On February 7, the Electric Waste Band celebrated their 19th anniversary at Winstons in Ocean Beach, where they have played every Monday night since February 3, 1992. “We figure that’s roughly 950 shows, 1900 sets, and 2850 hours of music,” says singer-guitarist Robert Harvey. By all estimates, the Electric Waste Band, a classic-rock group that features the music of the Grateful Dead, may hold the record for San Diego’s longest-running nightclub residency.
Teddy Wigler is tending bar on the Monday night before the band’s anniversary gig. The Winstons soundman is tracking an old Allman Brothers album while the band sets up on a stage in front of tie-dye curtains the size of bed sheets. Wigler has an opinion about how they have lasted so many years.
“They have a following, more than any other band. People know they can come here and connect with people who are on the same wavelength.” It’s ground zero for Deadheads. But Harvey says EWB is not a tribute act. “We don’t bother ourselves with copying the Dead. We have a good time and make them our own songs to a degree.”
Has Harvey, who is an attorney by day, ever called in sick after any of those Monday nights? “I’ll call in sick.” He laughs. “We all call in sick.” Still dressed in slacks and a long-sleeve dress shirt from his day job, he says he played a part in starting the band but that he does not run it. “It’s band by committee.” He pauses to contemplate the communal aspect of his band’s membership roster. “There is no leader.” The Electric Waste Band bench, he says, runs about four deep for backup on any of the instruments. He agrees that this may be a factor that has kept them together over the years.
Winstons is filling up with an audience ranging from 20-something full-dress hippies to old guys in shorts and Hawaiian shirts. Harvey talks about the family feel at their shows, about all the regulars who, by his estimate, attend 80 percent of the band’s Monday gigs. “I don’t remember all their names,” he says. “A lot of them, I know them when I see them.” The names Harvey does remember include former NBA star Bill Walton and Peter Isler, a pro sailor. “He won the America’s Cup with Dennis Conner.”
Harvey admits he’s been to the least number of Dead concerts (75) among the EWB membership. He says he shifts from daytime attorney mode to Grateful Dead head prior to a show by not thinking too much. He says the goal is to “be of one mind” with the rest of the band.