New Life for the Dead
With Furthur’s summer tour set to kick off on Friday night in Rochester, we thought this a fine time to look back to July 2003, when Phil Lesh and Bob Weir reunited in the Dead
“The magic’s back big time! I can feel it, baby!” Mickey Hart is cruising through southern Sonoma County on his way down to the Dead’s office/studio complex in Novato, Martin County, California. And though I’m on the other end of the phone, I just know he’s wearing a space-age headset, he’s got the dark shades on, he’s moving animatedly, and he’s got a big ol’ grin on his face. When Mickey is “on” in interview mode, he’s a writer’s dream—his enthusiasm is infectious and he’s a veritable quote machine. On this glorious May afternoon, he’s more than happy to do his part to hype the forthcoming summer tour of the Dead: “The vibe is there!” he shouts above the roar of his engine. I neglect to ask him what he’s driving, but I’ve seen his cars before—whatever it is, it’s sleek and speedy, with a lot of horses under the hood. “We’re forging a new hybrid—very much Grateful Dead. It sounds and feels like Grateful Dead, but obviously without Jerry. Y’know, I keep hearing him in my ear and he’s saying, ‘Yeah! Go! Go! Go! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!’ And, ‘If you don’t do it, you’re lame.’” Then Mickey drops into a dead-on impersonation of the Departed One: “Don’t be lame, maaaan!” He laughs heartily and I can hear him accelerating, as if to punctuate the thought. “No, really,” he adds. “Jerry’s really loud and he’s riding shotgun with me. I’m tellin’ you, the love is back. That’s what the Grateful Dead was built on to begin with.”
Well, that’s a pretty rosy assessment of the state of things in Grateful Dead Land, but that’s Mickey—at that moment. He’s just doing his job, folks. But I also think he’s sincere. He’s genuinely jazzed to be back playing music again with his former mates from the Grateful Dead—now, in reconstituted form, known simply as The Dead. Jazzed, and from the sound of it, still amazed that the bitter acrimony that had divided the band for years subsided to the point where they could all play music together again.
“After what we’ve been through…” he says, and his voice trails off. “If you were to say a year ago that we would get back together and play vital new music, I’d say ‘You’re outta your fucking mind! It won’t happen!’ But it did happen and now we’re running the show. We’re not being led around by a bunch of business advisors and lawyers. We’re taking our fate in our own hands and we’re all making the decisions. And we’re not estranged from each other. We’re siblings. We agree on some things and some things we don’t agree on. But that’s life. At least now the spirit allows for disagreement without anger. We’re in this together and moving forward.”
There’s a slightly defensive air to Hart’s remarks, but that may be because I’ve committed the cardinal sin of getting away from tour promo for a moment to ask about a shift in the power structure of the Dead organization and the common perception that Phil Lesh and his wife and manager Jill—estranged for a couple of years from Hart, Bob Weir and Bill Kreutzmann; indeed from the entire GD business infrastructure—are now effectively in control of the company and calling most of the shots.
“We all have equal input into it,” Hart is quick to note. “The way it’s set up now is we’re mutually agreeing on everything we do. We’ve put our differences behind us, as a matter of survival, and we’ve developed a new business model for a new day.”
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
Dame shares a song from her new EP Preventions of Heartbreak.
Golden Bloom stopped by Relix to perform a tune from their latest EP No Day Like Today.
The Chapin Sisters share an tune from their new album A Date With the Everly Brothers.
Minneapolis-based Night Moves share a song from their record, Colored Emotions, live at Relix.
Cloud Cult share a song from their latest album live at Relix.
The Giving Tree Band enjoy a spring day on the Relix rooftop, while performing a classic Grateful Dead tune.
Canadian singer-songwriter Hayden performs a duet with his sister-in-law Lou Canon. The song appears on Us Alone his first record on Broken Social Scene’s Arts & Crafts Productions.
The Milk Carton Kids share the first song from their new album, The Ash & Clay.
Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
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