August 22, 2009
Board The Bus, It’s Time To Go Furthur
Either while touring for decades, manning side projects, or sitting in on gigs, these six musicians have blown up many stages with nostalgia and pride. They’ve built-up and sustained an essence and a legacy, not only of great music, but for the “jam” of it all. With time, fans have grown more dedicated. And with time, the musicians have sowed a tighter network. Now the movement progresses one step further. They are Furthur.
Furthur is Phil Lesh (guitar), Bob Weir (bass), Jeff Chimenti (keys), John Kadlecik (guitar), Jay Lane (drums), and Joe Russo (drums). Based on the members’ bios, it doesn’t take half-a-brain to know this project will produce elongated jam sessions and climactic melodies. The question is, what will they play?
Lesh and Weir, two staples of the Grateful Dead, cut all ties after Jerry Garcia died. Weir formed Rat Dog with Rob Wasserman, and on Wasserman’s recommendation, Lane joined the group. Upon Lane’s suggestion, they brought on Chimenti. Lesh started Phil Lesh and Friends incorporating various players at any given time, often asking past Dead members, with the exception of Weir, to join.
In the meantime, in 1997, two years after Garcia’s passing, a group of “Dead” devotees got together to form the Dark Star Orchestra, a tribute band. The members studied Grateful Dead set lists in and out and began playing them song-for-song, note-for-note. Kadlecik discovered his absolute, uncanny ability to sound and play like Garcia. It is in fact eerie. DSO often invites original Dead members to sit in, and Lesh and Weir, at different times, have incorporated relics in this reincarnation.
Finally it happened, last year, Lesh and Weir left their differences in the past and reunited the Dead. Not only was their personal makeup historic, but the reunion also came at a monumental time – Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. The reunion lasted one tour, and that was it.
Which brings us to Furthur. It is truly awesome to see these guys playing together again. Like always seems to be the case, the details are hush-hush, but I think we know what to expect – the entire Dead catalogue, or at least most of it. But I wonder, and it would be extraordinary, if Furthur has produced any new tunes.
In case you’re wondering, the original Furthur was a 1939 International Harvester school bus Ken Kesey purchased for $1,500. The bus transported the Merry Pranksters all over the country, from one Dead show to the next, promoting the use of psychedelic drugs and their social effects. Tom Wolfe documented their escapades and involvement with the Dead in the book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. It’s nice to see music and culture drawing a full circle.
Furthur’s stint will begin in September in Oakland, California. Let’s hope they hop a bus and bring it east. Stay tuned for more on Furthur.net.
by Genette Nowak