They can be found in every aspect of modern life, in your own neighborhood and quite possibly on your family tree. They’re the Deadheads — and, contrary to the “get a bath” stereotype, they’re the folks who make the trains run on time; the entrepreneurs and visionaries, the doctors and district managers, the IT techs who see the details that somehow elude the rest of us.
Unlike the Grateful Dead themselves — who just kind of improvised their way into one of the most enviable careers in popular music — the Deadheads are a detail-intensive bunch for sure. Fans in and around the Jersey Shore area have never lacked for access to any number of Dead tribute bands, but if there exists an even more elevated plane of obsession, it’s the exclusive purview of Monmouth University adjunct professor Marc Muller — master multi-instrumentalist, sought-after session ace, and ringmaster of Dead On Live, a project about which he says, “I don’t know that anyone has done this to the extent that I have.”
A flexibly floating lineup composed of Muller and an awesome Rolodex of talented friends, the entity known as Dead On is “deadicated” to the comprehensive transcription — and note-for-note reproduction — of the Grateful Dead’s body of officially released recordings. As Muller puts it, that means “every Phil Lesh note, every drum, banjo, or mandolin part…even the mistakes.”
“To me the general public imprint of these songs are the records,” explains the Neptune resident who’s toured and recorded with Elton John, Shania Twain, Dr. John, Van Zant and countless others. “It’s like what The Fab Faux does with The Beatles, only we upped the game…we look at it like a symphony.”
On Friday, April 13 at 8 p.m., Muller and friends — a big tent that’s drawn previously from such organizations as Steely Dan, Dixie Dregs, Bela Fleck’s Flecktones and the Late Show with David Letterman band — take the stage of the Pollak Theatre on Monmouth’s West Long Branch campus for a meticulously and lovingly crafted, note-for-note “Dead On” recreation of the albums Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty.
With those two 1970 releases, the Grateful Dead shifted their focus from psychedelia — and toward an expansive American music that fused rock, bluegrass, blues, folk, and (especially) country into a sound that would prove to be a game-changer for the Frisco-based band. First presented as a 40th anniversary tribute at Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre (where Muller conducts the “Rock the Basie” adult music camp), the program spotlights such Dead perennials as “Uncle John’s Band,” “Casey Jones,” “Box of Rain,” “Friend of the Devil,” “Sugar Magnolia,” “Ripple,” “Brokedown Palace,” and “Truckin’.”
The concert is presented by the Center for the Arts at Monmouth — and at the center of it all is Muller, a man whose ten-year tenure with country superstar Twain was an experience in which “we’d try to be perfect, chase that perfection, every night.”
To purchase tickets for Dead On Live, please contact the Monmouth University Performing Arts Box Office at 732-263-6889, or online at www.monmouth.edu/arts. To schedule an interview, please contact Eileen Chapman at 732-571-3512.
# # #
Media contact: Petra Ludwig at 732-263-5507