Other Ones Keep Grateful Dead's Spirit Alive <http://www.billboard.com:80/daily/2000/1228_04.asp> December 28, 2000 No one turns the clock back and does it all over again. But someone seems to have forgotten to explain that to the Other Ones, that band of Grateful Dead survivors who took to the road five summers ago as their way of grieving for their late leader, Jerry Garcia. By now, logic has it, the Other Ones should be retired or performing on the lounge and state-fair circuit to dwindling audiences trying to remember their youth. Instead, they are playing to hordes of 20-somethings, like the group that filled to capacity the 6,125-seat Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles earlier this year; the same venue the Dead sold out on a similar night 27 years ago. "It must be magic," said drummer Mickey Hart, 57, sitting backstage in the band's hospitality room as the crowd built outside. "Isn't that what they call it when they can't explain something? It must be magic." Outside, the fans gathering in the parking lot looked like they'd been time-warped from the '60s. Tie-dyed clothes, face paint, pounding drums, psychedelic drugs. "The parking lots are kind of a timeless place," said rhythm guitarist Bob Weir, who co-founded the original Other Ones, a string band called Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions, after a chance meeting with Garcia on New Year's Eve 1963. Two years later, the band evolved into the Grateful Dead, a San Francisco-based group that never had a hit record but became an American icon through decades of touring. "As you get older, you get families, you get settled, it gets hard to make it to the shows," said Weir, 53. "So the kids are the ones out there living life as hard and as fast as they can, as they should be." Where he could sometimes be curt offstage, particularly when asked about the Dead's place in history, Weir now seems more relaxed. "There's no infernal hurry," he said, leaning back and smiling as he acknowledged that he still has to grab a guitar before the show to work through a few songs (his own group, Ratdog, has a new album, "Evening Moods"). Still a rhythmic powerhouse on guitar, Weir has adopted Garcia's subtler stage manner. He led the band through several signature Dead songs, including "Touch Of Grey," with its anthem-like defiance of age: "I will get by. I will survive." Weir, like most of the Other Ones, can't imagine how he ever considered quitting after Garcia died of a heart attack in 1995. Instead, the group plans to expand its Furthur Festival tour to twice a year, and expects the only missing member, bass player Phil Lesh, will return. Lesh left complaining that the Other Ones had become too commercial. He put together Phil Lesh and Friends, which toured with Bob Dylan last summer. His band and the Other Ones have competing New Year's Eve shows scheduled in the Bay Area. Weir acknowledged the split was acrimonious, but said of the group's survivors, "We're closer than brothers." "All we ever wanted to do was play music like crazy," drummer Bill Kreutzmann, 54, said. "That's all we ever did, from the acid trips on," he said, recalling the period chronicled in Tom Wolfe's book "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test," when the Dead was the house band for Ken Kesey's psychedelic drug parties. "Which all seems like a different lifetime now." Weir said he talks to Garcia every day. "He's certainly alive and well in my imagination," he said, rising from his dressing room couch to get his guitar. But is it just imagination? There are persistent rumors on the Deadhead circuit of Weir trying to channel Garcia's spirit. "Who knows?" he said, laughing. "If you'd had him going on in your ear every day for 35 years, you'd probably still hear him, too."
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : 01/09/01 EST