The China Cats

This Bay Area tribute band performs the songs of the Grateful Dead with spirited jams that carry their own genuine personality while paying homage to their musical forefathers. Comprised of semi-professional musicians ranging in age from 28 to 44, the band is not merely a gathering of old friends seeking an excuse to jam — it is a labor of love, and all members have other music projects. Despite their various allegiances, they're a full-fledged band, listening closely to one another as they share the happy tangle that defines Dead-style jams.

They relish the use of familiar Dead motifs: bluegrassy phrasing on lines far outside the bluegrass idiom, group pauses with glimmering sustained notes, and overlapping scales that unfurled like maypole ribbons. The most recent addition to the band, lead guitarist Matt Hartle is well-known for his Garcia-esque tone and playing through his work with Melvin Seals and Shady Groove. The rhythm guitar parts of Bob Weir are covered by veteran musician Scott Cooper, who also teaches guitar at UC Santa Cruz. Coincidentally, Slideman studied music for years as a child with Lesh's 1st cousin Carol Lesh. China Cats don't try to mimic Bob Weir's gestures or grow their hair and beard to look like Garcia, but they do try to sound like the Dead ... and do an amazing job of it.

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