Top 16 Best Grateful Dead Tribute Bands

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grateful dead tribute bands

Grateful Dead is an iconic American jam band that first rocked the world in the 1960s. Colored with the vibrant and distinctive counterculture of the times, their psychedelic and soul-stirring melodies have undoubtedly left a significant mark on the music world.

Deadheads, or die-hard fans of Grateful Dead, remember the band’s unique style of combining elements of many different genres of music, such as rock, country, folk, reggae, and even worship.

Now, imagine being able to relive those captivating moments and immerse yourself in the spirit of the Grateful Dead once again. Too good to be true? Not at all – that’s what our countdown of best grateful dead cover bands is for. Oh, and also to argue about who’s really the best!

Either way, let’s head out on a captivating trip to explore the best Grateful Dead tribute bands. From the soulful vocals to the intricate guitar solos, these tribute bands strive to capture the essence and energy that made the Grateful Dead a cultural phenomenon.

The Best Grateful Dead Cover Bands

Are you ready to re-experience the timeless magic of the Grateful Dead? Let’s jam right in!

15. GD/BC

The GD/BC is an electrifying young tribute band based in Vancouver, known for their distinctive and energetic flair in capturing the essence of the Grateful Dead’s music. Hailing from the vibrant music scene of Vancouver, this talented group brings a dynamic and captivating performance that pays homage to the iconic sound of the Grateful Dead.

With their energetic stage presence and infectious enthusiasm, the GD/BC delivers an exhilarating live experience that is highly reminiscent of the true original.

The band is composed of Tyle Gibson, vocalist, and keyboardist, Deanna Knight as a vocalist, Gord Kushner as vocalist and guitarist, Mike Lunt on the Drums, Noel Peters on the Drums, Eric Stephenson as the vocalist and bass guitarist, and finally Brad Tidswell as vocalist and guitarist.

Their passion for the music shines through every note, inviting fans to join in the celebration of the Grateful Dead’s timeless legacy.

They even have their own YouTube playlist to showcase their mastery of the craft!

14. Aoxotoxoa

Aoxotoxoa is a remarkable tribute band hailing from Germany, offering a unique and captivating interpretation of the timeless songs and rhythms of the Grateful Dead.

As an alternative Western rock band from a different cultural background, Aoxotoxoa brings a fresh perspective to the music, showcasing the universal appeal and global influence of the Grateful Dead.

It started in 2003 when a group of musical friends banded together to make a hobby of their fascination with the Western rock of the Grateful Dead. They sought to channel the unique feel of the Grateful Dead concerts, something that a true Deadhead could muster – even if they were on the other side of the world.

Aoxotoxoa is famous for its week-long tours that advertise the uniqueness of the Grateful Dead and psychedelic rock subculture, and touring with them is an entire experience on its own.

Aoxotoxoa’s presence as a German Grateful Dead tribute band speaks to the widespread impact and international reach of the legendary original band, and the power of creativity to span seas and bridge human cultures.

13. Stella’s Blue Band

One of the most authentic Grateful Dead tribute bands out there, Stellas Blue Band is a prestigious and award-winning tribute act. Their specialty is the sheer range of their musical mastery of the original band’s music – they can play practically any song accurately from all of the Grateful Dead’s eras.

The band is composed of Bill Bonacci on the lead guitar and vocals, Steve Liesman on the rhythm guitar and vocals, Greg Solomon as bassist, Ken Aigen as keyboardist, Ron Cohen as drummer and vocalist, and finally Amy Stahlin as a vocalist.

Stella’s Blue band haunts the Garcia’s The Capital Theater in New York for years. They also regularly play in venues such as The Cutting Room, and the Brooklyn Bowl, and was even given a headline spot at the 50th Woodstock Anniversary.

The accuracy of the sound and their stage presence is the main distinguishing factor of Stella’’s Blue Band.

Their sheer musical connection with the original band creates an immersive experience that makes you feel like you’ve been transported back to the heyday of the Dead’s live shows.

12. Grateful Dub

The Grateful Dub is an extraordinary tribute band that brings a fresh and vibrant twist to the iconic music of the Grateful Dead. What sets them apart is their unique infusion of reggae into the timeless sounds of the original band, creating a captivating fusion that is both uplifting and groovy.

The Grateful Dub is an album slash act creation of a band called the Roots of Creation.

The original band is composed of talented musicians and has already attracted guest performances from the likes of Melvin Seals, Marshall Goodman, and Billy Kottage, among many others.

Roots of Creation has a proven track record of having performed in such illustrious places as Camp Bisco and Gathering of the Vibes. Further, the Grateful Dub Act itself has toured all across the continental United States.

Combining the band’s long-time love of the Grateful Dead and their talent for the soft rhythms of reggae, Grateful Dub was born as the perfect fusion of the two genres.

By blending the captivating essence of reggae with the timeless spirit of the Grateful Dead, The Grateful Dub offers a refreshing and invigorating take on the music that fans know and love. 

11. Cosmic Charlie

Cosmic Charlie is a remarkable Grateful Dead tribute band that takes a unique approach to their performances.

Rather than aiming to recreate the original band’s sound precisely, Cosmic Charlie uses the Grateful Dead’s music as a springboard for exploration. They infuse their creativity into the well-loved music of the original band and breathe new life into the timeless songs.

Created in Athens, Georgia, the 23-year-old band is composed of five musicians, of which the frontman is Micheal Wegner; also the band’s founder.

Over time, Cosmic Charlie’s extraordinary musical ability has been recognized by many musicians, many even by original members of the Grateful Dead themselves. The band has been joined on stage by the likes of Vince Welnick and Constanten.

Their immense talent has seen them perform at over 800 shows all across the USA.

With Cosmic Charlie, you can expect an electrifying and captivating experience that pays tribute to the Grateful Dead while pushing the boundaries of their music

10. Bearly Dead

Despite being relatively new, formed just last 2015, Bearly Dead has nevertheless risen to become one of the more prominent Grateful Dead tribute bands in Massachusetts.

The Bearly Dead is a captivating Grateful Dead tribute band known for its expertise in crafting extended setlists that encompass songs performed by any member of the original band. They have the exceptional ability to delve into the vast musical of the likes of Jerry Garcia, Bob Weird, and Phil Lesh, among others.

This distinctive approach sets them apart from other tribute acts, providing them with a wider repertoire and ensuring that each performance is a one-of-a-kind experience.

Their mastery of the craft has ensured them a spot in the major festivals of the area. They have been fortunate enough to give regular appearances in the Paradise Rock Club, The Sinclair, the Worcester Palladium, and many more.

Listening to a performance by the Bearly Dead truly lets you appreciate the musical depth of the Grateful Dead and its many talented members.

9. Tumbledown Shack

Primarily based in northern Colorado, the Tumbledown Shack is another of the Grateful Dead tribute acts that you should watch out for.

With a fresher take on the original’s music, Tumbledown Shack still nevertheless delivers an immersive experience that mirrors the intensity and transcendence of a Grateful Dead performance.

The band is composed of Luke Zollo on the guitar, Chris Bell on the keyboards and sax, Cragon Sims on the bass, and Tony Bellucci on the guitar. All four of them serve as the band’s vocals as well.

The Tumbledown Shack boasts a solid repertoire of Grateful Dead music that they draw upon, depending on their performances.

From the iconic riffs of “Truckin'” to the psychedelic explorations of “Dark Star,” Tumbledown Shack is truly an experience to partake in. Listen to them and be transported to a live Grateful Dead show like you’ve never experienced before.

8. Wall of Sound

The Wall of Sound is a remarkable Grateful Dead tribute band that stands out for its ability to recreate the electrifying energy and sheer power of the original band’s performances.

Even their name pays homage to the iconic, massive, and cutting-edge sound system designed by the Grateful Dead themselves, showcasing their commitment to authenticity and attention to detail.

The band is composed of six individuals. Nick Sandoval, Jim Shank, and Jason Buck man the guitars and vocals. Jeffrey Brown and Darren Pujalet play the drums, while Ed Lyon is the group’s keyboardist.

What sets The Wall of Sound apart from other tribute acts is their exceptional ability to capture the atmosphere of the Grateful Dead’s live shows.

From the explosive guitar solos to the tight-knit rhythm section, this band delivers a performance that truly channels the spirit of the original band. With every note and every beat, they transport audiences back to the legendary concerts that defined an era.

They’ve played in various major festivals such as the Beachlife Festivals and LA Dead Night, as well as in other prestigious stages such as The Point MHB and The Lighthouse Cafe.

If you want to relive the uniquely ecstatic atmosphere of being in a Grateful Dead concert, you can’t do any better than to listen to the Wall of Sound.

7. Scott Guberman and Friends

A long-time fan of the Grateful Dead, Scott Guberman is a musical powerhouse all on his own – but his impact is tripled when talking about Scott Guberman and Friends.

Built around the musical genius Scott Guberman, Scott Guberman, and Friends is how he best replicates the work of the Grateful Dead. The band is composed of some of the best players in the Bay Area, and they draw from the original’s setlist to turn the music into something uniquely their own.

Unlike other bands with permanent ensembles, SGF is a rotation of Scott Guberman and some of the best musical talents on the East Coast.

This allows the band unparalleled availability, ensuring that the best Grateful Dead experience will always be offered to the audience.

Scott Guberman himself is a force to be reckoned with. A true keyboard all-rounder, Scott has mastered the art of improvisation, allowing him to channel the very best facets of the Grateful Dead music. From delicate to dissonant, he can utilize his talent as the music demands.

If you want to listen to the Grateful Dead from the vantage point of a formidable musical mind that admired it, listen to Scott Guberman and Friends.

6. Better Off Dead

Better Off Dead is an extraordinary Grateful Dead tribute band that will transport you to the time when the Grateful Dead was still up and about, rocking stadiums with their eclectic shows.

Hailing from the vibrant music scene of Maryland, this talented tribute band is dedicated to capturing the psychedelic magic of the Grateful Dead’s legendary performances. The band is composed of Rex Wilkes on the vocals and guitar, Alex DiPietro on the lead guitar, John Butte on the bass and vocals, Andrew Ellinghaus on the drums, Will Layman on the keys, and finally Jess Lake on the vocals.

The band has played on illustrious stages such as the Shepherdstown Opera House and the Hamilton Loft. They are also annual presenters at the 8X10 celebration.

With their exceptional musicianship and deep passion for music, Better Off Dead brings the timeless catalog of the Grateful Dead to life. From the ethereal melodies of “Ripple” to the foot-stomping energy of “Sugar Magnolia,” their authentic renditions and improvisational prowess will have you singing and dancing all night long.

Whether you’re a seasoned Deadhead or new to their music, Better Off Dead’s undeniable chemistry will leave you with a deep appreciation for the Grateful Dead’s enduring legacy.

5. Cowboys Dead

Formed in 2007, Cowboys Dead didn’t originally set out to be a Grateful Dead tribute. Rather, they were an experimental band that tried to explore the music of notable greats, such as Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, the Rolling Stones, and more.

While they didn’t plan on it, this act of experimentation and synthesis is the best thing that this band shares with the Grateful Dead.

With their openness to different musical styles and ideas, this tribute band knows how to channel the spirit of the legendary Grateful Dead band while giving their sound their refreshing tune.

They are more than just a cover band – they don’t merely replicate the original’s sound but use it as a foundation to express their own identity and love of music.

The result is a unique sound that is nevertheless truly reminiscent of the Grateful Dead. 

The band is composed of Dave Dardine, founder and lead guitarist, Ken Duran as the rhythm guitarist and vocalist, Doug Salmon as the bassist and vocalist, Ed Anderson as vocalist and harpist, and Dave White as drummer and vocalist.

If you want to better appreciate and discover the music of the Grateful Dead as they intended it – exploratory and improvisational – listen to the sound of Cowboy’s Dead.

4. Joe Russo’s Almost Dead – JRAD

Joe Russo’s Almost Dead (“JRAD” for short to their passionate fans) is a renowned Grateful Dead tribute band formed in 2013, and known for their unique blend of rock, improvisation, and Dead covers. The band’s first gig was at Brooklyn Bowl, and the band has since amassed a large and dedicated fanbase who enjoy their energetic and captivating live shows. Their performances are characterized by high energy, dynamic improvisations, and a deep understanding and appreciation of the Grateful Dead’s music.

The band was formed by drummer Joe Russo, who is a well-known figure in the music industry, best known as one half of The Duo, a jazz/rock pair comprised of Russo and keyboardist Marco Benevento. Russo has performed with Furthur, featuring Phil Lesh and Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, giving Joe ulimate Dead-Cred. The complete members of JRAD include guitarists Scott Metzger and Tommy Hamilton, Dave Dreiwitz on bass, and keyboardist Marco Benevento.

The band has toured extensively and has a number of tour dates in 2023, including performances at legendary Red Rocks in Colorado, the All IN Music & Arts Festival and The Miracle In Mundelein.

It’s not just the fans who are impressed by their music, but critics as well. The band has received critical acclaim for their performances and their inventive approach to the music of the Grateful Dead.

Don’t miss JRAD like we did on our first go-round, or you’ll face the wrath of deadheads everywhere!

3. Uncle John’s Band

Formed in 1989, Uncle John’s Band is one of the longest-running Grateful Dead tribute bands to date. Formed in Clearwater, Florida, UJBs mission has been to keep the fire of the original band burning; tending the flames in old Deadheads and kindling it anew for others.

Primarily based in their hometown, this tribute band has fostered a solid fanbase that comes to see them every 8 PM on a Thursday at the legendary Skippers Smokehouse in Tampa Bay, Florida. With over 20 years of experience and thousands of shows, they have rubbed elbows with notable guests such as previous Grateful Dead members John Kadlecik, and others.

They are also regular attendees of the Florida festival circuit, regularly attending major events in the State year-round.

With their sense of community and identity firmly established, the band members are well-loved in their home base. Their current lineup includes primary lead singer Rich Whitely, Alan Gilman as lead guitarist, Dan DeGregory and Michael Bortz as drummers, Michael Edwards as bassist, and Casey Otto as keyboardist.

With decades of experience and a solid reputation in the music scene, Uncle John’s Band is one of the most knowledgeable and well-known Grateful Dead tributes in the States. 

2. Dancing Bears

Dancing Bears is an electrifying Grateful Dead tribute band that takes you on a sonic journey through the spirit of the legendary band. This young, talented group of musicians based in Maryland, US capably channels the raw energy and improvisational spirit that made the Grateful Dead a cultural phenomenon.

This high-energy band is composed of Jon Wood on the guitar and vocals, Jon Brady on the keyboard and vocals, Alex Lang on the bass, Nathan Shulkin on the drums, and Ari Lesser on the guitar and vocals. The band’s tight-knit chemistry and deep love for the music shine through in every performance, creating an immersive experience that resonates with both longtime Deadheads and newcomers alike.

They frequently tour the Philadelphia and Maryland area for different events such as music festivals and the like. They are also frequent attendees of the 8X10 at DC.

Dancing Bears weaves together intricate melodies, psychedelic jams, and soul-stirring harmonies that will transport you back to the heyday of the counterculture movement.

From the iconic riffs of “Casey Jones” to the mesmerizing jams of “Dark Star,” Dancing Bears flawlessly recreates the magic and vibe of the Grateful Dead’s live shows. Dancing Bears is guaranteed to leave you captivated and craving more.

1. Dark Star Orchestra

One of the most acclaimed Grateful Dead tribute acts, the Dark Star Orchestra’s specialty is the authenticity of their sound. With their meticulous attention to detail, this band offers an almost exact copy of the Grateful Dead’s iconic and distinctive performance flair.

With 25 years of experience and hundreds of hours worth of performance on stage, this powerhouse tribute band has graced stages all across the United States, and even abroad.

They’ve toured the US coast to coast and have even been honored to play in over seven different countries in Europe and the Caribbean. Some of the major performances they’ve been a part of include the Bonnaroo, the Wanee Festival, Milwaukee’s SummerFest, and so much more.

Their dedication to preserving the original band’s musical legacy has earned them a dedicated following all around the world.

This tribute act is composed of Rob Barraco as the keyboardist and guitarist, Rob Eaton as the guitarist, Dino English and Rob Koritz as the drummers, Lisa Mackey as lead vocalist, Jeff Mattson as guitarist and vocalist, and finally Skip Vangelas as the bassist.

From the captivating melodies of “Ripple” to the hypnotic jams of “Scarlet Begonias,” Dark Star has taken massive audiences on a truly unforgettable musical journey, recreating the magic and spontaneous spirit that made the Grateful Dead so iconic.

Their attention to detail, seamless harmonies, and spirited performances make them a must-see for any Grateful Dead enthusiast.

0. Dead & Company: The Final Tour

Dead & Company: The Final Tour is a remarkable Grateful Dead cover band that stands apart from the rest as its unique lineup features many of the original members of the iconic Grateful Dead. Given this, we’ve set them at position “0”! This will spawn the debate as to what it means to be a “tribute band”.

Let’s put it this way: if D&C could have toured under the moniker of the original band, promoters would have really liked that.

Either way, D&C’s ongoing mission is to spread the music of the legendary band, ensuring its continuity and maintaining an unparalleled experience that captures the true essence and authenticity of the original performances.

This band features a stellar lineup of original Grateful Dead members including Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, and Bill Kreutzmann, along with John Mayer, Oteil Burbridge, and Jeff Chimenti. Naturally, this means Dead & Company flawlessly recreates the sound and spirit of the original band – their performances transporting audiences to the golden era of the Grateful Dead.

D&C has been touring since 2015, and has releaseed two albums while performing at such venues as the Pavilion at Star Lake, Hollywood Casino Amphitheater, and Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

The band’s obviously-intricate knowledge of the original Grateful Dead’s sound and deep musical connection creates an electrifying and nostalgia-inducing presentation that mirrors the unique magic of the original. 

Witnessing Dead & Company live is like stepping back in time to experience the Grateful Dead’s legendary concerts. There’s no better way to experience the legend.

Get the Best Grateful Dead Tribute Bands for Your Needs

The Grateful Dead is one of the most distinctive bands to take the world stage. With their trademark signature of truly-out-there psychedelic rock, the band has left an indelible mark on their fans’ minds.

New and old fans alike seek the best grateful dead tribute bands to grace their occasions, and you might be one of them.

By choosing a Grateful Dead tribute band for your event, you’re not only treating your guests to a night of incredible music, but you’re also providing them with an unforgettable experience that taps into the nostalgia and sheer cultural significance of the Grateful Dead.

So, whether you’re a die-hard Deadhead or just someone who wants to add an extra layer of excitement to your event, don’t hesitate to consider hiring a Grateful Dead tribute band from the comprehensive list that we’ve presented you in this article!

Fan of rock music? Check out our list of the best Journey tribute bands, the best AC/DC tribute bands, and the best Eagles tribute bands of all time!

17 Responses

  1. What the… ? Where is Joe Russo’s Almost Dead ? If JRAD isn’t in your top 15, your list is garbage

  2. You have missed the mark on this one guys. So many bands you have skipped over….. must be for controversy.

    1. Any list like this that doesn’t include Stu Allen and Mars Hotel isn’t worth Jack Straw! Stu’s ability to channel Jerry, both vocally and instrumentally, is eerie! Stu’s collaborations with Phil Lesh at Terrapin Crossroads were legendary!

    2. Better off Dead play a place that’s walking distance from my house. I’d rather drive 2 hours to see Splintered Sunlight than walk to hear predictable BoD.

  3. hmmm many bands are missing here! JRAD , Jerry Middle Finger, Stu Allen Mars Hotel, Dead Set, Forgotten Space, Billy and the Kids, Cubensis, Voo Doo Dead for starters ….

    1. You are absolutely right , but you gotta check out Wall of Sound , they rock the house. Really good !!

  4. Many of the top tier bands are not on this list. Weak sauce but still appreciated.

  5. Sure they missed a few , but you guys gotta check out Wall of Sound !! Amazing !! Hit you over the head 80s 90s Dead !! Just incredible!!

    1. My only complaint with this is number one spot… i don’t think Dead & Co. Is a tribute band since it has original members. (If it is, then Phil & Friends) should be added. And with that in mind, JRAD could easily take the #1 spot.

      Ps… I love that GD/BC made the cut. Though the band members in the write up is out of date.

  6. You people with this list No JRad and No Half Step are You Kidding Me Come to Long Island New York Half Step Is The Best Thing Happening

    Dead wrong, s/b #1
    No Stu Allen and Mars Hotel? Are kidding? 🙄
    Dreadful 🤷‍♂️

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