I was born in 1966 and grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I had the benefit of having a brother who was 7 years older and really into music. He was also a great musician, a piano player. He is the one who turned me on to the Grateful Dead. 

My brother had a great library of vinyl records. My first experience of listening to Grateful Dead was around 10 years old, when I came across his album — Europe ’72 — the goofy guy with the ice cream cone smashed on his head. I saw that, and thought that it looked like this fun. The songs on that album became some of my favorites of the time. 

I became a musician at a very young age. My first instrument was piano. I played classical piano until about 15. I started singing in church and high school. That’s where I learned to sing and harmonize. I did play in a few bands toward the end of high school.  I remember our senior talent show where I sang Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze,” the Eagles’ “Take It Easy,” and also the Who — “Pinball Wizard.” It wasn’t until college that I started playing guitar. 

I went to UCLA from ‘87 to ’92. Interestingly, my first Dead show was Anaheim CA ’87 at Angel Stadium. It was a friend from high school who convinced me to go. That was the start of my “long strange trip.” I’m sure everybody can relate to this, but as much as the music, it was the scene of the Dead both in the parking lot and in the venue that blew my mind. It was lifechanging for sure. 

From there, I was lucky to make Dead Head friends in college. We probably traveled to three or four cities a year during that time to see the Dead. But you know if you would go to a city, you’re going to two or three shows. Some of the more memorable ones were at the Kaiser in ’88 and the Forum where I first got to try my hand at the Shakedown Street. My buddy and I were short on cash We bought five cases of Milwaukee’s Best and sold them all for a dollar a beer and we paid for our tickets and all of our paraphernalia. And that one is in an amazing thing too. I can see the whole draw of the Shakedown. I got to be a part of that in 1988. 

Where I really came to appreciate the Grateful Dead Family was the summer of ’89 when I road tripped with a high school buddy from Oklahoma to Alpine Valley, Wisconsin, and we got to see the Dead for three nights. We rolled in the night before the first show. The Who was playing that night on their Tommy Tour and we were one of the first Grateful Dead fans there. We parked our car right in front of the entrance because there were no Heads there yet. 

When we woke up the next morning to check our surroundings, we were blown away. A city of Dead Heads had overtaken the fields around the venue. We were locked in, you know, five thousand cars had parked there overnight. So, we had to rely on our neighbors that were parked next to us for food and water. We finally hitch-hiked to the nearest town for supplies. But that was where I really understood the Grateful Dead family and how they bring you into their group and take care of you. We would have been screwed, if we hadn’t had some help from some people at that show. And, man, those shows were just phenomenal. They made a full length feature DVD out of them. I think it’s called Down Hill From Here. Check it out. Some of Jerry’s strongest performing in the ‘80’s

In college, my roommate was a pole vaulter on the track team but he was also an amazing blues guitar player. He and I used to go to these open mic nights in Los Angeles and sit in, like at Harvel’s in Santa Monica, St. Marks in Venice, and Yesterday’s in Westwood. There were several places around LA where we performed in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s. 

I started performing regularly around San Diego in the late 90s. My first band that played any Grateful Dead was a band called Super G. Formed around 2012, we were a variety jam band that also played other types of classic and psychedelic rock. We did pretty well around town But, in the fall of 2015 that band was falling apart and I just knew that trying to put it back together again would never be as good as the original band. It was the Fall of 2015. I had recently seen the Bay Area Fare Thee Well shows and was on a backpack trip in the Sierra. The idea came to me as I was hiking up a trail listening to the Grateful Dead — I decided this was the time to try to start a Grateful Dead band.  

At the end of 2015 there weren’t many regularly performing Dead cover bands in Southern California. Electric Waste Band in San Diego and Cubensis in LA. I got really lucky forming Easy Wind. I placed one ad in Craigslist and I got the whole band filled with top notch experienced musicians who knew the dead playbook well. 

Our founding lead guitar player, Larry Flynn, was very accomplished and embodied the style and feel of Jerry’s riffing. He left the band in ’22 to work on his original material. Our founding bass player, Marty Holland, was also incredible, having been a touring member of Melvin Seals’s JGB in the 2000’s. He moved on to other projects over a year ago. Mark Bentley was our founding keyboard player. A long time bandmate of Johnny Vernaza, Mark is one of the best blues keyboard/harmonica players in Southern California. He’s been dealing with some health setbacks, but we hope to have him back doing the Pigpen tunes someday. Frank Lazzaro is our founding and current drummer. He has a band called the Travel Agents, which is a longtime Grateful Dead cover band in San Diego. They’ve actually been around for 20, 25 years. He’s phenomenal and really knows the authentic fills of Kreutzman. 

But any way, we started playing around town and rose to popularity really quickly. Within the first year we played at the Belly Up here in San Diego. We opened for a Tom Petty tribute band and soon after that we started playing the Belly Up two or three times a year as the only band. Belly Up is our premier live music venue in San Diego County under 1000 capacity. We sold that venue out last summer for our Jerry Garcia Birthday Celebration. We’re continuing to grow our regional influence and improve as a band with some new members that have joined in the last couple of years. 

As for the current line up, Frank Lazzaro is our founding drummer, he is still with us. We also have Domonic Estes now on lead guitar. He is a young shredder. Huge lover of the Dead and jam bands since he was a kid. As good as he is as a guitar player, he’s even more impressive in his quest for the ultimate Jerry tone via his amp, power, and effects. I have never seen anyone so dedicated to that quest! 

We have David Isaac on bass, he is a phenomenal talent, plays a lot of jazz in other bands. Super brilliant with our jam sequences. Chase Pado is a young piano keyboard phenom, really amazing. I believe he has a music degree from UCSD? Major skills and just a fabulous improviser! Rosy Dawn Selwitz is our Donna Godchaux. Her stage energy and voice really add to our shows. I believe she has a music degree as well in voice. Lastly, we recently added Danny Campbell as 2nd drummer. He was a longtime drummer with Electric Waste Band and knows the Dead playbook well. A prolific performer. Likely one of the busiest drummers in San Diego. That’s our niche with Easy Wind- ‘70s era Grateful Dead. 

We try to do it as authentically as possible. It’s funny, when I first started Easy Wind, I was the weak link in the band by far. I had to really dive into the material to get up to speed with the other guys in the band. So. I took it upon myself to really learn Bob Weir’s guitar playing as authentically as I could. It was not easy. He is a hard guy to try to emulate. I had never played chords in the finger positions that I did with learning Bob Weir’s guitar parts. 

It’s been an amazing journey with Easy Wind. We are starting our 9th year and I’m just now feeling like I’m getting to a high comfort level with Bobby stylings and finger positions to focus on being a performer. Studying Bobby’s style so deeply, I’ve learned he played these songs quite differently from one era to the next. You could listen to an early ‘70s version of let’s say “Let it Grow” or “Black-Throated Wind,” and then listen to one five years later, and he played it completely differently, and if you listened to one from the ‘80s, it was different still. 

That’s one of the things I love about playing Grateful Dead, There are so many different ways to play their songs. Varying tempo or switching fingering styles. I couldn’t imagine playing another cover band for as long as I have. I would have lost interest. 

Being a Dead Head is such a good trip. For me, it kind of goes back to that experience I told you about at Alpine Valley in 1989. No matter where we have played and we played in Northern California, LA, and Orange County — wherever we’ve played, the Dead head fans are so welcoming and kind. They are also ravenous too! 

Early on, as a promoter for Easy Wind, I always worried we can’t have a show that is right after another big Dead show, but I have learned now that Dead Heads are so ravenous that is not such a big deal. Fans will come three time a week to see Dead cover bands, if the music is good. They are great that way and supportive of us. There is such a vibrant Grateful Dead community here in San Diego county. We have to give a lot of credit to Electric Waste Band for building the fan base here over the last 30 plus years. 

Easy Wind is super excited to be performing at Skull and Roses. I brought my daughter two years ago. I wanted her to see my favorite Grateful Dead tribute band, Dark Star Orchestra. We went up there without tickets, hoping we might get a miracle. We get there and quickly run into an Easy Wind fan who has a couple of extra tickets. Miracle tickets in hand. There we are, VIP. Everybody was so welcoming and made my daughter feel like she was part of the Grateful Dead family. That experience is likely a big reason why she has gravitated toward them today! See you in Ventura.

Photographs by Dave Stotts Photography

See Patrick Brown with Easy Wind at Skull & Roses Festival