Raising The Dead

The Other Ones live debut

6/4/98 Warfield Theater, San Francisco

by Geoff Gould
GDForum.Com NetNews


The Family Is Reconvened

I'm a little late weighing in with my perspective on what could be viewed as the return of The Grateful Dead, sans Garcia. Officially, it has been pointed out that this is a different band, this is not the Dead. That's pretty easy to understand, considering the endless expectations and emotions that would be laid at their doorstep. But sometimes it isn't what the official line is, it just comes down to the music; if it's real, then the band is back.

The Essential Ingredients

I have always had a problem with people equating the obvious star with the band. I invariably think of the time I was leaving a pretty hot Rolling Stones concert, and heard someone in the crowd remark, "Boy, wasn't HE great?" I wanted to scream at the idiot; hadn't he noticed Keith Richards or Charlie Watts? Certainly the Rolling Stones are more than just the Mick Jagger Band. Still, would the Stones be the Stones without Mick? I don't really think so.

But the Dead were always more than just a rock band, the community surrounding the band was always an essential part of the equation as well, as if the band was only one part of a grand social experiment. So, at the Warfield that Thursday night, the community was ready and waiting.

It's Showtime

Taking the stage were GD alumni Phil Lesh on bass and vocals, Bob Weir on guitar and vocals, and Mickey Hart on drums and percussion. Bruce Hornsby, who was officially a member for a time sang and played keyboards. Joining the band on sax was Ratdog member Dave Ellis and Hornsby bandmate John Molo on drums.

The Guitar Section

Providing perhaps the most entertainment for the Internet gossip mongers at rec.music.gdead was finding out who was playing guitar. Up until a few weeks ago, the band had tapped Stan Franks, guitarist for the David Murray Octet, to go out on the Furthur Tour this summer. After a few shakedown gigs with Phil Lesh and Friends, the rumor mill began buzzing that Franks was out, and a number of guitarists were being auditioned. Topping the list of names was Zero's guitarist Steve Kimock, but soon it seemed as though he was out, and relatively unknown guitarist Mark Karan was in. The net buzzed with rumor and innuendo, and we were told officially to just wait and see who showed up. Well, as it turns out, both Steve and Mark played guitar. Mark primarily played a Les Paul most of the evening, and Steve alternated between his big jazz box and a Strat with some time spent on lap steel and a heavy-metal styled axe. Mark stood and swayed all night, while Steve primarily sat on a stool, occasionally venturing onto his feet at slow turtle-speed.

The Opening Bell

Kicking off the set with Jack Straw, a classic opener, Bruce sang the Jerry leads and the band sounded pretty good, considering the rehearsal situation. As the band moved through Sugaree (Bruce singing) and Minglewood, it began to feel more and more comfortable. The drum section was quite crisp. Molo doesn't quite have the thunder Billy brings to the Dead, but he's a little jazzier and has a very crisp, steady beat. Mickey seemed to be really enjoying himself, and attacked his kit and the various percussion instruments mounted all around him with a kung-fu sort of vigor! A jazzy Easy Answers was followed by the classic Garcia/Hunter gambling song Loser. Bruce handled vocals. What followed next was somewhat unexpected. They played Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad, which is often in the 2nd set, a getting-ready-to-close-the-door kind of song. I have never seen a guitarist whose body language is less connected to what actually comes out of the amp than Steve Kimock. I believe he was playing a Strat by this time, and he slowly crept off his stool onto the floor. The interplay between Kimock and Karan was white hot at this point, and Kimock brought the house down, even as he slowly moved off and then back onto his stool.

Back In The Groove

Phil turned around and faced the drummers, and counted off, and the band snapped into Scarlet Begonias. This was closer to the original '74 arrangement than I'd seen since that time! They were locked in tight, and the song really bounced like it was meant to do. The crowd was quite joyous at this point, and we knew we had a good one by the tail. At the end of the song, Phil and Bobby approached the microphones, and right on the last beat of the song, Bruce, Bobby, and Phil all grunted "huh!" and then moved into a retooled Fire on the Mountain, with Mickey doing the vocals in his semi-rapping style. The first set closed with a strong China Cat Sunflower into I Know You Rider. The only problem I had with China Cat was that since Bobby was singing the lead, he couldn't devote the attention necessary to his guitar work, one of the essential ingredients of the song. I think Bobby's doing fine vocally singing Jerry's songs, I just hate to lose that special touch he brings to the material. One of the more memorable parts of I Know You Rider was when Bruce sang the Jerry part "I wish I was a headlight, on a northbound train" and one of the stage lights behind the band beamed out into the audience in the circular pattern of a train light. Quite effective.

Believe It If You Need It

After the requisite long break between sets, where the crowd compared notes and last-minute bids were taken for the Rainforest Action Network benefit auction, Phil sang Box of Rain, which always touches the heart. Phil's rumored to have taken some singing lessons, and while he's no Pavarotti, he did just fine. Bobby and Mark then donned acoustic guitars, with Kimock on the big jazz axe, and the proceeded into a right-purty rendition of Friend of the Devil. Rearmed with electric guitars, the band begins to head down the home stretch with Playing in the Band.

But Can They Jam?

If one is trying to compare this band with the Dead at their best, then a second set jam is as good a place as any to look at. Clearly, the big, confident, otherworldly sound of Garcia is missed here; there's no getting around that. But this is probably also one of the more unfair comparisons to make as well. Word has it that the band had only gelled a couple of days earlier in practice, and I'd have to give them the benefit of the doubt. Playin' segued into a drum showcase, with Mickey banging on RAMU (special sampled sounds doowah!), with Molo trying hard to keep pace, occasionally resting as Mickey delved deeper into the drum space. Mickey picked up a frame drum, and Molo shook some small hand rattles as they stood by Bruce, who sang Preacher in the Ring. Gradually the whole band reappeared and joined the jam. Bobby began singing a new Weir/Hunter/Hart song called Banyan Tree. While not an upbeat song, it wasn't dark and dour either. The only lyrics I remember are "I keep climbing" or words to that effect. It seems like one that could definitely grow on you. This blended back into a Playin' reprise, which closed to thunderous applause.

The Hidden Encore

What followed next was quite stunning. The band broke into St. Stephen, with Mark Karan taking charge, blistering the guitar parts with complete authority. At this point, it should come as no surprise that the band would then segue into The Eleven, something not done in almost 3 decades! After that, the Turn on Your Lovelight that closed the show was definitely not a surprise. There was no traditional encore, since we'd pretty much just had our tasty treats anyway!

A Rose By Any Other Name?

I guess the question one is left with is basically "What the hell was that?" As I said at the outset, there was a very clear official stance that this wasn't the Grateful Dead, that this was a different band playing Dead material. That certainly cuts them some well-deserved slack, but it also seems a tad unfair, as if this band is just another GD cover band. I have seen the Official Grateful Dead play far sloppier and less inspired shows many times than The Other Ones of 6/4/98. Perhaps this is like The Artist Formerly Known As Prince. After a while we just call him Prince, or we say we went to see the Giants at Candlestick and everybody knows what we mean. As far as I'm concerned, I went to a Grateful Dead concert the other night. I also think it's not necessarily a sacrilegious thing to feel that way, nor does it show the memory of Jerry Garcia any disrespect. Certainly he deserves to have his jersey retired, and if that means no more "Good Ole Grateful Dead", then so be it. But I gotta tell ya, I can hear Garcia, overlooking the proceedings and cackling in his trademark comical/nasal voice, "Feels like the Grateful Dead to me!"

Set I

Jack Straw
Sugaree (Bruce on vocals)
Easy Answers
Loser (Bruce on vocals)
Goin' Down the Road Feelin Bad (extremely hot!)
Scarlet Begonias (Bruce, and old, tight arrangement with a twist!)->
Fire on the Mountain (Mickeyrap)->

Set II

Box of Rain
Friend of the Devil (Bobby and MK and SK on acoustic [SK on jazz guitar?])
Playin' in the Band->
Preacher in the Ring (Hornsby song with Mickey on tar and Molo on hand percussion)->
all return for jam->
Banyan Tree (new Weir/Hunter/Hart song)->
Playin' reprise
St. Stephen->
The Eleven->


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