Wake the Dead was born in 2000 when three veteran Celtic performers who shared a love for the Grateful Dead experienced a joint flash of inspiration and began weaving the two seemingly alien musical genres into something new and immediately appealing. Danny Carnahan, Paul Kotapish, and Maureen Brennan assembled a septet of seasoned Celtic, jazz, and new acoustic players and recorded "Wake the Dead" as a lark. The CD contained nine songs originally popularized by the Grateful Dead, each retooled in unexpected ways, blended with Celtic jigs, reels, and airs, and performed all-acoustic but with true rock-and-roll sizzle. Grateful Dead Records took one listen and immediately signed the band, releasing the CD nationally.
What no one at the Grateful Dead knew at that moment, though, was that the band didn't exist yet. In fact, never had all seven members all played together at the same time. But, all agreeing that this was the most fun music any of them had played in years, they dropped everything and started rehearsing to perform live. It didn't take long, and by October, Wake the Dead was playing to sell-out houses in the Bay Area including the Fillmore Auditorium and the Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse.
During the next seven years, the band's repertoire quintupled, including rare Robert Hunter songs never done by the Dead, traditional songs that helped shape Jerry Garcia's career and, increasingly, original compositions by Wake the Dead bandmembers. New material and new takes on classic numbers are being added all the time. The new arrangements are richer and more adventurous than those on the debut album. The band, now with Brazilian and World percussionist Brian Rice joining the groove engine, takes advantage of the strengths of each member, establishing more thunderous grooves, more interesting textural shifts, and more and more stepping out into dangerous improvisational territory.
Where the first CD was born around the kitchen table, the second and third CDs were born on stage, growing in intensity and complexity as the band grows tighter and more confident in front of bigger and bigger crowds. Where will the road take Wake the Dead next? Your guess is as good as ours, but judging from BLUE LIGHT CHEAP HOTEL, itâ€™s bound to be one amusing trip.