fancy costumes, for one. That’s not me … It was all about the musicianship and the music. It wasn’t about anything else.

“Most importantly, for me, by the time the first set was over at the first Grateful Dead show I went to, in the nine or 10 songs in that first set, I heard a rock tune, a jazz tune, I heard a country tune, a blues tune. It was all Grateful Dead music. To see it all compressed into one voice, that related to me.

“It was always about the music. It still is.”

IF YOU GO

What: The Charlie Fog Band presents The Grateful Dead!

When: 7 p.m. Oct. 14

Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave.

Cost: $13 in advance, $15 at the door

Info: tybeeposttheater.org

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