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Danks for the Memories... the Unexpurgated Version

In June of 1997, the first tour of the Merry Danksters - a loose coagulation of musical miscreants - was staged. It featured a handful of musicians we know and love -- Chuck Garvey, David Gans, Dave Ruch, Peter Prince, Gibb Droll, and many others. Along for the ride was an intrepid cub reporter named Carol Wade. Later that year she submitted an article - a long article - chronicling the tour to Dupree's Diamond News. Due to space considerations, much of it didn't make it to publication.

A bunch of months ago - January, to be exact - 'rol sent me the complete article. The original intention was to put it up on moeLinks with a whole buttload of the superfine photos she took during the tour, but those haven't quite materialized yet. I'll keep y'all posted when they do. Ya know what, though? It's more than okay that they're not here, because this is just a *damn cool* article. Seriously. I found myself getting repeatedly sucked into it while I was putting it into HTML.

So, without further ado, "Danks For The Memories"...

Jesse Jarnow
March 18, 1999
Oberlin, Ohio

Danks for the Memories...The Unexpurgated Verion.

by Carol A. Wade

"And if you give me weed, whites and wine, and you show me a sign...I'll be willing...to be moving..."

Music moves. By nature, that's what it does. Whether it's inciting toe-tapping, or arousing heart-pounding, or causing booty shakin', that's the way it is. This isn't to say that the ones who make music should always be in motion. Many a seated drummer in a circle have risen souls. But if it is the nature of the beast, why shouldn't they be on the move?

To be "dank" is to smolder and glisten, infecting with inherent spectral purity, to bubble up and sillify, to make mellow, to be the most, if not the best. The above-mentioned quote may allude to drugs, as does the term "dank" in current usage, but music is the truest of tonics, the most universal elixir.

The nature of the Dankster is to move. Five days in the beginning of June, a bunch of touchingly loony and motion-obsessed musicians (plus crew) embarked on the first Merry Danksters acoustic mini-tour, and quickly cut a melodic swath through the Northeast Coast. I suppose I too am just a few notes short of a chord, because I decided, long ago when I first heard the tour announced, that I would surely join the madness, that infection that rolls like a wheel, purrs like an engine, and sings in three-part harmony. And this is what I saw, peering quietly underneath the frenzied flap of the maniacally moving minstrel.

Foundations and Firsts...The Cast of Characters

% David Gans, the Grand Initiator and dispenser of sage wisdom and sonic wallpaper.

% Chuck Garvey, the Straight Man, and one of the guitarists out of moe.

% the clean and wholesome Max Verna (guitar) and Tom Perozzi (bass) of Ominous Seapods, moe.'s equally eclectic and jam-rich brother band of sorts, from the band's brief habitation in Albany, NY

% Gibb Droll: a raucously bluesy guitar prankster from Virginia Beach, and instigator of sophomoric japery (as well as another moe. show jam veteran, from New Year's Eve 1996 at Tramps in NYC),

% Peter Prince: the soulfully psychotic guitarist and smooth-talker of the Buffalo band, Moon Boot Lover

% Dave Ruch: the fierce, yet soft-spoken, mandolin picker from the Buffalo's bluegrass outfit, Acoustic Forum, and hero of the tour...

% and Al Schnier: moe.'s other, sardonically sassy and sinewy strummer

But wait...just who the heck is this moe. band? You may already know (see DDN, Summer 1997). The history of the Merry Danksters has much to do with the currently booming Buffalo-born (yeah...THAT town again), melting-pot rock band, moe.. The concept for the tour was, at its inception, warmed over the smoldering heat of the band's wildly successful first performance in San Francisco, earlier in March. David Gans, host of the Grateful Dead Hour, became a strong proponent of moe. after jamming blissfully with them for the first time, in May 1996, at the Deadhead Heaven Festival in Purchase, NY. Having befriended the moe.boys then, and recalling their musical and creative acceptance onstage, Gans made it a point to be present for the sold-out show at the Great American Music Hall. In a poignant reprise, he introduced the fellers, and sat in once again (and successfully, I can say firsthand) for the second-set opener.

In the shadowy downtimes between killer sets at that GAMH show, Gans approached Jon Topper, moe.'s, woolly-headed and deadpan long-time manager. Being a musician touched by the ointment of travel and passion no doubt left over from years as a Deadhead, Gans requested that Topper help him snag a few gigs back East, to sow the seeds of a life outside of Dead-only notoriety. Chuck Garvey, moe.'s eloquent and playful long-haired Strat-slinger, piped up almost immediately. He too wanted in on the fun, to lend some licks and pass time during one of the band's rare, fleeting off-moments. And from there, the gears were set in motion; planes flew, engines roared, the moe.boys continued North, and Topper headed East to get to work.

As time passed, the lineup grew slightly. freebeerandchicken, a crew of country-jazz hoe-downers, would join the tour in their home of Albany. The funky, jazz-grass stylings of The Gordon Stone Trio, and Strangefolk's clean, hoppin' melodics were to arrive in their native Burlington, as well as Boston. And for the big show in New York, down at the Wetlands, a pared-down contingent from Binghamton's hard-funksters, Yolk, would round out the members of the circus (stragglers, last-minute add-ons, ne'er-do-wells and other oddities notwithstanding).

ONWARDS TO 3 June >>



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