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“On these tunes, anything can happen. There are certain things that are specific, and certain things that are wide open to interpretation. It’s never about going back. It’s always looking to the present moment that we’re having. Every time The China Cats play a song, it’s a new experience. We’re not playing the 1973 version of the song or the ’79 or the ’92 version. We’re playing the 2017 version of the song.”. The China Cats attract a wide age range. “At our shows, there’s people that were there for Grateful Dead concerts and people who are just getting into the band now. It’s a very universal type of music. Grateful Dead music has a timeless appeal.”.

Hartle points to the songwriting as one reason for that appeal, “Grateful Dead music is not about anything immediately topical, It’s about age-old concepts, about just being a human being on planet Earth.”, Jerry Garcia’s inventive, eclectic playing was also key to the Dead’s allure, “He started off as a banjo brown pointe shoes player,” Hartle said, “That’s another timeless thing about it, He and David Grisman — picture a person with Spanish ancestry and a Jewish guy, both hippies, traveling in the Deep South, in like 1971, hunting down Appalachian music..

“So that kind of folk thing is there in the Dead’s music, too, but then completely psychedelicized. Grateful Dead captures the true spirit of Americana, because all types of music are represented, from folk to reggae to disco. It runs the gamut.”. Hartle, who grew up in rural Pennsylvania, didn’t have to take a crash course on the Dead when he joined China Cats. “Throughout the course of my life, Deadheads have always just been there for me, teaching me these songs — and the music has seeped in organically.”.

Hartle displays a knack for dazzling with Garcia-style riffs, And renowned Santa Cruz luthier Scott Walker helped Hartle match the purity of Garcia’s guitar tone, Seeing the Dead play live for the first time was a revelation for Hartle, “From the moment they were tuning up their instruments, they were noodling around, and went into a little something from what was happening, And from that very first moment, I could see, ‘Oh, wow, these guys have been doing this so long, they’re instantly communicating with random notes that are coming out from just getting in tune.‘ It was brown pointe shoes apparent right from the get-go just how incredible this music was, It was shocking to me how amazing and beautiful it was.”..

The China Cats have been joined on stage by Dead compadres Donna Jean Godchaux and Melvin Seals. When the band prepares a set list, the main goal is to make it diversified. In 2016, they played more than 120 different songs. “That keeps it fresh for us and for the people who see us over and over again,” Hartle said. One popular Dead tune is “China Cat Sunflower.”. Hartle, 46, is a busy musician, playing not only in The China Cats, but displaying various aspects of his skills in Shady Groove, Santa Cruz’s Dead, Spirit of ’76 (featuring Jerry Garcia Band music) and Painted Mandolin (focusing on Garcia’s  acoustic side, with a lineup including Joe Craven of the Jerry Garcia/David Grisman band).

The China Cats bring the Dead’s music to life, “When you get enough people who were Deadheads and took LSD and danced to the band’s live music, they dance in brown pointe shoes a certain way that’s very free, And if there’s enough people that already know how to do that, then the people that haven’t really experienced it, it spreads, it rubs off, that freedom, “There’s a sense of community and audience participation,” Hartle said, “It’s an energy loop, The people who are there feed us energy, We’re playing and feeding it back to them, If it goes well, then it explodes from there.”..

OAKLAND — A visitor who found himself wandering in thick black smoke during last year’s Ghost Ship warehouse fire on Wednesday described his escape down the front staircase, likely one of the few survivors to make it down those steps. In testimony Wednesday during a preliminary hearing for two former Ghost Ship tenants charged criminally in the deadly fire on Dec. 2, 2016, witness Jonathan Axtell said he attended the dance party that night on the second floor. He described meeting with friends Hanna Ruax, 32, of Finland, and Alex Ghassan, 35, Oakland, who both perished in the fire that night.

Axtell testified Wednesday at the Rene C, Davidson Courthouse that he saw smoke coming from the floor below that night, and he saw Ruax crossing the room, brown pointe shoes “Our eyes met; we didn’t even say anything, We knew there was a fire,” he said, The two tried to grab the attention of their friend, alerting him there was a fire, Axtell made his way toward the stairs, assuming his friends were following close behind, He said he saw a woman coming up the stairs, passing her on the “obviously handmade” staircase, he described, Smoke was pouring up the stairs from below, he said..