Music: Rock On

All-star chemistry fuels The Rock Collection

By Charlie Swanson

Bay Area all-star band The Rock Collection is full of familiar faces and plays a classic jam band sound, but that doesn’t mean the group is living in the past. In fact, The Rock Collection is one of the most in-the-moment bands in the scene today, able to match its timeless musical aesthetic with a contemporary, collaborative spirit.

“I really think it’s special, it’s one of the best bands I’ve ever played in,” says drummer and songwriter Greg Anton, whose musical résumé includes the Marin rock band Zero.

The Rock Collection includes Anton, organ player Melvin Seals (Jerry Garcia Band), guitarist Dan “Lebo” Lebowitz (ALO), guitarist Stu Allen (Phil Lesh and Friends) and bassist John-Paul McLean (JGB).

“These guys are as good as there is in the jam band scene,” Anton says. “I think Melvin is probably the number one rock and roll organ player in the United States; I really feel that.”

Beyond their individual accomplishments, The Rock Collection excels onstage with a special musical chemistry. “The band just gels,” Anton says. “What’s going on onstage is a conversation at the speed of sound.”

While the group covers classic rock material, every member also writes original tunes for the ensemble. Anton has been writing songs with longtime Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan collaborator Robert Hunter for the better part of three decades, and many of those songs will appear on an upcoming album. Lyrically, Anton and Hunter are writing music that harkens back to the values of the Summer of Love, which Anton says he still lives by.

“The values of that summer of love culture are hard to find anymore,” he says. “You used to find them on every street corner, in every hitchhiker.”

Even with those ideals seemingly few and far between, Anton still looks to the healing power of music to lead the way.

“When I see things that stress me out about the direction of my government or global politics, I think what can I do for my part?” he says. “I feel like I can play music, the purest form of expression.”

The Rock Collection, Friday and Saturday, June 23-24, Terrapin Crossroads, 100 Yacht Club Dr., San Rafael; 8pm; $20-$25; 415/524-2773.

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