Around town: Celebrating Dirty Dead’s long strange trip

GRATEFUL DAWG: Paul DeCirce, frontman and founder of Dirty Dead, caresses the band's unofficial mascot, Skeeter. Photo by Andy Hall

On Sept. 3, local Grateful Dead cover band Dirty Dead played its 300th show at One World Brewing West. The event kicked off a celebration of the band’s seven-year anniversary and will be followed by several shows this fall.

As the local Deadhead community expands, Dirty Dead has also started playing in outlying towns such as Hot Springs and Marshall. The group’s next show as a full band is Saturday, Sept. 23, at 6:30 p.m., at Homeplace Beer Co. in Burnsville.

Drummer, guitarist and flutist Paul DeCirce, also frontman and founder, says he and several other musicians formed the band after playing at their friend Kendall Huntley‘s birthday luau on the French Broad River on Sept. 2, 2016. They had such a good time playing together that they decided to pursue other gigs. They started out calling themselves the Stone Jack Ballers, in reference to a line from the Dead song “Easy Wind,” but by the third show, they’d changed their name to Dirty Dead.

When the Dirty Dead started picking up steam in 2017, it was composed of members DeCirce, bassist Eric Swanson, keyboardist Bryan Solleveld, guitarist Johnny Humphries and drummer Sean Mason.  That lineup stayed intact until Mason died unexpectedly in August 2020. “We really haven’t replaced Sean,” says DeCirce. But the band welcomes guest musicians and substitutes often, as most members also play in other local groups and have full- or part-time jobs.

“It’s evolved into a family of different musicians,” says DeCirce.

DeCirce and Humphries are also Dirty Dawg, a strings duo that plays acoustic Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia and some roots music. Sometimes they invite fiddle player Alex Ball to join a performance.

DeCirce has been into the music of the Grateful Dead since he was a teenager. He thinks the Asheville area has always been a mecca for Deadheads and other hippies, with its mountains, music scene and natural healing resources. He moved here in 2000 and has since created and played in several bands, including the Screaming Js. 

DeCirce says he can’t even remember the names of all the Dead cover bands. Phuncle Sam is the only other local Dead cover band he can remember from the early days. 

In future shows, DeCirce says the band plans to incorporate a few original songs, which it has not done previously. The group is actively looking to book more shows throughout the winter, but he’s not in a hurry to overwhelm himself or his band members. DeCirce not only fronts the band but also takes care of all the booking and marketing and runs his own production company, Domin-Yo! Talent. He hopes to teach music in the near future, as well as build his own studio.

Homeplace Beer Co. is at 321 W. Main St., Burnsville. For more information, visit

The one dance you’ll do alone

Asheville native Gary E. Carter‘s third book, Not Dark Yet, is about two friends facing the reality of a pact made in college coming to fruition.

In the novel, published by Back Nine Books and released late this summer, Henry and Charlie promised each other they would both die on their own terms if faced with a terminal illness.

The title is a reference to the Bob Dylan song of the same name, one of Carter’s favorites: Henry considers a line from the song for his gravestone. The author says music influences a lot of his writing, and he incorporates it into his work often.

The idea for the book stems from a conversation Carter had with a cousin about family members and friends who had passed on. “When that happens, it makes you start thinking about your own mortality and how you’re going to deal with death,” he says. “And I don’t think we do a particularly good job in the American culture — it’s not a subject that people like to deal with.” The novel evolved out of an idea from Buddhist thought that has always resonated with him: “You have to accept that you’re going to die in order to fully live.”

Carter says the book is not only about facing death but also about friendship. “It’s about what we’re willing to do for friends, and also how so many friends fall by the wayside along the way.”

Carter, who is hoping to plan an upcoming event at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, says Ashevilleans will recognize a lot of the places in the novel, such as Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar. “There’s also a person that works there; hopefully, she might recognize herself — but if not, I’ll tell her one day.”

For more information, visit

In perfect harmony

Restoring Harmony to Hominy, a free public event by The Friends of Hominy Creek Greenway and Malvern Hills Neighborhood Association, will take place Sunday, Sept. 17, 1-4 p.m., at the Shelburne Road end of the greenway.

The event supports ecological restoration and an initiative to prevent erosion at a portion of the greenway’s footpath. The project will improve the trail to make it “much more resilient and accessible to everyone for years to come,” says Jack Igelman, a founding trustee of the FOHCG, in a press release.

Graham Sharp of roots bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers will provide entertainment, including a performance of his new song “Hominy Valley.” There will also be refreshments and educational information on the restoration project.

The rain date is Sunday, Sept. 24.

The event is at 80 Shelburne Road on the Hominy Creek Greenway. For more information, visit

Nobody puts Baby in a corner

The first Lake Lure Dance Festival, an expansion of the event previously known as the Dirty Dancing Festival, will take place at Morse Park in Lake Lure on Saturday, Sept. 16, at 10 a.m.

The all-day festival’s theme is Cool Dips & Hot Salsas and will feature live music, dance performances and lessons, games and competitions. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network in honor of Patrick Swayze, who died of the disease in September 2009.

Swayze starred in the 1987 film Dirty Dancing, much of which was filmed in Lake Lure. The Hickory Nut Gorge Chamber of Commerce started hosting the Dirty Dancing Festival in 2010, but legal and financial requirements made it impossible to continue basing it on the movie. The chamber made the decision to expand the festival, featuring a variety of dance and music styles while continuing to celebrate Swayze.

Morse Park is at 2948 Memorial Highway, Lake Lure. For more information, visit

Perchance to dream

Asheville-based playwright and director Anthony Abraira‘s adaptation of William Shakespeare‘s most famous tragedy will debut at Ella Asheville on Thursday, Sept. 14, at 8 p.m. Hamlet: The Requiem will be performed by Tryon-based theater group Shakespeare & Friends, with a follow-up performance on Friday, Sept. 15, at 8 p.m.

Abraira’s version has “an immersive plot, shortened duration and minimalist staging,” according to a press release. The playwright uses Shakespeare’s original lines from Hamlet but has rearranged them as well as reassigned certain lines to different characters.

Abraira says the performance is intended “to create a unique and intimate connection between the audience and the world of Hamlet. … A beautiful row of dominoes is set, ready to fall at any moment.”

Additional performances will take place in Spartanburg, S.C., and Tryon later this month.

Ella Asheville is at 81 Broad St., Suite 100. For more information, visit


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About Andy Hall
Andy Hall graduated from The University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication. After working at the United States Capitol for ten years, she has returned to her native state to enjoy the mountains — and finally become a writer.

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