Tuesday , 20 April 2021

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Friends, Doses, and an Orangutan: The Story of an American Roadie

Steve Parish is not a man to waste words. When asked by an adoring fan, “What’s the highest you’ve ever been?”, he blows you away. Not by telling some war story about the time the crew were all incredibly high while exploring Egypt, or about the first time he ever went to Owsley’s house. No. He hits you with the time the band came together for him, after a devastating tragedy hit his family. How they asked him “maybe you need some time off, man?”. After how he said fuck that, I’m not sitting here alone in this house, we’re going to work, we’re going to Church, lets go. How the band and crew, a collection of musicians and misfits, outlaws and cowboys, came together for him, damn near moved in with him. Not even a explicit mention of acid, weed, or the like. That, Steve will tell you, was the highest he’d ever been. Surrounded by love and loyalty.

DeadHeads, curious locals, and loyal fans of his work, got to hear that story, and much more this past weekend, during the upstate New York leg of a cross-country tour with Big Steve Parish, accompanied by the very special, very talented Katie Skene, and featuring after-party live music by local legends the Dark Hollow Duo/Trio, all presented by Ithaca-based promotor Kevin Black. First stop on Friday night (3/22) was Papa Gallo’s, a sweet mexican restaurant in Fayetteville, where fans were welcomed to an intimate setting, and laughed as Steve shared the tale about the time the band and crew were playing baseball against some of Bill Graham’s workers. They had Jerry at third base, incredible athlete that he was. And it’s a line drive! Right to third, man! And at just an Olympic-level of movement, Jerry stands totally still and lets that ball go right through his legs! What a play! And in staying true to himself, Garcia explains he’s not bending over for shit. America’s pastime be damned, man. After a warm intermission of acoustic Grateful Dead by the lovely Miss Skene, it’s back to story time with Big Steve. Afterwards, circuits and brains were tested by the always amazing sounds of the Dark Hollow Trio, featuring Mike O’Hara, Mike Vincitore, and Mark Nanni. A solid “Catfish John” opener set the tone. Vincitore shreds, O’Hara serenades, and Nanni glides. And remember, nobody puts Nanni in the corner. Do I even need to go into Dark Hollow right now? Have you really not heard these guys, yet? Possible redundancy here, but Dark Hollow brings it, every time. Whether it’s the Duo, the Trio, or the whole enchilada, Dark Hollow is a force of musical nature, a cosmic treat that should never be missed. The full band is playing this coming Saturday (3/30) at the Westcott Theater in Syracuse. Just fucking be there, nerds. See for yourself. If Vincitore doesn’t steal your face by three songs in, check your pulse.

Saturday night (3/23) the crew pulled into La Tourelle, a beautiful hotel and resort in Ithaca. There, we listened as Steve told us about the time the “family”, as it was, was being lectured to not mention Owsley’s real name out loud, and to only use his nickname, Bear. The man was under severe scrutiny by the feds, you see, because of his involvement, to whatever degree, in a LSD manufacturing ring. We’re trying to keep our association under wraps, man. Meanwhile, here’s Phil Lesh getting Steve’s attention, showing him the front page of some newspaper, which reads something like “REPUTED ACID KING SEEN TRAVELING WITH THE GRATEFUL DEAD”. So much for staying under the radar, man. Later on, we were treated to a sincere rendition of “Ripple”, compliments of the Dark Hollow Trio, Katie Skene, and joined by some members of Ithaca-based Terrapin Station. If you’re local to Syracuse, make sure and catch Terrapin Station when they play at Funk n’ Waffles downtown on May 4th (9pm). Cool guys, great music.

After a day break, I joined the crew Monday night (3/25) at the Angry Goat Pub, located in the South Wedge district of hard-as-fuck Rochester. Great time. It was here Big Steve treated us to a very special story, one of life-changing ritual. Steve had been riding tough with the band and crew for a while, and now he was called forward, for initiation. In the dark of night, with a ladder and plenty of acid, the band and crew scaled the walls of the San Francisco Zoo (before there were any modern or updated security measures). The zoo was one of Garcia’s favorite spots, you see, because within there was a particular exhibit with a sign which read “MONKEY THROWS DIRT”, which Garcia got a kick out of. A polite way of saying, “this orangutan throws it’s own shit at you”. The test: to infiltrate said primate’s lair, if you dare, man. Of course the logical train of thought when facing an animal which can rip your limbs off is to then soak a banana in acid, fully intent on feeding said electric fruit to the ape, and then up and over Steve went, and there’s Garcia and company looking on. “HOLY SHIT, HE ACTUALLY DID IT MAN! ARE YOU CRAZY???”. Crazy enough to face down a full grown ape, both with heads full of acid. Crazy enough to spend decades on the road with the likes of Garcia, Ramrod, Kesey, outlaw bikers, Rex Jackson, and the rest of the family. Crazy enough to unexpectedly help give birth to a baby girl on a wolf-skin rug, while Weir is nonchalantly sitting in the corner literally writing and singing the lyrics to “Cassidy” in real-time. A story punctuated and enhanced by a beautiful acoustic version of said song by the incomparable Katie Skene. “Born to me, right before my fucking eyes, man!” And the proof? How about that Owsley silver pendant necklace, giving to him by the crew after his acid-orangutan initiation. Or the same sourced metal cast into a steal-your-face ring, given to him by the band. Excuse me, given to him by his family. There’s no bullshitting in this man.

After one of the most epic stories, ever, we were all once again treated to the music of the Grateful Dead, brought to us by Mike O’Hara and Mike Vincitore, of Dark Hollow, and joined by their fellow bandmate Jack Jarvis on percussion. Joined by Miss Katie Skene for an awesome “Jack Straw” opener, they also lit the place up with a masterfully executed “Fire on the Mountain”. When asked what it means to be playing along with Steve Parish’s traveling live show, O’Hara said, “…it means the world. Such an honor”. An honor indeed. Steve Parish is a guru among  musicians and roadies for his experience and skill, and an icon among DeadHeads for his time spent with the band, crew, and especially Garcia himself.

If you’re not currently listening to Steve’s podcast the “Big Steve Hour”, streaming live on Sirius XM’s Grateful Dead channel, and usually broadcasting from Bobby’s joint, Sweetwater, in Mill Valley, California, do yourself a solid and tune in Thursdays from 5pm to 6pm, eastern time. You won’t be disappointed. And speaking of California, be sure to check out Katie Skene and her band California Kind, featuring Barry Sless, John Molo, Rob Barraco, and Pete Sears. If you recognize any of those names, then you know what a powerhouse of a band this is. If not, go give em’ a listen, followed by a like and share on social media. You can be one of the cool kids too.




Also, big thanks and shout out to the one who put this weekend together, Kevin Black. If you haven’t gotten a chance to check out one of his events, make sure you look up Kevin Black Presents on all your social media platforms, or go to his website (listed below). Check it out, because he’s cool, appreciates the music, and is definitely making some noise in upstate New York. Kevin, thanks again for the party bro. Can’t wait for what’s in store.


Links to all the cool kids below:

Big Steve Parish – bigstevehour.com

Katie Skene –  katieskene.comcaliforniakind.net

Dark Hollow – darkhollowmusic.com

Kevin Black – kbpbooking.com


Poster Artwork Credit – Matt Figueroa/Neon Grove Studios


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Friends, Doses, and an Orangutan: The Story of an American Roadie Reviewed by on . Steve Parish is not a man to waste words. When asked by an adoring fan, “What’s the highest you’ve ever been?”, he blows you away. Not by telling some war story Steve Parish is not a man to waste words. When asked by an adoring fan, “What’s the highest you’ve ever been?”, he blows you away. Not by telling some war story Rating: 0

About Cassady Agliata

Andrew "Cassady" Agliata is a self-described "man in the street", with a heart that bleeds crimson, white, and indigo. A native of New Jersey, Cassady spent several years on the road, speeding along the highways of America, who found his calling within the ranks of the Grateful Dead touring scene. After spending some time living out in San Francisco, he returns to the East Coast, ready to make a sincere impact on the local music scene.
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