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Where the Dead and Steely Dan meet

Steely Dan and the Grateful Dead are top bands of the rock canon. Two bands in who in their day crafted sounds that drifted well beyond the “rock” world, sounds that still get plenty of airplay on classic rock radio. It’s also music worth keeping around via tribute acts; while both bands have inspired those acts, with the Grateful Dead arguably motivating more (one or two for every major city it seems) there are very few doing it together. Enter Steely Dead, the Denver-based band who digs into both catalogs altering between or even finding fun ways to combine cuts from both.

Steely Dead will perform Friday (Sept. 15) at the Animas City Theatre.

It all started with being a fan, while also being musicians wanting to throw a subtle curveball.

“Both are in our top five favorite bands,” said guitarist Dave Hebert. “We go out there as a four-piece and we play the song and it sounds like the song, but we take the liberty to interpret that Steely Dan in almost the Grateful Dead, jam-band kind of school of thought. We still get all the harmonies, we get all the guitar solos, we did our homework for the Steely Dan part, but I think one of the neat things is a lot of people that hear Steely Dan hear it in that very rigid style, but we offer something different for being able to enjoy the Steely Dan song catalog, without necessarily going out of our way to be too much like them. And we all came from Grateful Dead bands, we have that stuff down for 20- to 30-plus years.”

If you go

WHAT: Steely Dead plays Steely Dan and The Grateful Dead.

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday (Sept. 15).

WHERE: Animas City Theatre, 128 E. College Drive.


MORE INFORMATION: Visit www.animascitytheatre.com.

You’d think there may be a shelf-life for a band of this nature, which just isn’t the case. The Grateful Dead remain known for its improvisation, which is a jazz-influenced mindset. Steely Dan remain known for its jazz style; put those together and you’ve got endless musical possibilities

“Steely Dan is jazz-rock, and the Grateful Dead is rock-jazz. They’re rock songs with these longer, open format jazzy parts that are open for improvisation. So, I think that’s why they lend themselves to each other. And what we do is we take Steely Dan and give it the Dead treatment,” Hebert said. “We might find an area that would be a good place to stretch it out an extra couple minutes and put a good jam on it. And with the Grateful Dead, we’re like, ‘Hey, how ’bout we sweeten up these vocal harmonies a little bit?’ So, we take the influences of each band and just sort of overlay it to themselves. It’s something that is incredibly unique, and we’re finding that some people don’t need to be fans of both bands to find some enjoyment in the performances.”

This is a band taking on the catalogs of bands that were pushing the musical envelope in their day, creating complicated music in a rock environment. First assumptions may result in the listener thinking it’s a novelty bit, yet its anything but.

They also have a blast.

“I knew it was going to be fun, but it’s way more fun than I thought it was going to be and it keeps me showing up. I’m OK with the novelty word. I know that on the surface you can see it as that, but then when you actually hear the band and musicianship, we can transcend that thing and a lot of the time we can fill a theater based on the novel idea of what we’re doing,” Hebert said. “And then we can fill it again after they’ve heard us play.”

Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at liggett_b@fortlewis.edu.