At final Spectrum shows, nostalgia rises with the Dead
May. 2, 2009
By John Timpane
Inquirer Staff Writer
The Dead live. And Deadheads live for the Dead.
The Dead are playing the soon-to-be-gone Spectrum for two final
shows, one last night and one tonight. Not the Grateful Dead - laid
to rest along with iconic bandleader Jerry Garcia in 1995 - but a
core of the original band members who call themselves the Dead:
guitarist Bob Weir, bassist Phil Lesh, and drummers Mickey Hart and
If you count the original band and all its branches as one long,
strange trip, these will be their 54th and 55th concerts at the
Spectrum, more than any other musical act. (Bruce Springsteen is in
second place, way back there with 32.)
And the faithful are here - on a drippy afternoon as misty as a
As of 3 p.m., weathered vans and buses from Ohio, South Carolina,
Vermont, Michigan - plus a Delaware van, license GRTFL - line one
side of the Spectrum. They are soon shooed by police.
In the parking lot, with true Deadhead optimism, clean-cut Voorhees
native Bill Read has set up a hammock and is reading Third Generation
R&D (he's a grad student at Wharton) with a rainstorm about four feet
over his head. When the rain gets to be too much, he deploys a party
tent out of his hatchback.
He's here with Nick Shallers of Wilmington, and John McCall of
Somerville, N.J. McCall says, "I saw them in Saratoga [N.Y.], and
they blew me away. They've still got it." Shallers says, "It's a lot
of fun to come back together with friends and see them."
Another group shows this band's cross-generational appeal. Lisa
Connor, 43, of Feasterville, says, "My mother, who is 66 now, just
loves the Dead."
Next to her is Vicki Syms, 17, also of Feasterville. Syms calls the
music "awesome" and says that people her age like Dead concerts
because "there's a great feeling - it's friendly and relaxed."
Denny Horn, 57, of Willow Grove, has been to every Dead show at the
Spectrum, and he reckons he's seen "around 300 shows total - I've
lost count. I first saw them in 1970 at Temple Stadium with Hendrix."
His daughter Alison, 20, likes the Dead and "feels like she's been
there [in the '60s]."
The shows celebrate a culture, not just a band. Deadheads evolved a
style, a language, a fashion, a way of free-form dancing (Horn: "Time
stands still for a few hours, and you let your hair down and dance"),
an assortment of freely available drugs.
And a knack for home-made business. Billy Buell, 46, has driven his
stuffed, duct-taped 1995 Dodge Marquis all the way from Ft.
Lauderdale, "by way of Greensboro [N.C.], then Washington, then back
to Greensboro, and after this I'm going to Chicago." He's selling
drinks and soup. A beat-up Winnebago gas stove awaits employment on his roof.
Lisa Eaton, here from Youngstown, Ohio, says: "A kind of traveling
carnival accompanies the band everywhere it goes. People finance
their travels by doing a lot of different things, including selling
stuff." She's right: The Spectrum parking lot - now drying out; the
rain has let up - has become a bazaar. Stalls pop up to offer food,
T-shirts, glass jewelry, and various intoxicants. Grills, tiny and
huge, start to smoke.
Two time-honored Dead moments: One twentysomething approaches to say:
"Hi, I drove all the way up here from [name of state] and I need $12
for parking. I got plenty of stuff to sell or barter to make it worth
your while, man." And in the great Dead entrepreneurial spirit, a
willowy woman roams the crowd, saying, "Thank you for pot-smoking"
and flashing an array of smokes. (For the record, the sweet smell of
excess was less in evidence than the consumption of beer. But then,
it was raining.)
Dead enterprise includes "street teams" of fans who, organized via
Web sites, help distribute info about Dead-related events in return
for posters, tickets, or ins to post-concert parties.
When the sun finally works through, around 5, a fascinating thing
happens. The faithful - the 60s, 50s and 40s in their campers and VW
vans - are joined by a growing stream of 20s and 30s, out with their
friends to hear the music and enjoy the scene. They come out of the
subways, some in tie-dyed shirts, some in dirndl dresses, most in the
T-shirt-and-jeans uniform of the young. New generations, keeping the
love of the Dead alive.
Contact staff writer John Timpane at 215-854-4406, firstname.lastname@example.org
Nights of the living Dead
Two final shows at the Spectrum for Jerry's kids.
May. 3, 2009
By Dan DeLuca
Inquirer Music Critic
Only sports teams have played the Spectrum more than the Grateful
Dead. Back before Jerry Garcia died in 1995, the prototypical jam
band sold out the now-slated-for-demolition arena a whopping 53
times, then did two more shows in its post-Garcia incarnation as the
Other Ones in 2002.
On Friday, the band now known as the Dead, who re-formed for an Obama
benefit in State College last fall, opened another two-night,
sold-out stand in South Philadelphia. Frosty-haired frontman Bob Weir
kicked off the three-hour show with "Playing in the Band," which is
pretty much what the 61-year-old, mellow-voiced singer has been doing
since he met Garcia on a fateful New Year's Eve in Palo Alto, Calif., in 1963.
Along with Weir, the current Dead lineup includes core members Mickey
Hart and Bill Kreutzmann on drums, and bassist Phil Lesh, who sang
his "Box of Rain" as an encore, and was the only band member to utter
an unsung word. Lesh, the beneficiary of a 1998 liver transplant,
urged audience members to become organ donors and told the Spectrum
crowd: "I forgot how intense it was here."
The legendarily cursed role of the Dead's keyboard player - where
four musicians have died - is played this go-round by Ratdog's Jeff
Chimenti. And more crucial to the Dead's success than any of them, in
a way, is the band's sixth man, Gov't Mule and Allman Brothers
guitarist Warren Haynes, who stands stage left, gamely taking on the
impossible role of replacing Garcia.
The Dead, of course, have been a pop-cultural phenomenon for decades,
and since they haven't toured since 2004, the Spectrum shows are a
rare opportunity for a gathering of the tribe.
And that tribe also marked a sharp contrast with the audience
assembled for the Bruce Springsteen shows at the Spectrum last week.
The multigenerational Dead crowd was similarly almost exclusively
white, while being younger and crustier, and more wasted. (The only
fight I saw was at Springsteen on Tuesday night - the Dead crowd
seemed far too relaxed, chemically or otherwise, to indulge in any
But while Dead fans wouldn't miss the opportunity to commune with
other Dead fans, that doesn't mean they're under the false impression
that the bland - I mean, band - they're seeing is the actual Grateful
Dead. "As long as Jerry Garcia is dead, no band is the Grateful
Dead," said my friend Jake, who should know, since he's seen more
than 300 shows. Still, he came to this one - in a
Disney-meets-the-Dead "Keep On Grumpin' " tie-dyed T-shirt, no less -
while expressing his preference, at this point, for seeing a Grateful
Dead cover band like Dark Star Orchestra.
Wisely, Haynes, a muscular guitarist and vocalist whose style bears
little resemblance to Garcia's, never slavishly attempts to imitate
the countercultural icon. Instead, he tries, with some success, to
delicately balance the art of putting his own stamp on the band's
repertoire without imposing himself too strongly on Garcia's legacy.
In the first set, he enlivened "New Speedway Boogie" with beefy,
staccato riffing, and in the second, he played weeping, sorrowful
lines in "Comes A Time," a Garcia/Robert Hunter composition, not the
Neil Young song. Vocally, Haynes recalled not Garcia, but the first
doomed Dead keyboard player, the gruff-voiced Ron "Pigpen" McKernan,
who died in 1973, and whose version of Otis Redding's "Hard To
Handle" was Haynes' starting point on Friday night.
The Dead have always mixed blues, folk, bluegrass, and other strands
of Americana into a careworn rock sound that rolls along effortlessly
- and often endlessly. Among the jammy highlights Friday was
"Alligator," with a loping gait that kept accelerating, while Lesh
played a contrapuntal bass line straight out of a spy movie.
The tighter, more effective moments included a spry "Friend of the
Devil," with Weir, Haynes, and Lesh taking turns on verses, as well
as the one-two punch of the traditional "Cold Rain and Snow" and
Weir's "Sugar Magnolia," which roused the crowd to stand up and sing
and clap along nearly three hours into a show that got snappier as it
came to a close.
What made those songs work so well was the discipline with which they
were delivered. But economy of expression is not the Dead's strong
point, nor its goal. The nightly second-set interludes known as
"Drums" and "Space" are more like it, and both were enervating on Friday.
It's a given that those two interludes will function almost like a
second intermission at a Dead show. If you time your drugs right,
it's a trip; if not, it's a good time to check your e-mail or update
your Facebook status. More dismaying were the formless jams of the
first set, such as "Shakedown Street," which was pointlessly
stretched out on an improvisational journey that went nowhere before
petering out on the side of the road.
Contact music critic Dan DeLuca at 215-854-5628 or email@example.com.
The Dead rise again at the Spectrum
By NICOLE PENSIERO
May 1, 2009
The Dead come back to life at Philly's Wachovia Spectrum tonight and
Saturday, when original members Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann
and Mickey Hart take to the stage. They'll be joined by Allman
Brothers/Gov't Mule guitarist Warren Haynes and Ratdog keyboardist
Jeff Chimenti for this 22-date U.S. tour -- their first major concert
trek in five years.
Founded in the mid '60s in San Francisco's hippie-laden
Haight-Ashbury district by the late guitarist Jerry Garcia, the
Grateful Dead (as they were then known) became famous for their
free-flowing live shows, giving rise to the "jam-band" era of more
"In the 14 years since Jerry checked out, I've evolved; we've all
evolved," guitarist/singer Bob Weir said in a recent interview. "The
surprises (onstage) are going to come thick and fast. The stuff we've
picked over the last few years is going to start coming out and I
can't wait to see comes of that."
Weir noted that, although Garcia is gone, his presence is still felt
by the band members -- and by the audience -- at concerts: "At the
risk of sounding like abnormal psychology, Jerry is still there. I
can hear him, you can hear him."
Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. shows are $65 and $95. Call (800) 298-4200
or go to www.comcasttix.com for more information.
The Dead say they're grateful Obama inspired their reunion
By Ricardo Baca
Denver Post Pop Music Critic
With each gathering of the Dead, there's a different impetus.
That is to say, each time Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann and
Mickey Hart tour as the Dead, there's a different reason. Sure, Dead
tours are communal gatherings focused on the music. They are also
easy money-makers for all parties involved.
But what inspired the venerable jam band's most recent outing, which
stops at the Pepsi Center on Thursday?
"In a very real sense," said Phil Lesh, the band's longtime bass
player, "Barack brought us together just like he's bringing the whole
Lesh met the president back when Obama was a senator. In September
2007, Lesh's son, Brian, was volunteering for the Obama campaign when
the family flew out to a "Daily Show" taping that would feature the
candidate. They met some folks with the Obama camp at the taping and
ended up at a speech in Brooklyn, and when they finally met Obama,
Lesh's wife, Jill, had a special message for him.
"My wife said, 'We'll bring you the hippie vote,' " Lesh remembered.
"And it wasn't much later that (the Dead) got back together to do the
Get Out the Vote rally for Obama in San Francisco. I was going to do
it with my band (Phil Lesh & Friends), but my son Brian said, 'No,
dad, you have to get the Dead together for this.' "
The Dead played a memorable show that night, and the campaign came
back to them a few months later requesting they play a similar show
at Penn State University before the general election. Lesh remembers
the band's second 2008 show being an unusually good concert even by
his high standards. And that show inspired the tour that is bringing
the quartet, augmented by singer-guitarist Warren Haynes and
keyboardist Jeff Chimenti, to Denver.
"We didn't think about doing anything professionally until after the
second event," Lesh said. "I guess you could attribute it to the
feeling you get, the joy of being reunited with your brothers,
really. These guys are family. And like any family, we have our ups
and downs. Right now it's great to be on an up cycle."
Last we saw the Dead on the 2004 tour they were on a down cycle.
The band's infighting has been well documented, and by the end of
their last tour they were barely talking. The bandmates are getting
along much better now, according to Lesh. And the legendary Bay Area
band started this most recent slate of shows by going back to its
roots only on the East Coast.
The Grateful Dead used to be famous for supplementing its regular
slate of shows with free gigs in the park played on flatbed trucks
with equipment that was plugged into an extension cord that ran
across the street into a friend's apartment. A month ago, the band
played three free shows in New York City, in venues the Angel
Orensanz, the Blender Theatre at Gramercy and the Roseland Ballroom
rather than parks.
"We used to play in parks all the time before the ballrooms opened
up," said Lesh. "That was practically built into our DNA. But
unfortunately it's not the '60s anymore, and a lot of places New
York City included won't let you do free shows in the park anymore.
But playing those three shows in New York was something we really
wanted to do. It felt good to give back to the fans."
Speaking of the fans, some Deadheads have followed these musicians
for nearly 45 years now. Lesh is nearly speechless when asked about
their loyalty and support.
"God bless 'em," Lesh said. "They're hungry to have us again. I
hadn't thought about it in a while, but we were all doing our own
things Bob has his thing, and I have mine, and Mickey and Bill both
have several things going on. We all kept in contact with the fans,
because we're going out there and playing music for them.
"But this getting back together and playing again wasn't
something we were thinking about."
The Grateful Dead came to an end in 1995, when
singer-guitarist-visionary Jerry Garcia died of a heart attack. In
1998, Lesh, Weir, Hart and Bruce Hornsby toured as the Other Ones
and they collected Kreutzmann a few years later, losing Hornsby, and
became the Dead, utilizing a collective of musicians along the way.
Chimenti plays keys in Weir's band, Ratdog. And as a longtime Allman
Brothers Band member and the founder of Gov't Mule, Haynes is a busy
guy especially since he has become a fixture on Dead tours. Lesh
first played with Haynes when Lesh lost a guitarist in the middle of
a 2000 tour. Warren came in as a replacement, and "it was a great
experience," Lesh said.
"Warren is a very special guy, a consummate pro, and his mind works
in the same kind of way that our collective mind works," he continued.
"He might be happiest when he's in full flight outside of his comfort
zone, and that's what we ask from him play what you don't normally
play. We never play the same thing twice, hopefully, and he gets it."
Ricardo Baca: 303-954-1394 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Keeping the Grateful Dead Archive Trucking, with Technology
May 1, 2009
By Don Clark
Bill Watkins may not be the CEO of Seagate Technology any longer. But
he still has connections with the big disk drive maker, and he still
is a major Deadhead. That puts him in a position to help with some
unusual fund-raising, Silicon Valley style.
The target is the Grateful Dead Archive, a repository of historic
documents and other material that surviving members of the iconic
rock band have donated to the University of California at Santa Cruz.
That beach community and the university campus are not far from
Seagate's headquarters in Scotts Valley, Calif. Watkins had resolved
to help raise money for the archive before his surprise ouster in January.
Fortunately, Watkins' replacement as CEOStephen Luczo, in his second
turn at that roleis also fond of the Dead. So it is not too
surprising that the money-raising scheme that emerged involves disk drives.
Some 200 drives donated by Seagate, in fact, are being loaded up with
200 specially selected Grateful Dead trackswith the blessing of the
label Rhino Records and Ice Nine Publishing, which licenses Dead
compositions. Watkins hopes to send the drives to well-heeled techie
types along with a personal pitch to donate to the archives. "The key
is to get to the right people," Watkins says, noting that affluent
Deadheads aren't exactly listed on a convenient database.
Christine Bunting, head of special collections and archives at the
university library, says any money raised will help such efforts as
constructing a special Grateful Dead room that will contain all kinds
of band artifacts. In a more unusual effort, the library hopes to set
up a social networking site so that people can not only view Dead
material but post their own, such as their own photos of past Dead
concerts. "We are calling it Virtual Terrapin Station," Bunting says,
a reference to a well-known Dead album.
This is not all Watkins is doing now. He can't get too involved in
the world of data storage, under terms of his separation from
Seagate"I'm under handcuffs right now," he saysbut he's trying to
help out some companies.
One is Vertical Circuits, a Silicon Valley startup that says it has
developed technology that can stack more chips in a smaller space
than conventional packaging techniques. Besides handheld products
like Apple iPods that use flash memory to store data, Watkins thinks
the technology could be used to make much thinner, sexier laptops
with ample storage capacity.
"I think it's ground-shaking," he says of Vertical, whose board
Watkins has joined. "It's the thing that allows notebooks to get thin
Grateful to be reunited again
Dead put their differences behind them, hit the road for first tour since 2004
By STEVE KNOPPER
Published: Friday, May 1, 2009
In order to play improvisational rock music on stage for hours at a
time, it turns out, the musicians actually have to get along. Which
was a problem for the surviving members of the Grateful Dead during
their 2004 tour, when they were so miffed about online concert
bootlegs, money and other issues that they could barely talk to each other.
But, thanks to a Rhino Records archive contract, a Barack Obama
benefit early last year and a friend acting as a mediator, Bob Weir,
Mickey Hart, Phil Lesh and Bill Kreutzmann have eliminated the
internal strife in time to open a new Dead tour this year.
"Yeah, that's gone. The last tours were a little tough, none of those
problems are coming up," percussionist Kreutzmann says by phone from
Washington, D.C. "That had to go away at the beginning of the
rehearsals. If there had been any of that kind of tension, I would
have blown the whistle on it -- because I won't tolerate it anymore.
We're there to have fun and, most importantly, give the Deadheads a
joyous time, especially with the economy the way it is. If you can
provide happiness with a group of people, boy, do it, because it
comes back to you."
The Dead opened the tour April 12 on a symbolic note, with 1975's
"The Music Never Stopped." That's true -- even after the last Dead
tour, which grossed $18 million, guitarist Weir performed regularly
with Ratdog, bassist Lesh went out with his Friends, drummer Hart's
band played several gigs, and Kreutzmann performed with his trio BK3
and singer-guitarist Papa Mali.
"It's really great to play with a lot of different musicians,"
Kreutzmann says, "because when you bring it home to the Grateful
Dead, you have new things to do and new stories to tell."
Kreutzmann, 62, joined an early incarnation of the Dead known as the
Warlocks in 1964. He was 18, and the perfect rock drummer for the
band as guitarist Jerry Garcia, keyboardist Ron "Pigpen" McKernan,
Weir and Lesh transitioned from San Francisco folk-scene jug band to
a louder electric-blues style. Hart joined the band, by now the
Grateful Dead, in 1967, ushering in a long, legendary creative period
in which the two percussionists formed the basis of the band's jamming sound.
The band that once existed to play free-form folk, country and blues
songs in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury area in the late '60s turned
into a hippie juggernaut, the focal point of a massive international
community that regenerates obsessive fans on a regular basis.
Garcia's death in 1995, though, sent the surviving members scattering
temporarily in different directions.
Kreutzmann's immediate response to the loss of his longtime friend
was to buy a house in Kauai, Hawaii, where he lives today. Whereas
Lesh, Weir and Hart re-emerged quickly with other bands, Kreutzmann
didn't perform publicly until 1998, with a trio called Backbone. He
didn't participate in the Dead's first reunion that year, as the
Other Ones, but joined up in 2000.
The Other Ones morphed into the Dead, touring in 2003 and 2004, then
hit the road this year for 18 dates. With Allman Brothers Band
regular Warren Haynes in place of Garcia, and Jeff Chimenti as the
latest in a long line of keyboardists, the Dead rehearsed for 12 days
before the tour.
For the new gigs, Kreutzmann's son, Justin, 39, a veteran
documentarian who has produced films about the Dead and The Who, is
on hand with his video camera. Discussion of the percussionist's
family leads to a recollection of his own parents, who weren't
exactly thrilled about his rock 'n' roll career early on.
"A lot of parents make the mistake of 'my kid has to be like I am,' "
he says. "Both my parents went to Stanford and got master's degrees,
and my dad really wanted me to go to Stanford, and he really wasn't
too excited when he found out all I really wanted to do was play the
drums. But he let me follow my passions.
"He got a divorce from my mother, and his new wife was a classical
piano player. She said, 'How dare you not support your son in his
music?' He showed up at a Grateful Dead gig with a Grateful Dead
T-shirt (in roughly the late '70s) and that was it," Kreutzmann
continues. "It was great. I laughed like hell! And everybody that was
there that saw the shirt laughed like hell."