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Chapel Hill dads cover Grateful Dead tunes for good times and stress relief

loose lucies
Jonathan Abramowitz, a professor in the Department of Psychology, balances his work, family, and love of music as the lead member of the "Loose Lucies". The band is inspired by "The Grateful Dead", and their upcoming show will be at the Honeysuckle Tea House in Chapel Hill on Sunday, October 7th from 3-6pm.

He feels his heart pounding every time he steps onstage with a guitar.

UNC professor Jon Abramowitz had friends scattered throughout the crowd Sunday at the Carrboro Music Festival. As one of the first acts of the day, he knew his band The Loose Lucies had to kick off the event on the right note.

“I get that fight or flight response,” Abramowitz said. “My heart was like, ‘I better do a good job, I don’t want to let anyone down. I don’t want to let my bandmates down.’ At first, there’s definitely a feeling like, ‘Holy shit.’”

After the first 10 minutes, he said he calmed down, and the music flowed naturally between him and his bandmates. They enjoyed a 45-minute set list before heading offstage.

He said no matter how stressed or anxious he is, performing always soothes him.

“The adrenaline’s really flowing,” he said. “People are really there just to listen to you. It’s not like a pool party, where people are talking to each other while we’re playing – you save your best stuff for it.”

Lead guitarist Abramowitz said his favorite performance experience is always the most recent one. The Grateful Dead-inspired band has been playing together for over three years, so there are plenty of performances to consider.

It all started when bassist Ben Hoffman wore a Grateful Dead t-shirt to his child’s class picnic.

Abramowitz, who was attending the picnic with one of his daughters, saw the shirt and introduced himself. They were fast friends, and it was not soon after that they got a group together for jam sessions.

“It’s a great outlet,” Abramowitz said. “It’s a great way to keep in touch with friends, and it’s a great anxiety reducer.”

Anxiety is something that Abramowitz is very familiar with – as a professor of clinical psychology, he has spent his career studying stress, anxiety disorders and OCD.

Though his research does not directly focus on the relationship between stress, anxiety and music, he said he has personally experienced the positive effects of playing an instrument or listening to songs.

“When I’m anxious, I pick up my guitar, and I’ll play,” he said. “Certainly, music can be soothing. And I’m sure that’s something a lot of people turn to as a way of coping with anxiety.”

Abramowitz’s claim holds weight. According to a study from the National Institute of Health, 39.1 percent of people surveyed said they use music as a way of escapism, social bonding or diversion from issues.

Hoffman, bassist of The Loose Lucies, said he definitely uses performance as a way of unwinding.

“When I’m playing, it completely captivates me,” he said. “I feel like I get a complete vacation from life. At the end of it, I’m physically exhausted – I’m spent. So there’s that satisfaction, and the whole thing is fun. The stress clock starts over from zero again.”

Hoffman said jamming with his bandmates is the perfect way to connect with friends while simultaneously feel comfortable and at ease.

“I’ll daydream about the next time we get to play,” he said. “Some people get together once a week for a beer, or they’ll get together for a walk in the woods. Playing together feels relaxing like that.”

While The Loose Lucies members said they feel the positive effects performing can have on anxiety or stress, just listening to music is also a way to alleviate those feelings.

UNC senior Robert Kutrow is a Grateful Dead fan who has dealt with anxiety and depression for years. He said listening to concerts or performances helps soothe him.

“Music has been a really, really powerful thing,” he said. “I often tell my friends, ‘I need to listen to some tapes and chill out.’ Diving into a recorded concert is one of my main strategies for tuning out and de-stressing.”

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Though Kutrow has never seen Abramowitz and Hoffman perform, he said he loves the Grateful Dead era of music, and he would be willing to give The Loose Lucies a listen.

And luckily for Kutrow, the band will be at the Honeysuckle Tea House on Sunday, Oct. 7, playing covers of popular Grateful Dead songs.

Hoffman said when he started playing bass seven years ago, he never imagined he would join a band, but he said it is one of the most fun and fulfilling things he has ever done.

“It’s a lot more laid back than I thought it would be,” he said. “It feels like I’m a kid again. Before I started doing this, I didn’t realize that play could be part of being an adult.”