The Schwag has been “deadicated” to perpetuating the vibe and music of the Grateful Dead since the St. Louis-based band formed in 1991. Averaging 150 shows a year, the beloved group travels all across the country; however, they keep a strong focus in the Midwest and St. Louis. They also hosted the legendary Schwagstock festivals for many years at Camp Zoe near Salem, Missouri; although this campground is now nothing more than a shining memory and a state park, those who attended the festivals share a special bond.
On Saturday, the Schwag will celebrate band leader and bassist Jimmy Tebeau’s 50th birthday with a show at Delmar Hall. Below, we asked Tebeau a few questions about the band he has fostered for over two decades.
What’s it like to be a staple in the StL music scene for over 25 years?
It is great to be respected as a solid and consistent performer in the St. Louis music scene. It helps make it easier to find work in the area due to this reputation. It also helps me find musicians and crew to help perform all these shows I keep booking. I do like to travel but St. Louis is my home and my favorite city to perform in.
How do you keep the shows fresh and exciting?
I do this by making all the shows different with changing up song selection and the way we play the songs each night. There is a lot of musical freedom within much of the Grateful Dead’s material. We get into deep improvisation at each show, making it fresh for the band members and audience alike. I also switch up band members over time to give the band a new look and sound. The Schwag tends to be an ever-evolving cast of musical characters from around the country.
Anything special in the works for this show in light of it being your birthday celebration?
This show is not only a celebration of me being alive 50 years but also still being in the band playing music and touring. For this concert, I will be bringing in a few different musicians to add to the mix as well as digging deeper into the Grateful Dead repertoire. There will also be a few musical curve balls happening throughout the show. You can also expect a birthday cake, balloons, a photo booth and possibly some goofy hats.
What’s the best part about playing in StL?
The best part is the great audiences and well organized music venues. St. Louis has a strong music community of great musicians as well as much support for cultural events such as concerts and theater presentations. There are many great players to jam with and a lot of cool venues to play. You can see awesome music in St. Louis seven nights a week if you know where to look.
What inspires you to keep truckin’ on?
I have been asking myself that a lot more often lately. This gig is really demanding mentally and physically, and I often wonder how much longer I can keep it going. It must be the love of the music and the energy that surrounds it which inspires me to keep on Truckin.’ There is this magical musical connection which happens between the band and the audience during the songs at our shows. It tends to build to this great musical catharsis and release of energy that makes everyone cheer at the same time in middle of the song. Sometimes I say I am a self-confessed jamaholic, and all the gigs I play are merely therapy for my musical addiction. M