By Andy J. Gordon
Marcus Rezak is a genre-defying, prolific guitarist who is equally comfortable in the progressive rock, modern jazz and jamband scenes. His “Shred is Dead” project rotates an impressive lineup of artists reinterpreting the music of the Grateful Dead. Their show at The Mint in Los Angeles on June 15, 2019, captured the magic of the Dead while also adding new material from Rezak’s recently released Gateway to the Galaxy album as well as a few additional specially selected covers.
Rezak made his name about ten years ago in Chicago with Digital Tape Machine, a prog-rock project with Kris Myers and Joel Cummins from Umphrey’s McGee. He has also collaborated and done session work with Ratdog, The Disco Biscuits, String Cheese Incident, The Motet, Dopapod, RAQ, Primus and Circles Around The Sun, among others. When not touring, Rezak is based in Los Angeles, where he does live and remote studio work, in addition to teaching guitar to primarily jazz students.
Rezak enlisted The Disco Biscuits’ drummer Allen Aucoin for the Mint gig and they got the Deadheads in attendance dancing and twirling right from the first notes of the night. The band opened with an instrumental version of “Scarlet Begonias.” Rezak epitomizes the “shred” in the band’s name with his amazing fret work and finger tapping. The band does not try to duplicate the Dead songs but uses a free-flowing vibe that takes the songs in a new direction with a progressive-rock punch.
They followed with another instrumental, a long exploratory version of “Dark Star.” Rezak showed that he can sing as well as shred on “Cold Rain and Snow,” “Bertha” and “Estimated Prophet,” then followed up with an instrumental version of “Crazy Fingers” that kept the audience moving. Rezak sang again on a slowed-down, trippy “Sugaree” before launching into an unexpected but extremely impressive version of the Allman Brothers Band classic “Jessica.”
They closed out the Dead portion of the night with another trippy, trance-inducing version of “Shakedown Street.” Rezak than introduced a few of his original songs from Gateway to the Galaxy. “Misty Magic” and “We Are Specks” included Rezak’s vocals as well as more prog-rock influenced guitar solos. Aucoin was in the groove all night and did an intense drum solo during one of the newer songs. The band mixed in a sweet cover of the Beatles’ “Dear Prudence” before closing out the show with a few more of the new tracks.
Rezak is a truly dynamic guitar virtuoso. His original material from the new album has an intensely heavy, prog-rock vibe, while his interpretation of the Grateful Dead classics is close enough to the originals to keep the faithful interested while adding new elements that make it fresh. Rezak is an artist on the rise. Don’t miss him shredding at clubs around the country this summer and beyond.