Guitarist Andy Coe has had a passion for the Grateful Dead — and particularly Jerry Garcia — ever since he was a kid.
“I got to see them play a few times before Jerry passed away,” the Seattle musician said in a recent phone interview. “I fell in love with the music and the feeling. I learned a lot from it.”
Twenty years after Garcia’s death, Coe celebrates Garcia with a traveling show every fall. Saturday, the 10th annual Jerry Garcia Celebration comes to Olympia.
Once again, the Andy Coe Band pay tribute to the Dead’s lead guitarist, frontman and co-founder. The show also travels to other nearby cities. And this November, Coe and company will do a Garcia celebration in California.
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The Grateful Dead’s mix of well-crafted songs and inspired improv never gets old, Coe said.
“They’re kind of a unique organism,” he said. “They pair having great songs with having the improvisational element heavily infused into the music. It’s pretty rare for a band to do both of those things well.”
Saturday’s show will be mostly Grateful Dead songs with some from the Jerry Garcia Band thrown in. But don’t expect to hear an exact replica of concerts past — whether by the Dead themselves or Coe’s tribute.
“We’re not trying to re-create what they did,” he said. “We’re just trying to keep the spirit of what they were doing and do it in our own way.
“That’s the spirit of the music, for people to do what they want to do, ride that wave and tap into that energy that’s always existing.”
The guitarist also plays with McTuff, Skerik’s Bandalabra and Tuatara.
But his heart, it seems, belongs to Garcia.
“The thing Andy Coe loves most is to get his Jerry on,” Joe Hoffman of Tumwater posted on the Olympia show’s Facebook events page.
Indeed, the band itself, which at first gathered only for the celebration shows, has for the past few years played weekly Dead-inspired shows at the Blue Moon Tavern in Seattle.
The Monday-night gigs have gotten some attention.
“These guys can do those sing-along-worthy country-rock ramblers and improv space-outs with equal aptitude,” Dave Segal wrote in The Stranger in January 2014. “It's like the Grateful Dead never died.”
Coe is not alone in his devotion to the Dead — and to Garcia. The famed rocker’s many accolades include having an ice cream flavor named for him (Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia) and being named to Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 greatest guitarists. (He ranked No. 13 in 2003, chosen by the mag’s David Fricke, and No. 46 in 2011, chosen by a group of top guitarists and other experts.)
“Jerry was the sun of the Grateful Dead — the music they played was like planets orbiting around him,” Carlos Santana wrote for the latter list. Santana was himself No. 20 on that year’s list.
“Jerry has influenced me a whole lot,” Coe said.
As has the entire Grateful Dead band, he added.
“They’re a pretty big part of American culture at this point. It’s pretty incredible.”
JERRY GARCIA CELEBRATION
What: Seattle’s Andy Coe Band brings its 10th annual tribute to Jerry Garcia and his music to Olympia. This show also features pedal steel guitarist Dan Tyak.
When: 10 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Rhythm and Rye, 311 Capital Way N., Olympia.
Tickets: $8, $6 for students.