It’s unlikely there are too many people standing at the intersection of the Grateful Dead, financial journalism, fly fishing and efforts to make sure American soldiers are treated with dignity and care upon their return from military service.
But there’s at least one, and the confluence of those seemingly disparate things has incited a live performance this Friday at the Sweetwater Music Hall featuring fellow Mill Valley residents Bob Weir and Sammy Hagar, along with longtime Weir collaborator Jeff Chimenti and a number of special guests, for a benefit show for the Coming Home Project, a Bay Area organization that provides care for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families.
The linchpin of the event is CNBC Senior Economics Reporter Steve Liesman, a lifelong Deadhead who has been in Grateful Dead cover bands since high school. He is also an avid fly fisherman and regularly participates in the Manhattan Cup, a massive fishing event that sets out from the Chelsea Piers in New York City and raises money for the Wounded Warriors Project.
Liesman first met Weir, the former Grateful Dead guitarist and current Sweetwater co-owner, in the mid-1980s backstage after a Dead show in Toronto. He reconnected with Weir in recent years through his CNBC gig, as Weir has long been at the forefront of innovative business models in music, from the Dead’s use of viral marketing before it had a name to his more recent ventures with his TRI Studios in San Rafael. Liesman has done CNBC stories on both of those issues in recent years and has met Weir several times in doing so.
Over that time, the two have hit it off, and Liesman has been able to fulfill a lifelong dream of performing with Weir. Longtime Weir friend and fellow Sweetwater co-owner Michael Klein invited Liesman to perform at the new downtown venue a few months back.
The result is The Mooncussers: A Benefit for Wounded Veterans, a pricey benefit show featuring Liesman’s band and some local rock legends.
For a guy who once played in a Dead cover band in a Tex-Mex bar across the street from the Kremlin while he was a reporter for the Wall Street Journal in Moscow, the show couldn’t be a better opportunity.
“It’s a real thrill for me,” Liesman says. “We’re bringing the band and everybody’s really excited about it.”
“I always found the idea the idea of helping wounded vets interesting for a couple of reasons,” Liesman adds. “One is that they need our help and deserve it. The other is that it’s an issue everybody can unite around regardless of whether you oppose the war or support the war.”
The Mooncussers are an acoustic band that plays covers of songs by the likes of the Dead, Allman Brothers Band and Creedence Clearwater Revival, as well as a number of originals.
Liesman says the fledgling group is still a work-in-progress but is eager for the chance to both helped veterans and perform with a lifelong idol.
“I’ve been trying to figure Weir’s guitar playing my whole life,” he says.
The 411: The Mooncussers: A Benefit for Wounded Veterans is Friday, Oct. 19 at 9 p.m. at the Sweetwater Music Hall. Tickets are $200 for general admission or $75 veterans with Military ID. Go to the Sweetwater's website for more info.
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