Like some sort of dancing bear beacon in the sky, Deadheads are coming out of the woodwork and turning up for Austin tribute band Deadeye.
Sixteen years after the death of Jerry Garcia on August 9th, Deadeye is packing bars and clubs across town. Hundreds of people showed up at their first gig at Whip In on I-35 last September.
“We were inundated with hippies,” owner Dipak Topiwala said. “We weren’t prepared.”
Less than a year later drummer Shadd Scott still can’t believe the crowds. “Every time it’s a surprise,” he said over an IPA at Whip In. He’s gets excited talking about Deadeye and considers himself a serious fan of the Dead.
Ruta Maya’s annual Jerryfest party on Friday night before the anniversary was at capacity before Deadeye even took the stage.
Deadeye includes Scott on drums and lead vocals, Joe Faulhaber on guitar and lead vocals, Keith Sennikoff on guitar, Adam Kahan on bass, Trevor Nealon on keyboards, and Amy Lewis on vocals.
“It’s a third job,” Faulhaber jokes. “We’re doing it because no one else is.”
Faulhaber is a veteran of Austin music scene and acknowledged that it is hard work to build a following. Still he said fans have a connection to the Dead’s music that is “beyond a typical band.”
Garcia and co. last played Austin in 1982 at the Manor Downs racetrack, but Scott thinks it’s a perfect place for a Dead tribute band. “It’s working man’s music. Its wild and unpredictable and people here can really relate.”
The crowds filling up the clubs are more diverse than one might expect. UT kids, the yoga set, and a new generation of Dead nerds join longtime fans at the lengthy two-set shows.
Despite focusing on their own respective bands, not to mention their day jobs, Deadeye makes time to get together to rehearse the hundreds of songs in the GD songbook. They’re up to about 75 songs and try to add two new songs each time they play.
Still Scott said they are not trying to sound exactly like the Dead, just playing their music.
“There has to be a Dead band in every city,” Scott said. “We’re like a public utility.”
The band’s next scheduled gig is headlining the Grooveland Music Festival at Camp Ben McCulloch in Driftwood on Saturday, August 20.