Scrolling Headlines:

UMass women’s basketball suffers disappointing loss to St. Bonaventure at Mullins Center Thursday -

January 19, 2017

REPORT: Tom Masella out as defensive coordinator for UMass football -

January 19, 2017

Zach Lewis, bench carry UMass men’s basketball in win over St. Joe’s -

January 19, 2017

UMass women’s basketball handles Duquesne at home -

January 16, 2017

UMass men’s basketball’s late comeback falls short after blowing 15-point first-half lead -

January 15, 2017

UMass hockey outlasted at home against No. 6 UMass Lowell -

January 14, 2017

Hailey Leidel hits second buzzer beater of the season to give UMass women’s basketball win over Davidson -

January 13, 2017

UMass football hosts Maine at Fenway Park in 2017 -

January 12, 2017

UMass men’s basketball snaps losing streak and upsets Dayton Wednesday night at Mullins Center -

January 11, 2017

UMass women’s track and field takes second at Dartmouth Relays -

January 10, 2017

UMass hockey falls to No. 5 Boston University at Frozen Fenway -

January 8, 2017

UMass professor to make third appearance on ‘Jeopardy!’ -

January 8, 2017

UMass women’s basketball suffers brutal loss on road against Saint Joseph’s -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops thirds straight, falls to VCU 81-64 -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops tightly-contested conference matchup against George Mason Wednesday night -

January 4, 2017

Late-game defense preserves UMass women’s basketball’s win against rival Rhode Island -

January 4, 2017

AIC shuts out UMass hockey 3-0 at Mullins Center -

January 4, 2017

UMass professor to appear as contestant on ‘Jeopardy!’ Thursday night -

January 4, 2017

Penalties plague UMass hockey in Mariucci Classic championship game -

January 2, 2017

UMass men’s basketball falls in A-10 opener to St. Bonaventure and its veteran backcourt -

December 30, 2016

Furthur than the average reunion band

The setup was simple: A jungle of eclectic musical instruments drenched in a soft purple light, as white-haired roadies went about their quiet work in the silence before the dawn.

Further: Photo Slideshow

 As the doors opened at the Mullins Center, the peaceful masses slowly trickled in and pooled into an unwashed, anticipatory pit crowd. The goal of the night was to experience a slice of history, a cultural phenomenon that became an iconic representation of hippie culture in the last half of the 20th century. Furthur – the world’s only touring Grateful Dead reunion band – was visiting the University of Massachusetts, and the faithful were in full attendance.

The crowd was mixed. Dreadlocked students were joined by members of the clean-cut, middle-aged crowd who carried their children in tow. And as always, the hardcore first generation “Dead Heads” arrived in droves. They came from very different backgrounds, some traveling hundreds of miles to attend, but everyone in the audience was there for one purpose: to groove.

When the band marched out on stage, they made no introduction and held no pretense of flashy showmanship. Strings plucked, drums slammed and the show began.

Furthur was formed by Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Bob Weir and Phil Lesh in the style of the Grateful Dead. While the two were founding members of the Dead, the rest of the musicians have been recruited from similar-style jam bands and side projects of the founders. This makes it part reunion, part tribute band to the legendary original, and the spirit and feel are very much intact.

The Massachusetts Daily Collegian spoke to one dedicated Dead Head, who specified that his last name not be used. A central Connecticut native, Kevin was, like the rest of the crowd, relaxed and ready to feel the music.   

“I love it,” said Kevin, when asked how he felt about the event. “I drove six hours to Virginia last week for them, so this is nothing.”

Having attended several Dead-style shows in the past, including a live show “in ’95 … that was two months before Jerry [Garcia] died,” and “three Furthur, five RatDog [Bob Weir’s side band], and two The Other Ones,” Kevin was an ideal form to remark on the Grateful Dead’s long-standing appeal.

 “It’s the music. It makes you feel good inside … plus the drugs,” he said.

The drugs were a part of the concert experience that cannot be overlooked. For over 40 years, The Grateful Dead – with their long-form jam sessions and trippy cover art – have been a rallying point for psychedelic drug use. The glow of lighter-meeting-joint peppered the crowd like flashbulbs at the Super Bowl, and a thin cloud of smoke hovered over the proceedings.

While the stage setup was not complex and the band members never spoke to rally the crowd, they nonetheless put on the show that the audience wanted to see. The overhead lights strafed the crowd, shifting through the spectrum to dramatic effect. Spotlights cut through the hazy air like light sabers, illuminating the swaying, dancing, tripping masses on the floor.

The music itself was, in classic form, little more than a jam session. Furthur transitioned seamlessly from classic hits to bluesy free-form. As their sets faded almost into silence, with perhaps nothing but a bass riff to pierce the din, they always built back up to a full-fledged album track.

In some of their sets, the band’s country influence came through strongly. “Don’t Murder Me,” in particular, packed a serious punch of twang. Throughout most of the concert, however, the Grateful Dead’s unique style of early rock ‘n’ roll dominated the soundscape.

After a sing-along finale of “Not Fade Away,” the crowd was ecstatic. The band retreated backstage and bassist Phil Lesh spoke to the audience for the first time during the show. He thanked Amherst, plugged his favorite cause (organ donation) and invited Furthur back out on stage. They finished with the soulful hit “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” and, as the lights went out, faded away into the night.

Andrew Sheridan can be reached at asher1@student.umass.edu.

Comments
5 Responses to “Furthur than the average reunion band”
  1. Bud says:

    “Don’t Murder Me” is a tune named “Dire Wolf.”

    Good day!

  2. Matthew Lowe says:

    The you call “Don’t murder me” is actually titled “Dire Wolf.” Easy mistake tho. Nice review! Excellent shot.

  3. Matthew Lowe says:

    *song you call

  4. gpoconnor says:

    I enjoyed the article — saw the Dead at UMass in 1979 as a student.

    BTW, the song you refer to as “Don’t Murder Me” is probably “Dire Wolf” from the Workingman’s Dead album.

  5. Hunter says:

    Um, not familiar with the song Don’t Murder Me. I think you were referring to Dire Wolf.

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