By Karie Grace Duncan
On Sunday, October 1, Loose Lucy’s and The Five Points Association will host JerryFest in Five Points to celebrate the life and art of Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia.
This will be George Fetner’s fourth year playing at Jerryfest with his band George Fetner and The Strays. The band formed just in time to perform at JerryFest in 2013, the last year that JerryFest was hosted at Jake’s on Devine.
Fetner emailed Jenn McCallister, owner of Loose Lucy’s and host of JerryFest about the opportunity to play at Jerryfest. When she said yes, Fetner and another guitarist friend from college, Anthony Charles, formed a band with Matt Fenech on drums and Cory Takach on bass.
“That’s where I got the name The Strays from,” says Fetner. “Anthony was from a different time in my life. Cory was from a different time. Matt’s from a different time.”
The band instantly clicked with each other and with the crowd at JerryFest. “We had a lot of people who were really enthusiastic about it who said ‘you guys really took the spirit to another level,’” says Fetner.
Fetner and The Stays performance at JerryFest is different from the band’s original performances because they feel a responsibility to represent the vibe of The Grateful Dead.
“We try very hard to recreate the sound of the group,” says Fetner. “We want the people in the audience to close their eyes and say, ‘this feels like a show’”
“Hopefully after a couple of minutes, they’re hooked and can trust us with what we do,” says Fetner.
But getting the vibe right isn’t just about sounding like The Dead for Fetner and JerryFest goers.
“Part of The Dead’s music was the experience and having fun,” says Fetner.
“Especially in the early days of their band, they didn’t see a separation from their band and the scene,” says Fetner. “So they didn’t see themselves as getting on stage and performing for you, they saw themselves as sort of a medium for having fun and having a community. It’s hard to find that in a genuine way with original music.”
Going to see JerryFest at the Five Points fountain with a group of Columbia area Deadheads comes close to that experience for Fetner because it fosters that community aspect.
“It makes you feel like ‘I wish this could happen every time that we played’ or ‘I wish this could happen to every band in the scene every time,’” says Fetner.
Even more than that community aspect, JerryFest brings back the peace, love, and music spirit of the ‘70s that was embodied by The Grateful Dead.
“It’s hard not to be in nostalgia a little bit with a band that is around 50 years old,” says Fetner.
As the second biggest Five Points event each year, JerryFest is a place for everyone.
“If you are a Deadhead it’s probably the most fun event to go to without having to pay $30 to see a touring cover band. This localizes it,” says Fetner. “If you’ve never listened to them, but you’re curious you should come because it’s super fun and it’s free and you get to experience the crowd aspect and some interesting people.”
Fetner will play with Fetner and the Strays and Alien Carnival at this year’s JerryFest. The other bands in the line-up are Cletus Baltimore, Stillhouse, and Ring Around the Sun.
In between sets, JerryFest attendees have the opportunity to participate in the Columbia Community Drum Circle and buy from a list of vendors.
“If you ever went to a show, in the parking lot there was always people selling stuff and people who live on the road with the band and go from show to show,” says Fetner. “It wouldn’t be a JerryFest if there wasn’t some kind of vending going on.”
The drum circle gives everyone at the concert the chance to be a part of the community that surrounds JerryFest.
“One of the biggest things that you can get from this kind of show is the feeling that you’re in it together, you’re in it with other people,” says Fetner.
Deadhead or not, open yourself up to the experience of the Columbia arts community and you’ll have a great time at JerryFest.
“Usually the people who are open like that can sneak right in the crowd and start high fiving people and the people who have seen a million Dead shows don’t know that this person is new to the scene, says Fetner.
JerryFest is a pet and family friendly, outdoor event. Vendors include food, clothing, and crafts from: Drifter Merch, Emerald’s Artistry, Hermana Luna, Hippy Do-Da, Sun.Salt.Moon, Sunshine Terrapin, Waccamaw Naturals.