SPACE CA-DEADS: (L to R) Billy Siegel, John ‘Jellyroll’ Nemeth, Dan Donovan and Ty Mares of the Cosmic Jerry Band are joined by special guest Chris Fritz for their first show on LBI. Fueled by fans, dubbed “cosmicnauts,” CJB pushes far beyond the parameters of a typical jam band, into cosmic territory. (Photo taken by Jack Reynolds)

It wasn’t just another Saturday night at Beach Haven last weekend. Buckalew’s rolled out the red carpet for the Cosmic Jerry Band, which, featuring local legend Chris Fritz as honorary Bob Weir, served up a summer appetizer for locals and travelers alike.

Special guest Fritz joined the CJB quartet, with Billy Siegel on keyboards, John “Jellyroll” Nemeth on bass, Dan Donovan on drums and, their newest member, LBI’s Ty Mares, on lead guitar.

“Let me ask you this: how about playing Grateful Dead with a retired cop?” Fritz jokingly asked his aides. Without taking a beat, Siegel coldly replied, “I used to play with an FBI agent!” In all seriousness, Fritz shared with The SandPaper, “There’s a lot more law enforcement in the Dead community than people realize.”

Sharing the stage with CJB, Fritz said, “I realized this was my first gig playing electric guitar since 2003.” He currently plays bass with cover band The Impulsives and original metal band Dying Light. When he plays solo, he is on acoustic guitar.

Fritz is primarily a bass player, although he played guitar for much of his life until he switched to bass simply out of necessity for lack of bass players. Once on bass, it just made sense to Fritz, who was mainly influenced by Sting and the Police, as well as rock band U2. Other early influences include Billy Joel, Foreigner and AC/DC. He would later recognize Phil Lesh as “such a powerful bassist”.

So how does an 80s metalhead fit into the Dead scene? Fritz shared that he had an uncle who was a deadhead, and his father had Skeletons in the closeta best-of album, on cassette.

“I never understood,” he admitted. “I thought they were weird.”

It wasn’t until he started dating a massive deadhead in 1991 that he discovered the live jam phenomenon and got on the bus. “What attracted me was listening to the live album (Fillmore East, 1971) ‘Bertha’. That’s all she wrote.

He recounted the honor of seeing the Grateful Dead five times before Garcia passed away in 1995. His love for the dead never ended when he became an officer.

“I just had to step away from the stage for a while, for obvious reasons.” In fact, one of his daughters goes by the name “Cassidy”, taken from the air.

“I always dreamed of how cool it would be to play in a Dead band,” he said. “One concert is enough for me; we’ll see how it goes!

They roared straight into the Grateful Dead’s version of Sam Cooke’s “Let the Good Times Roll” and sewed that jam straight into a rousing “Bertha.” Donovan kept the beat shaking as his four bandmates exchanged lead and harmony vocals. The two-set performance included upbeat bangers such as “Goin’ Down the Road Feeling Bad”, “Eyes of the World”, “Deal”, “Brown Eyed Women”, and “Shakedown Street”.

For their LBI debut, it was important to thrill the audience on the dance floor. Donovan loosely quoted Bruce Springsteen: “Move their asses and the rest will follow.

Slower, nostalgic jams including “Althea,” “Uncle John’s Band” and “Brokedown Palace” rounded out the show, rocking the dancers in a gentle wave of tie-dye mosaics. They bade farewell with a howl “Werewolves of London”, to leave an echo in their absence.

With Nemeth keeping a solid groove in his pocket, Fritz established the fundamental lines over which Siegel and Mares exchanged fascinating solos – sounding like elegant conversation spoken in a foreign language, yet familiar to the listener. CJB’s Instagram bio perfectly captures this phenomenon in one line: “Music to raise your vibration.”

Of course, there were the few unwitting passers-by who came in for a drink and were wowed by the sound in a bohemian sea. Many hardheads have traveled from afar, making themselves known by the colors of the sports club: the tie dye. Meanwhile, many white-collar undead infiltrators from there in the Queen City turned out to represent the scene and support CJB, which Fritz noted was the first Dead band to play on the island in seven years. .

But, to be clear, CJB is much more than a Dead band.

Cosmic Jerry Band became something of a Big Bang in 2016, after Nemeth posted a cryptic advertisement on Craigslist: “Looking for Ronnie Tutt or David Kemper.” He received only one answer, and from the perfect prospect – Donovan, a drummer who understood the role was to know and love Jerry Garcia’s catalog. Thus, CJB was born, his name giving a subtle nod to the Jerry Garcia Band, and “cosmic” acting as a portal to all that lies beyond. Donovan’s wife, Kristie, who heads up the creative department, came up with the name.

“We wondered why limit ourselves to JGB and the Dead?” explained Donovan. “We embrace the ‘cosmic’ element of it all.”

In doing so, CJB is doing exactly what Garcia has always done, which is exploring his own live productions of a myriad of classics, as well as working to write, record and perform original material.

“It’s limitless,” said Nemeth, who shared the unbridled freedom of jamming and the understanding that his bandmates are positively ok with the journey, that’s what CJB is all about.

Of course, CJB plays everything in the realm of Dead and JGB, from proven hits to the deepest deep cuts. They are also known for producing elaborate homages to jam bands like Ween and Phish, new wave bands like the Talking Heads, and a full mix of blues, folk, and rock ‘n’ roll artists. . Fritz even remarked on his surprise when they released a Black Sabbath track from left field on last month’s Wonder Bar show.

And, in true jam style, they never play the same song the same way twice. The high-energy quartet takes a “no limits” approach to capturing the present moment through song.

Collectively the members of CJB have shared the stage with musicians from notable acts such as the Jerry Garcia Band, Talking Heads, RatDog, Hot Tuna, Parliament Funkadelic, Jefferson Starship, The Fugees, Spin Doctors, Dark Star Orchestra, Live Dead and The John Kadlecik. Bandaged.

Nemeth named Garcia, Ween and, obviously, Phil Lesh as three of his main influences. He played guitar until the birth of his son, Josh, after which he switched to bass. Over the years, frequenting Dead shows and performing in cover bands, Nemeth naturally found himself in his overt quartet, CJB. During the pandemic, he performed nonstop with Josh in a duet they aptly named Father and Son. The duo occasionally make appearances on LBI, so fans might want to keep an eye out for the marquees.

Donovan taught marching band for 17 years before becoming a fixture on the jam scene. His inspirations obviously come from those involved with the Grateful Dead and JGB. Additionally, Buddy Rich and Carter Beaufort top his list; “and Animal,” he joked, referring to the charming and unruly Muppet who is known for throwing him behind the kit.

Siegel, whom Mares fondly described as “my Jerry’s Brent,” began his journey as a trumpeter. Now he’s an absolute magician behind the keys, with a dizzying stage resume that includes Bouncing Balls, the Whirling Dervishes, Everlounge, Dramarama (remember “Anything, Anything”?) and Splintered Sunlight, among many other acts.

Siegel credited Chuck Leavell (Allman Brothers, Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, etc.) and Brent Mydland with setting the bar for him. In fact, he remembers being a teenager and first seeing Mydland perform with the Grateful Dead on TV. It was a 1980 “Saturday Night Live” special, he recalls, and the band performed Jelly Roll Morton’s “Alabama Getaway” and “Don’t Ease Me In.” Siegel laughed, “He looked like Gregg Allman.”

Locals know Mares – born in Colorado, raised all over the US, and now a resident of Little Egg Harbor. He’s a singer-songwriter who also manages to shred. A former Berklee student, Mares has named his guitar heroes as, unsurprisingly, John Mayer, BB King, Stevie Ray Vaughan and, most recently, Garcia. His original work is a mix of pop, blues, jam, R&B and soul.

His overall musical journey is a series of transformations, as he continually seeks challenge as a means of reinvention. As such, his role in CJB fostered magnanimous growth in his playing and improvisational style. Playing Grateful Dead music, Mares said, “is by far the hardest but most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.”

CJB is well known on the Asbury Park scene and regularly makes waves that crash in New York and reverberate all the way to Atlantic City. The ultimate goal is to take the band on the road, according to Donovan, perhaps starting with a few east coast tours and eventually heading to the west coast. The short-term goal “is to have an awesome summer,” Donovan said.

The short-term plan is already well underway as CJB is set to return to the area July 3 from 2-6 p.m. for a show at Breeze’s Dock Bar and Grill in New Gretna. For those traveling to see Phil Lesh at the Stone Pony the next day, CJB plays the official after-party right across the street at Wonder Bar.

On Saturday, August 6 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., CJB takes the stage at the Manahopkin Festival. Manahopkin is sandwiched right in the middle of Phish’s Atlantic City tour, during which CJB will perform an after-party show of Phish on August 5, as well as pre- and post-Phish shows on August 7 in the big tent at Showboat. CJB returns to Buckalew’s on Friday August 26th.

Follow @Cosmic Jerry Band on Facebook and Instagram to stay up to date with the shows, all of which are live and freely accessible on Facebook. Fans can also join the official #cosmicnauts for special benefits, such as opportunities to secure tickets to upcoming shows.

For those not yet following, Fritz keeps his schedule posted on Facebook and Instagram at @Chris Fritz Music. This Friday, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., we find him at Sun Harbor with Fritz Electric.

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