Saturday, July 31, 2004

From the jambands website

Bob Weir: Storyteller and Gizmo Freak
Dean Budnick

Bob Weir was still a teenager when he joined the band that would become the Warlocks and later the Grateful Dead (think about that for a moment). Given the scope of his ensuing career, the recent release of the Weir Here two disc compilation justly gives him his due (and after four decades as a songwriter and performer some would say this recognition is overdue). The following conversation considers the music represented on Weir Here while also touching on Ratdog, the Dead, senior moments, and the archaism of albums.

DB- First off what was your initial reaction when someone approached you about putting together a career retrospective?

BW- There was the sort of "you're kidding me" reaction. It had never occurred to me but I was talked into it pretty quickly.

DB- In terms of selecting the songs, let's start with those on Disc One, the studio tracks, what was the process?

BW- We went back and forth. I wanted to pack it full of the tunes that I felt didn't get the respect and attention they so richly deserved at the time they were out. The people who market me wanted to pack it full of the hits. And so we went back and forth and I think it came together pretty well.

One tune I had to champion but wouldn't have made the greatest hits list was "Fly Away". That tune came together very quickly. It's kind of an adventurous cross between reggae and fusion jazz. For what it's worth, in the Jamaican equivalent of the Grammys it won the best foreign reggae song.

DB- You're certainly someone who thrives in the live setting but I'm curious, as you go back now and listen to these songs, is there one where you absolutely nailed the studio version in such a way you feel you can't attain it when you play the tune live?

BW- Yes, "Cassidy" from the Ace album. There's a stark simplicity and beauty. There was no bass, just myself and Billy. I recorded the basic track with guitar and then went back, doubled what I'd done with the electric guitar and that was that. It was pristine and I'll never get that with any of the ensembles.

DB- Are you ever tempted to perform a stripped down version?

BW- I suppose I could do it live. I would do the acoustic part and then get one of the guitar players I'm working with to do the electric part and have just one drummer. But on the other hand I'd have to remember how I played it because it arose from a tuning that David Crosby taught me and I can't remember the tuning (laughs). So needless to say I can't play the original guitar part that's on the record until I discover how to do that tuning again.

DB- Stepping back, you mentioned "Fly Away." Will the process of re-engaging that song lead you to play it out live again?

BW- Yes, next time RatDog goes out I'm going to have it up with them. I used to play it with Bobby and the Midnights and I played for a while with Rob Wasserman when we were a duo.

DB- Over the course of your career, occasionally songs have disappeared for extended periods of time. For instance you put away "Black Throated Wind" for about fifteen years. Why was that?

BW- We stopped doing that one in ‘74 when the band took a year off. When we came back there were a lot of chord changes and I just sort of forgot about it. I don't listen to my old albums. I only have so much time in my day and if I'm going to listen to music I better get at it and I want it to be new information. You can get new information from old stuff but more often than not it's not going to be the first place you look.

Anyhow, when we came back together we didn't have any lists, we just worked off what we could remember. So we started working up a repertoire again and I didn't even remember "Black Throated Wind" until a number of years later.

Later, with RatDog, one of the guys brought it up. When we were working stuff up, I'd send them home with little homework assignments to learn a particular tune. I wanted to be able to play it exactly like it is on the record one time and then there are no rules anymore. So, and this is years ago, I sent them home with the Ace record to learn something like "Greatest Story" and their curiosity took them to other songs. And Mark might then say, "How about ‘Black Throated Wind?' And I'd say, "Sure I know that tune." (laughs) So that's how that one came back around again.

DB- When you're out performing now, and in particular singing some of the older material, how often do you find that particular lyrics will jump out at you, either because you simply enjoy enunciating a specific phrase or the words themselves take on new resonance?

BW- Pretty nearly every night something like that happens. I don't keep track of it. It takes you unaware but that's what I live for and I know it's going to happen all the time.

DB- In terms of taking you unaware, I think that people are still surprised that on those songs you've been playing for many years, occasionally a lyric will elude you.

DW- (Laughs) Yeah, we have our senior moments.

DB- (Laughing) Although, most respectfully, that has happened infrequently since you were a junior. Do you find that there's a precipitating factor?

BW- Generally something else is grabbing your attention, you're kind of singing on auto pilot. I may be listening to something that someone is doing or the sound of my instrument may be bugging me and I'm trying to think of how I want to change it. Or somebody may play a riff that crosses my eyes and it sort of leaves me vacant for a minute (laughs). It used to happen all the time. Jerry would do a little clang or something, I'd leave my body for a minute and then I'd have to come back and sing.

DB- The release of Weir Here invites sweeping assessments of your music. How has the nature of your songwriting changed over the course of your career, if at all?

BW- The biggest change is lately I have preferred to write with the guys that I'm going to be performing those pieces with. That way pretty much I know what the carpet is going to feel like, the harmonic and rhythmic textures. You really can't know what you're going to get if you sequester yourself. And the other thing is when I'm working with other people, ideas are going to present themselves that I wouldn't up necessarily come up with. More often than not I am pleasantly surprised by that.

DB- Do think that's something particular to RatDog

BW- It just feels right. I write by touch, I write by feel. When I'm writing music I let my fingers find it I don't try to impose it with my head.

DB- One element that has remained rather consistent over the years in your songwriting, is you've been drawn to non-traditional time signatures. What is their appeal to you?

BW- I particularly like 7/4. It's the best of three and the best of four. I write shuffles, I right up-tempo, I write ballads in it. There's something really, really wonderful about that time signature once you learn to breathe in it.

DB- Do you remember how that initially came about?

BW- Way back, I think this was '67, we were rehearsing, working up material and we had this passage in the key of G and it was in seven. At that time we were listening to North Indian classical music and we went off on seven. As soon as I got to the point where I could play over the barlines and still know where the one was, that was the moment of epiphany, "Hey this is cool, I love this."

DB- Is Indian music still an influence on you?

BW- Not as much as I'd like it to be. An old, dear friend of mine is the resident explorer at the National Geographic Society. There's a project on the horizon that I really want to make happen where I would go to India with him and a couple of other guys, one of whom would be a master of north Indian classical music and it would be Indian Classical Music 101. This would be a DVD and it could air on the National Geographic channel and Public Television, because so much of that music is opaque to western ears. But I believe it's the oldest and deepest music tradition on earth. The stuff I can understand has really rocked my world but the great bulk of it I can't follow (laughs). I want to demystify it for myself and in doing so I might as well do the rest of the western world a little favor and try to make it accessible to them as well.

DB- In the realm of other projects on the horizon, what is the status of your Satchel Paige musical?

BW- It's ready to go. We've got a director who wants to do it but he's been having a lot of success lately and he's real busy. As soon as he can carve out some time we'll get it on the boards somewhere. I think there's going to be a read-through at a theatrical industry seminar in the fall, but I don't know the specifics.

DB- The music is completed?

BW- For the time being it's all written. That might change once we get it into development which is the next phase, if it needs a tune here or if we need to drop a tune because the piece is slowing down in a particular place. But it's tight as a drum and one hundred percent written unless something comes up in development.

DB- To what extent have those songs filtered out into your live shows?

BW- I used to do one of the ballads when I was just playing with Rob. We may do that ballad again but it's tough. When people hear new tunes they want them to rock their socks and this one doesn't do that. It's a quiet contemplative tune, called it "Shoulda Had Been Me."

DB- Somewhat along these lines, I've always found that the songs I most enjoy when you're out with RatDog are the band's originals.

BW- Yeah those that were written for the band came out full alive.

DB- You mention audience expectation and there are certainly many people who come out to RatDog shows want to see you perform the music of the Grateful Dead. How do you strike a balance with the RatDog material?

BW- Well, RatDog's rendition of a Dead tune is necessarily going to be different from the Dead's rendition because of the simple difference of personnel. They have a different life to them. I love both of them. If I preferred the way one of the bands did a given tune I would drop it from the other's repertoire but as it is none of that's happened. I look forward to "New Minglewood Blues" with both bands because it's different, so I don't get tired of the song (laughs). In fact I get to do it more without getting tired of it.

DB- The Jerry Garcia songs that you perform, you've said that you introduce particular compositions primarily because you want to hear them again?

BW- I'll get lonesome for a given tune. I'll hear a clip of it and a bell will go off, "I've got to do that tune. I've got to have that one living in my heart again."

DB- Are there some that you still won't perform for one reason or another?

BW- Well, "Morning Dew," I'm not going to do that tune unless I get the better part of a month to sit with it. I wouldn't dare. "Stella Blue's" another one that I wouldn't touch unless I have a great deal of time to work it up. It would have to be a really splendid rendition and that takes time which I haven't had to date.

DB- Before you go I'd love to hear your assessment of this summer's Dead tour. To your mind what has been the greatest area of improvement with the group?

BW- The greatest improvement is the on-stage volume has come down a little bit which makes interaction a lot easier.

DB- How did that come about?

BW- I threw a fit.

DB- On the flip side what area do you think is most in need of some improvement?

BW- On-stage volume again. Even RatDog plays too loud. I just played a party with an outfit called the Waybacks and the on-stage volume was polite. As a singer it's so much easier. There is so much more you can do with that, with those dynamics. It's a different world and I'm a singer.

DB- Is "singer" how would describe yourself if I asked you characterize your artistic endeavors with one word?

BW- I would define myself a storyteller. There's a story that's told with a melody. There's a story that's told with a harmonic or rhythmic progression. There's a story that's told with a lyric. There's a story that's told with a song. I'm a storyteller.

DB- On to RatDog, what does the fall hold in terms of touring?

BW- Probably about seven weeks. I don't think we're going to Europe or Japan this year.

DB- Are there plans in the works for another RatDog studio release?

BW- I've been rebuilding my home and studio for the last three years now and the home is pretty much complete and the studio is very nearly compete. The building is built and we're installing equipment. It's my dream studio basically and I'll be able to work in my studio anywhere there's a broadband connection. For instance I'm going to carry around a really nice microphone, you can't use it on stage because it hears too much. I'll carry it to my hotel room and if we're recording the whole basic track and whatever sweetening that wants to go on top of that, I can download the tune I'm working on, set up the microphone put a vocal on it and if there's time left in the evening I can mix the tune and release it, send it to iTunes. It's pretty cool. As soon as it's built I'll be writing a lot.

DB- You talked about having a senior moment a bit earlier but you've certainly embraced technology in a manner that many younger people today have yet to do.

BW- We'll I'm a gizmo freak or a gizmo buff shall we say. That and the state of the art recording is irrevocably headed for the digital world. It's hard to even find analog tape anymore. So if you're going to make songs and record them you don't have much of a choice. Beyond that the facility that the digital recording medium gives you, there's so much you can do, like for instance work on a studio recording in your hotel room.

DB- Are you someone who finds that analog has a warmer sound?

BW- Absolutely but I'm not sure how long that's going to last. In the next few years the industry is going to move to 36 bit resolution and 192k sampling rate and at that point all bets are off. I think at that point digital will sound better than analog. There will be some purists but I get the feeling they are ideologues and will be impossible to convince otherwise but I don't think they could hear it.

DB- Finally, you mention releasing individual songs to iTunes. Do you feel that the album as a form is archaic?

BW- Well, the history of the name album, it used to be when 78s were the medium, you would buy a symphony in an album, a bound, etched book or a stack of books. Inside would be envelope leaves and in each one would be ten or twelve 78s and that would be the first movement, that's an album. When the long playing record came out they kept the name because it still applied and that carried through but it's an artificial constraint. You don't need to put out an album's worth of tunes anymore, you can put them out as you make them up. If they want to be all together, if it's a suite then you release an album's worth of tunes. Otherwise why not release them as they come out?

Oh, and one last thing. This is not music but vote this election. Every interview I do I wrap it up with an exhortation for everybody to vote. Big business is buying our government and when the deal is complete they're not going to give it back, we'll be a democracy in name only. This very easily could be our last meaningful election apart from blood on the streets. We won't own our country anymore and therefore we won't own our lives anymore.

This is real. I'm not being shrill about this and I'm not being rash. If you look at who paid for what in the last election and who's in office and who's getting the big government contracts it's pretty clear . This doesn't mean the people in business, the people who are buying the government are necessarily bad people. If the government's for sale like this one is and you don't buy it then the competition will and you have a responsibility to yourself, your family, your employees and your stockholders to own the government, so that's what being done. This trend can be turned around I hope but this is our last chance to do it this election. So register and vote.

DB- Do you think it will be enough simply to change the governing entities involved or if the situation is as dire as you indicate, is a larger corrective required?

BW- If we save our democracy this one last time we've got to get money out of government. The argument that money is free speech is stupid. Money is not free speech, speech is free speech. It's time for massive change but we've got to start with this election because it's our last chance, Then we need to turn the whole process around and turn it back into a government of the people by the people and for the people rather than a government of the people by the elite for the elite, which is what it's becoming now.

Every muscle aches but it's good to be in the new house! Still running back and forth tween houses- cleaning up the old one and sleeping in the new one almost everything is in boxes but obviously not the computer...
Boston sounds like it was an exceptional show-right on the heels of the other DNC (Democrat Convention)...Here's a post that looks like it sums up the vibe:

jackstrawdc - 08:10am Jul 31, 2004 PDT (#874 of 876)

Ok.... WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED LAST NITE? I just walked back into my house in DC after the buttcrack o' dawn SW flight from PVD-BWI, and I'm still shaking! It was as if I picked out all my favorite versions of my best concert downloads, and put them into one show. Unbelievable. Epic. Amazing. Mind-blowing! Best show I've seen/heard of since Jerry, and in the top 3 including him. WOWWWWWWWWW.

It was non-stop.... Bobby was on fire after watching Kerry's convention speech.... the show was a purley political statement. ON FIRE!!!

The dude in the 10th row holding up the "help is on the way" sign from Kerry's speech also knew what the opening song was gonna be. But shit, who knew about the rest of it. SMOKING.

I should be exhausted, but I'm still wowwed. Funny thing is I came back to DC after seeing alpine through pine knob. But I knew I wanted to take in a few more before the end... Watched the acceptance speech thursday nite with some friends, and when they started holding up the help onteh way signs, I knew that second that the show was gonna be epic. Bobby and the boys were off and watching the speech too. Hell.... knowing bobby, he was probably there! Left work after a meeting friday am, got on a SW standby flight, fought traffic in providence, got lost in mansfield, and made it in by 6:55.

Serendipity. wow.

peace friends. need to recover.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

more pilfering of deadnet posts- Blair turned up today in a discussion:

Blair Jackson - 12:02pm Jul 28, 2004 PDT (#286 of 292)

I remember being at some benefit event at the Marin Civic sometime in the late 80s where there was a little press conference before the show to raise awareness of whatever cause it was, and there was a bunch of earnest young teens talking about their cause and the importance of voting, etc. And Jerry and Bob were sitting at the table with them. Dennis McNally always looked to me to ask the first question at these sorts of events (believing, bless him, that I might not ask some stupid straight press-type question)so I said to Jerry something along the lines of "You've always said you would not vote and that you had no faith in that system, but here are all these kids imploring all of us to vote in hopes of creating a better world. Aren't some things worth voting for or against...and you don't want to let down this cause you believe in, right?" He kinda laughed and hemmed and hawed and said that, "Yeah this is maybe the sort of thing that would make someone like me actually vote..." A year or two later I asked him if he voted and he said "Naaah" and laughed.

Kids, don't follow the very poor example of Mr. Jerome John Garcia. Vote in November!
I'm stealing this Report from Deadnet (again) The BQ has come through!

the bq - 02:14pm Jul 28, 2004 PDT (#5340 of 5348)
nothing is ever escaped

Quick bobweirgirlscout report for my felloe weirophiles, before I forget everything....

Alpine - he was in the groove but was all business, not many smiles but singing strong. His hair is way long. He does look a tad more tired than usual, imho.

Deer Creek - much more animated, way more smiles, very intense on Deep Elem, GDTRFB & during Sugar Mag, looking truly possessed. I'm glad Tiny Dancer had the scoop on the emergence of the Fairy Princess during the enore; I missed part of it cause I left

my nice close seat when WH started High Time, I just couldn;t take another song by the guy. My intention was to leave altogether (which would have been a first w/Bobby on stage) but my bred in the bone Polish stubborness kicked in & I hit the ladies room instead :). Watched part of AWBYGN from outside the pavilion, on the video screen & when I realized she was out there,I went back in. Bobby lifting her on his shoulders was a very nice moment,esp. surrounded by the band.

Pine Knob - Again, more animated & smiley...prior to coming out, he was standing around with his tech (that guy works hard, I'll tell ya) Mickey etc. He was spraying his guitar & pointed it at Mickey's hair; when it was time to go on, he made this Lets Go gesture to the rest of the band (except Phil, who was on the other side & in somewhat of a cranky mood,it seemed). During Althea, the fairy priness emerged again with another little girl, about 4 yrs old. They just stood there like statues, holding hands & then Chloe toddled out (or Monet went to get her, i forget; she's quite the little mother hen, making sure all her charges were comfy) (And she's very comfy running between her mom & dad on stage) Bobby's youngest is a female mini Bobby (she looke SO much like him); for awhile she just stood there holding her sisters hand but 2 or 3 times, she just went & stood in front of Bobby & gazed at him. When he saw her come out he smiled but when she was looking at him, he played his guitar right to her & got this gooey look on his face, like fathers can get looking at their little girls, it was a classic moment. Monet stuck around, fidgeting with her dress & hair, doing some leg kicks, sitting with her face in her hand & just staring. All the little girls were adorable.


Tuesday, July 27, 2004

just in from GDTSTOO:
It's not too much of a surprise that RatDog will
once again hit the road shortly after the Dead's
summer tour is done. This is what we have to offer
so far:

Mail order is now open for the following
RatDog shows:

Wednesday, September 15 at Cain's Ballroom,
Tulsa, OK.
Doors open at 7:30 PM. Show time is 8:30 PM.
All ages welcome. General admission.
Mail order tickets are available at $30.50 per

Thursday, September 16 at the Pageant,
St. Louis, MO.
Doors open at 7:00 PM. Show time is 8:00 PM.
All ages are welcome. However, reserved seats
are only available to patrons 21 and over.
Mail order tickets are available:
Reserved: $33.00
General admission: $28.00

Thursday, October 7 at the Ridgefield Playhouse,
Ridgefield, CT.
Doors open at 7:00 PM. Show time is 8:00 PM.
All ages welcome.
All seats are reserved. A taper section will be
Mail order tickets are available at $78.00 per
(We know.... but this is a really small place and
we did want to offer this show on the list.)

Looking back at the last RatDog tour, we remember
that a lot of the shows sold out well before the show
date, so it might be good not to be too casual
about securing tickets this time around.
Once again Den comes through with an inspiring show review-
T (#687 of 701)
I think we're all bozos on this bus

Set 1:
Golden Road To Unlimited Devotion(Finally they open with it, it's a perfect opener. Very uptempo beat with thunderous phil thumps while they all sing, "hey hey, hey come right away-come and join the party every day" as the kids scramble to their seats.)

Cold Rain & Snow>(Big bouncy jam with the cool wind breezing in, it was rather chilly for being late july in Indiana)

Bertha(After a real strong start they jump into this head first and really stretch out the jams with jimmy and warren both going for it, especially jimmy who was on a mission tonight, He was asleep at bonnaroo and alpine. Danced my ass off to this one.)

You Remind Me>(This was by far the highlight of the show for me, warren sung this RH/MH tune and it's sublime. Huge platform to jump off and it was great to hear they tackle this. This is truly a monster, if mickey can write this good of music while someone else sings I think he should take over. It's not like "strage world" or his other wierd songs, this was different, great melody. btw I like his wierd songs too.)

Liberty(This had me grinning ear to ear, jimmy soaring again!!)

Box Of Rain(Wierd position in the setlist but always welcomed in my trip)

Big River>(The next 2 songs to close the set was pure ROCK n ROLL. Never seen such a high energy first set with so many dance songs. Warren just spewing licks. Jeff is the best the GD world has seen, he just "fits". Big build up to the end and bob throws his hands up and sings, "I give up, I've had enough, followed my blues on down to the gulf - she love you big river more than me" cleary into it and having a blast with all the frenzied freaks.

Cumberland Blues(Classic old time sounding song turned into psychedelic rollercoaster ride. Jimmy and Warren go waaay up the mountain where the big dogs eat.)

Only an hour first set but it counted.

Set 2:
#*Desperado (WH)(No comment)

Jack Straw>(This was hot, showed why they are still the best in the biz, no one does it like them, "Jack Straw from Wichta cut his buddy down" BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMM!! Thank you phil :^)

Night Of 1000 Stars(Phil owns this song, thought he was gonna blow me up to pieces)

@Deep Elem Blues(A lot better than what I heard at RR last year, tasty acoustic likcs from bobby and had the bounce this song needs)

Only The Strange Remain>(This was a full frontal assult on your senses. They got really dark here, warren going down lonley streets and empty roads, so dark I was afraid for people in the audience. For the folks who persevered you were rewarded as they climbed back up the stairs and hit with a dizzying array of effects. I sware I heard some dinosaur bird swooping around somewhere.

Drumz>(Completely different from the night before, mickey was playing with more beats)

Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds>(Again phil driving the band)

Goin' Down The Road Feelin' Bad>(Jeff leads the band while the rest holds on for dear life, did I say this was dancing night? Whew!!)

Sugar Magnolia(Just when you thought you could rest your tired bones you get hit with the ULTIMATE ROCKER, phat sunshine daydream jam as phil chases jimmy around, bobby so into it that it his eyes are buggin out)

E: High Time(Been praying for this all month and was singing it in the lot all day. Warren fuckin Haynes I can't say enough, something different about him this summer not sure what it is but he seems really "there". This will be a moment I treasure for years.

And We Bid You Goodnight(Perfect way to follow "high time" it was after all sunday and it was a blessed day. Bobby's daughter standing behind daddy while the rest of the boys stroll over behind bobby and warren, phil as their voices blended in and out, "and we bid you goodnight goodnight good night. It's was a family night you could see in their faces. I just don't know how much more you can ask of them, this is who they are.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Hopefully, this Hank Parsons guy won't mind us reading his review of last Night's Dead show here (St Louis, Missouri) goes!

Hank Parsons - 05:46am Jul 24, 2004 PDT (#293 of 305)

Shakedown>After Midniight was just an insane way to open the show. Energy level was just huge.

Minglewood was an excellent vehicle for Bobby, Jimmy, and Warren to show off their chops. Great blues jam.

New Potato Caboose was all the psychadelic glory you would expect. Perfect way for Phil to step up and say hello. As New Potato wound down, the boys reared back and kicked us square in the rear with an absolutely raging Viola Lee Blues. Good lord in the morning was this combo ever outstanding.

West L.A. was lots of fun and Keep on Growing was just too much. I mean seriously, Keep on Growing ??? Crowd was eating it up. Warren and Phil singing was a thing of beauty.

Nice Down the Road to start set 2 into party-rocker Loose Lucy. Lucy you certainly are a fine woman!

He's Gone was very well played. Bobby has really taken ownership of this song.

Eyes of The World was beautiful. Best jamming of the night (up to this point in the show anyway). People around me were absolutely going nuts, hooting and hollering as the jams got tighter and tighter. When we are screaming for the players to keep pushing it, you know it is good.

D/S was good.

Fantasy was perfect. I did not recognize it until Warren started singing but once he did, I didn't want him to stop! Warren is made for that song.

Milestones was very well played and H/S/F was really too much. I mean, it was awesome.

Ripple was the perfect way to send us home.

Overall, the show completely surpassed my expectations. They set the bar very high for leg 2. If Alpine and Deer Creek are this good, no one is going home unsatisfied.
more Fest Ex stuff!

The tracks of his tears

Since piling Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead and other 'drug-crazed hippies' onto a CN train in 1970, impresario Ken Walker has survived business failures, jail and a bullet to the head. With the rockumentary Festival Express set to open, he unloads to JAMES ADAMS

Saturday, July 24, 2004 - Page R1
It's too bad Warren Zevon is dead. The singer-songwriter responsible for the classics Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner and Lawyers, Guns and Money would have found Ken Walker a fitting subject for one of his sardonic yarns about bad deals, best-laid plans and duplicity.

Admittedly, finding a title for the ditty would have been problematic. Zevon probably would have wound up calling it simply The Ballad of Kenny Walker, simply because Ken Walker, born to a life of affluence and privilege in Toronto's posh, conservative Forest Hill neighbourhood, has crammed a lot of experiences (and one near-death experience) into 58 round-shouldered, chain-smoking years. In fact, he really shouldn't be here, but he is.

These experiences include, in no particular order, jail time in the United States for allegedly facilitating gun smuggling into South America; a personal lecture from Jerry Garcia (Jerry Garcia!) on the dangers of drugs; speculation in pork bellies, sulphur, gold and wheat; buying up singer Nana Mouskouri's North American contract; a bust for illegal possession of narcotics in 1971; and organizing one of the most glorious failures in the history of rock 'n' roll, 1970's trans-Canada Festival Express.

Somewhere in there -- in the fall of 1998, to be precise -- Walker tried to kill himself by jamming a Second World War-vintage .38-calibre pistol owned by his jeweller father into his mouth, and pulling the trigger as two astonished police constables watched. The bullet blew through the top of his skull and into the ceiling of the basement family room of what was then his Richmond Hill, Ont., home.

Amazingly, it didn't kill him. It put him in a coma for a month, removed a chunk from the right side of his brain, and left a still-noticeable dent in the skin of his skull. But it didn't kill him. And that is why, when his seizures are in abeyance, and the 17 pills he takes every 24 hours are working just fine, Walker is able to spend some of his days reminiscing about his pivotal role in Festival Express, the memories fuelled by seemingly bottomless cups of coffee and one Player's Light after another held between stubby, nicotine-stained fingers.

It's a role that is going to get renewed scrutiny with the release of the much-delayed documentary chronicling the legendary high times, also called Festival Express. "I fooled them all," says Walker with a mordant chuckle as he settles into a booth in the dark smoking room of a restaurant, near his cramped north Toronto apartment, that he visits several times a week.

And with the promise, at least, of a resurrection of sorts at hand, Walker is feeling as feisty as a man with a hole in his brain can possibly feel: "I've been thinking for a while now that I should come out of my cocoon, end my sabbatical and get back into the music business." There might even be some memoirs, if the right writer can be found.

How to explain Festival Express? Well, it happened in late June and early July of 1970 and involved some of the most potent musical acts of the time -- the Band, Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, Traffic, Mountain, Ian and Sylvia, Tom Rush, the Buddy Guy Band, Robert Charlebois, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Delaney & Bonnie & Friends -- playing stadium concerts in Toronto, Winnipeg and Calgary.

It was hoped that a total of 150,000 to 200,000 Canucks would attend the concerts -- the price for a two-day pass for the July 4 and 5 Calgary dates was $14, roughly $72 in today's currency -- but fewer than 70,000 did. Losses totalled an estimated $539,000.

Outdoor rock festivals were, of course, commonplace back then. What made Festival Express unique was its portability. Most of the musicians were transported from city to city over five days and nights in a 17-car railroad caravan powered by two CN Rail locomotives.

The train was, in effect, "wired for sound," meaning the musicians could plug in their instruments and jam at all hours. Which they did, goosed along by sundry intoxicants (Canadian Club, vodka, marijuana, LSD, cocaine) as the train clickety-clacked over the Canadian Shield through the Prairies to the cusp of the Rocky Mountains.

Luckily, a camera crew was on board, and by the time the express pulled into Calgary it had shot anywhere from 50 to 75 hours of 16-mm footage on the train and off. It's that footage -- long thought by many to have gone the way of headbands and patchouli oil, but culled from a variety of sources, including Archives Canada in Ottawa -- that forms the essence of Festival Express, the rollicking two-hour rockumentary that hits theatres this Friday.

Festival Express -- the concept, the event -- was largely the brainchild of Walker who, in 1969, was a 23-year-old business-administration graduate of what is now Ryerson University in Toronto. True, he got some help, monetary and otherwise, from his long-time Forest Hill friend Thor Eaton, (yes, of that Eaton family) and J. Lyn Craig, an executive with Maclean Hunter. ("It was the sixties," Walker says, "and Maclean Hunter wanted to get in on the youth market.")

But it was Walker who had the vision of taking a train east to west stuffed with "a bunch of drunken, drug-crazed musical hippies" on a sort of Canadian version of the Orient Express. "I thought of myself more as a producer than a promoter. In an artistic sense, presentation was what mattered most to me."

And it was Walker who, after being turned down by two CN underlings in Toronto, took his plan to the railway's vice-president of passenger sales and service in Montreal ("Thor's uncle got us the appointment") and threatened to make a fuss in the House of Commons if CN didn't lease him a train complete with a proper dining car, two bar cars, and a fully staffed galley, among other amenities. "Here I am, trying to pay the coin of the realm, real money" -- today Walker estimates the train rental cost $200,000 -- "and in the meantime, they're going to Ottawa for handouts. I was going to expose the whole thing. When I met the vice-president, I said to him: 'How long have you worked here, not including tomorrow?' "

Walker wasn't entirely a novice in the hard-knuckle, often scuzzy world of rock-'n'-roll promotion. Much to the chagrin of his family, he'd earlier formed a promotion company with fellow impresario John Brower as his partner, and Thor and George Eaton as shareholders. "My mother's family were successful developers and my uncle on that side was sort of the family patriarch," Walker recalls. At one point he said, 'Ken should come up to the office with me to work.' But I was into the sound of music, not the smell of cement."

In June, 1969, Brower-Walker Enterprises Ltd. put on the first (and only) Toronto Pop Festival, spending more than $150,000 to bring the Velvet Underground, Alice Cooper, Johnny Winter, Steppenwolf and Blood, Sweat and Tears, among others, to a crowd of 50,000. Three months later, the duo pulled its greatest coup: the now-famous live appearance by John Lennon and Yoko Ono accompanied by Eric Clapton on guitar, as part of the Toronto Rock 'n' Roll Revival in the city's Varsity Stadium.

The partnership with Brower broke up shortly thereafter, but Walker, his gut now scored with ulcers, kept plugging away. He became convinced that the only way, post-Woodstock, that a promoter might make money from the outdoor-festival concept, "short of building a cinderblock wall around the site," was to put the festival in an established stadium setting. Furthermore, he reasoned, instead of trying to lure 200,000 or 400,000 fans to one place, why not break up the festival into manageable chunks, drawing, say, 50,000 to one location and 40,000 to another?

On paper, at least, it seemed a brilliant solution. But by the time Walker and company were ready to test its validity, the counterculture, with its ethos of "free music" and "death to hip capitalism," was in full sway in Canada. The murder of four students by "Nixon's tin soldiers" at Kent State University in Ohio in May, 1970, also contributed to the confrontational atmosphere between the Establishment, hip capitalists included, and the kids. Even before the Festival Express started to roll down the tracks, Walker knew he was in a deep financial well, but decided to "party on" regardless.

And what a party it was, captured in much of its woozy, wobbly glory in Festival Express. Setting up a command post in a double roomette, Walker proceeded to stay awake for more than 120 consecutive hours, letting a steady inhalation of methamphetamines (a.k.a. speed) carry him onward, ever onward. (A year earlier, Walker had told a reporter, "I don't like sleeping or waiting.")

Walker's blood pressure soared to such dangerous heights that the on-board doctor felt the promoter was going to have a stroke. He recommended hospitalization, but Walker refused: The train must keep going. No emergency stops or detours. Eventually, the doctor gave him a mammoth injection of Valium, then a bottle of Valium pills, which Walker proceeded to take, two at a time, every hour, in between toots of speed.

One evening he found himself chatting in the dining car with Garcia, the Grateful Dead's charismatic lead guitarist. As a Mountie disguised in a CN waiter's uniform hovered nearby, an associate poured out some powdered speed for Walker. "Want a line?" Walker asked. Intrigued, Garcia asked what was being consumed. When told, he proceeded to upbraid Walker for using such a dangerous illegal drug. "Speed kills, man. Get off it," he told the promoter. Opening his guitar case, he pulled out a bag of white powder. "Here, try this." -- "this" being cocaine. "It's better for ya."

When Festival Express concluded on July 5, a very burned-out Walker and some associates headed to the Banff Springs Hotel for four days of rest and recovery. "I felt like I had personally dragged that train kicking and screaming down the track from Toronto to Calgary," Walker says now. While in Banff, he decided that "that was enough rock 'n' roll for me; I wasn't going to do it any more. It was too much of a hassle for too small rewards. Everywhere I turned, I had a fight."

Sometimes the fights were for real: To this day, Walker claims the tiny white scar you can see on the knuckle of his left hand was the result of his fist connecting with the teeth of pint-sized Calgary Mayor Rod Sykes. This after the mayor said the Calgary portion of Festival Express should be free, and he called Walker (as confirmed later by a civic enquiry into Sykes's management) "Eastern scum" and "an animal who had come to this city to try to make a fast buck."

Returning to Toronto, Walker joined his father in his jewellery factory, and started to trade in gold and diamonds. Eventually, he moved on to pork bellies, sulphur, wheat, even excess inventories of Rubbermaid products and flower pots that could be melted into rubber. By the early eighties, he was married, the first of what would be three children was on its way, and he was "trading on paper -- zero-coupon bonds, letters of credit, bank guarantees."

The show-biz bug hadn't left Walker entirely: He formed a company, Grand Entertainment, with a friend, that bought up the VHS and Betamax licences for 10 years to 700 Hollywood films. Grand also bought up, for $150,000, the North American rights for the bespectacled Greek chanteuse Nana Mouskouri, and struck a pressing-and-distribution deal with Capitol/EMI Records for her albums.

In the summer of 1989 Walker got a phone call from a friend in New York asking him if he could rustle up 1,000 Smith & Wesson chrome-plated handguns to ship to a customer that the friend said he had in Ecuador. While Walker had brokered many commodities over the years, scoring guns was a first, and initially he was reluctant to get involved. However, he relented because his friend was bankrupt, was living with his mother-in-law, had a house that was about to be repossessed and oil investments in Texas that had sunk. Besides, when Walker did locate a supplier for the weapons, in Switzerland, it was determined that the deal to buy and ship the guns would be worth more than $600,000 (U.S.), for which Walker would get a $15,000 commission.

It proved a fateful decision, unleashing a fantastic chain of events that eventually saw Walker unwittingly lured into the United States by American arms-control and customs agents, arrested at New York's LaGuardia Airport, declared "an international arms dealer" to a "banned destination" (Chile, not Ecuador), denied bail, and incarcerated in various jails for almost five months. Desperate to get back to his family, he pleaded guilty to one charge in March, 1990, and was granted bail set at $100,000 (U.S.).

Scheduled to appear for sentencing a year later, Walker announced he was withdrawing his plea and staying put in Toronto. To this day, he faces arrest in the U.S. In the meantime, he continues to pursue a multimillion-dollar lawsuit for "abduction by fraud" against the U.S. government and the Bank of New York which, Walker claims, was in collusion on the sting with customs agents.

The ordeal and its fallout proved onerous to Walker, his family and his marriage. Matters came to a flashpoint in 1998 after a confrontation with his then-teenage son. "He was being very disrespectful, running wild, not doing his homework and failing at school," he recalls. "No matter what I did, it was like talking to a brick." Walker became convinced that his wife was "undermining my authority" in disciplining his son, and bolted from the house one fraught evening to stay in a motel. The next day his wife said she was going to put their house in Richmond Hill up for sale, and take the kids.

"I went into a deep depression," Walker says now. One afternoon, after a distressing appearance in court, he came home and, pulling out his father's old .38-calibre pistol, "put a couple of shots in the chamber." He phoned his lawyer, and as he talked, "tears streaming down my cheeks," he spun the chamber Russian-roulette style. Sensing something was amiss, the lawyer phoned 911, and within minutes two police officers were in Walker's basement, their guns drawn.

"Mr. Walker," one of them asked, "what is it you are doing here?"

"What am I gonna do?" Walker replied. "This," he shouted, and placed his gun in his mouth and squeezed the trigger.

Walker spent the next year in hospital. At one point, in a fever dream, he saw an ex-fiancée (who had died years before of an overdose) "in this white light, summoning me to join her." But then, he says, the spirit of Walker's deceased father "stepped in and said, 'Don't go. It's not your time.' "

After all this, it would be nice to report that Walker and his wife of 16 years -- a lawyer who is now a highly placed administrator in a Toronto-area law school -- got back together. They didn't, although he remains close to her and his two daughters, 18 and 16, and son, now 21. It would be nice, too, to report that Walker is back on his feet in all senses of that expression, especially now that his glory days as the most audacious rock-'n'-roll promoter on the continent are going to be celebrated in Festival Express.

But it's not like that. While Walker is mobile and lucid (in a long-winded sort of way), he's prone to crippling stress, depression and fatigue. Then there's the constant threat of those epileptic-like seizures, all of which give him the look of a 70-year-old man.

If you want to find Ken Walker these days, don't look among the leafy streets of Forest Hill, or the boardrooms, say, of the Royal Ontario Museum, to which his former business partner, Thor Eaton, recently donated $5-million. No, most days you'll find Walker shuttling between his rent-subsidized bachelor apartment far to the northwest of downtown, near Toronto's troubled Jane-Finch area, and his "haunt" three blocks to the north, one of those suburban family-style restaurants with framed faded photographs of the Maple Leafs on the walls and pepper steak and garlic cheese bread on the menu.

The apartment, Walker himself admits, is "a disaster" -- a cluttered mess of unopened mail and Player's Light packages strewn on the dirty floor, pill bottles, a narrow unmade bed, a dust-covered computer terminal, a three-wheel bike missing one of its wheels, a rattling air-conditioner stuck in a greasy window. When your sole source of income is the $600 or so you get each month from the Ontario Disability Support Program, what you get is what you see, it seems.

Enlivening the gloom somewhat, if heightening the poignancy, are souvenirs of Walker's happier days, including a framed junior-high graduating diploma from 1961, photographs of his children, a gold record and a silver record from Nana Mouskouri, and a large, mounted poster for the Festival Express concerts. Also in the tiny apartment is a dilapidated model train track mounted on a two-by-four, with a key and a car or two affixed to the rails.

It was presented to Walker on-stage at Calgary's McMahon Stadium 34 years ago this month as a "thank-you" from the musicians on Festival Express, each of whom autographed the plank and scrawled little witticisms on it. Some of the names are still legible, but most, including those of Joplin and Garcia, are badly faded. What stands out the most aren't the names, however, but the words -- "With Love" -- printed in big letters in pen alongside the track.

"I was thinking the [board] should actually go into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame [in Cleveland]," says Walker. Sold? Donated? Who knows. In the meantime, he says, "Now that my son is old enough and interested enough to be partners with me," Walker is thinking of getting back into business in some fashion. "Yes, I've been mulling over in my mind a new approach to the concert. There's no denying it needs one."

Of course, Ken Walker isn't about to reveal what this new approach entails. At least not yet. "All I can say is, 'Rock 'n' roll, look out!' " Then he chuckles and lights up another cigarette.

yay! A new interview!

One more Saturday night
BY MARK GUARINO Daily Herald Music Critic
Posted Thursday, July 22, 2004

The long strange trip of Grateful Dead guitarist, singer and songwriter Bob Weir began 40 years ago when he met Jerry Garcia and they formed Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions. Several incarnations later, The Dead became an enduring rock institution that a new generation can get a taste of through its current lineup featuring Weir, drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann and bassist Phil Lesh along with guests Warren Haynes and Jimmy Herring on guitar and Jeff Chimenti on keyboard.

Weir, 56, wrote or co-wrote many of the Dead standards including "Cassidy," "Jack Straw" and "Sugar Magnolia." A new compilation, "Weir Here" (Hybrid), compiles Weir's contributions to the Dead songbook along with songs from his roadhouse band Ratdog.

We talked recently about looking back at 40 years of work and the impact the Dead continues to have. What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation.

Q. Was releasing a two-disc retrospective of your work with the Dead a way of making a statement about your contribution to the band?

A. It's not much of a statement really. It was just a suggestion that came from one of my managers. I was doing a big remodel, particularly on my studio, and I haven't had a chance to write anything for the last couple of years. And so my management wanted to put out a record to make sure folks wouldn't forget that I was around or something, I'm not entirely sure. Anyway it occurred to me after they suggested it that there is a wide body of material.

Q. As the other songwriter in the Grateful Dead, was there a competition between you and Garcia?

A. No, to the contrary. We were all encouraging each other to write as much as possible. That way we would have more stuff to do.

Q. Were there expectations to keep feeding songs to the band?

A. Yeah, and to myself as well. To keep my hands on it.

Q. The Dead is so associated as a touring entity that the songwriting is always overlooked.

A. Yeah, that has been overshadowed. But the thing about it, what kept us going live onstage, is the strength of the songs in particular. Not just the "music, in capital letters. (The songs are) what kept us going, that's what kept everybody alive. In years to come, what's going to be remembered of us, what's remembered of Jerry right now, is his songs. When you bring Jerry to memory, when you bring him back, you're not thinking of his guitar licks, you're thinking of his songs. So that was the strength, that was the lifeblood, that was the chi that kept us alive for all those years and still does.

Q. Did touring prevent you from pursuing what you felt you needed to pursue in the studio?

A. Not really, no. There was always a feeling all along that pretty soon we're going to break a record. And it finally did happen.

Q. In the liner notes to the new compilation, (Dead historian) Dennis McNally writes you were a kid in the midst of the lunacy around you. How did that manifest itself?

A. I was a kid in that I got all the (expletive) chores. I had to do all the diplomacy, all the interviews and stuff like that that no one else wanted to pick up. Because it was dumped on me. For instance, writing the charts. I wrote the charts, all that kind of stuff. I was the youngest guy, and I got treated like it.

Q. Why did you click with your lyricist John Barlow?

A. We just had an intuitive sense of each other, of where we were going. If I came up with a chart of music, he would hear how I wanted to paint the colors. And vice versa. If he came up with a lyric, I was going to apply music to it. We were on the same level.

Q. Is there a Dead standard you wrote that means more for you now than it has in the past?

A. I would have to say "Cassidy" has been a real workhorse for me. It's taken me a lot of incredible places.

Q. Why?

A. I can't really tell you. It keeps unfolding. Next year it'll be substantially different than the way it is this year. As I mature as a musician and as a singer, that's the song that keeps benefiting me the most. I don't know exactly why. I guess I just love that song.

Q. The Dead is out yet again this summer. What's the motivation to keep it going?

A. I simply love to play. I love to light people up. And I love to mix it up with good musicians. There's nothing I'd rather do. I suppose I can hang on a beach somewhere, but I'd go nuts instantly.

Q. The personnel keeps changing. What questions do you ask when deciding who to add and who to subtract to the lineup each year?

A. How much fun are they going to be to play with? Can they handle a fluid tonic situation? Can they sing?

Q. Questions that are specific to how they affect your performance.

A. Yeah, absolutely. One of the considerations is, are they going to take me new places?

Q. These are questions you hear jazz players ask: What combination is going to take you where. Do you see the Dead in jazz terms?

A. What we are is definitely a fusion band. We're jazz and rock 'n' roll fusion. That word came to mean a certain sound a number of years ago and we don't sound like that. But our m.o. is, we take the song on a little walk in the woods. Our standards are different, that's all. But we use the same scales ... we use a slightly different instrumentation and a slightly different colorization for how we go about it.

Q. Are your musical heroes predominantly jazz players?

A. Well, jazz and I also like modern classical music. (Russian composer Igor) Stravinisky is one of my big heroes if he could be considered modern. I love what he did texturally, rhythmically and all that kind of stuff ... Stravinsky, as far as I'm concerned, is one of the fathers of rock 'n' roll. I've actually pirated from him from time to time.

Q. Does touring in an election year feel different?

A. Well, we want to get a lot of kids registered to vote at our shows. I don't want to tell them who to vote for, but I don't think I need to. It couldn't be more important at this point. But that won't have anything to do with the music. We keep music and politics separate. People don't pay to hear my political views. They're coming to hear the music.

Q. But the Dead rose out of Vietnam and today we hear so many comparisons of what's going on in Iraq to that war. What's different for you playing in front of a new generation of kids considered to be going through a similar situation?

A. Well, I think it's worse now. The difference is, there's no draft right now and there's not likely to be one for a number of reasons. But aside from that, the danger back then was that you could be sent to Vietnam and made to participate in a war we had no business being in and have to die or kill other people for no good reason. And that's a serious thing to have to be afraid of. On the other hand, today we're very much in danger of losing our democracy. And we won't see it again. It won't come back without blood on the streets. There's a sinister quality and that's even worse in some regard. It's bigger than our individual lives. It would be a real sad thing to see our democracy as part of history and not part of the present. It's a very real concern. And I think the kids can feel that, too. I'm hoping.

Q. But why aren't the kids storming the streets like your generation did?

A. I think they're numb to it. That's not to say they'll remain that way.

Q. I read recently that you said you don't miss Jerry Garcia because you still feel him. How so?

A. I can hear him, I can feel him, all that kind of stuff. He's just there.

Q. Onstage or off?

A. Even offstage. I hear him most when I'm onstage. But you know, when I'm thinking about stuff, there are times when he comes to me. When I'm having some kind of philosophical quandary or pondering some important issue. But most often, it's just onstage.

Q. He still lives on all the T-shirts kids wear at the shows. Is that weird for you to see that?

A. Well, it's a little strange because he hated that. But at the same time, it's nice to see his face.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Wow! Nice Festival Express pictures here!

Thursday, July 22, 2004



23-Jul San Francisco Bridge Landmark

30-Jul Berkeley Shattuck Cinemas Landmark
30-Jul New York Union Square 14 Regal
30-Jul New York Empire 25 AMC
30-Jul Los Angeles Nuart Landmark
30-Jul Santa Cruz, CA Nickelodeon IND
30-Jul Santa Rosa, CA Rialto Lakeside ESP
30-Jul San Jose Camera 12 Camera
30-Jul Pleasant Hill, CA CineArts @ Pleasant Hill Century
30-Jul Palo Alto Mountain View 16 Century
30-Jul Sausalito, CA CineArts Marin Century
30-Jul Monterey, CA Osio Cinemas Resort

4-Aug Columbus Wexner Center IND (music festival, 1 day)

6-Aug Santa Barbara Plaza del Oro Arcangelo
6-Aug Ventura, CA Downtown Ventura 10 Century
6-Aug Huntington, NY Cinema Arts Centre IND
6-Aug Pleasantville, NY Jacob Burns Film Center IND
6-Aug San Luis Obispo Palm Theater IND
6-Aug Encino Town Center 5 Laemmle
6-Aug Pasadena Playhouse 7 Laemmle
6-Aug Lagnua Niguel, CA Rancho Niguel 8 Mann
6-Aug Sacramento Crest Theater PFR
6-Aug Long Beach, CA UA Long Beach 6 Regal
6-Aug Rolling Hills, CA Avenue 13 Regal
6-Aug Brea, CA Brea West Regal
6-Aug Irvine University 6 Regal

13-Aug Cleveland Cedar Lee PFR
13-Aug Columbus, OH Drexel 3 PFR
13-Aug Evanston, IL CineArts 6 Century
13-Aug Camarillo, CA Paseo Camarillo Laemmle
13-Aug San Diego Ken Cinema Landmark (calendar)
13-Aug Fairfax, VA Cinema Arts Theater IND
13-Aug Philadelphia Ritz Theaters Posel
13-Aug Voorhees, NJ Ritz 16 Posel

20-Aug Portland Fox Tower Regal
20-Aug Nashville Green Hills 16 Regal
20-Aug Knoxville Downtown West 8 Regal
20-Aug Memphis Studio on the Square Malco
20-Aug Hartford Cinema City NECI
20-Aug Baltimore Charles 5 Mansour
20-Aug Plano, TX Angelika City

27-Aug Las Vegas Suncoast 18 Century
27-Aug Chapel Hill, NC Chelsea Theater Mansour
27-Aug Ft. Lauderdale Gateway ESP
27-Aug Raleigh Colony Twin ACME
27-Aug Durham Carolina ACME
27-Aug Pittsburgh Denis Jacobs
27-Aug Seattle Varsity Landmark (calendar)
27-Aug St. Louis Tivoli 3 Landmark (calendar)
27-Aug Atlanta UA Tara 4 Regal
27-Aug Miami South Beach 18 Regal
27-Aug Boca Raton Shadowoods 16 Regal

3-Sep Salt Lake City Tower Theater IND
3-Sep Vashon Island, WA Island Theater IND (4-day)
3-Sep Rochester Little Theater IND
3-Sep Providence Avon Theater Mansour
3-Sep Milwaukee Oriental Landmark
3-Sep New Orleans Canal Place Landmark
3-Sep Austin Dobie Landmark
3-Sep Indianapolis Castelton Arts AMC
3-Sep Louisville Baxter Avenue Arcangelo
3-Sep San Antonio Fiesta 16 Regal
3-Sep Kansas City Tivoli PFR
3-Sep Yakima, WA Yakima 10 Alamo

10-Sep Ann Arbor Michigan PFR (tent)
10-Sep Orlando Enzian Theater Arcangelo
10-Sep Sarasota Hollywood 20 Regal
10-Sep Madison, WI Hilldale Capitol

17-Sep Charlotte Manor 2 EFT
17-Sep Tulsa Southroads 20 AMC
17-Sep Oklahoma City Quail Springs 24 AMC
17-Sep Eugene, OR Bijou Cinemas Paulson
17-Sep Newburyport, MA Screening Room IND (one week)

Monday, July 19, 2004

Hey who has a great tour story?
These guys at:
are looking for submissions for a book!
Don't know if they'll be dropping by this blog or if my tales are worthy- but I know you guys reading this have a few great ones so, go check it out!!!

Sunday, July 18, 2004

From Garchik's column since the earlier link:


Leah Garchik Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Hanging in there, keeping on trucking, musicians and filmmakers, non- grizzled (well, for the most part) veterans of rock 'n' roll emerged from their limos and faced the cameras for in-your-face microphone chit-chat before Monday's U.S. premiere of "Festival Express'' at the Galaxy.

As Joel Selvin wrote, it's a movie about the train that carried the Band, the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin and others to a series of festival shows across Canada. There was music, mainly, but there was also liquor, dope (and love-making and "puking,'' as Mickey Hart told me, the latter two activities not captured on camera). There was art, there was camaraderie, but there were no baths.

Thirty years later, the survivors were spiffed up, and red-carpet-ready, with varying interpretations of rock 'n' roll glamour: Bob Weir wore a sport coat, and his wife, Natascha, was in an evening dress ("We are going to a ball, '' said Weir, "I guess this is the equivalent of that''); Mickey and Caryl Hart arrived in well-pressed jeans, but Hart was just as revved up for the occasion. "We were a public service,'' he told me. "We were delivering good vibes, and we were uplifting the populace.''

At a party at the Great American Music Hall after the movie, the Waybacks played, Weir joined them, a bearded man with a scarf whirled around the dance floor, and strangers shared french fries in the balcony. Much of the talk was about Joplin, a ferocious performing presence who died a few months after the festival.

The singer's brother and sister were at the party, Michael Joplin thrilled at footage he hadn't seen before. Hart told me the last time he saw Joplin was when the Grateful Dead played a San Jose show with her and Big Brother and the Holding Company. Her manager, Albert Grossman, was about to "ferret her away'' to the East Coast, where he wanted to make her a bigger star. Grossman "was taking her out of our world,'' said Hart, and he had his arm around her as she looked back over her shoulder and said goodbye in a soft voice. "That's the last time I'll ever see her,'' Garcia told Hart.

Garcia was talking about her career, and probably their friendship (he tells her in the movie he fell in love with her the first time he saw her); it turned out, he was referring to her life. "She was so fragile,'' said Hart.


Friday, July 16, 2004

Sorry to have been slacking off (again) about blogging the premiere..Still boxing stuff up and all that-
to tide you over
here's a review from The Marin Independent Journal-



'Festival Express' documents one wild ride

By Paul Liberatore, IJ senior feature writer

I KNEW "FESTIVAL Express" was something extraordinary when I was at the movies a couple of times recently and felt the excitement, the outright commotion, that the long-lost rock documentary sparked when its trailer came onto the screen.

On both occasions, the theaters were packed with Marin people waiting for the regular feature to start. When the quick preview for "Festival Express" showed a clip of Janis Joplin onstage in all her outrageous glory, kicking into the opening bars of "Cry Baby," the audience erupted, rumbling and whooping and buzzing like it had just been zapped with a jolt of electricity. And it had.

Shot in 1970, two months before Joplin's death of a drug overdose, her sequences are galvanizing. For someone like me who never got to see her in real life, this movie is the next best thing - about as close as I'm going to get.

And that's not even the half of it. The Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia is slim, exuberant, beaming, 28 years old, in the prime of his life. "We were happy, man," he says near the end of the film, a crazed cinema verit chronicle of an alcohol-fueled concert tour/ bachanal/train trip across Canada with Joplin, the Dead, the Band, Buddy Guy, the New Riders of the Purple Sage, Traffic, Delaney and Bonnie, Sha Na Na, Ian and Sylvia and the Flying Burrito Brothers.

"This was really sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll," the Dead's Mickey Hart, 60, told me before a screening this week. "It couldn't have been better when you're a kid of 20. We'd never done anything like this before, we never did it again and we sure couldn't do it now."

Thirty-four years after the fact, "Festival Express" had its theatrical premiere Monday night at the UA Galaxy in San Francisco for an audience that amounted to a who's who of the city's erstwhile psychedelic music scene.

"This is the film's spiritual home," Grammy-winning British director Bob Smeaton told the crowd before the show, referring to the Bay Area bands that play a prominent role in this historic piece of rock archeology. And Canadian producer Gavin Poolman said it was "a dream of ours to show this film in San Francisco."

Over the years, musician acquaintances of mine who had been on this mythic journey had spoken dreamily of it as one of the greatest experiences of their careers. But I never could quite understand what all the fuss was about. Now I get it.

For five days, a motley crew of great rock musicians clacked across Canada aboard a luxury train modeled on the Orient Express. The Disoriented Express would have been more like it. In Toronto, Calgary and Winnipeg, they stopped to play big outdoor concerts for crowds of unruly fans. The rest of the time, they were all aboard the train, mixing it up in comfortably close quarters, drinking, jamming and partying as if they knew intuitively that this would be a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

"I was playing with heroes of mine daily, nightly and inbetweenly," the Dead's Bob Weir, 56 and bearded, wearing a coat and tie, said as we chatted on the red carpet before the premiere. "This film is one of the few documents of our past. It's fun to relive that time."

It's a minor miracle that this documentary ever made it to the screen at all. The camera operators were so stoned that they often couldn't keep their shots in focus, when they remembered to shoot at all. The festival promoters lost money and couldn't pay them all they were owed, so they walked off with valuable footage, holding it hostage for unpaid wages.

But film cans of work prints stored in the original producer's garage somehow survived Canadian winters, a fire and the unwitting abuse of kids who used them as hockey goals. Fortunately, a young man involved in the production managed to round up all the reels he could find, taking them to the Canadian National Archives in Ottawa, where they sat perfectly preserved for 25 years.

To make a long story short, the project was revived a decade or so ago, but $1 million had to be raised to buy the rights. Old footage was given context by contemporary interviews with musicians and others who were there. Using digital technology, the images and sound were magically cleaned up and synched.

Smeaton, 40, who won Grammys for the "Jimi Hendrix Band of Gypsies" documentary and for "The Beatles Anthology" TV series, was brought in to direct. He was only 6 years old when the footage was shot, but he had long admired classic rock documentaries such as "Woodstock" and "Monterey Pop" and wanted this film to look like them, true to its period.

"It's not the slickest movie in the world," he admitted. "But it's an important document."

What strikes me about this film is the youthful joy, the camaraderie and the pure love of music that it allows us to witness with unblinking intimacy, both on the stage and in the endless jams that went on in the various cars on the train devoted to blues, country and rock.

In one priceless scene, the Band's Rick Danko sings the traditional song "Ain't No More Cane" in a drunken duet with a cackling Janis Joplin. A bemused Garcia supplies guitar accompaniment, and at the end of the song, in the documentary's sweetest "awww" moment, Garcia says, "Janis, I've loved you from the first day I saw you."

The film's running joke involves alcohol as the drug of non-choice. Because of the risk involved in trying to smuggle marijuana across the border into Canada, booze was the only way to get high.

"That was a new experience for a lot of us," Weir said. "The problem was that we weren't drinkers," Hart added.

But they got the hang of it, quickly draining the bar car and having to make an unscheduled stop to buy out the entire stock of a liquor store in Saskatoon. Someone in the Grateful Dead's entourage laced the whisky with LSD, and the party roared on.

"We were screaming across Canada on electrified Johnny Walker," Hart recalled.

Despite the debauchery, the musicians were admirably responsible. When out-of-control kids demanded to be let into a concert for free, Garcia was the voice of reason, taking the microphone and pleading for "a half hour of coolness." The Dead then played a free concert in a nearby park. His leadership is in striking contrast to the deified, distant Garcia of his last years, so worried about inadvertently causing an unbalanced Deadhead to do something stupid that he never dared to speak to the audience at all.

In another scene on the train, a baby-faced Weir is indignant over the beating of a Canadian police officer who had his head cracked open by gatecrashers who didn't feel they should have to buy a $16 ticket. "Is $16 worth nearly killing some person?" he asked angrily.

All these years later, he's still bothered by it. "I don't know if that cop ever came back together," he told me at a party at the Great American Music Hall after the screening. "That upset me greatly."

Musically, the Dead, with Ron "Pigpen" McKernan on harmonica, played crisp acoustic renditions of "Don't Ease Me In," "Friend of the Devil" and "New Speedway Boogie." Fittingly, the film opens with them doing "Casey Jones."

"We sounded a lot better than we had a right to sound and we looked a lot better than we had a right to look," Weir confessed.

He may have made the most profound remark of all when he said in the film that this brief window of unreality represented "the prospect for music to become more than entertainment or a diversion."

It seems that for those involved, the Festival Express was a rock 'n' roll religious ceremony on rails. And the music they shared with each other, and now with us, was its sacrament.

Thursday, July 15, 2004


Wednesday, July 14, 2004

back to WOWOWOW mode...its been busy here and it wasnt til 11:30pm last nite that I even had a chance to tell Scotto about all the fun we had at the Premiere & Party!

Yep, no grander moment in recent memory than sitting there with 1970 Bobby bigger than ,well, life in front of me-while at the same time there sits the LIVE- REAL DEAL!! Bobby behind me (several rows but completely visable!). I know I mustve asked Kemmie "Is this really happening?" at least once..sort of like when we were at the ACLU luncheon back in December...Our team of Deadnetters sat back as the film began...

The movie was excellent and definately a companion experience to The Grateful Dead Movie and Closing of Winterland movies..a must have when it comes out on dvd-which I sure hope happens...Jerry is so happy and young and charismatic and funny...Janis, well, the never seen singing is such a gift to everyone after all these years..she is just a girl exploding with talent and energy...Pig pen is also there but there is not much of him....Bobby is just a pup- mostly low key- a little playful with the camera person but lets it all out about how he feels about the kids who had been violent during a riot..Go Bobby Go!!

There are scores of insightful -fun-great moments in this film- It's just best you all go see it when it comes to your city!

The film ended too soon- I'dve been into seeing more film but that's how it goes.. I tried very hard not to stare at Bobby and his family as I walked up the aisle -I only peeked over but there he be-looking really pleased with the film, chatting away with someone...sigh!
Out to the street, back to the parking garage- I already forgot what the reason was but we had to stop by the car...On our way back down the street, on the way to GAMH for the afterparty, we again had to pass the cineplex- Kems noticed a janitor taking down a huge Festival Express poster and asked him for it..and so,it was hers! Very cool!

a link to check out!

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

this morning's posts on last nite-
Kemmie - 08:05am Jul 13, 2004 PDT (#159 of 162)

WOW!!! What a fun many laughs, and a couple tears too...Jerry, (in tie dye just about every scene) Janis (just so beautiful and soulful....cry baby) and Bobby looking oh so sweet.... (16 dollar tickets). Jerry to Janis...Janis, I've loved ya since the day I met ya... I would buy this DVD too.

((((((((((Irenie)))))))))) it was your night sweetie!!! smooch, smooch....teheheeee!
  Thank-you so much for thinking of me! And for getting my poster signed by the bobstar!! I can't believe I walked downstairs only minutes before...."Hi Kemmie, Bobby Weir"!!

Let's the magic mirror I saw ((((((((((Irenie)))))))))), ((((((((((Dire Wolf)))))))))), ((((((((((Anagram)))))))))), ((((((((((Katrinka)))))))))), ((((((((((Gwen)))))))))), ((((((((((Reisha and Tom))))))))))

and From Katrinka:

There are two full length Janis songs and lots more Janis on the train.

This movie is fantastic - too short, but from the articles I've seen about the making of the movie, it sounds like it was a miracle that they were able to recover as much (of the film) as they did.

Jerry in the impromptu jams on the train is relaxed and funny - and never a black shirt in sight. Jerry in tie-dye, oh my!

The sound is excellent - wonders of modern technology - and they cranked up the volume for us.

It's really worth seeing this in a theatre.

Nothing can compare to the feeling of being in a theatre, surrounded by like-minded folks, seeing and hearing this amazing documentary at full size and full sound. Even the best home theatre system is inadequate for recreating the experience.

I don't know where to start?
Kemmie swung by and off we went in search of Van Ness @ Sutter st. in the city- as we rolled by on Sutter we could see a bunch of media vans from local news stations and a RED carpet!!! On the Van Ness side, there was a huge line of people....We found a parking garage and hiked on over..Closer up there were 2 lines-the long one and a much shorter one by the entry...The long line was for people with tickets the short one was "The List"...I didnt have tickets-I had gotten an invitation that gave me a phone number to RSVP at, So I figured I must be "on a list" So, I got in that line and hoped it was gonna work out- I had RSVP'd to a voicemail and because I don't have enough things to worry about-had worried about my RSVP getting lost or unnoted...but that was silly because there my name was-big letters right on the list! Phew!
Kemmie and I were each given a handbill with something stamped on it- this would be our ticket into the afterparty....We went right into the theater (a contemporary glass & steel cineplex).. Dead notables were schmoozing all around us...Cameron, Dennis, Billy & his wife, Mickey too...Kems and I hung out to gape at Bobby & his family as they popped out of a big stretchy limo and walked up the red carpet, where Bobby chatted for quite awhile with reporters- couldnt hear what was being said but it was fun enough to be so close up and to see the whole family looking very glamourous..Bobby was in a suit & tie (brown or gray,light shirt) His amazing wife was in a sheer but multi-layered wispy, 3 quarter length black art nouveau era looking dress-with very cool details- Natascha wore it well and even Joam Rivers wouldve dug on it!! The little girls had their party dresses on..they are beautiful- both have bottomless dark eyes and dimples like the Bobstar as well as the incredible high cheekbones and olive sleekness of their Momstar...Jack and Milena were looking good and happy - Milena also in a lovely dress-lacy and black...I was happy to be just be there and grinning ...
But enough of the gaping- Kems and I went inside and about half the place (a very typical movie theater) was corded off for people with color coded VIP tickets (which we had not) We were close up and since Im horribly nearsighted it was all good! After a few moments, our fellow Deadnetters were among us ((Dire, Gwen,Anagram, Katrinka)) Later on we would see ((Reisha & CDawg)) and ((TwrlGirl))
I turned around just as Bobstar and his family were sitting, I thought- I'm at the movies with Bobby-sorta!
Gonna have to stop here for now- The buyers are sending their banking guy here to do an appraisal- Gotta make the place presentable!

Monday, July 12, 2004

So far my summer is being punctuated with selling my house and The Dead...I'm surely not complaining- I feel very grateful!!!
That we would be having our first open house the day after the Dead show at Shoreline had me considering cancelling out going- I was exhausted and scratched up and had stitches in my right hand....but Scott laughed off my suggesting we skip the show...was too tired to fully enjoy the show plus too many chatty people around, I cant say it felt as good as usual to be there....sometime the next day, scott, kids, Lilah the dog and I were away from home -because of the open house- we were moseying around the Haight..and Kemmy-bless her heart-gave me a call, inviting me to head north for the Marysville Dead show...I felt it wouldnt be fair to take off like that but Scott told me "you deserve it!" LOL, He also reminded me of his full schedule of upcoming baseball games and other guy plans he, off I went with Kemmie-
2 1/2 hour drive (both ways) up to the country to see the boys! It was a perfect night and I found a great seat with no one anywhere near me- Kemmy was divided between hanging bacxk with me or going up a little closer near her brother - I tried to ease Kemmy's mind- it was REALLY okay for her to go dance- I was doing great where I last she left, and I sat back and though still pretty ragged feeling-had a WONDERFUL show...(((Kemmy))))
So now its about 2 weeks later, feels like 2 years later- Keeping everything spotless and being exceptionally smiley while strangers poke through my house all through the day are not my strengths..Last night we got the call, the house is SOLD! Today was gonna be tough if it hadnt sold...because tonight I've got a World Premiere (Hello!!!) to attend! Bringing Kemmy along for the fun-Scotto who has not packed a single thing will finally get started on his closets- We move in less than 2 weeks!!!
I will take everything in tonight and report back for sure!!!
Now, just gotta work on remembering where I've packed my party clothes!!
from today's paper-


Film documenting ill-fated Canadian train tour by Dead, Joplin rumbles to life after decades in purgatory

Joel Selvin, Chronicle Senior Pop Music Critic Monday, July 12, 2004


Gavin Poolman remembers using the film cans containing the only existing work prints of "Festival Express" for hockey goals. His parents were divorced, and his father, who was the original producer of the film, moved often. Young Poolman never could understand why his father insisted on lugging around this stupid collection of heavy film canisters. At one point, he dragged the cans out of the garage and stacked them in the street to serve as goalposts.

But in the mid-'90s, after he grew up and went into the film business in London, Poolman was contacted by a film researcher from Canada who was trying to find the footage, and Poolman knew exactly where to look.

"He'd found the negatives to this stuff," Poolman said. "Apparently he'd been looking for it for years."

"Festival Express," which will have its world premiere tonight at the UA Galaxy (followed by a party at the Great American Music Hall), is rock's great lost concert film. The movie, which opens its theatrical run July 23 at the Bridge, features a cast of 135 drunken and deranged rock musicians -- including Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, the Band, Delaney & Bonnie, Buddy Guy, Sha Na Na and others -- rolling across Canada on a train in 1970, partying nonstop in between mini-Woodstock performances at outposts along the way.

The film not only captures extraordinary work by Joplin, only months before her death, and the Band and the Dead at their creative peaks, but comes crackling to life in scenes shot in the train's jam-packed bar car, like Rick Danko of the Band howling in Joplin's amused face while Jerry Garcia noodles along with the drunken fracas.

The festivals proved to be financial disasters from day one. And the film, started by Poolman's father, Toronto film distributor Willem Poolman, disappeared almost before the last musical note stopped ringing. Cameramen took their work home to hold hostage for promised paychecks. The beleaguered festival promoters, who banned Poolman from the train, claimed rights to the footage. A court order was issued to keep Poolman from developing the film. At one point, he was hiding film in a meat locker.

Of the 75 hours of footage shot, Gavin Poolman, who signed on as producer of the movie his father started, eventually recovered 46 hours of 16mm film. Film researcher Garth Douglas, who contacted Poolman about the project, discovered much of the missing footage in the Canadian Film Archive, where it had been deposited by someone associated with the production more than 30 years ago.

What started it all was a little-known footnote to the '60s rock festival era. Canadian concert producers Ken Wallace and Thor Eaton booked stadiums across Canada and transported the rolling rock festival from concert to concert via private railcars. Tickets were priced sky high to cover the extravagance, and protesters who believed that music should be free virtually shut down the concerts. The Toronto opener played to a slender crowd in the stadium, while the cops held back angry demonstrators across the street and the Dead agreed to perform for free later across town. A planned Vancouver show was canceled, but the festival went forward with the five-day train trip to Calgary, playing to half-empty houses along the way.

The train itself was a beehive of endless jamming and much fraternizing. Deprived of their customary refreshments by having to travel across international boundaries, the usually drug-addled musicians turned to alcohol. They quickly drank the train dry, then took up a collection, stopping the locomotive in its tracks across the road from a Saskatchewan liquor store and buying out the store's inventory.

"Drugs arrived when they got to Winnipeg," "Festival Express" director Bob Smeaton said. The event was little noted at the time -- although Rolling Stone chronicled the bacchanal as "The Million Dollar Bash" -- and quickly forgotten. Film researcher Douglas picked up the trail decades later, having heard tales of this "Canadian Woodstock." Gavin Poolman, who also produced the 2000 Balkan civil war drama "The Zookeeper," raised $3 million and hired Smeaton, a rockumentary veteran who served as series director for "The Beatles Anthology."

The original cinematographer, Peter Biziou, went on to win an Oscar for "Mississippi Burning," so there was some native talent behind the lens in the first place, although there was no end to the technical problems on the project. Veteran engineer Eddie Kramer, famous for his work with Jimi Hendrix, was brought in to mix the audio tapes. The film had to be blown up from 16mm. Film and audio were recorded at different speeds; without modern digital technology, the movie probably never could have been made.

"They would have never been able to get this film to work," director Smeaton said of the earlier attempt to make the movie. "The cameramen were so stoned, it was hard to get the film right at all."

The cameramen accidentally break into the scenes. Microphones protrude into the frames. Even with five cameras on the crew, Smeaton still couldn't put together a complete version of Traffic playing a 15-minute version of "Feelin' Alright," captured brilliantly on audio, because all the cameras ran out of film. One cameraman told Smeaton confidently that he remembered shooting a particular scene himself, only for Smeaton to spot the guy in the footage standing in the crowd not filming anything. When Smeaton came to San Francisco to interview the surviving members of the Grateful Dead for the movie, Phil Lesh didn't remember there being cameras at all.

Gavin Poolman, who was a young boy at the time of the festival, remembered the project well. It was not just those film cans his father was forever shuffling around from garage to garage. He associated the abortive movie with his parents' divorce, which coincidentally happened around the same time, and moving out of their nice big home that his father could no longer afford. When his father's basement flooded one winter, he saw the film cans crusted with ice. But, in fact, when the movie was finally made, those work prints supplied some valuable footage the filmmakers couldn't find anywhere else.

Today Willem Poolman is an 80-year-old immigration attorney in Toronto who still goes to the office every day. He got into the film business by accident in the '60s, distributing foreign films and independent releases while still working as an attorney. His success with rock films such as "Monterey Pop" led him to make "Festival Express," although he found himself at odds with the festival producers almost from the start. Banished from the train, Willem Poolman remembers handing film stock to his camera crew from an overpass in Winnipeg as the train passed beneath.

He long ago gave up the film business, but if he had given up the idea that his movie would ever be made, why did he keep all those film tins?

"Until I saw the results, I would have never believed it," he said. "I really had the feeling it needed to be made. That's why we did it. It had to come out. It was fun doing it like this."

E-mail Joel Selvin at

Page C - 1


Thursday, July 08, 2004


Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Alert! Get those vcrs ready!

Show: The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
Episode: 07/20/2004
Network: (NBC) National Broadcasting Company
Date: Tuesday - July 20, 2004
Time: 11:35 pm - 12:35 am ET
Featured Artists
Grateful Dead
About: 07/20/2004
Guests include political commentator Bill Maher and music by The Dead.


ROCKONTV guide to music on television 
Show: Biography
Episode: Janis Joplin: Southern Discomfort
Network: (BIO) The Biography Channel
Date: Sunday - July 18, 2004
Time: 07:00 pm - 08:00 pm ET
Featured Artists
Janis Joplin, Bob Weir
About: Janis Joplin: Southern Discomfort
She died before her final album was completed, of a heroin overdose, alone, in a motel room at the age of 27. It was just three years after she was discovered at the Monterey International Pop Festival.

"Rock Legends" week continues on A&E with BIOGRAPHY:JANIS JOPLIN, the story of the undisputed queen of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll; the woman who broke into the boy's club and out of the stifling good-girl femininity of postwar America. With incredible wall-of-sound vocals, Joplin was the white woman singing blues and soul with guts and force to forge a path that others would follow. A woman who courted danger and outrage with an image and lifestyle that inspired a generation. Born in Port Arthur, Texas in 1943, she began by singing folk in local coffee houses. She left Port Arthur and ended up in California, playing with Big Brother & the Holding Company at the Monterey Festival. Her show-stopping performance launched her into stardom. Three years of constant albums, tours, bands, drugs, drink and hard work followed, culminating in her final album Pearl. Confusion and stereotype surround Janis: the lesbian, the misfit, the rebel, the conformer, the junkie, the drinker, the genius and the lonely woman. The wild clothes and her "cackling" laugh

Monday, July 05, 2004

someone posted this at

Cubensis guitarist Craig Marshall speaks with Bob Weir in a wide-ranging interview on 6/11/04.
Bob Weir : Hello?

Craig Marshall : Good Morning! I’m looking for Bob.

BW : Yeah!

CM : Hey, it’s Craig Marshall with Cubensis in L.A. What’s happenin, man? Are you ready for this interview?

BW : You bet.

CM : Okay. Let me see if I’ve got my tape recorder going and all that good stuff. How’s things out there?

BW : Well, it’s kind of a rainy day here in D.C.

CM : I see. And I guess all the pomp and circumstance of the Reagan funeral is going on as well.

BW : Yeah!

CM : Yeah. Well, to get this started, let me just do a little introduction if I may, so we’ll get it on tape.

BW : Yeah, sure.

CM : OK.......My name is Craig Marshall. I’m the lead guitarist for Cubensis, the Grateful Dead tribute band out of Los Angeles. And obviously, I’m also a big fan, after seeing my first Dead show in 1967 at the Shrine Exposition Hall. Now, Cubensis has been performing as a Dead tribute since 1986. It’s been a real great lifestyle and a privilege to play Grateful Dead music! So the premise of this conversation is that I’m a tribute artist, and I’m talking with Bob Weir today, who of course is the “real deal” and so, good afternoon to you, Bob!

BW : Hiya!

CM : First, I want to thank you for all the years of wonderful music..

BW : The pleasure’s mine. Thanks!

CM : ...and all the experiences that went along with that. So I guess my first question is, “Why don’t you get rid of those other two jokers that you have now and hire me as your lead guitarist?” (Laughing) I had to throw that in, sorry.

BW : (Laughs) We’ll bring it up before the Committee.

CM : Very good! What brings you to D.C. today?

BW : I’m here, I’m actually here to play on a Satellite Radio Station and on Public Radio.

CM : Oh, I see. As a solo act?

BW : Yeah!

CM : That sounds good. As a Californian, do you have any thoughts about President Reagan’s passing?

BW : You know, it’s a merciful thing. A guy who is that wasted by Alzheimer’s, people should be rejoicing that he finally got a break.

CM : What about his significance in history? Any thoughts?

BW : Well, I can’t speak too kindly of him with regards to his legacy. I’d rather not say.

CM : Understood. Okay, you guys are about to start a summer tour, and of course you’ll be at the Verizon Amphitheatre in Irvine on June 24th.

BW : Ah-hah!

CM : What do you guys have in store for us this time around?

BW : You know, its impossible for us to tell what we’re gonna be playing. We rehearsed I think some 160-plus songs, some of them even twice! So, I just can’t tell you right now. But, you know, it will be fun!

CM : I have no doubt! Any new original tunes?

BW : Yeah!

CM : Who’s writing those?

BW : Mickey, myself, Warren, and Phil is even involved in some of them, and Jeff. We’ve been writing by committee.

CM : And that seems to be working?

BW : Yeah!

CM : That’s kind of a departure from the old days where Hunter and Garcia might write something, or you and Barlow.

BW : You know, I’ve kind of "had it" with holing up and writing stuff, and then bringing it to the band because really, it almost ALWAYS suffers in the translation. You know... “Look what they’ve done to my song!” So instead of doing that, I like to work on the tune with the guys who are going to be playing it. And that seems to work pretty well.

CM : Just get it over with, huh?

BW : Well, you know what you’re going to get.

CM : Exactly. So for the record, who is in the current line-up of the Dead?

BW : Okay, lets start from the left. Jimmy Herring on guitar. Warren Haynes on guitar & vocals and me on guitar & vocals. Phil on bass & vocals and Jeff Chimenti on keyboards & vocals. And in the back we have Billy Kreutzmann on drums and Mickey Hart on drums & some vocals.

CM : So, Warren Haynes is being billed as a special guest, and you just said he’ll also be on stage with the Dead, but he’ll be opening as well? Is that correct?

BW : Well, we may be opening by committee. He’s doing a solo acoustic thing, and I might do a little of that, too. And if I do that, you’ll probably see other people creeping out, so...

CM : Wonderful!. Its got to have been great for you to have made music with so many world-class lead guitar players - from Garcia and then you know, with everybody else. How is it, say, playing with Mark Karan in Ratdog? Can you describe the experience as compared to Jerry, or is there any comparison there?

BW : Well, Mark’s technically more proficient than Jerry was, for what it’s worth.

CM : His playing has grown by leaps and bounds since he joined Ratdog.

BW : He’s opening up like a flower. But, Jerry was kind of special in his way.

CM : Yeah, totally unique. I understand that Marc Ford was on stage with you in Japan. Can you describe that?

BW : Well, he’s an old friend of ours, of mine. You know, we toured together when he was in the Black Crowes. I don’t know who he’s playing with, do you know who he’s playing with now?

CM : I do, and his name escapes me...oh, it’s Ben Harper.

BW : Great. I really love his playing. He’s a great guy as well.

CM : Yeah. Both "Marks" have sat in with Cubensis from time to time and we’ve really enjoyed that. They’re inspiring.
Garcia, of course, is irreplaceable, but when you had to fill Jerry’s shoes, was there a conscious effort to pick someone completely unlike Jerry, which is how I would describe Jimmy Herring’s playing?

BW : At first, actually when we went out as the Other Ones, we had Steve Kimock. And at that time, Steve’s playing was quite reminiscent of Jerry’s. I like Steve, he’s a wonderful guy and I love playing with him, but it didn’t seem to me to be the right choice, although we did it anyway. And then we started looking for people who were unlike Jerry.

CM : Okay, so this was deliberate and...

BW : You know, we were just looking for good players.

CM : Sure. I always thought that the fellow from Dire Straits, I’d like to have heard him play with you folks.

BW : Yeah, I’m having a senior moment here. I can’t remember his name but he’s a great player as well. (Mark Knopfler, of course)

CM : Indeed. So, talking about Warren Haynes, we’ve been lucky enough to have him sit in with Cubensis as well. Until I met him, I thought he was a rough “biker” kind of guy, but actually he’s very mellow, isn’t he?

BW : Yeah. A real sweet guy.

CM : Does Warren ever remind you of Jerry as far as his temperament, or his sense of humor, or anything?

BW : Ah, Warren’s Warren for me. And that’s just fine!

CM : Great. Say, how do you feel about cover bands? Any opinions there? Or any advice you can give a fledgling band, or a tribute band?

BW : Well, yeah...just love what you do. And of course, you do. So there’s no assignment there, there’s no homework there. Aside from that, I don’t know what to say.

CM : Okay!

BW : Have fun!

CM : Oh, definitely. Tell me, how was touring with Joan Osborne?

BW : I loved working with her and hope to work with her again at some point.

CM : Was there a certain reason she’s not on board this time around?

BW : I’ll have to pass on that question because I wasn’t around when that decision was made.

CM : Okay, fair enough. Garcia passed away in 1995. How often, if ever, do you feel his presence, and can you tell me about any supernatural contact you might have felt when you "knew" he was there?

BW : Well, okay. The morning he died, I was in New Hampshire, and he came to me in a dream. He was dressed elegantly, in Castilian splendor.

CM : Wow!

BW : And he had a long velour cape and all that kind of stuff. In the dream, I was backstage at some gig in a club and I discovered a big old can of invisible paint, and me and the guys in the band that I was touring with, it was Ratdog at that time, we were all, you know, having great fun with the invisible paint, and Jerry came by, you know, popped in. And I said, “Hey, check this out! Invisible paint!” And he didn’t seem interested, which kind of surprised me. He seemed really preoccupied.

CM : Whoa...

BW : Then I woke up and I think it was 6:15 and you know, I had to go hit the bathroom and then I went back to sleep, so I know what time it was. And that’s probably right around the time he checked out. So, you know, as they say, when somebody checks out, they make some rounds ‘cause time and space no longer exists for them.

CM : I’ve got chills hearing that story...that’s amazing.

BW : And aside from that, you know, he’s "there." Every time I pick up a guitar, he’s almost there playing. You know, I can hear him. I can hear him coaxing me, saying "Go here, go there... no, don’t go there." And I’m my usual headstrong self, so I can feel him lightening up, or getting pissed off at me, or whatever, just like always!

CM : That is great. I mean, you’ve got to appreciate that.

BW : They say, in the Japanese culture, in their belief system, when you speak somebody’s name who’s departed, they’re there, they exist. And any time we’re playing one of Jerry’s songs, we’re basically saying his name, so he exists.

CM : I like that a lot. That is awesome. Any thoughts about the passing of Ray Charles? Did you know him?

BW : I never met him. But he was way influential. I was a big fan of his all along. Especially when I was a kid, though.

CM : I just saw a TV special with him and Travis Tritt, I believe, like an hour-long special. That was a nice experience.

BW : Cool.

CM : Music-wise, who are you listening to these days?

BW : You know, I listen to anything but current popular music. I like modern classical, and jazz. Good old fashioned, mean, "street" jazz.

CM : Anybody come to mind, jazz-wise?

BW : Well actually, John Coltrane. Miles Davis. That era really was packing ‘em in for me.

CM : Anybody you’d like to perform with that you haven’t had a chance to yet?

BW : Ah, the list is too long.

CM : Let me ask you this. I hope that this is not an uncomfortable question, but there are a lot of people that say that "The Dead," as opposed to "the Grateful Dead," is a reunion of sorts, and they feel that Vince Welnick is conspicuously absent. Was he invited, or did anything happen to prevent that?

BW : Well, what happened was that both Phil and I took up with different keyboard players that we preferred playing with, basically. And we took both of them along on tour last year.

CM : Right.

BW : And then that got whittled down to just Jeff this year. Now, Vince is a good keyboard player and a great guy, you know, and a good singer for that matter, but I’ve got a hotter hand going right now with Jeff.

CM : Well, that’s legitimate.

BW : I mean, he takes us to way cool places.

CM : Exactly...which is what your intent is. No, that’s beautiful. Vince has joined us for a number of shows and it’s inspiring for us. It sounds like a 90’s-era Dead show, so it’s pretty cool.
Real quick...A few tongue-in-cheek questions from my fellow band members, if you wouldn’t mind.

BW : You bet.

CM : Have you learned the words to Truckin’ yet? (Laughing)

BW : Well, I’ll tell ya. (Laughs). You can know the words as well as you possibly can, but if you’re not having the best of days, it’s all just a series of tongue twisters. It’s diabolical when those words come. I know ‘em, but its tough to get them out sometimes.

CM : That’s a beautiful explanation. I have no idea how you do it, all those lyrics, and all those songs, but you manage.
Did you have a dog named Otis?

BW : Yep. It’s a crippled alien spacecraft, I think.

CM : Okay. You know there’s a band in Pasadena that’s called "Bob’s Dog Otis"?

BW : Are they any good?

CM : Actually, we love them. They join us from time to time. A good band.
Anybody ever fall off the stage? This is a real question!

BW : Yes. Once in a while it has happened. You don’t see it though. Sometimes when it’s dark and you try to walk off the stage and you don’t see the edge, you walk off. I’ve done it myself a couple of times.

CM : No major injuries though?

BW : Nah.

CM : Regarding the leadership of the band, who would you say is in charge now, if anybody, or is there a democratic process?

BW : You know, it’s a.....well, they say camels are racehorses, designed by a committee, but that’s pretty much what we’ve got, a committee rule.

CM : Any plans to tour Europe, either with the Dead or Ratdog?

BW : I’m trying to get Europe on the map for both bands really. We’ve been there with Ratdog a couple of times. But this year, I don’t know if we’ll have time to do that because it’s awfully far away.

CM : Okay. Two more questions then I’ll let you go. Normally I’d never ask anything like this but my editor said I needed to ask, “Why go out as “The Dead” and potentially run the risk of tarnishing the legacy of the Grateful Dead,” if you understand my question? Some people have voiced that criticism.

BW : You know, the hell with the people who feel that way. Let them feel that way. The fact is, we have, you know, almost 40 years of musical conversation that we’ve built up, a bag of tricks which is, you know, 40 years in the making. And it’s absurd not to use that. These people...I don’t know where they get off, having those kind of thoughts or those kind of opinions. You know, who are they? The hell with them!

CM : They obviously didn’t "get it" in the first place.

BW : Yeah!

CM : That’s been my opinion.

BW : Well, you know, they have their own notion what the Grateful Dead amounted to. First off, we’re not calling ourselves, “The Grateful Dead”. We’re calling ourselves, “The Dead.” Secondly, I have an obligation to play with these guys, to continue to further the music. And, boy, you know...those people are serious cranks!

CM : Couldn’t agree more!
Well tell me, have I just killed any shot at having you sit in with my band sometime?

BW : Not really. You know, if I’m down your way, I’d love to.

CM : Okay, great! Well Bob, its been great talking to you, and I want to wish you good luck at Bonnaroo and all the other events and we’ll be seeing you at as many shows as I can possibly make.

BW : Okay, great!

CM : Good talking with you.

BW : And you!

CM : Take care.

BW : ‘Bye.