Thursday, March 15, 2007

Rats! Dog!

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Ratdog hot, even when it's cold outside
Thursday, March 15, 2007

Even when it's freezing outside, Bob Weir's California demeanor comes through onstage through his clothing: He almost always wears shorts during a Ratdog concert.

But during a recent show in frigid Syracuse N.Y., Weir startled some folks by wearing long pants during the show. It wasn't the weather that caused this change, however.

"The airline we flew into Syracuse with mishandled our luggage. Otherwise, it's always July under the lights," Weir said.

So whether or not the recent local warm spell holds, Weir will probably be back to wearing shorts when Ratdog plays the Hippodrome in downtown Springfield tonight at 7:30. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and tickets are $49.50.

As a founding member of the Grateful Dead, Weir spent more than 30 years with that band - an astounding feat of longevity for a rock band by any standards.

Yet Ratdog is hardly a slouch in terms of sticking around. The band has now reached the 12-year mark, playing approximately 700 shows in that period. Weir noted that the band's ongoing success can be attributed to one basic idea.

"The secret to success and longevity is simple; we enjoy what we do," he said. "That enables us to stick together."

Weir added that in terns of the music, this longevity also produces a juicer, tastier creative fruit as well.

"We've learned to hear each other think, and intuit each other's moves. It takes a while to form this kind of bond, but once it's there, it's a wonderfully creative place to live," he said. "The more we play, the better we get."

Although Ratdog released a couple of conventional albums earlier in the decade, the band remains largely a live act. But fortunately for fans who want a permanent record of the songs, the group accommodates them in a method that has become increasingly popular among rock bands these days: They record and sell CDs of their live concerts.

The band started doing this in 2003 and continues doing it today. With modern technology allowing rapid reproduction of discs, the CDs are usually available for fans right after any given show. The discs are recorded straight from the soundboard, so they offer high-quality recordings of the show fans have just seen.

This fits right into the Ratdog fan psyche, many of whom are such fanatics that they even collect set list information for shows they haven't heard. But Weir said that is not the band's bailiwick.

"We have nothing to do with this. The DogHeads do it all," he said, using the nickname for the band's avid followers.

And speaking of canine nicknames, Weir shrugged off a question about the origins of his band's moniker.

"Stuff just comes to me" he said.