“I'm the only original member left,” said guitarist Robert Harvey. “But I was out of the band mid ’98 to ’02. The current lineup has been together for about four years, but we all had played with one another in different settings for years going back to at least the ’90s if not before.” The current edition of the band also includes Ed Fletcher and Danny Campbell on drums, guitarist Mark Fisher, keyboardist Dave Chesavage and bassist Bob Rosencrans.
In what is one of the longest residencies in San Diego history, February will mark 26 years of Monday night shows from the band at Winston’s. “We're throwing a party on Friday, Feb. 16,” Harvey said. “Though we have the residency, many of our fellow deadheads can't make it out on Mondays, thus the Friday.”
Although the band is a firm festival favorite, they consider Winston’s their favorite venue. “It’s the perfect size, big enough but still intimate, big stage, built in PA system with a soundman, lights, everything you could ask for. But, the best part is the people. Ownership, staff, just everybody takes great care of us. We've even had our same soundman for nine years and we consider him part of the band. It's really a magical place, and it's in OB. Playing Grateful Dead music in OB just seems like such a natural fit.”
He notes that the original concept for the band was not to focus on one act’s music. “We didn't set out to be a Dead tribute band, and I'm not sure we qualify as a tribute band,” Harvey said. “We started by playing our favorite songs, which would qualify as classic rock today. But we soon realized we were all Deadheads and between audience requests and our love of the Dead, we gravitated toward playing more and more Dead tunes.”
The band has roughly 200 Dead and Jerry Garcia songs in their repertoire, and play many of the songs they covered. “However, there are a ton of songs at our disposal, from the Allman Brothers, Beatles, Pink Floyd, Hendrix, SRV, Clapton, Stones, Phish, Santana, and many others. We did some Petty in his honor upon his passing. We did some Bowie in his honor. Our guys have all been playing a long time and have accumulated a wealth of tunes,” he said.
For his part, Harvey questions whether they are really a tribute band. “Here's where I question it – When the dead covered a song, they didn't try to sound like the artist they were covering,” he pointed out. “Instead they brought out the particular aspects of the song they enjoyed, but it was clearly the Dead's version of that song. Understanding this, we imitate the Dead by not imitating the Dead. So to answer the question, we play our interpretations of the songs and we are not trying for any exact recreation,” Harvey said.
“Now, the marketplace seems to favor bands that sound very much like the Dead. But that seems to me to be very unDead like. It also seems very limiting. I want my guys to have the freedom to play whatever they feel like playing in the moment, and not having to contain themselves to fit within a particular part,” he continued. “When Mark and I go off on a double solo, and the drums are wailing away, the bass is digging deep and the keys are lifting the music toward the heavens, it's not recreating the Dead. It's what's happening now, in this moment, in this venue, with this crowd and the combined energy of all involved. I like to think we're not recreating anything from the past but creating in the moment in the present.”
After 28 years of playing in Ocean Beach, Harvey is clear on his favorite part of Electric Waste Band’s long run. “There's the 26 years of Monday nights at the best venue in town,” he remarked.
“But for me, it's all the kind people, friends old and new, that have come into my life as a result of this band playing the music I love. We have an amazing crew of fans and fellow Deadheads who come to support and share in the music. The support and friendship, is something I can’t say enough about. I feel blessed,” Harvey said.