“Rock the Vine” at Kokopelli Winery Pays Homage to ‘70s Without the Hustle

By P.J. Standlee

Okay, maybe not everyone came to the Kokopelli Winery and Bistro’s “Rock the Vine” 1970s festival Saturday night with their afro puffs puffed and their bell bottoms bottomed out, but late night bistro’s atmosphere did provide a jam-happy Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan cover band, plus food and drink good enough to let the funk out.

From left to right: Steven Yarborough of Chandler, Michelle Blasnig of Glendale, Chris Ivory of Tempe and Kim Macke of Ahwatukee bring their disco fever to the Kokopelli Winery and Bistro’s “Rock the Vine” '70s festival in downtown Chandler on May 24, 2008.

Flashback menu items such as the “Blue Oyster Cult Po Boy” and the “St. Peppers Pasta Primavera” packed a full house by 7 p.m., but it was the live music of the Token Jam Band’s ‘70s (and ‘60s) guitar rock classics of the Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan that made the event buzz worthy.

Leon Silver, bass and vocals for the Dylan songs, insisted that the night wasn’t just a longing for the good-old days.

“This isn’t a nostalgic thing. We play this because we love and listen to it now,” Silver said.

From back to front: Thomas Oliver, lead guitar; Stuart Epsting, rhythm guitar and vocals; and Leon Silver, bass guitar and back-up vocals, jam a Grateful Dead tune at the Kokopelli Winery and Bistro’s “Rock the Vine” '70s festival in downtown Chandler Saturday night.

Nevertheless, Silver and band mates Stuart Epsting, Thomas Oliver and Peter Sands cranked out Dylan, Deadhead and even some Rolling Stones with energy and gusto to the delight the ‘70s-centric crowd.

Silver, who works a day job as an attorney, said he joined the Token Jam Band so that he could have fun playing Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan music, but in the mean time writes his own songs and has already cut three albums with Oliver, who plays lead guitar and also sings with the band.

Ironically, the music that is most associated with the ‘70s, disco, was also the worst, in Silver’s opinion. Although he admitted that disco did have an influence on the occasional Grateful Dead song, such as "Shakedown Street."

Some party seekers did come properly attired — disco-fever style that is. Steven Yarborough, aka “the Afro Guy” from Chandler, and his fellow bar-bell mustache wearing friend Chris Ivory of Tempe said they made their ‘70s attire last minute by visiting Savers and Good Will. They also got a little help from their friends, Kim Macke of Ahwatukee and Michelle Blasnig of Glendale.

Blasnig said she even called home to her mother to make sure the ‘70s outfits they were going to sport qualified as authentic.

“I wanted to do a disco thing, so I called mom,” Blasnig said. “I sent her a lot of pictures, and she helped me pick the right shoes, belt and scarf.”

The group was also graceful enough to submit to a ‘70s pop quiz and passed with flying colors, identifying mood rings, lava lamps and Rubik’s Cubes as ‘70s era heirlooms; each naming two music genres born within the decade: punk, funk, heavy metal or rap; and accurately naming the three presidents of the ‘70s: Nixon, Ford and Carter.

But surprisingly, only Macke and Blasnig came away with the answer to: “What movie released in 1977 stunned America, and changed pop-culture forever?”

Answer: “Star Wars.”

Ouch! That hurt nerds everywhere.

Perhaps the question wasn’t properly phrased, or maybe the ‘70s is best kept in the past, except on an occasional weekend or two.

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