Longtime local Grateful Dead cover band Phuncle Sam celebrates 10 years together in March of next year. What better way to mark this approaching milestone than to headline a new jam-band festival bearing its name? Phuncle Fest will feature more than 20 musical performances by area bands, 15 of which are from Asheville.
The festival takes place Friday and Saturday, Oct. 11 and 12, at the Deerfields retreat in Mills River, N.C. It will also have a kid’s zone with face painting, hula hooping, a drum clinic and musical workshop. Local food from HomeGrown, Heritage BBQ and Green River Picklers will be on site. And what would an outdoor festival be without some multicolored duds? A BYOT-shirt tie-dye station will equip attendees with the proper jam-band, full-spectrum camouflage.
Xpress talked with Phuncle Sam’s lead guitarist and original member, Bill Evans, about his decade of playing Dead songs and the upcoming festival.
Xpress: What made you want to start a cover band?
Bill Evans: Our first bass player put an ad in Mountain Xpress about 10 years ago. And he mentioned the kind of music we play, and it was really kind of amazing because every single person who responded fit. The first week was the keyboard player, then the second week there was me. … It just happened so smoothly, it was kind of cosmic, actually. At this point, we have two of the original members.
In the current lineup, you mentioned it’s cross-generational? A couple of months ago, we were at practice, we were talking about someone’s birthday or something, and we just suddenly figured out that we had one person in their 20s, one in their 30s, two in their 40s, one in their 50s, and I’m 61.
What does that say about the music of the Grateful Dead? It reflects our audience a lot in that there’s a lot of generations who seem to be connected with the music. … It’s a very family-oriented genre. I don’t know if there is any other type of music that has such a big community that has evolved around it. I think it reflects the community in general. There are people all over the globe who love the Dead.
Do you ever get tired of playing Dead covers? One thing that puts the Grateful Dead music apart from, say, covering The Beatles, is it has a lot of jazz aspects. A lot of their songs have vehicles for a lot of improv. So you can always be creative and always be different. That’s why we really enjoy it, because it’s always different. It allows us to explore, in a lot of ways, like jazz. Generally, the structures of the songs will have places where people can just use their own ideas and go on an adventure, so to speak.
How does it feel to be headlining a festival that partially bears your name? Oh, it’s great! It’s something we’ve been procrastinating about or talking about for a long, long time. And Kendall [Huntley], who’s a friend, just took it upon himself to do it. … We’re hoping it could become a regular thing because we have a lot of local people playing. We’re hoping it could become a local festival that is successful and continues.
For tickets or more information, visit http://phunclefest.com.