Calling all Dead heads: Tribute band has gig Friday

Anthony Bennie, a Wilton resident and natural pet food industry entrepreneur, will perform at 9 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 17, at Oaxaca Kitchen Restaurant in Westport, with his band, Ship of Fools. The five-man group is a Grateful Dead tribute band.

Mr. Bennie, a 10-year resident of Wilton, founded Clear Conscience Pet brand with his wife Amanda in 2010. But his "other passion is music, and this year he started Ship of Fools, a tribute to the music of the Grateful Dead, the iconic band that started in Haight-Ashbury back in 1967 but still has a huge following today," he said in a press release.

Mr. Bennie is the bassist and lead vocalist for the band, which also includes Norwalkers David Lindsay (drums) and Doug Ell (guitars and vocals), Michael Fass of Fairfield (Guitar and vocals), and Matthew Winthrop of Westport (keyboards and vocals). Ship of Fools "offers a realistic homage to the Grateful Dead, performing songs that were recorded from 1968-1987," Mr. Bennie said.

The band has performed in Redding and New Canaan. Saturday's gig will be their first in Westport. Oaxaca Restaurant, at 376 Post Road in the Trader Joe's center, is a Mexican-fusion restaurant and club in Westport that recently launched a new Friday Night live music series.

"Every gig has its own unique feel, true to the spirit of the legendary live concerts that made the Grateful Dead one of the top touring bands of all time," said Mr. Bennie. "We give the audience familiar danceable tunes and powerful rhythms along with creative improvisation. The response has been phenomenal and we are getting lots of offers to play throughout the area."

The Grateful Dead was known as a "jam band" that attracted a diverse counter-culture-oriented audience, he said. "But the members of Ship of Fools don't fit the stereotype of the Grateful Dead follower. Among the five of us we have two business-owning entrepreneurs, an attorney, and two finance and investment industry executives.

"We all love the music and have devoted a lot of time to capturing the essence and feel of a Dead show."

Ship of Fools features a theme for every show. Because the Westport gig coincides with Hawaiian Statehood Day, Oaxaca and the band have collaborated to promote "Westport Meets Hawaii Night," with special Hawaiian-themed drinks, decor and prizes for the best outfits with Hawaiian leis, grass skirts, and Haight-Ashbury tie-dyed themes.

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