Grateful Shred: Hotter than Nashville Chicken

September 9, 2021
Marty Halpern

Prior to the covid outbreak, there wasn’t a band more certain to explode in popularity than Grateful Shred. Founded on a whim in 2016, the rotating crew of California crooners found a niche with their take on the early 70’s era Grateful Dead sound.

After a year-plus on the shelf, the revamped Shred played two shows at LOCKN’ before a flame-throwing performance at Nashville’s Brooklyn Bowl. This lineup was without Shred veterans Clay Finch and Sam Blassuci who are focusing on their Mapache project at this time.

Before the concert, band leader Austin McCutchen offered his thoughts on the band’s early success, closely followed by the halt due to Covid-19.

Photo: Marty Halpern

“It felt great. We were dealt some pretty good cards. We just wanted to go with it, push forward and make things happen,” McCutchen states. “Not being able to play when we had so much on the books was devastating.”

The Shred crew for this run was made up of the core two, McCutchen and Dan Horne. The band featured two drummers – Alex Koford and Austin Beede, and Adam McDougall (Horne’s CATS partner) was on hand to lend his spacy organ and keyboard sounds. Guitarists Taylor Kropp and Omar Velasco replaced Finch and Blassuci.

Velasco spent the night keeping his vocals and guitar tones close to the original Dead sound. Kropp took the opposite approach, adding psychedelic country and rock leads that created one of the more in-your-face sounding Shred concerts than normal. The crowd – finally getting to see the band in person – loudly showed their approval for this configuration.

The band got warmed up with a five-song first set that had the crowd grooving throughout. McDougall’s organ and keys offerings, especially during a spaced-out “Bird Song,” created new paths for the band to explore.

The second set needed the same warning you’d find at the numerous area restaurants that serve Nashville’s world-famous chicken… “This is going to be hot!”  

From note one of “Help on the Way,” the pent-up energy between the band and crowd was unleashed for the next two hours. “Slipknot” turned the clock back to late 60s Dead. Kropp’s unique leads mixed with McDougall and found new avenues to pave the way.

Photo: Marty Halpern

Another standout was the “Truckin’ > Space” combo, again sounding like it was straight out of 1969. A high-energy “Easy Wind” shined as another example of how Shred can change their sound to match the lineup of musicians.

Grateful Shred has a full schedule of shows set for October and doesn’t plan to slow down after that. Stay tuned for part two of our in depth look at the rise and future of Grateful Shred told through the eyes of founders McCutchen and Horne.

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