I think not so heeeeeerrrrrreeeee ya go---
'Dead' guitarist brings in Ratdog
By Rick Bird
It was 40 years ago this summer that a band called The Warlocks began playing around San Francisco. It was an eclectic mix of bluegrass, jug band and jazz players destined to become rock's first fusion outfit mixing jazz, blues, soul and country influences.
By the end of 1965, author Ken Kesey considered the group the house band for his "acid tests" and they had changed their name to the Grateful Dead.
In true Dead play-for-the-moment style, band members say, at this point no major concert or event is planned to commemorate the 40th anniversary of their "long strange trip."
The Dead toured last summer, reconfigured with original members guitarist Bob Weir, drummer Mickey Hart and bassist Phil Lesh. Despite 2005's historical milestone, band members this summer are going their own separate ways.
Lesh has his own band and new book on the Grateful Dead. Hart is out drumming with a new group, Hydra, and Weir is touring with his long-time side project, Ratdog, playing Wednesday at the Madison Theater, Covington.
Ratdog now features Weir jamming with musicians from the Bay Area jazz scene. The set lists have been sprinkled with versions of Grateful Dead favorites. In the spirit of the always evolving Dead, Weir is reluctant to explain the Ratdog sound.
"I would be loathe to try to describe it," he said in a recent phone interview. "We do mix it up."
Weir did make one pledge for the Madison concert that is the consummate promise Dead members have delivered to fans for 40 years"
"If you are not smiling from inside your soul and your body is not moving, then we are not doing our jobs." According to Weir, Ratdog may have the incredible number of up to 150 songs in its repertoire.
"Every time a song comes up in rotation it's a little more precious to you because you know you are not going to get a crack at it for a good long time," Weir said about Ratdog - but, in a sense, explaining the concept behind the improv-rock sound the Dead practically created. "There is never tomorrow night or the next night. You really have to focus on the song."
This August also marks the 10th anniversary of the death of Dead cofounder and beloved frontman, Jerry Garcia, or, as Weir prefers to call it, "The anniversary of Jerry's departure."
Weir said a major memorial concert is being put together for late summer in the Bay Area featuring Dead members and "Jerry's friends." "It will be a meaningful event," Weir said, although names, dates and location are not finalized.
Since Garcia's death, Weir has assumed the mantle of Dead bandleader and point man, at least in the eyes of the Deadheads. It's not a role he is comfortable with, but he understands. "There are numerous point men. I'm just one... But I do feel like I have a torch to carry."
Weir is carrying that torch by simply making music and doing it often. Ratdog's Covington appearance is part of a series of warm-up gigs as Ratdog plays its way to Bonnaroo - the four- year-old, three-day jam-rock orgy set for this weekend in Manchester, Tenn. Weir thinks Bonnaroo has quickly become one of America's two great musical events, along with the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
"One thing I really dig is Bonnaroo is focused on predominately jam bands, but bands that state a game then work it. It's the jazz mode, but the book of standards is different," Weir said. Of course, a gathering of the jam-band clan would not be possible if the Grateful Dead hadn't pioneered the genre for rock fans. But the self-deprecating Weir is reluctant to connect those dots. For him, the improv spirit of American music is far bigger than the Dead.
"The dots go way back. They go back to Louis Jordan, to Count Basie, Duke Ellington. It is the gift America has for the music world. It is uniquely American that is wonderful stuff I live and die by. I certainly don't take credit for it."
Meanwhile, the Dead's history is being relived with Lesh's book released this spring, "Searching for the Sound: My Life With the Grateful Dead," the first inside history from a band member, although long-time publicist Dennis McNally three years ago released, "A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead." Lesh's warts-and-all book is best when describing the spirit and chemistry of the musicians and at its silly best with such anecdotes as the night a stoned Lesh nodded off in the middle of a set. Hart was so upset he started banging on Lesh's head as if it were a drum.
Weir says he hasn't read the book. "I'm dyslexic. It will take me awhile to stumble through that one," he said. "I suspect it's pretty factual. The question is, how do you get it all into a book? There is so much that happened to us."
Weir said "it might be fun" to someday try his own Dead autobiography, but acknowledged, "If I'm going to do something like that, I'm going to hire a hypnotist to take me back any number of places in time and see what turns up. I'd want to play around with it a bunch."
Publication date: 06-07-2005
Setlist for Columbus Dog- Looks like a great one (mmm mmm 2nd set!)- according to the reviews, it was!
Here Comes Sunshine
This Time Forever
Shade of Gray
Bury Me Standing
At A Siding
2 days ago