When beloved Grateful Dead tribute band Forgotten Space announced it would “cease performing for the foreseeable future” in October 2017, the outpouring of love-driven disappointment from St. Louis deadheads was quickly evident on social media.

“The hiatus was our solution to our former lead guitarist, Kenny Withrow, facing a busy upcoming touring year with his band Edie Brickell and New Bohemians,” says Jerry Saracini, drummer and manager for the band. “It was planned to last about a year, but none of us were prepared for the reaction when we announced it. We realized that, just as it has always been with the Grateful Dead, the path forward is about adapting and persevering, so the hiatus only lasted about four months before we came back with an adjusted lineup and a brand new energy and focus.”

In the new lineup, Hunter Hendrickson moved from rhythm guitar to lead guitar, and the band brought Scott Johnson on board as the rhythm guitarist.

“Both have exploded in their respective positions, and the vocal harmonies really came alive as well,” Saracini says. “We also used this opportunity to go back to school with the material again. It’s so fun relearning, rearranging and reinterpreting the Dead’s songbook. We’re hitting some songs that had been neglected before, like [keyboardist and vocalist] Brent [Mydland] stuff, ’90s stuff and some of the covers we hadn’t gotten to.”

By marrying their knowledge and love of the music, along with an effort to perform and improvise in the most honest, authentic and transportive way possible, Forgotten Space truly embodies the spirit of the Dead.

“We have a certain energy and rhythmic element to our approach that’s always been a signature for us,” Saracini explains. “As this music filters through our understanding of it, it comes out in a way that’s familiar but has our own imprint as well. It’s finding and cultivating that balance that’s the key.”

Though based in Texas, Forgotten Space has long been among the Lou’s favorite Dead acts.

“St. Louis has always been one of the most receptive and energetic cities we’ve played, and the Deadheads here have made it extremely special for us every time we’ve come through,” Saracini says. “We love our fan base here, and it’s always been important to us to deliver something special for the St. Louis audience. I grew up here too, and there’s an incredible Deadhead culture that’s been cultivated by bands like Jake’s Leg [and] the Schwag.

“We’ll be hitting on some songs that St. Louis has never heard us play before, which makes it particularly exciting for us. Good energy is already surrounding this show.”

Don’t miss your chance to see Forgotten Space on Friday, Oct. 5, at the Old Rock House in downtown St. Louis. Doors open at 8 p.m. and the show kicks off at 9 p.m. Click here for tickets.

From left, Bob McConville, bass and vocals; Will Hodges, keyboards and vocals; Jerry Saracini, drums and manager; Hunter Hendrickson, lead guitar and vocals; and Scott Johnson, rhythm guitar and vocals. | photo by Andrew Sherman