Jerry Garcia Foundation, Garcia Project to raise funds for Memorial Hall

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WILMINGTON — The legend of Jerry Garcia lives on in many ways.

Framed, museum-quality prints of the Grateful Dead lead guitarist's artwork provided by the Jerry Garcia Foundation will be auctioned off to benefit Historic Memorial Hall in Wilmington during a concert Saturday night.

"Memorial Hall did get ravaged by some floodwaters," said Mik Bondy, who leads the Garcia Project, referring to Tropical Storm Irene in Aug. 2011. "We've been working with Memorial Hall for a few years now and every time we play there, they say thank you because it brings money in. It's a nonprofit. I love the place. It's got a good vibe, good sound."

Last year, the band did a similar benefit for a Massachusetts-based arts center. Bondy said he reached out to the Garcia Foundation, which was able to donate some artwork to help with the cause. He recalled making a few thousand dollars for the venue.

Bondy and Historic Memorial Hall Board Chairman Joe Levy, who is also the band's booking partner, talked about approaching the foundation about assisting with Wilmington building.

"It came to us, maybe we can make some more money to help repair Memorial Hall some more and give back to the community. They thought it was great," Bondy said. "They loved the Garcia Project and what we were all about. Thanks to Jerry Garcia, this will raise some money for a wonderful hall in Wilmington."

Doors open at 7 p.m. on Saturday. The Garcia Project will take the stage at 8 p.m. Beer from Harpoon Brewery will be available on tap.

The prints — "California Mission" and "Wisteria"— will be on display during the show. They were framed by Zephyr Designs in Brattleboro. The auction begins on Thursday and closes on Sept. 22. Bidding can be done online. More information can be found at thegarciaproject.com. The foundation has a website at jerrygarciafoundation.org.

The Friends of Historic Memorial Hall was recently set up as a nonprofit.

"We're always striving to make improvements to the place," said Levy. "I think getting new seats is our next mission — newer, more comfortable seats for the performances."

The most recent addition at Memorial Hall is a piano. Levy said the instrument is going to attract different types of musicians. It was first used at the hall during Brattleboro vocalist Samirah Evans and the George Kaye Quintet's performance in July.

Memorial Hall, Bondy said, is "a great place to see live music and events."

"We always love playing there. We always have great sounds and light. I think it's entertaining for families of all ages. It's nice to get everyone together in a community to celebrate that kind of thing," he said. "For this special occasion, with the benefit and Jerry Garcia artwork, we've actually selected a very special Jerry Garcia Band show to recreate. Of course, I can't disclose any information. I like to keep it a surprise. But it's going to be worth checking out. It's something we haven't done before. It's something very special to us and fans of Jerry Garcia's music."

Last September's show at Memorial Hall was a JGB concert rom the mid-1980s if Bondy's memory is correct. His band plays set lists from shows from all the different eras — 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. They all sound so different, he said.

The first time Bondy played at Memorial Hall was with an acoustic quartet. He said over 200 people came out to the show, causing his bandmates to take notice of the "good group of people" in southern Vermont and Wilmington that love the music.

Shortly after, the entire band was booked. Now it's custom for them to play there every summer.

"It's nice to see it growing, seeing familiar faces, having them all tell their friends and family," said Bondy, who advises people purchase $10 tickets online before the show at brownpapertickets.com/event/2549275. The price jumps to $15 at the door. "I know in Albany (N.Y.), a lot of my friends and some of the fans got shut out because it was sold out. We're not playing huge places. We want to make sure everyone goes out and gets tickets."

His acoustic duo with fellow Garcia Project member Kat Walkerson, Acoustically Speaking, is playing outdoors at One More Time Billiards Parlor and Tavern at Dover Forge on Friday from 8 to 11 p.m. There is no charge and the venue is family friendly.

"It's kind of a pre-party, pre-show," said Bondy. "We're going to do a couple sets of acoustic interpretations of Grateful Dead songs that we love. It should be a lot of fun."

The duo was formed after the Garcia Project had started playing. Walkerson and Bondy "realized not only did we enjoy singing with each other so much," said Bondy.

"There's this special thing happening when we're singing and playing. We tried out acoustic stuff. Fans loved it. We kept going with it," he said. "We actually play as many acoustic shows as we do in the Garcia Project, if not more. We have a couple of residencies."

Every week, they play in Glenn Falls, N.Y. After the Garcia Project tour wraps up in November, they have a string of shows in Oregon.

The Garcia Project had several shows on the west coast this year.

"The spirit of the Grateful Dead travels throughout everywhere," said Bondy. "But on the west coast, you feel like you've got the point where it all started. Just walking around San Francisco, the whole bay area, it's a different experience."

Call Chris Mays at 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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