Making a Scene Presents an Interview with Chest Fever
The Band left behind a timeless legacy of unforgettable music and a vast catalog of fabled songs. Band members Garth Hudson, Levon Helm, Richard Manuel, Rick Danko and Robbie Robertson embodied a musical alchemy that has been firmly cemented in myth and legend. Their impact on rock music and culture is permanently etched in the hallowed halls of American history.
Officially approved by Robbie Robertson, Chest Fever is comprised of keyboardist Jody Bagley, guitarist Dan Cervantes, and bassist Blake Dean of the San Diego Music Award winning rock band Mrs. Henry, rounded out with organist/saxophonist Ben Pinnola, and drummer Allan Ritter.
“We set out from the get-go to interpret these songs rather than recreate or pay tribute” explains Bagley. Dean continues, “Like Leonard Bernstein, the goal is to bring to life compositions from one of the great catalogs in the history of music. We like to say at every show: “We are a band playing the Band’s music.” Our band is Mrs. Henry, performing as Chest Fever. It’s like Bruce Wayne by day and Batman by night.”
To be clear, while Chest Fever is reinterpreting another group & songbook, they are far from a cover band. “We consider it an honor to be performing this music live and having the opportunity to carry the torch of The Band” tells Cervantes. While The Band often gets put into the jam-band “crunchy” category along with the likes of The Grateful Dead or The Allman Brothers, there was certainly a sense of fluidity that permeated their live performances. “The way the songs themselves are played is interpreted on a night-to-night basis” says Ritter. “The parts are all there, but the way they come together fits into this cosmic space of melodies talking to one another and moving in and out of the music.” Indeed, even the famous horn arrangements originally done by Allan Toussaint were reinterpreted by Chest Fever’s orchestral horn/string arranger Jesse Audelo.
While we can no longer vibe to Robertson and crew through a haze of smoke and the cheer of the crowd, through the inspired work of this modern band of brothers we can still drink deep from the well of cosmic creativity that opened to us all.
Recently featured on an episode of The Band: A History podcast, members of Chest Fever were interviewed about the origins for the project. The seed for Chest Fever was born out of Mrs. Henry’s live album and documentary Mrs. Henry Presents The Last Waltz, and their sold out shows at the Belly Up in Solana Beach, CA in November of 2017 and 2021. It was there, playing alongside up and coming local artists and legendary musicians such as Eagles songwriter Jack Tempchin, violinist Scarlet Rivera of Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue, and solo artist/Black Crowes member Marc Ford, that the idea took flight.
Chest Fever is a melting pot of rock and roll, a deep musical exploration of a vast catalog steeped in storytelling, told through the prism of the American Mythos and the cosmic spirit of the West Coast. From The Band and Bob Dylan’s collaborative home recordings, The Basement Tapes, through Music From Big Pink and The Last Waltz. The thread connecting all of this music is a storytelling tradition that runs through all the known corners of an “old weird America”, as noted by scholar Greil Marcus. Chest Fever is the next step in this tradition, moving the legacy of The Band forward into the 21st century. The stories, legend and community of The Band live on through the passion and magic of Chest Fever, newly embodied in the live performance and burning energy they bring to every stage.
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