Mondays were dead at Prison City Pub & Brewery. Thanks to Fresh Guac, they aren't anymore.
Ever since the six-piece Auburn jam band began a regular gig on the slowest night of the downtown brewpub's week, packed houses have been showing up hear them. The night, which began Feb. 1, gets its name from Fresh Guac's setlists: The band plays almost all Grateful Dead covers.
"This whole deal has really given us a kick in the butt and gotten the ball rolling," rhythm guitarist/vocalist Brendan Pfeifer said.
Friday, the band will ride that momentum to a gig at downtown Auburn festival IGNITE the Winter. There, the band will cull the more recognizable hits from the Grateful Dead catalogue, Pfeifer said.
Mondays, they have the time and the audience with which they can explore the legendary jam band's deeper cuts.
Pfeifer said that's why non-Monday gigs like IGNITE the Winter have become increasingly rare for Fresh Guac: He, lead guitarist/vocalist Matthew Horseler, bassist/vocalist Jacob Logue, keyboardist Damian Bauso, drummer/vocalist John Bowers and drummer Ricky Rainone have a lot of parts to learn.
"For the first five weeks, we didn't repeat a single song, except maybe one or two," he said. "We try to keep the crowd on their toes."
Studied as they are, Fresh Guac's take on the Grateful Dead isn't doting. With some structure and some improvisation, they just try to capture the spirit of the songs — "bouncing off what's in the air," Pfeifer said.
Two things power the band's improvisation, Pfeifer said. First is the fact they've known each other long before he and Rainone first sat down with an acoustic guitar and box drum two years ago to begin forming Fresh Guac. Second is their diversity of backgrounds: Rainone is a big fan of classic hip-hop, and Logue brings a pedigree in jazz.
The band's immediate plans include possibly dropping the "Fresh" from their name — and mastering more Dead songs so they continue Mondays at Prison City. What began as no more than 30 people Feb. 1 has been steadily nearing 50, and Pfeifer hopes the number keeps growing.
"Our friends, and the people who've seen us and were fans that became friends, have been the only reason this ever took off," Pfeifer said. "We wouldn't be doing this unless people were smiling and dancing."
Five questions with Brendan Pfeifer of Fresh Guac
Q. What's your favorite song to play live?
A. "One More Saturday Night." We just started playing it; we've only played it twice.
Q. What's one venue you've always wanted to play but haven't had a chance to yet?
A. I think we'd like to branch out and maybe book some sort of music festival around here. Find people who don't know us, who might enjoy it.
Q. What's the first concert you remember attending?
A. The first that really resonated with me was in my mid-teens, when I saw Dickey Betts with my dad. That was at Taste of Syracuse, I believe.
Q. Do you have a "desert island" album?
A. I don't think it'd be the Grateful Dead, it'd be something more dynamic. I might bring (The Beatles') "Abbey Road."
Q. Who is your biggest musical influence?
A. With how much we as a band have all studied our own parts, I'd have to say Bob Weir.