Cubensis Keeps the Dead Alive in Long Beach

Golden Sails Hotel

The PCH club bar, at the Best Western Golden Sails Hotel, was sparsely occupied by just over a dozen people as the evening of classic rock worship led by Cubensis began last Friday. Local progressive rock band Legacy started the entertainment at 9:15 pm. Their performances of Yes, Rush, and Pink Floyd tunes quickly gained the rapt attention of those that had been in attendance as well as that of the throngs of people who had gradually started to pack the place. By the time the band performed an impressive rendition of Rush’s “Red Barchetta,” there were around a hundred people in the bar. When they wrapped their set with a fun, prolonged jam on Yes’s “Starship Trooper,” about an hour later, those hundred people had probably doubled. It took about an hour after that for headliners Cubensis to get fired up, but the experience was well worth the wait.

It was about ten after eleven when the renowned SoCal Grateful Dead tribute band launched into “Jack Straw,” and for the following two hours and twenty minutes, the band would have everyone in the bar, guests as well as security guards and bartenders, swinging to terrific performances of the groovy tunes of the Grateful Dead. The first set continued with some pretty amazing jams, including: “China Cat Sunflower / I Know You Rider,” “Truckin’,” “Tennessee Jed,” and “Bertha.” Nate LaPointe, who essentially plays the Bob Weir guitar role in Cubensis, was replaced by Shawn Cunnane for this performance. Cunnane did a great job on guitar and singing most of the tunes, with keyboardist Tom Ryan helming some vocals, like The Beatles’ “I Am The Walrus,” which was one of the few non-Dead tunes of the night.

The performance of each member of the band was consistently solid throughout the evening, and Craig Marshall’s solos were dead ringers for those of Jerry Garcia, stylistically and spiritually speaking. That is to say, Marshall’s solos are every bit his own, but at the same time, they alternately resonate with the distinct cadence and freeform methodology of Garcia’s style. At half past midnight, Marshall, Cunnane, Ryan, and Ryan’s intense bass-playing brother Larry left the stage to the percussionists, Ed Fletcher and Brad Rhodus, who carried on the tradition of Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann’s “Drums” portion of the show for an invocative 10 minutes of rhythms. Next, the Ryans returned for a brief “Space.”

When Marshall and Cunnane returned, they fired up their second set with “Althea.” At 1:00 am, when the show was scheduled to end, it seemed like a great rendition of Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” was destined to close the show, but the band kept on playing, getting in a terrific “I Need a Miracle,” and finally a pretty intense “Casey Jones,” which actually turned into a nice thrashing jam near its end. As the crowd thinned, numerous audience members hugged one another as well as the band members, proving that the old Dead principle — that the audiences are just as much a part of the experience as the musicians — is alive and well for Cubensis. For Grateful Dead fans who have not seen a Cubensis show, they really ought to get their butts to the next one. Current members of the extended Cubensis family, naturally, need no further encouragement; however, for people who are strangers to the Grateful Dead / Cubensis experience, it is a truly remarkable phenomenon in the realm of live concerts / social events that must be experienced.

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