Hoopla

Classically trained pianist brings chops to renditions of Phish and Grateful Dead

Holly Bowling photo

Classically trained pianist Holly Bowling will bring her Phish and Dead covers to her CSPS concert Friday night (9/6).
Holly Bowling photo Classically trained pianist Holly Bowling will bring her Phish and Dead covers to her CSPS concert Friday night (9/6).

Live is the best way to experience Phish and whatever incarnation of the Dead exists. You never know what either iconic jam band will do when it hits the stage. The same goes for Holly Bowling.

The classically trained pianist crafts albums of Dead and Phish covers, such as “Distillation of a Dream: The Music of Phish Reimagined for Solo Piano” and her impressive collection of Dead songs, “Better Left Unsung.” So it’s not surprising that the perky Bowling loves getting extemporaneous when it comes to delivering her versions of Dead and Phish tunes from the stage.

“I love to cut loose and improvise like crazy when I perform,” Bowling said by phone from her San Francisco home. “I love to dive into the songs live and take a bunch of risks. It’s incredibly exciting as a musician to be able to have this opportunity.”

Bowling, 35, reinvents some of her favorite tunes and has earned praise from members of the Dead and Phish.

“To get that kind of feedback from those guys has been amazing,” Bowling said of both bands. “They’re all so incredible live and that’s what I’m about.”

Bowling, who will perform Friday (9/6) at CSPS Hall in Cedar Rapids, is preparing the release of a concert album, “Live at the Old Church,” recorded in Portland, Ore., last year.

“It’s one of my favorite shows I’ve ever done,” Bowling said. “There’s plenty of Phish and Dead songs on the album. It’ll be out soon, but you can catch what I’m about when I come to town.”

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Bowling initially scored attention four years ago for her 40-minute version of the Phish classic “Tweezer.” Her takes on the Dead’s “Wharf Rat,” “Cassidy” and “Dark Star” are inventive.

“What the Dead and Phish have done provides an endless well of inspiration,” she said. “I’ve always been so moved by their compositions. I’m especially moved by their live performances.”

Bowling has experienced various versions of the Dead, such as Dead and Company and The Other Ones in concert. She has caught nearly 300 Phish shows.

“I’m a fan of their music,” she said. “I absolutely love both bands. I never envisioned that I would make a career out of this. I thought I would be doing something else musically and just be a fan of their music. But this all worked out. I get to work on music that I love. Playing this music has given me great opportunities.”

One of her highlights was performing with the Dead’s Bob Weir and Phil Lesh.

“It doesn’t get any better for a fan of the Dead than to play with Bob and Phil,” Bowling said. “I played with Bob twice. I played with him during a Christmas jam in Asheville (North Carolina) and I got to play with Phil and Bob here in the Bay area at this amazing event called the Sound Summit. It’s something that I’ll never forget.”

Bowling can’t imagine going back to the classical world.

“I love the freedom I have making this music,” she said. “I can create and put as much emotion into this music as possible. I learned so much by going deeply into Phish and the Dead’s music. I was surprised how some of the simpler material was the most difficult to learn and has been often the most fun to play.”

Bowling has an endless supply of material to work with, since the Dead and Phish canons are so deep.

“In some ways I feel like I just scraped the surface,” she said. “There’s so much to explore. I have the greatest gig you can imagine. Just ask fans of the Dead and Phish. There is no material quite like what they’ve created.”

Get Out!

WHAT: Holly Bowling

WHERE: CSPS, 1103 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday (9/6)

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

TICKETS: $17 advance, $21 door, CSPS Box Office, (319) 364-1580 of Legionarts.org ARTISTS’ WEBSITE: Hollybowling.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Want to join the conversation?

Consider subscribing to TheGazette.com and participate in discussing the important issues to our community with other Gazette subscribers.

Already a Gazette or TheGazette.com subscriber? Just login here with your account email and password.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.