Cosmic Free Way
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Cosmic Free Way

Reno, Nevada, United States | SELF

Reno, Nevada, United States | SELF
Band Rock Jam


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Cosmic Free Way to be unplugged and reunited"

Tim Parsons,
December 27, 2007

It's still possible to catch the Cosmic Free Way.

Original members Joe Atkinson and Katie Freeman (formerly Schuch) will play an acoustic show Saturday, Dec. 29, at Rojo's. Another former member, R.J. Purple, is expected to sit in.

"When we get back together in Tahoe it's like a big family reunion," said Atkinson, who lives in Reno and has two other musical projects. "In the 1990s, Tahoe was really happening. We were one of the first jam bands on the West Coast."

Cosmic Free Way toured from Los Angeles to Maine to Florida, opening for bands such as Blues Traveler, Los Lobos, Canned Heat, String Cheese Incident and the Byrds, Atkinson said. The band had a self-released, self-titled debut album and followed up with "Red Flowers" on Good Noise Records in 1998, he said. It disbanded in 2000.

Atkinson has a Reno jam band called Left on Fourth Street and also plays in an acoustic duo called Choppin' Wood, which visits the Silver Legacy in January. Freeman now has two children and lives in Petaluma.

All the remaining members of Cosmic Free Way will play New Year's Eve at the Zephyr Lounge, 1074 S. Virginia St., Reno, the venue where the band first became popular.

"They put on an amazing and surreal and catatonic vibe when they get out there and play," said KOZZ radio DJ Max Volume. "They are hypnotic with their able craftsmanship. Just incredible musicians. I would urge people not to miss that show."

The remaining members include Chris Carletto, who plays with Cool Black Kettle, Joe Grissino of Uncle Funkle and Fletch, formerly of Frame of Mind.

The band's most recent reunion show was in July at the Tahoe Underground.

- Tahoe Daily Tribune

"Making The Most of IT"

Every day it seems, a new entity appears on the horizon of the jamband ocean. Often, upon closer inspection, I find many of these bands dole out nothing more than a tired rehash of an artform that in my opinion was perfected by Phish. Less frequently, some bands are actually capable of fighting through the Phish net to develop their own style and soul while staying true to the exploratory nature of the music. I believe what sets the two types of bands apart is the underlying motivation of the performers. Those bands which stick to the formula, that don't develop their own style, that do not innovate, are really just in it to make a buck. Sadly, I presume that most don't even accomplish this goal. The bands which stand out to me, appear to be motivated by their love of music alone. They are musicians for the sake of music. They love to play, anytime, anywhere, whether the performance is for two people or twenty thousand.

During the past month I have had the opportunity to catch performances by several bands, from a variety of pigeonholes, who indeed stay true to their love for music. Two of these bands, though drastically different in their musical style as well as the setting of each of their performances, fully captured my attention with the emotion and intensity of their playing. The guys in each of the bands obviously love what they are doing and as a result, made the most of their opportunity to perform.

The World Hemp Festival held in Harrisburg Oregon on July 16-18, 1999 at the property of local cannabis activist Bill Conde was the launching pad for my first ride on the Cosmic Freeway. Each of the past two years Mr. Conde's farm was the site of the High Times World Hemp Exposition and Extravaganja (WHEE!!!). This year, for unknown reasons (though I have my suspicions), High Times moved WHEE to Ohio leaving Mr. Conde and his Hi-Five productions to their own devices. Hi-Five's efforts did not disappoint the assemble crowd of mostly young, mostly attractive hempsters as far as I could tell.

I had jettisoned from my daytime position of small-time defender of the environment about five on friday afternoon. My truck loaded with all the necessities for a weekend of the unkown. What would the hemp festival have to offer besides the obvious? How would it compare to my experiences the previous weekend at "Fair"? My only goals for the weekend were to finally catch a musical ride on the Cosmic Freeway and help Master Motorhome celebrate the anniversary of his birth. Anything beyond that was pure gravy. To my extreme delight....the weekend had a LOT of gravy and nothing got burned or looted.

I arrived at the festival early (as it would turn out) on Friday evening to find a field full of cars on one side of a country road and a field full of vendors, tents, and a stage (all of which were behind a fence) on the other side of the road. I parked my car and headed towards the stage. I arrived at the fence behind it just in time to catch both the end of Cosmic Freeway's last song and a stage crew pass that was hurled over the fence at me by one of the Tahoe crew (thanks Dave!!!). Strolling confidently through the entertainers entrance, I flashed my pass and hooked up with the band and crew backstage. After making sure all the band's equipment was safely in one pile at the side of the stage, Justin (Clarke, Cosmic Freeway bassist) led me out in front of the stage to meet up with Master Motorhome and Sister Serafina. From there we made out way through the extremely mellow crowd to the Cosmic Freeway home on wheels.

Once inside the bus we developed a plan for the weekend. In the words of Viv Savage the goal it seemed was "to have a good time....all the time." This good time would include Cosmic Freeway setting up and playing a two plus hour set for the assembled glow stick eating rave kidz on Saturday night after things quieted down on the main stage. After wading through some puddles, we decided we needed to get the birthday boy party support vehicle through security to park it alongside the bus.

Armed with our entertainer/stage crew passes we pulled up to the vendor/service entrance of the festival. Sister Seraf went inside to do the sweet talking while I guarded the gate and Master Motorhome gunned his engine. A gruff looking security officer approached the padlocked gate from the inside. "What the hell is this now?" he demanded. "A truck trying to get inside to the Cosmic Freeway tourbus to drop off some equipment" I replied. "Tell him to take it somewhere else, the gate's closed.....IT'S YOUR JOB!!!" Just like that I had become a fully employed defender of the service entrance. Minutes later, Sister Seraf arrived with the keymaster, the gate slid open, and I abandoned my post for the rest of the weekend. I sure hope the weak link in security I created was not a problem.

The hard part done for the evening we settled into a long night of merriment and music. Highpoints for the night were the sometimes soulful Portland rap crew Hungry Mob, the bouncy caribbean reggae of Shamir, a quietly blazing set from local latin funkateers Rubberneck, a late night tea tent/opium den acoustic set from Jupiter Hollow, and a drum circle dance of the naked banshees at the fire ring. Rubberneck had been in high gear, in the midst of a blazing jam that would have made Carlos Santana proud when the sheriff arrived. Rubberneck was ordered off stage to the boos of the assembled crowd. Our host Bill Conde came out to explain that he had to make a curfew deal with local law enforcement to even have the event happen. But, if we danced quietly, Rubberneck would be allowed to come back out to play at reduced volumes. As the super quiet set progressed, the irony of the situation was hammered home when the music was drowned out by the Georgia Pacific logging trucks that growled past the stage. The trucks carrying the corpses of the most recently slaughtered trees to the lumber mill, taunted the celebration of the fiber that could be used as a replacement for the victims of arboreal carnage. There ought to be a law. The festivities on the main stage closed out with a scene destined to set the tone for the rest of the evening. An ecstatic exhibitionist joined the band onstage to close out the set. The woman obviously had something to say, though she could not find the words. Sadly, the only thing that came out of her mouth when she stepped to the microphone was the undigested remains of her dinner (mostly LIQUID from what I could tell).

Moving from the main stage to the tea tent we found Jupiter Hollow playing an acoustic opium den set for a few dozen folks strewn about the floor in sleeping bags. Jupiter Hollow is still another jamband (who would play very well on the main stage on Sunday) that recently relocated from somewhere in Missouri to Eugene. I liked what I heard from them both Friday and Sunday and I hope they make it up to Portland soon.

Next stop after the teat tent was the dance of the naked banshees and drum jam at the fire ring. As the flames danced, the drummers beat out a rhythm for the cathartic gesticulation of half a dozen daughters of the goddess. Quite a scene, very primal, bordering on pure carnality. Finally making our way back to the bus we settled into a night long celebration of the season. I made the trade of the evening when a guy in the midst of a rendevous in a tent ran up to me and pleaded for a beer. He gave me a ten strip, so I gave him two. I awoke to a blazing sun, face down on one of the benches in the bus, ready for another day of fun. We wandered the vendor booths. We made a beer run, this time getting my truck inside the compound. I tried out some Keef. Who takes the time to harvest that stuff?

The Zen Tricksters were the Saturday night headliner. The Scarlet>Fire was good. I could have done without the rest of their show to be honest.

All day long the idea of Cosmic Freeway playing a late night set was bouncing around the bus. Much to my delight it finally happened. The gear had arrived back at the bus from the main stage sometime mid afternoon. After spending the evening getting an astronomy lesson from Joe and splitting my ten strip with the birthday boy I was ready for the performance. Around 1:00 A.M. the gear started to come back out of the bus. To pass the time I went down to the rave tent to check out the glow-stick art project. Ran into Fletch and decided it was time to go back to the bus. Finally around 2:00 the signpost to the Cosmic Freeway was in my site. It turned out to be quite a ride.

As is often the case, it is easiest to describe what a band is like by comparing them to something familiar. The sounds I heard coming from Cosmic Freeway that night were what I would imagine the product of sending James Brown, Jim Morrison, Pink Floyd, and the Dead circa 1973 out into the desert a mobile studio would be. Blazing spacy funk to rock your soul. Scattered among over two and a half hours of kick ass original tunes (most of which I regret to report I do not know the names of) Cosmic Freeway played the HELL out of Shakedown Street, funked their way through a James Brown cover I cannot remember, and melted out of a 4:20 fueled ambient wash into Pink Floyd's Echoes. The surprise of the night arrived when the band dropped on a dime out of Echoes into a Shakedown reprise (this coming shortly after I was introduced to the crystal elves with the fluorescent beach balls who inhabit the core of the sun). Throughout it all Joe, Justin, Joe, Fletch, and Chris seemed ecstatic to be playing for the 80 or so people that writhed around the bus. Their jams were inventive, fresh, and filled with joy and love. "I'm talking about many of you are really ALIVE???" As the sun began to rise over the Coburg Hills escarpment I felt truly blessed to have been in attendance. It was one of those legendary musical moments that countless thousands will some day claim to have been a part of. Keep in mind...I was watching all who were in attendance and I WILL call you on your bullshit. But much more importantly... who has the tapes?

Much more recently, at the 4th annual Hyacinth House post industrial garden party, I was once again struck by a genuine, passionate, performance under less than ideal circumstances. Carolina Pump Station, a local Portland bluegrass ensemble had been invited to perform at the party. Unlike previous years, the weather did not cooperate with the planned day in the garden. When the band finally arrived at midnight, the party was a loose collection of stragglers rather than the raging bash they were expecting. Not dissuaded by the lack of an audience Josh, Bill, Mike, and Jeff settled in around the campfire and played for the survivors. Covering a range from Doc Watson, through Pure Prairie League, the Dead, and several recently penned originals. I actually found myself enjoying acoustic folk/bluegrass for the first time in my life. Undeniably the high point of the set was a stellar version of Poor Heart>Rolling in My Sweet Baby's Arms>Poor Heart>Rolling in My Sweet Baby's Arms. The segues were ABSOLUTELY seamless. Flawless. Jawdropping. Catch them soon in a Portland bar near you. Especially if the Captain is going to be that guy is hilarious.

Cosmic Freeway have a CD called Red Flowers available for download via MP3 on Check out the free sample at the very least! And from what I understand are planning to be blowing shit up in the Black Rock Desert early in September. They are reason enough to head on down to Burning Man if you can. If things work out...I hope to make the most of it myself. - Martin Acaster


Cosmic Free Way: 1991
Red Flowers: 1998



Cosmic Free Way is based out of the Reno/Tahoe area. They've toured relentlessly since the late 80s and they still manage to keep the loyal following that they've had for the past 18 years or so.

They have shared the stage with such acts as Blues Traveler, String Cheese Incident, Los Lobos, Jupiter Hollow, Zen Tricksters, Rubberneck, Jerry Joseph, The Paisley Brain Cells, Jambay, Daryl Lee Thompson (El Borracho), Lost at Last, Vinyl, Vince Welnick, Canned Heat, The Byrds, Montrose, Cubensis, Melvin Seals and the JGB, and the legendary Merle Saunders.

The Cosmic Free Way have been featured in the Hightimes Hemp 100 uncountable times over the years. They also have been mentioned in Relix magazine in regards to playing the Phish lot at The Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas november 13th 1997.

Max Volume one of the Reno/Tahoe most notable top-notch DJs (105.7 K.O.Z.Z. Reno's classic rock) station has been quoted as saying. "Some of the most awesome experiences of his life have been at Cosmic Free Way shows".

Cosmic Free Way has played many venues in the Reno/Tahoe, Nevada area, which they are happy to call their home. As well as many performances across the U.S., they are grateful to have been a part of the original Gathering of the Vibes Festival in California, The World Hemp Festival in Harrisburg, Oregon in 99 and 2000, as well as several appearances at the Annual Dead In The Desert Festival in California.

Our influences include: Grateful Dead, Allman Brothers, Yes, Phish, Widespread Panic, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Led Zeppelin, New Riders Of The Purple Sage, CCR, Greyboy Allstars, Los Lobos, The Beatles, Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, Tower Of Power, Little Feat, ZZ Top, Cream, Deep Purple, Traffic, Grand Funk, E.L.P, The Tubes, Pink Floyd, The Who, Steppenwolf, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Black Sabbath, James Brown.