Friday, November 21, 2008

RatDog to bring Deadheads to Mann Hall with former Primus drummer in tow
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Jay Lane, a founding member of the experimental metal band Primus, just completed drumming work on jazz guitarist Charlie Hunter's debut album when he first met Bob Weir.

"It was back in 1993 when we met," said Lane, who'll join RatDog - the band Bob Weir started following the 1995 death of Jerry Garcia - at Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall tonight. "Back then my musical interests were very narrow. For example, I couldn't tell you the difference between bluegrass and zydeco.

"I was playing hyped up funk, jazz and R&B," Lane said during a RatDog tour stop in Boston. "I think that's why Bob took a chance on me."


Like the lyrics of Weir's psychedelic face-melter, "The Other One," Lane knew becoming part of Weir's band meant an introduction to a whole new world of sight and sound.

In the early post-Grateful Dead years, audiences wanted more of the same, Lane said.

But Garcia was gone and Weir wanted to pay tribute to his past work without trying to clone it.

"It was a challenge for me," Lane said. "I didn't know how to play slow. It took me a number of years to learn how to slow down. I had to really break myself down and had to learn all this Americana music that was out there.

"What I really liked about RatDog and this music is that it's so inclusive," Lane said. "I had to learn to love the music to get it and get Bob's style."


Unlike most rhythm guitarists, Weir has his own distinct style of complex voiceleading, which adds more depth - and a new dimension to rhythm guitar-playing.

"He's like a puzzle piece," Lane said. "You look at him and he's someone who crafted his style by playing with the same guys for 30 years. There is no one who plays like Bob. Guys like Les (Claypool) and Charlie (Hunter, a seven and eight-string jazz guitarist) were taught by themselves in their own room. Bob was playing in the Grateful Dead at 17.

"It took me a long time to figure out what he was doing," Lane said. "Even today, every few gigs, I'll feel like I've had another breakthrough."


Legendary concert promoter and Grateful Dead fan Bill Graham once said this about the Dead: "They're not only the best at what they do, they're the only ones who do what they do."

Today, some 13 years after the band called it quits, the groundwork the Grateful Dead laid for future generations of experimental rock bands keeps expanding through rock festivals such as Bonnaroo, live music downloading Web sites such as and bands who search for more than three chords and three-minute songs.

"The Dead fans that come see us want to hear the Dead," Lane said. "But we're not the Grateful Dead. When we play some of those old songs, we're paying homage while at the same time giving them something new."


While a RatDog show is often comprised of plenty of Grateful Dead songs RatDog is no Dead cover band.

Recent performances illustrate the wide variety of songs ranging from rarely played Dead tunes to Bob Dylan to the Beatles and Rev. Gary Davis.

"I think what we're doing is turning a lot of younger people whose parents were Deadheads on to this music," Lane said. "If people can come to this music through that rap album 'Jay-Z is Dead,' great. People are finding music in other ways than listening to the radio."