Fire on the Mountain

Chris Benchetler, skier, artist and Deadhead, recruited his fellow Grateful Dead-loving friends to create “Fire On the Mountain,” a short film inspired by the music and culture of the original psychedelic jam band. The Teton Gravity Research Winter Ball on Friday will feature the film and a live set from Grateful Dead cover band The Deadlocks.

The Grateful Dead closed out the end of an era at the Winterland Arena on Dec. 31, 1978. The famed San Francisco ballroom housed many of the Grateful Dead’s legendary hometown performances throughout the ’70s. With the venue set to close at the end of the year, there was no better band to give it a proper sendoff.

Between New Year’s Eve and the wee hours of New Year’s Day, the band put on a five-hour performance, playing three sets of music, a double encore, and eating a ceremonial breakfast with the audience at dawn.

That was the last performance at Winterland. But this week the music of the Grateful Dead will be played in another winter land: Jackson Hole.

The Deadlocks, Jackson’s local Grateful Dead cover band, are bringing back their annual Winter Ball this Friday at the Pink Garter Theatre.

They’re also adding a cinematic element to their show. To kick things off, Teton Gravity Research will screen its new Grateful Dead-inspired short flick, “Fire on the Mountain.”

“Fire on the Mountain” is the passion project of Chris Benchetler, a skier, artist and later-in-life Deadhead. Last winter he pitched the idea for a Grateful Dead-inspired action sports film to Teton Gravity Research, his sponsors and the band’s management. He pulled in his other Dead-loving skier, snowboarder and surfer friends to make his dream film into a reality this fall.

When Teton Gravity Research premiered the film locally earlier this winter season, it pulled in The Deadlocks to play a few small shows at the media company’s new Teton Village hotel, Continuum.

“We’ve been partnering with TGR to help them promote this movie, and there’s just a great symbiosis between what they were doing, getting this film out, and the productions that we put on,” Deadlocks bassist Jed Frumkin said. “Chris is an incredibly creative guy. His art speaks for itself, and he’s put this movie together by pairing his two greatest passions.”

On Friday, The Deadlocks will perform a live score over “Fire on the Mountain,” bringing the musical elements of the movie to life before launching into two hot sets of Grateful Dead music at the Pink Garter for the first time in three years. Previously, the Deadlocks had put on the Winter Ball for the first six years of the band’s inception.

It’s been said that no Grateful Dead set has ever been the same, and The Deadlocks have picked up that tradition. A week before each show, Jeremy Cohen, the band’s lead guitarist and stand-in Jerry Garcia, sends the band a playlist with about four sets of music to absorb and practice.

“We usually try to bring in at least two times the amount of material that will actually play so that we can change the shows around as we feel like we need to,” Frumkin said, adding that Cohen usually keeps his solos pretty accurate to Garcia’s.

For Friday’s show, Frumkin said, “We’re feeling early ’70s for some reason or another.”

The Grateful Dead toured for three decades, and while there is debate among fans and scholars of the band’s golden era, ’72 was undoubtedly a landmark year. For four months the band traveled across Europe with the Wall of Sound, the band’s behemoth, state-of-the-art concert sound system. The resulting album, “Europe ’72,” is an essential live album for even the newest Deadhead.

With the band’s founding rhythm guitarist, Bob Weir, coming to Jackson for Rendezvous Fest in late March, it’s no surprise The Deadlocks are harking back to some of the band’s best live performances to prepare for both the Winter Ball and their own shows during the resort’s spring music festival.

Come March 26, The Deadlocks will start the weekend festival off with an Under the Tram performance before Bob Weir and Wolf Bros headline the following Saturday.

Frumkin hinted at some additional Deadlocks shows throughout the weekend. Last year they played an after-party at the Mangy Moose and welcomed Greensky Bluegrass’ Anders Beck onto their stage.

“We can’t speculate as to Bob [joining us], but we will have some announcements for the after-party soon,” Frumkin said.

The doors open at 8 p.m. Friday before the screening begins at 9. Tickets start at $16 and can be bought online at PinkGarterTheatre.com. 

Contact Julie Kukral via 732-7062 or entertainment@jhnewsandguide.com.

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