Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, Atlanta-based jam band The Grapes rose to popularity as one of the south’s top touring acts, averaging nearly 250 dates a year around the US. The Grapes have played with some of the great jam bands of our generation (Phish), and even had Widespread Panic open for them at one point as they traded headlining spots (WSP in Athens, The Grapes in Atlanta). The band built a strong fanbase that was as much family as anything. With an ever evolving lineup, The Grapes released 4 albums before calling it quits after their 1997 album Juice. Since then, the band gets together every couple of years for reunion shows in Atlanta, and their fans haven’t lost any enthusiasm since their heydays.
On Saturday, January 13th, The Grapes reunited once again at Variety Playhouse for a packed out show that saw old friends who haven’t seen each other since the band’s last reunion show (or tours gone wayward), gather around for a communal vibe of catching up around some of their favorite musicians.
The Grapes played two sets that included at least 8 former members onstage throughout the majority of night. From someone who knew nothing about The Grapes going into the show (there weren’t many others getting their grapes popped like I was on this night), the band sure didn’t seem like they’ve been retired for all of these years. The musicians performed like a tightly woven machine whom never stopped touring together. They were up there having a blast onstage together, with a fanbase every bit as happy to see the band as they were playing together. Sound-wise, you certainly hear some of the southern rock influence from some of the classics such as The Allman Brothers, some of the experimental jams of the Dead, but they also get a little bit funky while they are rip-roaring through some rock ‘n’ roll that at times brings to mind some of what Perpetual Groove has done since.
Not only was Atlanta treated to two rousing sets from The Grapes, but none other than Kevn Kinney, the prolific songwriter best known for his work in Drivin N Cryin, was the special guest who opened the show with an acoustic set, before joining The Grapes onstage later in the night. It was an eventful Saturday night in Atlanta with Little Five Points buzzing like it was 1992 with the same familiar faces that made that time so fun for so many.
Check out photos by Mike Gerry from The Grapes/Kevn Kinney at Variety Playhouse on January 13th, 2018: