Snap to it: Alligator brings it all back home


It's a band only a Charlottesville music sage could dream up– a late '60s- to early '70s-era Grateful Dead jam band composed of iconic local music powerhouses. The beautiful thing is, it was all just a dream.

"One night in 1996, I had this really vivid dream that I was in a club, playing in a Grateful Dead band, with people from Indecision, Skip Castro, The Casuals," Alligator founding member Charlie Pastorfield says. "The next day, walking on the Downtown Mall, I ran into Aaron Evans from Indecision, and I described my dream to him. He said, 'That sounds great, let's do it!'"

The rest is history.

Pastorfield and Alligator headline two back-to-back shows this weekend: Friday's After Five followed by Really Live from the Hook Saturday afternoon. For a band that plays three to four shows a year, the opportunity to showcase their quintessential Charlottesville sound to a new generation is the opportunity to create a "pretty impressive party," according to Pastorfield.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these bands [The Skip Castro Band, Johnny Sportcoat and the Casuals, The Allstars] play again– it's exciting to see these original lineups," Pastorfield says. "It's like seeing dinosaurs walking through your backyard."

Pastorfield, who has personally been involved in the Charlottesville music scene since he entered UVA at the age of 16 in 1986, started Alligator's eight-person lineup 10 years ago. But why create a band full of local music legends just to play Grateful Dead covers?

"People think of Grateful Dead as a laid-back, stoned-out band whenever they listen to their '80s and '90s stuff," Pastorfield explains. "Anyone who saw the band live in the '60s and '70s knows it's a whole different animal. The Grateful Dead approach to rock and roll– they play like a Dixieland band."

According to Pastorfield, his band takes a Grateful Dead song and uses it as a basic framework, emphasizing the improvisation that makes up most of their performances. The two drummer line-up (Corky Schoonover and Craig Dougald) transforms a mellow Grateful Dead sound into a "dance-oriented" Alligator performance.

While the band is playing a similar sound both nights, the Hook performance will feature several additional instruments, such as saxophone and keyboard. "It's gonna be wild!" Pastorfield predicts. But will two nights in a row have any effect on admittedly aging rockers in the audience?

"The adrenaline involved will take care of that," Pastorfield says. "No one's going to be tired, I can guarantee you. It's not gonna be stressful; it's gonna be beautiful."

Alligator performs at Fridays After Five on 7/25. Kathryn Kaine opens.