Splintered Sunlight-Brooklyn Bowl Philadelphia – Philadelphia, PA

Splintered Sunlight
Brooklyn Bowl Philadelphia – Philadelphia, PA – May 10, 2024

Review & Photos – Rebecca Wolf

Everyone knows that Grateful Dead fans (“Deadheads”) are a diehard group. They’re devoted to the culture and community of this legendary band and its unique sound, an amalgamation of rock, folk, blues, jazz, bluegrass, country and reggae, with a heavy dose of psychedelia. The music represents a mood, a lifestyle, a moment in time. It’s wrapped in tie-dye and hippie-like attire and often sprinkled with some feel-good pixie dust. Every Dead show is a performance all its own. There are no repeats. There are no steadfast set lists. Each evening is an opportunity for improvisation, for elaborate instrumental jams, for the creation of unexpected musical moments.

With the passing of Jerry Garcia in 1995 the band dissolved, ending the tenure of the Grateful Dead. However, over the past 30 years the surviving members have continued to reunite and perform in various combinations, as well as working on individual musical projects. For the band’s 50th anniversary, in summer 2015, the four surviving members Weir, Lesh, Kreutzmann, and Hart came together for one last musical extravaganza, five concerts called “Fare Thee Well: Celebrating 50 Years of the Grateful Dead,” including two shows in California and three in Chicago. With this being the one and only time these four musicians would perform together again, it’s not surprising that hundreds of thousands of Deadheads from across the nation trekked from near and far for these once in a lifetime performances.

Although the Grateful Dead no longer physically exists, their spirit and music continues on. They’ve left a legacy that remains steadfast in the hearts and souls of their devoted fans. From these original “Deadheads,” a new generation of “Deadheads” has been born, the children and even grandchildren of the OGs. While this younger generation did not arrive at their love of the Dead first hand, they’ve formed a passion for the band and a connection their music that was passed down from those who’ve come before them.

“Deadheads” love to immerse themselves in the energy and spirit of the band. While their music can be enjoyed on a turntable, CD player, car stereo or digital platform, attending a live Grateful Dead performance is when the band’s mood and electricity feels most authentic and enveloping. An ongoing avid desire to experience the band’s music live has lead to the birth of a tremendous number of Grateful Dead tribute bands across the US. Go almost anywhere and you can locate where a Grateful Dead tribute band will be playing on a given evening. There are tribute bands of all levels and expertise, from those playing in local bars (bar entertainment), to those with a regional following, performing in venues and on theater stages.

For over 25 years, one of the most well-regarded, beloved Grateful Dead tribute bands in Philadelphia/NJ region is Splintered Sunlight. For the band to still to be drawing such large, adoring crowds is the best endorsement, as you can’t fool a Deadhead about who’s rightfully honoring their adored band. On May 10th Splintered Sunlight brought the Grateful Dead’s unique energy and spirit to Brooklyn Bowl Philadelphia. At the start of the evening the crowd was thin and the security guard said about 100 tickets had been sold. This was surprising as it didn’t seem like the Deadhead /Splintered Sunlight fans I knew of would give up this opportunity, especially at a venue as cool as Brooklyn Bowl Philadelphia, with it’s vintage carnival decor. How could they resist singing, dancing and immersing themselves in the Dead, even on a unseasonably cold and drizzly night? The answer was, they couldn’t. The desire to be engulfed by the sound of live Dead vocals and instrumentals and to lose oneself in the psychedelic energy and mood pulled them in, ultimately filling the dance floor at the Bowl.

It was clear that many of the fans were longtime followers of Splintered Sunlight. A fan leaning against the front railing recording the show on his iPhone stated that he records all the shows. I recognized a father and young son (maybe 9 years old) from the band’s December performance in Bethlehem was still awed by this very young Deadhead’s excitement and knowledge of every song performed. What was also clear (as with any show related to the Dead) that age, gender, appearance and attire were all irrelevant, everyone was there for the same reason, their devotion to the music of the Dead and hearing it expertly performed by Splintered Sunlight.

The focal point of the band, the “Jerry Garcia” of the group, is lead guitarist and singer, Butchy Sochorow, impressing with his perfected vocal and genuine vibe. Equally impressive with his powerful vocals and rhythm guitar skills is the band’s “Bob Weir,” Mike Kennedy. Additional members include Michael Borowski, on keyboards, Stephen Spatz on bass, and Jerry Horan and Scott Toop on drums. These musicians are not a chatty bunch, they don’t spend a significant amount of time speaking with the crowd. However, this never seemed necessary as their communicating was all done through the music. The crowd sang, danced (twirling about) and “hung out” like friends at a backyard bash, as that casual, friendship vibe is the ultimate signature of most “Dead” shows.

The songs chosen from the Grateful Dead’s vast catalog provided an opportunity to highlight each vocalist’s and instrumentalist’s abilities, always including a number of fan favorites (though for many of these Deadheads all the songs seemed to be favorites.) The band’s almost 3 hour set included “Alabama Getaway,” “Greatest Story Ever Told,” “Jack Straw,” “St. Stephen,” “Fire on the Mountain,” “Candyman” “Mexicali Blues,” Jack Straw,” and “Drum” (an over 10-minute showcase of the percussion wizardry of Horan and Toop.)

Almost 30years since the passing of Jerry Garcia and the ending of the Grateful Dead, their fans remain as diehard a group as ever. How lucky these Deadheads are to have incredible bands like Splintered Sunlight to carry on their legacy, to share the music, culture and community of this legendary band and help pass the legacy on to new Deadhead generations. Check out Splintered Sunlight’s Website and their upcoming shows, including dates in NY, DC, and Baltimore!