Alive and Well Former Grateful Dead Members Bob Weir and Mickey Hart Find New Life with the Further Festival
Guarino, Mark, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Mark Guarino Daily Herald Music Critic
- What: The Furthur Festival, featuring Ratdog with Bob Weir and Rob Wasserman, Mickey Hart's Planet Drum, Bruce Hronsby, moe., Sherri Jackson, Jorma Kaukonen, Michael Falzarano and Arlo Guthrie.
- Where: Alpine Valley, Highways D and 120 in East Troy, Wis., and at The World Theatre, 19100 S. Ridgeland Ave. in Tinley Park
- When: 4 p.m. Friday at Alpine Valley and 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the World
- Tickets: $32.75/$26.25 Call (312) 559-1212
Bob Weir and Mickey Hart are thirsty this summer and it's not for Kool-Aid.
"When we're playing live onstage we're really living," said Weir. "The rest is just marking time. We actually have to have it; it's like air. We have to have music."
And that air supply was abruptly unplugged in late August, 1995 when Jerry Garcia died of a heart attack, ending their stint in what had become a musical culture all its own, the Grateful Dead.
With humble beginnings as the house band for author Ken Kesey's LSD parties in 1965, the Dead grew to become a worldwide stadium act whose merchandising arms and fan base seemed neverending.
Weir hopes the organization's Furthur Fest tour (named after Kesey's psychedelic bus) will continue the freewheeling musical spirit the Dead emulated for nearly 30 years.
Now in its second year, the festival indeed has the obvious ingredients -- two former Dead players (Weir and Hart), a frequent Dead sideman (Bruce Hornsby), young Dead-influenced rockers (The Black Crowes and moe.), and one unabashed '60s folkie to emcee (Arlo Guthrie).
And improvisation, the core of the Dead, also will ground Furthur. Ratdog, Weir's new band, only plans to play about four songs a set. Make those lengthy songs. Last year, Ratdog was dogged for being just another mediocre blues band compared to the mothership it sprang from. This year, Weir said he plans to stray from the blues to work up old Grateful Dead songs plus new originals.
Late August and early September is set aside to record the group's debut album and a club tour may be planned this fall.
After Kingfish and Bobby And The Midnites, Ratdog is the third band Weir's noodled with during the Dead years. And, like the Dead, all have saddled themselves with traditional American musical idioms, from jazz to modern classical to bluegrass to folk.
"We're going to try to help people cultivate those tastes," he said of the festival lineup. "You start with a band that's current, then bring it back to where its roots came from. You can trace nearly any current popular form of American music back a long way. We're going to be stepping backwards and forward in time."
To illustrate that connection, Weir is writing a musical theater show based on the life of Negro league pitcher and Cleveland Indians player Satchel Paige. …