Concert Review: New Dead Era has begun

Concert Review: New Dead Era has begun

By By Jim Bonnett, Freelance Writer

A new Dead Era has begun.

After a siege of Grateful Dead fans descended from all parts of the continent to

see The Other Ones perform in Alpine Valley in two shows last weekend, the demeanor of the crowd has made it possible to begin a new regime. Preceded by stringent warnings about what would be allowed inside the outdoor amphitheatre area while only ticketed patrons were allowed inside the parking lot, many expected to see a toned-down Dead show.

Not so. Bare-breasted women, fireworks, alcohol and cries of sellers offering mushrooms and marijuana-laced treats that typified Grateful Dead concerts of seven years ago were present again in the lot before, during and after the show. Attendance figures of 35,000 per show may have been understated as a sea of people filled Alpine Valley to the brim.

Promoters did not allow concertgoers to bring food inside, only blankets and brand-name sealed water passed through security while fans ages 6 to 60 were subjected to a mild pat-down looking for guns and bottles. By handing out fliers to ticket buyers upon receipt that warned of no food allowed in, lines at concession stands were endless while fans endured flaming-hot temperatures without a cloud in the sky. Vendors ran out of many items Saturday. After the show, many stayed in the lot to party, while others sat in long lines of traffic with cars streaming slowly out for three hours in just two lanes to the nearby freeway.

Despite the loose parking lot security, where partial nudity and open drug sales were tolerated for past Dead shows, there were 60 arrests over the two-day period, most for drug-related offenses.

Inside the gates, fans didn’t have to wait for a Dead tune. Saturday’s opener, Phil Lesh and Friends, featured Warren Haynes (Allman Brothers) on lead guitar and vocals. Dead staples such as “Cumberland Blues” and “Unbroken Chain” involved the crowd early on in the first of 11 hours of music each day. The percussion-dominated sounds of Mickey Hart and Dembe Orisha highlighted the opening day of groups. Their version of Dead favorite “Fire on the Mountain” was a positive example of how splinter groups of the Grateful Dead have evolved. Robert Hunter, who wrote many of the lyrics with the late Jerry Garcia, performed “Liberty” and “Candyman” on guitar during his set, but a faulty PA system detracted from his performance.

Sunday’s opening acts featured Bill Kreutzmann’s Trichrome group, an appearance by Jorma Kaukonen, Blue Country and Bob Weir’s Rat Dog band.

Each night contained three and a half hours of The Other Ones. Hart, Weir, Kreutzmann and Lesh were joined by keyboardists Bob Varraco and Jeff Chimenti, along with unannounced guitarist Jimmy Herring, who took the solos that were once Garcia’s and was nearly flawless. Saturday’s playlist included “Estimated Prophet,” “Feel Like a Stranger,” “Franklin’s Tower,” “Dark Star,” “One More Saturday Night,” and the song “The Other Ones.”

The safe and positive outcome of the Alpine Valley shows has led to a small tour beginning Nov. 14 in Roanoke, Virginia. “Who would have thought we would be sitting here again watching the Dead,” said longtime Dead Head Roger Parrent of Washington, Ill. “What a great show.”

Attended and received well enough to begin again? Promoters, venues and band members would be foolish not to usher in the next era of The Dead.

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