The origin story behind Full Moonalice reads like a cross between a Bay Area-rock n’ roll odyssey and a business profile in The Wall Street Journal, complete with name changes and mergers.
The band started in the late ‘90s when it was founded by Silicon Valley investor and guitarist Roger McNamee as the Flying Other Brothers. The band retooled in 2007 as Moonalice. It performed and recorded for more than a decade with an ever-shifting lineup of well-regarded jamband musicians. Somewhere in the middle, McNamee was an early investor in a plucky little startup called Facebook. In late 2019, Moonalice announced it was teaming up with the T Sisters, a folk-singing sister act and the soul group the New Chambers Brothers to form Full Moonalice.
This year, the group has rolled out a series of singles, most recently a cover of the Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter classic “Bird Song.” Written as a tribute to Janis Joplin, the track first appeared on Garcia’s solo 1972 solo album Garcia. It was a regular part of the Grateful Dead’s repertoire before its official release and has remained a concert staple well into the Dead & Company era. The Dead often performed the song as a dreamy, psychedelic lullaby with a full group singalong on the chorus. The results were either brilliant or downright cringeworthy, depending on the night. Such was the life of the Grateful Dead.
Full Moonalice appears to have solved the Dead’s harmony problem. For the musical arrangement, the band channels the Dead’s later versions of “Bird Song” by fusing it with elements of jazz and new-age rock. The T Sisters, straddling the line between jazz and country, sing in perfect unison with exquisite harmonies. Their voices soar as they deliver Hunter’s existential words: “Sleep in the stars, don’t you cry, dry your eyes on the wind.”
Click here to listen to more covers of the Grateful Dead.