A few years ago, Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh spoke with Rolling Stone’s David Fricke on feeling Jerry Garcia’s presence in the music when performing Dead songs.
“Sometimes very intensely, sometimes not at all,” Lesh said. “At the same time, you have to feel like he is the song. When you’re in the song, you’re with Jerry.”
Holodiloff was 15 years old when he first heard Workingman’s Dead and truly felt like he was in the songs with Garcia. The musicianship on the Dead’s 1970 record – their fourth studio album – grabbed the Monterey native’s ears on classic cuts like “Uncle John’s Band” and “Casey Jones.” Holodiloff says he had listened to the Dead earlier in his life, but he didn’t consciously pay attention to the genius of Garcia and craftsmanship as a songwriter.
“I love [Garcia’s] guitar playing and the way he improvises differently every time,” Holodiloff explains. “I love [Garcia’s] songwriting and musicality he came up with, writing [songs] with [Robert] Hunter.”
Shortly after hearing Workingman’s Dead, Holodiloff says he picked up the guitar for the first time. Since then, the multi-instrumental local has become one of the Central Coast’s most active performers. And Holodiloff has celebrated Garcia’s Aug. 1 birthday every year with a special gig that honors the beloved musician.
In its 10th iteration, the Jerry Garcia Birthday Tribute features Holodiloff (mandolin, guitar and vocals) alongside Elijjah McCullar (violin) and Michael Martinez (piano) for a celebration at the Jade Lounge culling from what seems like an endless catalog of music.
It’s difficult to slap a label on the music and all the projects that transmitted from Garcia’s soul to listeners, so Holodiloff is just going to go wherever the music takes him and the band. From the spacey, jazzy and psychedelic rock of the Grateful Dead to the traditional country of Old & In the Way to the straightforward bluegrass Garcia performed with master mandolinist David Grisman, the set will span many eras of the iconic musician’s career.
“We always have a set list, but usually just jam and do what grooves best,” Holodiloff explains. “We could go into Latin or Celtic jams. Who knows? We go for the vibe and the spirit of [Garcia] – 100 percent.”
10TH ANNUAL JERRY GARCIA BIRTHDAY TRIBUTE 7:30pm Friday, Aug. 2. The Jade Lounge, 2110 N. Fremont St. Monterey. $10/advance; $15/at the door. 324-4261, thejadelounge.com