Raising the Dead
MacDougall United Church and the Chateau Lacombe are hosting this year’s
tribute to the hippie band that just won’t die
By Ethan LaPerle
JERRY GARCIA’S ghost might be haunting the McDougall United Church this month, as a two-day Grateful Dead inspired-festival, Dead Ends Live, comes to town March 17 and 18. The multi-venue event will explore the music of the Grateful Dead and those who inspired them to capture the spirit of the jam band community.
The festival producer, Peter North, who hosted the Dead Ends and Detours show on CKUA for 15 years, says he believes he has captured the spirit of the Grateful Dead. He has managed to pull together a diverse musical group, with such well known members of the Grateful Dead family as John Kadlecik and David Gans, to local dead heads like the MacGowan Family band and John Hewitt.
“The fact we’ve got people like John Kadlecik, who, I mean, was knee deep after Garcia died,” North says. “He played for three years with [Dead guitarist] Bob Weir and [bassist] Phil Lesh singing a lot of those Jerry Garcia songs. I mean, you can’t get any closer to the eye of the storm than that, really.”
Festival organizer Peter North at last year’s event.
While the festival is certainly themed around the Grateful Dead, you can expect to hear a lot more, North adds.
“There’s a big fiddle summit Saturday afternoon at 1, and that has nothing to do with the Grateful Dead. If people are thinking, I’m not really a Grateful Dead fan, this is not strictly about – this is about the infectious spirit of the Grateful Dead.”
The MacGowan Family Band, who have been deadheads since they could walk, will be playing 75 minutes of pure Grateful Dead music Saturday Night. As one of Edmonton’s most faithful Dead-inspired bands, North says they are a perfect fit for the festival.
“They’re certainly Alberta’s disciples of the dead. They’ve worked at it vigorously for a long time and I’m really glad we have a couple spots for them.”
Mark MacGowan says he can’t wait for the festival, and hopes to find any deadheads in Edmonton who aren’t yet fans of the MacGowan Family Band.
“Most of the deadheads in Edmonton are fans of our MacGowan Family Band already, and we definitely met most of them and partied with most of them over the years because it is a pretty tight knit music scene here in Edmonton.
“We’ve now acquired most of the deadheads as our fans, but hopefully we’ll find a few more at the festival.”
After The MacGowan Family band’s set, another local, John Hewitt, will take the stage with David Gans, of the Grateful Dead Radio Hour on Sirius/XM, for the “Friends of the Devil” Jam.
“The jam-band vibe is, you know, if someone starts playing something, the band goes with it,” Hewitt says. “So, when you’ve got musicians as good as the ones Peter North has put together, you can kind of walk in and play anything and expect these guys to be able to follow along and make it interesting.”
Hewitt is also hosting a workshop on the roots of the Grateful Dead, in which he will explore the artists who influenced the Dead themselves. You can expect to hear some bluegrass, blues, folk, and other traditional tunes.
“The great thing about the Grateful Dead is that there’s so many influences, whether it be their contemporaries of the day or the music that inspired them in the beginning. We’ve got a bluegrass duo, and Richard Davis is going to be doing some more Louisiana sort of old school piano blues.
“But the basic theme is the music that inspired the Grateful Dead.”
The festival opens Friday, March 17, at 7 p.m. at McDougall United Church, with John Kadlecik and the Terrapin Station String Quartet, and ends Saturday, March 18, at 1 a.m. with Kadlecik again for a finale jam with local artists at the Chateau Lacombe Ballroom. The two venues are across the street from each other, so you can listen to all the Dead you want.
“You can go be in the church, which winds up just after 10, and walk over to the ballroom and hear another two hours of music,” North says. “You can pretty much catch everything, and you can catch a lot of everyone if you plan it right.”
The McDougall United Church will be open for all ages, while the Chateau Lacombe Ballroom is 18+.
You can check out their website at for a full list of events and where to buy tickets.
Headliner John Kadlecik, who played with Grateful Dead members Phil Lesh and Bob Weir in Furthur, opens the festival Friday night, and closes it Saturday, jamming with local musicians.
David Gans, host of The Grateful Dead Hour on Sirius XM, will be playing a set called "The Jerry Garcia Songbook" Saturday night at MacDougall United Church.
Fiddle player Joe Craven will join David Gans on stage for "The Jerry Garcia Songbook."
Edmonton Local John Hewitt is hosting a workshop on the roots of the Grateful Dead and exploring the music that inspired them.
The MacGowan Family Band are "Alberta's Disciples of the Dead," according to festival organizer Peter North. They will be playing 75 minutes of pure Grateful Dead tunes Friday evening.
Edmonton locals Mbira Renaissance Band will join John Kadlecik in the finale jam to close the festival.