In the nearly 30 years Ed Hough and Cris Jacobs have been close friends and bandmates, one thing has remained constant: their love of the Grateful Dead.
Without the Grateful Dead’s music, Ed and Cris would never have met and started playing music together; never have formed the Baltimore bands Smooth Kentucky and the Bridge, or become such pivotal members of Baltimore’s Americana and jam band scenes.
So it’s only natural that, when Ed and Cris share the stage WTMD’s Saturday Morning Tunes show Oct. 2 at Power Plant Live, they’ll be playing the timeless music of the Grateful Dead for an audience of kids, parents and grandparents. Ed, who sings and plays drums, has assembled an accomplished lineup of musicians which includes keyboardist Kirk Kness, bassist John Butte, Cris and Tim Pruitt on guitar and singer Sunny Trippel – together, known as Ed Hough’s Dead Collective.
It’s become the most popular Saturday Morning Tunes show, selling out the American Visionary Art Museum, Maryland Hall in Annapolis and the Gordon Center. Here, Ed discusses why the Grateful Dead’s music is so appealing for all ages and Cris tells how he went from despising the Grateful Dead as a kid to sharing their music with the next generation.
Tell us the story of how you two met.
Cris: I was16 years old, and had been playing the guitar for maybe like six months at most. Me and my buddies had a little “band.” We were just doing tons of Dead songs and we needed a drummer and we put up an ad at the local music store, Miller Music. Ed was the first and only person to call, and he came over in his Volkswagen bus, with his long hair and tattoos. And Ed started playing drums with us. He invited me out to like his duo bar gigs. It was the first time I had done stuff like that.
It seems like when you started playing music together, the two of you hit it off right away.
Ed: We really did. The night I went over to his house to have our first rehearsal, there was this brother connection with Cris and I right off the bat. He and I locked in on harmonies from day one.
There’s a term out there, ‘brother harmony,’ you know, of two brothers that grew up together or three sisters that grew up together. They’re going to have perfect harmonies. They hear where the song’s going to go before it goes there because they’re so used to each other. He and I just had that right off the bat.
You’re both musicians and also dads. Ed, your kids are grown but Cris, your girls are still pretty young. Have they seen you play live yet?
Cris: They’ve come to a festival or two that I’ve played, but I’m not sure how much they really get it yet – like what their dad does for a living. My parents were hardcore Deadheads growing up, and as a kid, I hated it – hated the Grateful Dead. I think that involuntarily, I absorbed the music, even if I didn’t love it at first. That’s maybe why it resonates so deeply with me.
When I saw the Grateful Dead for the first time live, I was 15 and that’s when I decided I wanted to play the guitar. So it certainly changed my life to go to one show.
What’s it like to play this music for an audience of both parents and kids?
Ed: The Grateful Dead is timeless, right? You can play the same version of “Bertha” at night for older folks that you can for the kids. We don’t have to change anything about the music, other than make it a little less spacey to keep their attention. Maybe keep the tunes upbeat a little bit more. The kids’ attention can only be held for so long.
As we’re looking around the audience, we’re not just watching parents dance, but seeing how the children interact and saying, okay, let’s cut that solo down a little bit. Let’s jump into this next tune because it’s going to get them up and dancing again.
WTMD’s Saturday Morning Tunes with Ed Hough’s Dead Collective, presented by Race Pace Bicycles, is Oct. 2 at Power Plant Live, 34 Market Place in Baltimore. Doors open at 9:30 a.m. and the music starts at 10 a.m. This is a limited capacity outdoors show, with a partially covered stage/audience area. Tickets and more info can be found at https://mt.cm/grateful-dead-kids-ed-houghs-dead-collective.