New Life for the Dead
If You Get Confused, Listen to the Music Play
But enough about bad feelings and bottom lines. This is a band, damnit, and the reason we’re even writing about The Dead is that their music continues to inspire and delight and unite hundreds of thousands of people, as the group proudly forges on as the graying patriarchs of the current jamband scene. This summer’s marathon trek of sheds and festivals will be the biggest tour for the Deadsters since Garcia’s death, easily eclipsing last fall’s jaunt. An added bonus to this summer’s shows are strong opening acts for different legs of the tour, with the promise of The Dead having some sort of musical interaction with those artists: Steve Winwood, Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan (Robert Hunter will also be on the bill for the Dylan shows, and moe. will open for the Dead on one date).
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Lesh says. “We’ve always liked playing with other artists, having them drop by or whatever. It’s part of our tradition, you could say. I’m a big fan of Steve Winwood. We did some of his songs with the Dead, and I’ve done them in my band. That just seems like a natural match. Originally we wanted him to be part of the band, but he had his own thing going, so this was the next best way to plug him into our scene.
No doubt Willie Nelson, a long-time friend of the band, will also fit in well and present some intriguing possibilities for onstage collaborations. As for Dylan, “We’re planning to get together with him to rehearse,” Phil notes. “Beyond that, I have no idea what’s going to happen,” he chuckles. Indeed—Dylan works in mysterious ways.
Lesh is confident that this is going to be strong tour for the Dead musically. He says that he, Weir, Hart and Robert Hunter have been working on some new songs for the tour and “we’ll just get better as we play more,” he notes. “I thought the last tour was a gas. It was really interesting to see what everyone had learned and how they had grown during the years we hadn’t played together. So for me it had the feeling of being old and new at the same time. I thought everyone in the band was playing more interestingly than they had been at the end of the Grateful Dead.”
“It was all much better than I ever hoped it would be,” Billy K. says of the last tour. “Alpine Valley was as much fun as it could possibility be. Everything about it was great—the music, the scene. It was close to perfect. We got to go back to old Grateful Dead-land and play for the fans and play for each other onstage and get each other off first. That was really fun. And that pretty much continued for the tour we did. The chemistry was there. And I’m glad we’re doing it again because I want to work it even harder this time. This new band is great!”
Weir also digs the group, but when I reach him by phone in Tulsa during Ratdog’s spring tour, he’s in a sour mood—the first time I’ve encountered this side of his personality in the many years that I’ve interviewed him. Asked an innocuous question about his impression of the last tour, Mount Bob erupts: “It was too god-damned loud onstage! It was louder than the Grateful Dead ever was onstage. It was hard to hear what people were doing and to interact. It was hard to hear the vocals. Everything was affected by the onstage sound. It actually damaged my ears.
“We’re capable of plenty of interaction, but it cannot happen on the onstage volume that we were playing. There were people onstage wearing earplugs because of the sound of their own instruments and that’s just absurd.”
Er…uh…okay. What’s the remedy, Bob?
“Turn it the fuck down!” At least now he’s laughing. “If people heed my call and turn the fuck down onstage, we will make great music. ‘Cause it is a great band. And I think the new guys really brought a lot to it.
Ah, yes, “the new guys.” And for this tour…drum roll, please…“the new gal.” Joining the Core Four, and last year’s “new” members—guitarist Jimmy Herring and keyboardists Jeff Chimenti and Rob Barraco—is singer Joan Osborne, who was impressive in her audition/debut with the group on Valentine’s Day, singing such chestnuts as “Hard to Handle,” “Lovelight” and “Casey Jones.” This time, however, she won’t just be a “guest” floating on and off the stage to sing a couple of songs. She’ll be a fully integrated member of this group, singing lead on a number of songs, duets on a few and backups on most of the others. Her role will be greater than Susan Tedeshi’s was last summer, in part because she’ll actually get to rehearse with the band in advance.
Beth Hart shares the opening track from her latest album, Bang Bang Boom Boom, live at Relix.
Jamie Lidell sets up in the Relix boiler room and delivers a tune from his 2005 album Multiply
Duane Trucks is happy to announce his new project, King Lincoln. Watch them perform “Coffee” live and acoustic at Relix’s Online-Video Coordinator’s loft in Williamsburg.
Here’s another song from Crystal Bowersox’s new record All That For This, live at Relix.
WYATT share a song in the famed Relix boiler room.
Goodnight, Texas share a song from their latest studio album, A Long Life of Living, live at Relix.
Warren Haynes performs a solo, acoustic version of “Railroad Boy” and explains how he adapted the traditional Celtic song for Gov’t Mule, backstage at the Hangout Music Festival.
Australia’s Alpine recently made their NYC debut at the Relix office with this song from their new album A is for Alpine.
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.
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