This, of course, is what the Grateful Dead became known for during their storied run. Max Creek tried their hand at several songs by the San Francisco giants early in their career, and got tagged as a Dead tribute band. That became an irritant, and for a long time the Creek fought tooth and nail against the designation.
As a remedy, they even removed the Dead tunes from their shows. It was the era of clone bands like the Blushing Brides (who aped the Rolling Stones) and Murawski recalls club owners relentlessly positioning the Creek in a similar fashion. When the tribute flourish died down, they trickled a few Bob Weir and Jerry Garcia tunes back into their sets. "We tried not to get pigeonholed, but we were anyway. I think that whole thing hurt us for the rest of our existence. We do lots of original material, but the Dead tunes still get a huge reaction."
Murawski's status on the jam band scene is sizable these days. He's played with Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann and works intermittently with Phish bassist Mike Gordon. Indeed, Max Creek is often credited as key instigators of the jam band zeitgeist that emerged in the late '80s. Relentless gigging around New England put the Creek's sound into many ears.
"It's humbling to see your own influence on others," says the guitarist. "Phish used to come see us in Vermont before they were a band. I met Mike way back then. It's mindblowing to have him say, 'After I saw you guys play "Jones" I went home and wrote "Weigh." ' And now I get to play with my heroes from both generations; all three of us — Kreutzmann, Mike, and I — have played together."
Providence and its music fans have played a crucial part in this evolution. Max Creek was one of the first bands to have a steady weekly gig at the original Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel.
"I remember the first afternoon I walked into the place. There was a bunch of bikers hanging out and I said, 'Holy shit, what's happening here?' That was a Tuesday; a couple months later it changed to Wednesdays. We stayed until the old Lupo's closed and then we moved to the Living Room with the bubble window. Then we closed that down. The Campus Club was next. Closed that, too. We had gigs once a week from 1980 to 1994. It really gave us a chance to do a lot of experimenting, breaking into tunes we'd never tried previously."
And no, not Dead tunes. Team Creek doesn't mind playing against type. One time Murawski dropped a song by the Sundays into the mix; another night it was a Stabbing Westward cut. Who knows, maybe they'll celebrate their 40th anniversary by returning to Alanis Morissette's "Hand In My Pocket." They've tried it before. "It's fun to pull off something you'd never expect to work," he laughs. "As I recall, that song went over fabulously well."
MAX CREEK | Saturday, April 30 @ 9 pm | The Met, 1005 Main St, Pawtucket | $15 advance, $20 door | 401.729.1005 | themetri.com