WOODFORD >> Music fans are truckin' to Prospect Mountain for a weekend of tunes.
"Everybody loves Prospect Mountain. It's beautiful," said event organizer Marc Latzky, of Vermont Family Festivals. "It's got this sort of feel that everyone's all together, the venue we build with the stage and there's a bonfire. Everything's really nicely contained. There's never too many people that you feel crowded in."
The site on Route 9 in Woodford will host Alive & Dead Fest from Friday to Sunday. Attendees are promised three days of Grateful Dead-inspired music from the best talent in Northeast.
Tickets can be purchased at aliveanddeadfestival.com. Weekend passes range from $50 to $120 depending on sleeping arrangements. A Friday or Sunday day pass costs $20 per person. A special $200 ticket includes meals, backstage passes and wireless internet service.
Latzky, who has organized festivals since the early 1990s, ran Valley Jam Vermont last year.
"I was having some difficulties with the people that I was working with. They didn't really have a feel for the music or the people who go to festivals," he said. "In my head, I immediately said I need a new space, a new venue, and I need to have a concept that's really going to make people pay attention. It seems festivals and bands become a blur to people."
He asked himself what could hold a festival together in terms of a theme.
"I figured this was the decade of the Dead," Latsky said. "This year especially they're putting on some really big shows. When they come and go, they sort of leave a void. People want their Grateful Dead."
His idea entailed asking young bands to get together and play their original music but also play their favorite Dead songs. Bands scheduled to play include Roots of Creation, Hayley Jane & The Primates, Bella's Bartok, Brickdrop, Bow Tahyer Band, Rick Redington & the Luv, Blind Owl Band, The Aerolites, Folks Up In Treetops, Brotherhood of Mang, Troll 2, Squid Parade, Lunar Effects and more.
The tribute bands embraced the festival, too. Headlining Friday night is Gratefully Yours. The Garcia Project will end Saturday night's show. And Playing Dead with Zach Nugent is finishing up on Sunday night. Nugent is a member of Cats Under the Stars, a tribute to the Jerry Garcia Band. Garcia sang and played lead guitar in the Dead.
"We're looking forward to it," said Mik Bondy, who heads the Garcia Project. "From what I've heard and been told, the venue is just a wonderful place to be for the weekend. There's going to be a lot of Grateful Dead but a lot of other music. Heirloom Seeds is playing, I know. I think it's just going to be a really nice scene, a lot of good people around. I met a couple of the promoters working on it. It just seems like they have a really good vibe around them and want to put on a good show."
Bondy's band recreates Jerry Garcia Band gigs. Which show — whether it's from the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s — is anyone's guess. The band lets the audience try to figure it out.
This will be the first time the Garcia Project will get to play two full JGB sets within a festival setting. Normally, only one set out of two can be performed during festivals.
"Typically at festivals, they give bands 60 to 90 minutes to play," said Bondy. "We got the whole night, which is really nice."
Sound will be provided by the Garcia Project's technician all weekend. Members from the band in the Acoustically Speaking trio just played Dead tunes on Lake Whitingham for the Blueberry Festival in the Deerfield Valley. And the full band will be back in Wilmington for a Sept. 10 show at Historic Memorial Hall. The Garcia Foundation is providing two limited edition and framed prints of Garcia's artwork that will be auctioned off with all proceeds going to the hall.
The Garcia Project is currently preparing for its fall tour. In the winter, the band went out west where they met Dead guitarist and vocalist Bob Weir. Dead bassist Phil Lesh and the Merry Pranksters.
"We were very well received," Bondy said after describing a show at Sweetwater Music Hall, a club where Weir is an investor. "We're planning to do an extended tour next February and March. We'll probably do 10 to 15 days out there."
Bondy and his bandmates saw Dead & Company perform in Saratoga, N.Y. The group is made up of several original members of the Dead plus John Mayer, Oteil Burbridge, and Jeff Chimenti.
"It's probably the best I've heard former Grateful Dead members play since Jerry (Garcia) passed," Bondy said. "I really enjoyed it."
Latsky hopes to hold Alive & Dead Fest again next year along with Ziontific Summer Solstice Music Festival, a world music and reggae festival which was held in June at Prospect. And maybe there will be another new, theme-oriented show.
"The great grandfather of all festivals is Woodstock. We're thinking there's quite a bit of possibility," said Latsky. "The town of Woodford is ready and the area generally seems like they're interested in having this type of activity. We're also going to have kids activities that we should be able have at all the festivals. It just makes it really nice."
Contact Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.