It has been a long time since I interviewed a band that’s actually going to perform in front of an audience here in our fair state. So, it’s with great pleasure that I recently chatted with Gregory Thom of the Grateful Dead tribute group, Not Fade Away Band, who will be at the Somerset Abbey on Friday, July 10 for that venue’s return to hosting concerts. The New Hampshire-based NFAB is made up of five seasoned musicians with the following stage names: Gregory Joseph (Thom) on guitar and vocals, Tennessee Josh on guitar and vocals, Cassidy Jones on keyboards and vocals, CC Ryder on bass, and Tom O’ on drums. I called Thom at home and began by explaining …

Q: You’re one of the first interviews I’ve done since mid-March with a band member who’s actually going to be performing a live, in-person show in the central Maine area.
Thom: I’m excited to do that — to do the interview and to perform (chuckle)!

Q: When you could, did you do much touring up here in Maine, or in central Maine specifically?
Thom: Not a lot. We’ve played some events and some larger private events up in Maine at farms and things like that. So, occasionally we get up there, we’re in Massachusetts and New Hampshire more often.

Q: What part of New Hampshire do you call home?
Thom: We’re located out of the seacoast area.

Q: How long has the band been together?
Thom: Since around 2012, we got together as a casual thing. I had been playing in an original/classic rock cover (band) previous to that and decided I wanted to take a break from that.

Q: What turned you off about it?
Thom: Mostly because we were playing to beach crowds where people would roll in, but there wasn’t the sense of community, I would say, that something like this could bring. So that idea entered my head and, in fact, I wasn’t really pleased with the direction of like pop/rock radio. I didn’t want to play those songs in the mix. I wanted to go back to my roots and see about forming a Grateful Dead tribute band and maybe we’d mix a few other things in … with the intention of really having a strong vocal presence, making sure it was high energy, and that we’d definitely mix in a bit of improvisation and play things in different ways all the time. We didn’t want to keep it static and we wanted to have a very large songbook out of the Dead’s repertoire and other things we pull in from time to time. That way people could come to see us show after show and always be entertained and want to come back for more. That was the hope, … and we’ve done pretty good at reaching that level here, I’m pleased to say.

Q: What kind of response do you get from concert goers?
Thom: One of the things that people will say about us concerns the vocal harmonies — we have three lead vocalists in the band …

Q: Nice!
Thom: … four vocalists overall and the three leads really harmonize well together, so that’s something we strive for. It’s really important, I think, to have that vocal presence. There are a lot of good Dead cover bands and they all do it a little differently, which is great, it keeps the community going, but finding one with good vocals is more rare than you’d hope for (chuckle). So that’s why it’s really important to us.

Q: Man, this is funny because vocal harmonies is one of the most influential elements in my appreciation of music. Now, just out of curiosity, do you do “Throwing Stones” in your show?
Thom: We do, yes.

Q: That has to be one of my favorite Dead songs — the vocal harmonies are killer, for sure.
Thom: Yeah, I agree. “Throwing Stones” and “Ship of Fools” have some special meaning in this day and age.

Q: Yes — oh, Lord, yes!
Thom: Another thing that I should add is that we get pretty raucous, too. We’re not a kind of laid-back version which you can also see in Grateful Dead tributes. We’re a show and people tend to pay close attention to what we’re doing (chuckle), which is great and very rewarding to have that kind of energy exchange with the audience. … It is something which we value so much.

Q: And for the last four months it’s something that we all have missed … as Jorma Kaukonen stated: “It’s a beast unto itself.”
Thom: We watched his livestream from the Fur Peace Ranch — that was pretty sweet. … He’s a force.

Q: Now, about this upcoming show at the Somerset Abbey in Madison, can you fill me in on what it’ll be like?
Thom: It’ll be the regular full-band, electric show that we would have played under other circumstances. I think it will be at a somewhat limited capacity. They’re going to have to spread out the tables and follow the guidelines to keep everyone safe, which is great and that makes us feel comfortable about going forward with it.

Q: Have you done any livestreaming yourself?
Thom: We did a couple of acoustic livestreams on our (Facebook) page, so we’ve just started experimenting with that. We got a new camera to do that and to make sure we’re coming out with a soundboard mix. … We want to do it right. And we will be doing more of that, because I think that’s going to be a primary outlet for many people, as you see with Jorma. For us, it’s not something where we’re looking for funds; we’re very fortunate to do this as a very serious second gig. It’s not our full-time job as many of the touring musicians would have; it’s a very different situation. I feel for some of them and some of our friends that we know who do that. So, it’s very interesting times in that perspective.

Q: Is there anything, Greg, that you’d like me to pass on to the folks reading this article?
Thom: No, I think if you reference the website and then whatever you’d like to pull from the conversation that we’ve had is great. I will share with you something that’s extra special to me — we’ve not put it in media before though some of our closest fans know this — my oldest son plays the second guitar part and some of the leads with us. And, wow, what a ride it has been and we’re just all loving that aspect. It’s pretty sweet to be up there and playing with him, and watching him grow and adapting to this catalogue. … It’s just been tremendous.

Q: I bet it has — to have your son follow in your footsteps, yeah, that is very special. What’s his name?
Thom: His name is Joshua.

Lucky Clark has spent over 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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