Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Dead, Phish and The Allman Brothers Band Touring This Year

The legendary original Grateful Dead lineup consisted of left to right:
drummer Mickey Hart, bassist Phil Lesh, guitarist/vocalist Bob Weir,
drummer Bill Kreutzman, keyboardist/vocalist Ron "Pigpen" McKernan,
and vocalist/guitarist Jerry Garcia

Last year it seemed like jam bands were on the decline after the 90,000-person hippie festival Bonnaroo, held in Manchester, Tennessee, featured Metallica and Pearl Jam as the main acts. It appears that a few bands I never expected to play together again are going to hit the road this spring.

To begin with The Dead have decided to tour starting this April 12, in Greensboro North Carolina. The tour will go until May 10, with a show in Mountain View, California. The Dead have not toured since 2004, when a bitter conflict between Phil Lesh and Bob Weir drove the band apart. From what I understand, the story goes that bassist Phil Lesh wanted to allow free Grateful Dead downloads while guitarist/vocalist Bob Weir was against it and wanted some sort of compensation for it. After this disagreement both Weir and Lesh did not speak to each other for a long time.

I was shocked last spring of 2008, when I attended a Phil Lesh and Friends show at The Warfield in San Francisco, and Bob Weir walked out onstage to join Lesh in a full performance of the entire self-titled Grateful Dead debut album in the first set, and then came back on to perform Anthem of the Sun in its entirety. It was hands down one of the best performances I had ever seen and it felt so good to know Bobby and Phil had finally buried the hatchet. Just seeing them go into an extended psychedelic jam in a song like "The Other One," or watching Weir chant, "Couple more shots of whiskey these Frisco girls start looking good," was an immaculate experience, especially because The Warfield is such a small venue, and even though I had seats on the balcony it felt close.

When I heard The Dead were playing for the Barack Obama campaign I knew there was a distinct possibility they could get back together and tour. Now my wishes have come true, and I do hope to attend The Dead's concert in Mounain View. The lineup for the tour will feature the four original members who are still living, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, and drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann. Mickey Hart recently told Rolling Stone Magazine, "We woke up and said 'why aren't we doing this?' It seems like it was one of the things we enjoyed most in our lives. The idea was to let it rest and let it come back to life on its own without pushing it. This kind of music you can't make unless you like this guy." Hart also mentioned he hopes the tour helps the country's overall mood and also the economy. He assumes it will be a successful as most Dead tours have been, even without Jerry Garcia who was the heart and soul of The Grateful Dead for most of their existence. Still there is no doubt that the rest of the band still has plenty of talent, as Weir and Lesh have both written some of the most memorable songs in The Grateful Dead catalog including Lesh's "Box of Rain" and Weir's "Sugar Magnolia," "Let It Grow," "Looks Like Rain," and "Jack Straw." Nobody should forget that Lesh and Weir helped Garcia write The Grateful Dead anthem "Truckin" off their incredible 1970 album American Beauty. Other members to play with The Dead are keyboardist Jeff Chimenti and guitarist/vocalist Warren Haynes, also a member of Govn't Mule and The Allman Brothers Band. What a long strange trip it must seem to be at this point in The Dead's career. For more information on what both Phil Lesh and Bob Weir think of The Dead's reunion and also for a complete list of the upcoming concerts they will perform check out inquistir.com

Another great jam band that broke up in 2004 and has now decided to reform is Phish. Guitarist Trey Anastasio, drummer Jon Fishman, keyboardist Page McConnell and bassist Mike Gordon will reform also this spring by kicking off a tour on March 6th in Virginia. The last tour date is June 21st in Wisconsin. To my disappointment there are no shows booked on the West Coast thus far, but hopefully if Phish still feels comfortable playing together they will add more dates later this year. It's strange to think this band is getting back together when four years ago I remember Trey Anastasio saying Phish was over for good, he could only take playing a sixteen-minute jam like "You Enjoy Myself" so many times. It will be interesting to see what Phish's setlist will look like for a band famous for once performing The Beatles White Album in its entirety or The Velvet Underground's Loaded. I just hope they come out and play some of the classics like "Birds of a Feather", off Story Of A Ghost, or the bass driven "Down With Disease," off Hoist. For more info on Phish's reunion tour and how to score tickets to their first show in Hampton, Virginia check out this article on rollingstone.com

Phish: left to right Jonathan Fishman, Trey Anastasio,
Page McConnell, and Mike Gordon

The Allman Brothers Band, another jam band that has had decades of success, were recently out of action in 2008, due to vocalist/organist Gregg Allman's battle with Hepatitis C. They will return to action this year on March 9th at The Beacon Theatre in New York to play ten shows to celebrate their fortieth anniversary as a band. It's been confirmed by drummer Butch Trucks that there will be guest musicians on the bill that The Allman Brothers have specifically invited to play. The musicians rumored to be picked are guitarist Eric Clapton and Boz Scaggs, who both played with The Allman Brothers original slide guitarist, the late Duane Allman. As for the other recent rumor that the other original guitarist of The Allman Brothers Band, Dickey Betts, will play again with the band, after being fired in 2000, has been termed "way off," by Trucks. Hopefully it will be a great set of shows and will feature classic Allman Brothers tunes like "Dreams" and "Whipping Post" both live favorites off their original self titled debut album. Also let's all imagine how great it would be to see Eric Clapton soloing to a song like the electrifying instrumental "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed," while Gregg Allman plays the organ to compliment the beautiful sound. To read about the rumors swirling over who will play with the Allmans at The Beacon, and also hear what Allman Brothers guitarist Derek Trucks has to say about the upcoming shows check out this Eric Clapton site.

Gregg Allman of The Allman Brothers Band
playing guitar at Farm Aid, on Randall's Island,
New York, 2007.

Just thought I would add this great
Phish/Grateful Dead cartoon.

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