Stella Blue's Band Bio
SBB features dynamic jams with lots of improvisation fulfilling the musical magic that the Dead achieved. We play tunes from all stages of the Grateful Dead's 30-yearrun capturing the unique sound and adventurous spirit of the music. With love and reverence for the music, we create that special feeling and community unique to Grateful Dead Shows.
Stella Blue's Band is Bill Bonacci (lead guitar, vocals), Steve Liesman (rhythm guitar, vocals), Greg Solomon (bass), Ken Aigen (keyboards), Marc Loponte (vocals), Chuck Black (drums) and Ron Cohen (drums) . Our 7-piece line-up with two drummers and strong, soulful vocals with great harmonies separate us from other Grateful Dead bands. With sound and lights, we strive for a 360-degree experience regardless of the size of the venue we play. Like true Deadheads, all the band members are gear fanatics constantly in search of the best possible sound. Our attention to the details of sound and love of the music are apparent from the first note of a SBB show.
Stella Blue's Band is a band on a mission. Attracting both talented musicians and kind folks, a project born out of love for the music, and jamming for fun, has blossomed into one of the premier Grateful Dead tribute band in the country.
Keyboard player Ken Aigen is an associate professor of music therapy at New York University (NYU) and a long-time Deadhead whose affinity for the band dates back to his high school days in Deadhead central in the north shore of Long Island during the early 1970s. He has played Grateful Dead music in various bands since 1978, first in the Midwest and more recently in the New York metro area. Ken’s playing covers Pigpen’s soulfulness, Keith Godchaux’s percussive drive, and Brent Mydland’s melodic sensibility. Ken’s music therapy work has been inspired by the music of the Grateful Dead, a connection recognized by band members Phil Lesh whose Unbroken Chain foundation has donated money to support music therapy at NYU, and Mickey Hart who regularly offers drum circles to support music therapy programs.
Greg Solomon has played bass in various original and cover bands over the years while living in Manhattan. But upon moving to suburbs in 2008, he was intent on finding musicians that knew and loved the Grateful Dead. It turned out to be a relatively easy task as the people that would become the members of Stella Blue's Band found eachother and began jamming later that same year. Greg plays an Alembic Europa through a Kern IP-777 preamp.
From the moment Bill Bonacci first heard Turn On Your Lovelight from the Grateful Dead’s Greatest Hits album he was hooked. He picked up his first guitar (a used acoustic Yamaha) and began playing - and hasn’t stopped. Bill’s affinity for Jerry Garcia’s lead guitar and soulful vocals initiated a lifelong labor of love to learn and emulate Jerry’s unique style and guitar tone, while also committing himself to carving his own improvisational path. As part of this quest, he plays a custom-built electric guitar inspired by Jerry Garcia’s ‘Wolf’ model through a Fender Twin amplifier with the same modifications that provided Jerry with his unique tone.
Bill is a frequent contributor to rukind.com, a musician’s forum that allows for in-depth discussions and approaches to the music. Bill has also provided instructional videos for rukind.com and for his own page on youtube - his username for both is billbbill.
Marc has been a fixture of the New York jamband band scene as long as anyone can remember. Some folks remember him as a radio DJ at WFUV and 107.1 The Peak but he’s best known for his vocals in popular Grateful Dead tribute bands Crimson Rose and High Time. More recently he has been singing with Gent Treadly w/Charles Neville, The Lost Highway Ramblers and Hello Dali. Marc's versatile vocal abilities allow him to play a wide-ranging role in the band. He's as comfortable singing a Bobby, Pigpen or Jerry tune as he is providing the soaring high harmonies of Brent Mydland. His unique phrasings stay true to the originals but help him make the songs his own.
Rhythm guitarist Steve Liesman, who joined SBB in 2012, has played the music of the Grateful Dead his entire adult life. His earliest groups played at the Fore 'n Aft in White Plains in the 1980s. He has played in Dead bands from Florida to Moscow, where he played in a band called the Technical Difficulties, because most of their Russian equipment didn't work. Liesman has played several times with Bob Weir, Jason Crosby and Jay Lane. His other venture, Steve Liesman and the Mooncussers, also plays around the NY Metro area.
Ron Cohen played his first bar gig at 12 years old and has been performing ever since. After many years of playing original music in and around NYC in bands including Atomsmasher, Rooftop Cowboys, Third Stone Collective and Chasing Sunday, Ron "deadicated" himself to playing GD music almost exclusively in 2007. After 7 years as the drummer for the local Long Island GD trib Half Step, Ron came home to Westchester, joining SBB in June 2014. Ron plays vintage Tama Superstar drums and (mostly) Zildjian cymbals.