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New Deal's Odyssey with Grateful Dead's 'TC'

Grateful Dead keyboardist Tom Constanten took a packed New Deal Café audience on a trip through time.

The caliber of performers that the New Deal Café is attracting is amazing, according to Amethyst Dwyer in an interview on Monday. Dwyer, who books the talent for the café, is glad that the café's drawing power can bring in musicians like Rock Hall of Famer Tom Constanten.

Dwyer was also delighted and surprised when John Kadlecik jumped up on stage and played with Constanten in a concert on Thursday. Kadlecik is a member of Furthur, a San Francisco-based group that includes two Grateful Dead members.

It was an incarnation of the Grateful Dead 60s at the , complete with tie-dyed shirts and a musician named Rainbow. Constanten (TC) — a member of the Grateful Dead from 1968 to 1970 — at times was accompanied Kadlecik.

All this came along with a packed audience sprinkled with musicians who would fill the stage for the night’s climax — not to mention the deadheads.

TC, former keyboarder for the Dead, drove from his home base of North Carolina for the show, between gigs around the country.  

Chris Colvin, who grew up in a court on Ridge Road in Greenbelt opened for TC's mix of keyboard playing, song, stories, wordplay, and philosophy of life — told with a dry humor all his own. 

How TC ended up driving from North Carolina to play his second gig at the Café revolves around Colvin and his Greenbelt friends. Colvin called Dwyer to arrange the performance. Colvin is a music teacher at the House of Musical Traditions in Takoma Park.

He brought along Frank Cassel to play 5-string banjo and flute, while Colvin switched between guitar, harmonica, Appalachian mountain lap dulcimer, and udaki (a giant horn-like instrument known as a didgeridoo and developed by indigenous Australians).

Emery Bacon, the 14-year-old son of deadheads, played the Beatles song “In My Life” on guitar, with TC on keyboard and Colvin on guitar, as a tribute to Bacon’s father who passed recently.

TC's Garden Party

Then TC began his solo act on the keyboard, telling how in 1966 two motorcycle accidents in one month struck too close to home. One was Bob Dylan’s accident, which he said made Dylan a recluse for two years; the other was a musician who became what TC called a “recluse forever," whom he dearly missed and said could have been another Bob Dylan. Each had written one of the first two songs Constanten had sung.

His later rendition of Rick Nelson’s “Garden Party” song could have described his latest night in the Café:

“A chance to share old memories and play our songs again

When I got to the garden party, they all knew my name

No one recognized me, I didn't look the same.”

All Star Jam Session Closing

After TC's act, Colvin invited musicians in the audience to join TC on stage.  
Ren Rick brought her djembe drum; Jimbo Rainbow brought his melodica air instrument (blow-organ); Joe Dicey, Emery Bacon, and Furthur member John Kadlecik brought their guitars; and Bob Acton his congas. 

This “All Star Jam Session” brought much of the audience to their feet. The rowdy jam reached a crescendo with Rick’s soulful incarnation of Janis Joplin singing.

With a touch of turn-of-the-century technology, the entire night was streamed live at www.ustream.tv/channel/nylifer.

Bailey Henneberg contributed to this article.

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