Dead On Mondaze

By Dennis Strazulo

When Terrapin Crossroads sadly closed its doors, Diane Kucera rebounded quickly by getting hired to join the Event Support team at Sweetwater Music Hall.  Kucera, a fixture/staple at Terrapin where she held a similar position, was thinking about the lineup of so many amazing musicians who were fixtures performing regularly on Terrapin’s stages. The closing of the beloved music venue on October 31, 2021, had surely created a void in their careers, if not their simple desire to play music. Fans of those musicians and the  venue had also lost what many considered their “clubhouse”.

So, Kucera approached Sweetwater GM, Maria Hoppe, with an idea.  Why not reach out to that talented crew of artists and create a spot at Sweetwater for the musicians to play, the audience to gather, and the music to carry on? Hoppe was game and asked Kucera to facilitate connections with the former Terrapin connections and community. Kucera immediately thought of Scott Guberman as the person who could give the ideas some legs , Guberman acted quickly. Coincidentally, just before he was introduced to Hoppe and when he was really missing the Grateful Dead nights at Terrapin, people were approaching him about getting something going elsewhere. “Terrapin and Sweetwater were always the anchors representing the Marin music scene,” he told us, “and both places had Grateful Dead connections, so Sweetwater was on the top of my list.” After Kucera’s nudge, Guberman met with Hoppe who humbly revealed, “ I have to admit, I felt fortunate to have hired Kucerat, the former Terrapin event support ace, in the process of reinvigorating Sweetwater”, which itself had closed for over a year due to the pandemic. (See the full story of the Sweetwater’s re-opening in MVL’s September 2021 issue.) Hoppe had tentatively decided the nightclub would be closed on Mondays as they built up their live show bookings, but after speaking with Guberman, immediately shifted to the idea of earmarking that night for the deposed Terrapin regulars – musicians and music lovers alike. 

Guberman offered to curate a rotating cast that could replicate the Grateful Dead sound and vibe/scene that permeated Terrapin for over ten years. “It’s really been just as simple as calling my friends and organizing them,” he said. And just like that, Dead on Mondaze was born. A recurring show on the calendar every Monday night at Sweetwater. The series – which Sweetwater aptly touts as Monday night jam sessions boasts a rotating lineup of stellar Bay Area musicians who explore the Grateful Dead catalog and beyond. The sessions began on the first Monday of the year and gained rising popularity with each passing week. Hoppe shared that the first show on January 3 sold about 10 advance tickets and had about 20 walk-ups. Four weeks later there were 150 people in the room and “it felt like a Friday night show,” she said.

Like the Grateful Dead’s seemingly endless inventory of music, the roster of the aforementioned Bay Area musicians who have already joined the fray is plentiful and far from being exhausted.  The list includes Mark Karan, Rhyne Erde, Murph Murphy, Brian Rashap, Jeremy Hoenig, Reed Mathis, Garrett Deloian, Steve Pile, Burt Lewis, Mookie Siegal, Pete Lavezzoli, Matt Hartle, Jordan Feinstein, Danny Eisenberg, Rodney Newman, Elliot Peck, and Grahame Lesh. 

We caught up with the crew Guberman presented on Valentine’s Day when Alex Jordon, Angeline Saris, Alex Koford, and Danny Luehring joined him on stage- (and yes, they played They Love Each Other.) All of them shared similar sentiments about their lasting memories and relationships created at Terrapin, expressing gratitude for the opportunities presented there. As Koford put it, “Terrapin was an amazing chapter.”  So how do those experiences compare to this new chapter, creating the music from a different venue? “ It’s less about the place and more about people bonding through the experience of music – the vibrations of it,” Luehring offered. “Maybe switching venues is a good thing,” he added. It forces us to concentrate on what the community is, more than just the physical place. We see the same faces and we see new faces..but it’s the same vibe that binds us together.” As Guberman put it when told there was an evolving sentiment that Terrapin had found a new place at Sweetwater for the Dead on Mondaze shows: “someone said Terrapin is not a place it’s a state of mind. So, it feels real good to hear that people are having those same feelings and experiences at Sweetwater.” Saris may have had the most succinct conclusion by asking and answering the question, ‘How do you define home? Home is where the love is? This is now home!”

There is no doubt the music will continue to evolve from this new home to an incredible cast of rotating characters. As Jordan reflected, “one unique aspect of Terrapin is that the bar shows were different every night. Because of that, in part, I think we are all better musicians than we were eight years ago. We can take are cues from that and apply it here at Sweetwater.”