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Q&A with Michael Wegner of Cosmic Charlie, a Grateful Dead cover band

Deadhead Masquerade
Cosmic Charlie, a Grateful Dead cover band, will perform at the Deadhead Masquerade Saturday. Photo courtesy of Michael Wegner.

Cat’s Cradle is throwing a Deadhead Masquerade Ball this Saturday. Cosmic Charlie, a Grateful Dead cover band, will be performing two sets for the ball. 

Staff writer Seth Pyle spoke with Michael Wegner, the lead guitarist for Cosmic Charlie, about the upcoming ball and being in a Grateful Dead cover band. 

The Daily Tar Heel: How do you feel about playing at the Cat’s Cradle? 

Michael Wegner: We’ve been playing since 1999, and we’ve been playing at the Cat’s Cradle since not long after that, around early 2001. Pretty much been steadily one of our favorite venues to come back to. Always a good time.

DTH: Have you ever done a Halloween show before?

MW: Strangely enough, we haven’t really. First time we’ve done an all-out Halloween themed show. There will be a costume contest with giveaways, and we’ll have some Halloween-themed tunes. We don’t have a master plan, but I think everyone is going to get a little decked out for this.

DTH: Do you see a connection between the Grateful Dead and Halloween? 

MW: Well, it’s got dead in the name. There was always a certain level of mystery about them. Musically, heavy on the jamming and improvisation, known for playing their songs differently every night. Sort of goes with the Halloween spirit.

DTH: What makes Cosmic Charlie unique, being a Grateful Dead cover band? 

MW: It makes it fun for the band members. Instead of trying to try and kind of mimic the cover of something to a T, you’re just mimicking the spirit of the Dead, which is a lot of jamming, making it more interesting from the band's point of view.

A couple of us play in the Beatles tribute band, “Abbey Road LIVE!,” which is playing at the Cradle in a couple of weeks and, of course, that’s fun, too, but it's completely different than coming out with Cosmic Charlie because you get more creative input. You really are having a jazz influence where you’re listening to the other players and playing off each other. You might wind up with a totally different version of the song and then just string songs together.

DTH: Do you have any songs in mind for this weekend? 

MW: We don’t have any setlists going into a show. We do take fan requests. Not to spoil anything, but we do have a couple Halloween songs the Dead did that they were known for. I’ll go ahead and drop one — "Werewolves of London," a song the Dead used to cover, and we’ve got a bunch of requests for already. 

DTH: How does this impact the performance? 

MW: We play over a 100 or 150 Dead tunes, so a couple might come up — and that’s the fun for us. We're playing three shows this weekend, two sets each night and we’ll play different songs each night. Where, for example, another tribute band will play almost the same set every night. You know you play the hits, you play what the audience wants to hear. That’s one nice thing about the Dead and their audience — they want to hear different stuff. 


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