Dead veterans take it Furthur
Since 1965, when the smoke and mirrors of the sixties still cast its magic on the landscape of America, one name has been synonymous with jam music: The Grateful Dead. The band was an icon of the psychedelic world, blending quintessential American styles into a unique brand of music that has been the beloved trademark of hippie culture ever since.
The band’s most current incarnation, both in spirit and in flesh, is called Furthur, and it is coming to the Mullins Center tonight for an all-star concert in classic style.
Furthur was formed late in 2009 by founding Grateful Dead members and Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame inductees Phil Lesh and Bob Weir. The two came together for this project following the final summer tour of The Other Ones, a previous Dead reunion band.
The band stays true to the roots of its legendary forbearer, with a short set-list but long jam sessions. These extended improvisational sets were a hallmark of The Grateful Dead, who adopted the style from American jazz. While their music is largely considered to be one of the earliest forms of Rock n’ Roll, it bears little resemblance to the classic rock than many of the current generation are familiar with. Instead, using the “jam” framework, The Grateful Dead blended blues, country and bluegrass into a distinct new sound that resonated with the psychedelic free-love culture of the time.
That was forty-five years ago, but not much has changed. Although their numbers may have diminished since the late sixties, legions of “Dead Heads,” as their fans are called, still exist around the world and their image is still synonymous with psychedelic drug use and tie-dye. Their iconic cover art still adorns the walls of dorm rooms across the country, and their spot in Rolling Stone’s “One Hundred Greatest Artists of all Time” list remains cemented at 55.
With the death of their unofficial leader Jerry Garcia in 1995 the Grateful Dead finally disbanded, ending a nearly unbroken thirty-year touring session. The remaining members went on hiatus, but were still far from retirement – and the music continued on. In addition to reunion bands, The Other Ones and The Dead, there has also been a highly successful tribute band, the Dark Star Orchestra, who claim to re-create the original group’s classic shows set-for-set.
Bob Weir reprises his previous reunion role as singer and guitarist, bringing his unique style of vocals to the lead role. He is joined in both respects by John Kadlecik, co-founder of Dark Star Orchestra. Kadlecik has been praised not only for his guitar skills, but for his vocal similarities to the late Jerry Garcia.
Grateful Dead original Phil Lesh, who recently celebrated his 70th birthday, returns on the bass guitar and is accompanied by Jeff Chimenti on keyboard. Chimenti had worked previously with Weir on his side band RatDog, as did Furthur drummer Jay Lane. Joe Russo fills out the drum section, combining with Weir’s unique guitar style to give the band a heavy rhythmic section that does not seem to detract from their overall laid-back flow.
Doors open at 6:00 tonight in the Mullins Center, and tickets range from $40-$50. The show begins at 7:30 p.m. and is expected to sell out. If you have ever dreamed of giving it all up and following The Dead cross country like in the days of old, now might be your chance to live the dream without dropping out, so get there early.
Andrew Sheridan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.