Celebrating 20 Years Of JamBase

Post-Grateful Dead Bands

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This year marks the 20th anniversary of JamBase. Part of the yearlong celebration includes the 20 For 20 series featuring 20 lists focusing on 20 notable topics and events of the JamBase era. The lists were compiled by current and former JamBase staff members and contributors, music industry professionals and other experts. Stay tuned for more, as the series continues throughout 2019 and we look back at two decades of encouraging fans to Go See Live Music!

Previous 20 For 20 Lists include Standout Debut Albums By Jam Acts, Pranks & Gags Played By Jam Acts, Festivals We’ve Lost, Memorable Reunions, Farewells Of The Past 2 Decades, Longest Jams & Standout Improvisations, Fan Sites, Memorable Halloween Concerts and Bands Covering Phish. Next up is a look at 20 Post-Grateful Dead Bands of the past 20 years.

The list below is a detailed sampling of key groups and projects featuring former members of the Grateful Dead following the death of Jerry Garcia and the band’s breakup in 1995. The surviving members at that time — Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann and the since-departed Vince Welnick — remained active in the years immediately following Garcia’s untimely death.

While the influence of Weir’s RatDog, early Phil Lesh & Friends and other groups on the pre-1999, post-Grateful Dead landscape can’t be overstated, the list below focuses on projects born during the past two decades. These varied groups — the brieflys, the ongoings, the maybe-they-will-again-somedays — with varied Dead membership that sprung up and came to fruition in the wake of the Dead’s end are the enduring and noteworthy epilogue to the legendary psychedelic rock band’s career.

Bob Weir & Wolf Bros.


How’s this for curiosities: a trio that came to Bob Weir apparently in a dream, and made so much sense to his old RatDog compadre Jay Lane and the legendary musician and producer Don Was that the three sort of just, well, willed it into being? Was, who told JamBase in 2018 (and has since told many other publications) that Wolf Bros is the most fun he’s ever had on tour, is in part responsible for another massively important band on this list (see below).

In Wolf Bros, however, he, Weir and Lane are servants of jammy, jazzy renderings of Dead material and Weir material from all of the Bobster’s eras that benefit from the space and groupthink of an uncluttered trio. Weir’s been known to lead jam segments and take a solo or two, but there’s really no lead instrument, either.

Wolf Bros, which has now played several highly acclaimed tours buoyed by an unexpectedly potent, sneak-up-on-you kind of energy, might be the most comfortably weird Weir-driven project yet—a great example of Weir’s willingness to get curious again with this beloved music and bring along like-minded co-conspirators.


Scaring the Children/RD3


Bob Weir’s musical relationship with the late Rob Wasserman goes back to the 1980s, when the two began to play music together and tour as Weir/Wasserman and Scaring the Children. Wasserman, of course, was also in RatDog through much of its history, as was drummer Jay Lane (now since reunited with Weir as of 2018 as part of Wolf Bros).

But it was a project called RD3 that brought together Weir, Wasserman and Lane in 1999 — a little bit RatDog, a little bit Wasserman, a little bit something else. The trio played together again in a similar setup in 2009 and 2010, both times as Scaring the Children, in a throwback to Weir and Wasserman’s original sobriquet from long ago.

Wasserman died in 2016.


Phil & Bobby


At the end of the day — and all the shape-shifting and sometimes disappointing politics surrounding the Grateful Dead — Phil Lesh and Bob Weir just plain love to play music together.

And if their last true post-Dead band, Furthur, wasn’t destined to survive, they still appear and still collaborate, having played any number of ad hoc or one-off shows together, sometimes at Phil’s Marin County music temple, Terrapin Crossroads, and sometimes in other contexts.

The closest this on-again, off-again collaboration came to being a true “band,” was a series of Bobby & Phil shows in spring 2018, with a handful of gigs a piece in New York, Boston and Chicago theaters.

A few guests rounded out the ensemble: percussionist Wally Ingram for all of them, Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams for some of them and Trey Anastasio for one of them. But the point seemed to be letting Lesh and Weir find new corners to explore and paint in this setup — spare instrumentation, but tons of musicality.


Bob Weir & The Campfire Band


Blue Mountain, which came out in 2016, was Bob Weir’s third solo album, a slow-going but satisfying collection of “cowboy songs,” that found Weir leaning heavily into the roots and Americana side of his musical personality.

In an inspired pairing, the album was recorded with Weir alongside much of The National — one of those bands that seems to expertly straddle the indie rock-jam band divide, at least in terms of tastemaking if not often music.

The National’s Bryan Devendorf and Scott Devendorf and Blue Mountain co-producer Josh Kaufman joined Weir for a Campfire Band tour in Fall 2016. Weir also enlisted old pal Steve Kimock, who saddled up to lend his familiarly high-n-lonesome guitar, perfectly suited to this music, and new buddy Jon Shaw, known for Cass McCombs, Shakey Graves, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead and other associations.

The ensemble reassembled a few times in 2017 as well, with Aaron Dessner of The National, Lisa Hannigan, John Mayer and Trey Anastasio providing memorable guest appearances.

All “core four” members of the Dead have had interesting bands since the 1995 disbanding of the mother unit, but in the past five years, it’s arguably Weir who’s sat atop the leaderboard in terms of most interesting musical output: what and with whom.


Fare Thee Well


It was three-nights-only, and then became five-nights-only because maybe it sort of had to, and whatever it was, it was a statement: the “core four” surviving members together again on stage with a band of ringers that included Bruce Hornsby, Jeff Chimenti and Trey Anastasio, bringing some much-needed closure to the legacy of the Dead, and at the same time, setting its members free to their next chapter.

First up were the two “hometown” shows added after the initial announcement held on June 27 and 28, 2015 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Those were followed a week later by three shows in Chicago at Soldier Field — where the Grateful Dead’s final shows were held on July 8 and 9, 1995 — on July 3, 4 and 5.

Musically, the shows are pretty uneven. Spiritually, they are bang-on, especially the adventures in Chicago, heavy with history, and, as everyone who got to participate can attest — rising above tension, bullshit, the fractious times, getting to whatever it was that this music meant to so many in the first place, if just for a few nights.

Officials later announced the final Fare Thee Well show broke Soldier Field’s attendance record. The 71,000 in attendance broke attendance records set the prior two nights. Additionally, Fare Thee Well generated $750,000+ for Grateful Dead-related charities.

Fare Thee Well was also responsible for the formation of Circles Around the Sun, the project led by late guitarist Neal Casal that recorded the music played over the P.A. at setbreak. The recordings were so well received CATS became a full-fledged touring band that has continued following Casal’s death in 2019.


Dead & Company


The rumors began almost as soon as the big rumor of 2015 — that the surviving members of the Grateful Dead would reconvene, at long last, to play a set of “farewell” shows in honor of their 50th anniversary — was confirmed.

Man, was that a year. A year that some pretty out-there rumors turned out to be straight-up-freakin’-true: Bob Weir, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann had a post-post-Dead, post-50th-anniversary concerts ensemble on the way, and that the featured guitarist would be none other than John Mayer.

Weir, Hart and Kreutzmann confirmed Dead & Company‘s lineup one month after sharing the stage with Lesh for a final time at the five Grateful Dead 50th anniversary Fare Thee Well concerts held in the summer of 2015. Mike Gordon came close to joining the company but the busy Phish bassist ultimately opted out of the project.

Musician and producer (and future Weir band mate in Wolf Bros) Don Was catalyzed a fateful meeting among the musicians. Here’s how Was explained it during the above mentioned 2018 interview:

JamBase: When did you and Bob [Weir] first meet?

Don Was: We were introduced in 1993. We were discussing making a record together even back then. I’ve run into him periodically since then, and we spoke about something completely different this time that Bobby and Mickey Hart came to see me at the Blue Note offices in L.A. From my time with John [Mayer], I knew what a fanatical Deadhead he was, and I said John, you gotta come upstairs right now. And that was the moment of inception for Dead & Company.

On October 29, 2015 — not four months after Fare Thee Well — the world got its first taste of Dead & Co. Though slow and somewhat unsteady at first, the band — which also features Oteil Burbridge on bass and post-Dead swingman MVP Jeff Chimenti on keys — gelled a bit more with every tour, packing sheds and arenas, getting crowds used to the idea that there could still be that old Dead magic, even at slower tempos and a limited catalog.

But the catalog’s opened up, the band’s become more adventurous, and out there they are, four years now since their debut, a going concern with its own impressive mojo.


Billy & the Kids


Born from a hastily created all-star band intended to fill in for RatDog at the 2014 Lockn’ Festival — the Bill Kreutzmann Locknstep Allstars consisted of the drummer along with a core group of bassist Oteil Burbridge, guitarists Steve Kimock and Tom Hamilton as well as keyboardist Aron Magner — into Warren Haynes’ fabled 2014 Christmas Jam roared Billy & The Kids.

Billy & The Kids — Kreutzmann, Hamilton, Magner and bassist Reed Mathis — was the latest in a series of interesting ensembles positioning Dead drummer Kreutzmann with adventurous co-conspirators, in this case — hence the name — a generation after the Grateful Dead’s.

The band played sporadically — likely owing to the members’ many commitments — between Christmas Jam ’14 and an appearance the 2016 Wannee Festival. Robert Randolph, Eric Krasno, Vinnie Amico, Dominic Lalli, Tim Carbone, Snarky Puppy Horns and John Popper were among the guests that joined the band.

Following years with little heard from Billy & Co., there have been recent rumblings that we probably have more to hear from the group.


Phil Lesh & The Terrapin Family Band


If you’ve spent any time at all at Terrapin Crossroads — the San Rafael, California-based restaurant/music venue Phil Lesh established in 2012 — you know that the heart of the gorgeous venue’s mojo is in the 40-or-so players that make up its regular rotation of musicians, playing in endlessly variable combinations on each of TxR’s stages (especially the come-as-you-are bar stage) on any given night of the week.

The Terrapin Family Band was more or less the first of the “TxR House Bands” to take to the road beyond Marin County — there have since been others — and later on, became a branded entity with Phil himself in the bass slot and a solidified lineup that includes Alex Koford, Elliott Peck, Grahame Lesh and Ross James, along with the astoundingly virtuosic Jason Crosby.

The band’s taken some time to grow into its improvisational promise, but its youthful — and youth-filled — energy seems to inspire the maestro himself; no one seems to be having more fun at a Terrapin Family Band performance than Phil Lesh.


The Dead


The reunion of the “core four” — onstage as Crusader Rabbit Stealth Band during Phil Lesh & Friends’ New Year’s Eve 2001 performance — set up what was to be several more eras of The Dead, which is what the band came to call itself in 2003 after a 2002 family reunion festival at Alpine Valley in Wisconsin and a headlining show and subsequent fall tour as The Other Ones.

In three distinct tours that happened in 2003, 2004 and 2009, the four played first with Jimmy Herring, Jeff Chimenti, Rob Barraco and Joan Osborne, and then later with Herring, Chimenti and Warren Haynes, and, in 2009, just Chimenti and Haynes, as Herring had long since joined Widespread Panic.

The music from these eras is best described as uneven, though not without its charms, especially during co-bill tours with the likes of Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan, and occasional appearances from old friends like Branford Marsalis and Greg Osby.

The 2009 Rothbury Music Festival was the last official appearance of The Dead.


Furthur


When Furthur formed in 2009 in the wake of the retirement of “The Dead” moniker, it underscored how the surviving members of the Grateful Dead could still pull a rabbit out of their hats once in a while: this was a band that was completely unexpected, let alone anticipated.

Named after the Merry Pranksters’ iconic psychedelic bus and born of the tensions that roiled unsteady tours by The Dead in 2003, 2004 and 2009, Furthur was something familiar, yet different: Bob Weir and Phil Lesh together, in a band incorporating John Kadlecik a scarily-Jerry-similar guitarist and singer from the country’s top Grateful Dead tribute band, and a pair of drummers, one (Jay Lane) already well-tested in the dojos of Dead music, and the other (Joe Russo) conspicuously un-tested, pre-dating the irony that he’d later go on to found one of the most beloved Dead cover bands in existence.

Vocalists Sunshine Becker and Zoe Ellis were soon added to the Futhur lineup, which remained stable through March 2010. Lane and Ellis exited in early-2010 and later that year vocalist Jeff Pehrson came into the mix.

Furthur played some great tours, between their debut at Oakland’s Fox Theater on September 18, 2009 and final show on January 23, 2014 at the Paradise Waits destination event in Riviera Maya, Mexico. Despite the momentum the band harnessed at times — even incorporating in some new music amidst Dead tropes aplenty — they weren’t destined to last five years.

But they were nonetheless a pretty interesting almost five years, good, questionable, and in between.


Weir Robinson Greene


What’s not to like?

Three inspired singers with deep connections to the extended Dead and post-Dead family, and all with an unabashed love of roots and Americana songs of all strains? On the occasions that Bob Weir, Chris Robinson and Jackie Greene have found time to play together as an acoustic trio, they deliver something that sits at the heart of the Venn diagram linking each of them, and do it with simple, unruffled ease.

The trio of troubadours first came together in Colorado for a set at the 2011 Rocky Mountain Folks Festival that mixed Dead staples with Chris Robinson Brotherhood’s “Appaloosa,” Greene’s “Tell Me Mama, Tell Me Right” and Weir’s Robert Hunter co-write for Furthur “Big Bad Blues.”

Weir, Robinson & Greene reconvened in late-May and early-June 2012 for a run of shows in the Midwest and Colorado. Those remain the last performances by the trio.


7 Walkers


What’s the most interesting of all the post-Grateful Dead bands featuring a member of the original ensemble is a debate that might stretch hours, or even days. But you could make a case for 7 Walkers, which seemed to exist at the nexus of some very powerful musical ideas, or at least a stoner’s fantasy: what if you were to credibly cross the Dead thing with a New Orleans thing, and dig into the resulting sound as deep as a tick bite?

Well, Bill Kreutzmann did exactly that, in a band sprung from a friendship formed with Malcolm “Papa Mali” Welbourne in 2009, and ideas so rich they were enough to entice multi-instrumentalist Matt Hubbard, and then George Porter Jr., bassist of one of the foundational bands of funk, into the fold. (And that was after a brief stint with the bass chair belonging to Reed Mathis, who’d return to Kreutzmann’s orbit five years later as part of Billy & the Kids).

7 Walkers released an album, also called 7 Walkers, in 2010, and it’s one of the few studio efforts produced by a band on this list that had serious legs, and the heft of songwriting contributions from the likes of Robert Hunter to buoy it.

They’ve come thisclose to reuniting a few times — here’s hoping it happens for real one of these days.


BK3


Isn’t it something when two people you adore both personally and professionally also hit it off — and decide to collaborate? That had to be what Phish bassist Mike Gordon was feeling after introducing Bill Kreutzmann to longtime collaborator and Max Creek/MGB guitarist Scott Murawski.

The three of them played together as a trio at a benefit in Costa Rica in 2008, and the going was so good, they decided to make a run at a band, swapping in Oteil Burbridge on bass when Gordon couldn’t commit full time. BK3 did a few tours and runs in 2008, 2009 and ever so briefly in 2010, adding in James “Hutch” Hutchinson on bass for a spell, and also Donna the Buffalo multi-instrumentalist Tara Nevins for a minute or two.

They haven’t played much in this decade, though in 2011 and 2012, Kreutzmann, Murawski and Burbridge did turn up as BK3 at Jungle Jam.


Rhythm Devils


Rhythm Devils the concept goes back almost as far as the Grateful Dead itself: an extended drums-and-percussion segment, usually during the second set of a Dead show, led by Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann (and occasionally welcoming in others) as an expansive, furiously exciting drum corps.

Kreutzmann and Hart — under The Rhythm Devils moniker — were recruited for the soundtrack to Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 war film, Apocalypse Now. An album culled from those sessions for the film featuring Lesh and several percussionists entitled The Apocalypse Now Sessions: The Rhythm Devils Play River Music came out in 1980. In support of the album, a pair of The Rythm Devils concerts were held in February 1981 at Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium in San Rafael, California featuring the Dead rhythm section and several of the album’s contributors.

The true Rhythm Devils band came much later — 2006 to be exact — and featured Kreutzmann and Hart surrounded by a number of ringers. The band presented new original material with lyrics provided by Robert Hunter. Joining Mickey and Billy, at times, were Mike Gordon, Steve Kimock, Sikiru Adepoju, Jen Durkin, Keller Williams, Davy Knowles, Andy Hess, Tim Bluhm and Reed Mathis, all lending his or her talents to the collective across a handful of tours between 2006 and 2011.


Serialpod


[Video Credit: Frank Musillami]

Another act that formed for one of Warren Haynes’ Christmas Jams, SerialPod — Phish members Trey Anastasio and Mike Gordon with Bill Kreutzmann — came together in Asheville, North Carolina in 2005 for the annual charity concert.

Here’s how a previous JamBase article described the (extremely) short-lived project:

2005 was a tough time for Phish fans as the band had recently broken up and it didn’t seem as if they would ever get back together. A ray of hope came ahead of the 2005 Christmas Jam when it was revealed Trey Anastasio and Mike Gordon would pair up at the Asheville, North Carolina benefit concert. Soon, before the Christmas Jam weekend, word started to spread that Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann would join the Phish guitarist and bassist, which is exactly what happened …

Trey, Mike and Billy named their band “SerialPod” and the trio made their debut with a brief set at the Christmas Jam Pre-Jam at The Orange Peel on December 16. SerialPod played a lengthier set at the Asheville Civic Center as part of the Christmas Jam the next night. The band’s loose and wild performance saw them weave Phish and Dead classics with such covers as Jimi Hendrix’s “Angel” and “Sweet Thing” by Van Morrison. There was no break throughout the 80-minute performance as the trio swerved from one song to the next.

Legendary keyboardist Ivan Neville joined the action for the set-closing sequence of “Waves,” “Angel” and “Loose Lucy.” At points the set was magical and at points the set was incredibly sloppy. For Phish fans, it was just nice to see Mike and Trey share the stage again.


Hydra


None of the core four surviving members of the Dead has shied away from collaborations with younger-generation jam bands, though some combinations have worked more successfully than others.

And so it was with Hydra, a shape-shifting, multi-headed beast of a unit that briefly combined Mickey Hart with electronica jammers Particle for a three-week-long tour in 2005.

“Hydra is about extreme music,” Hart declared in 2005. “Extreme music for extreme people. I need it!”

Hart and Particle keyboardist Steve Molitz, guitarist Charlie Hitchcock, bassist Eric Gould and drummer Darren Pujalet debut original material with new songs such as “Heart Of The Hydra,” “Creature of Comfort” and “The Glow.” The ensemble also played selections from Particle and the Dead’s catalogs.

The 2005 tour was a little all over the place, but it sure was percussion-heavy and danceable, and Hart seemed to lean fully into the experience, a perma-grin on his face at every show.


Trichromes


[Video Credit: GDMprodcutions]

Bill Kreutzmann messed around with a number of bands after the Dead’s 1995 dissolution, though for a while — and despite the occasional guest appearance with former bandmates and friends — nothing seemed to take.

Trichromes, which played a run of shows in 2002, including as an opener for Phil Lesh & Friends on key summer dates, were a sturdy rock band that for a moment there looked like it was going to be BK’s full-time pursuit. Along with Kreutzmann, Journey guitarist Neal Schon, guitarist Ralph Woodson, bassist Ira Walker and singer Sy Klopps released a three-song EP in early-2002 featuring the new original co-written by Robert Hunter, “Dice With the Universe,” as well as takes on the Dead’s “New Speedway Boogie” and Hank Ballard’s “Tore Up Over You.”

Bassist Mike DiPirro replaced Walker and Schon did not participate in the recording of the band’s lone album, the self-titled LP that came out later in 2002. Trichromes boasted original lyrics from Hunter on eight of its 11 songs.

After that, Trichomes became a footnote band in the annals of post-Dead projects, but worthy of note nonetheless.


Terrapin Flyer


[Video Credit: doug hagman]

Launched in 1999, Terrapin Flyer is a long-running, Chicago-based Grateful Dead tribute band that in various points throughout its history has featured members of the extended Dead family, including Mark Karan and Melvin Seals.

Also, for about five years between 2001 and 2006, Terrapin Flyer’s lineup boasted one-time Dead keyboardist and collaborator Tom “T.C.” Constanten as well as at times former Dead keyboardist, the late Vince Welnick. During that time, Welnick was not invited to perform with The Other Ones at the August 2002 Terrapin Station – A Grateful Dead Reunion two-day event at Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wisconsin.

The weekend of Terrapin Station, Vince performed in nearby Milwaukee at Thai Joe’s Bangkok Orchid with members of Terrapin Flyer and others billed as Vince and Terrapin Space Band. Welnick reportedly also performed in a campground near Alpine Valley.

As detailed on his website, Welnick dealt with depression following Jerry Garcia’s death in 1995. Welnick’s depression was exacerbated by his being diagnosed with cancer and emphysema and later in 1995 he was kicked off of RatDog’s tour after attempting suicide. According to the site:

The so-called “Family Reunion” shows sparked a major negative turning-point in Vince’s previous victory over his depression. Vince Welnick was never to play with anyone from Grateful Dead ever again. Grateful Dead Productions promoted Terrapin Station as a family reunion, but Vince was clearly a family member no longer. The impact on Welnick was devastating and in spite of his best efforts, his battle with depression would soon take its toll.

Welnick died by suicide on June 2, 2006, at the age of 55.


Phil Lesh Quintet


We’re cheating just a bit with this one; technically, the Phil Lesh Quintet is a version of Phil Lesh & Friends, and technically, Phil Lesh & Friends is a concept that predates JamBase’s founding. But to examine the post-Grateful Dead landscape and not acknowledge perhaps the greatest of all Phil & Friends lineups just doesn’t seem right.

The chemistry among Phil, Warren Haynes, Jimmy Herring, Rob Barraco and John Molo was something magical, and also, very much of its time, with its various members in transition from the bands they were in, bands they would join, and commitments they made such that, after 2003, PLQ reunions became very rare, and still are. But for a period of about three years — especially their monster touring years of 2001 and 2002, when the fivesome released an album of mostly original music and, as a live band, could seemingly do no wrong — they were a marquee crew, around long enough to establish their own mythology.

And no discussion of the PLQ, by the way, would be complete without mention of the Crusader Rabbit Stealth Band, which, despite only playing two gigs, set up Dead reunions for the decade to come. On June 6, 2001, PLQ (mostly minus Warren and plus Bob Weir) came together at the tiny Mill Valley, California, club then known as Sweetwater Saloon.

And then on December 31, 2001, in a truly memorable post-Dead moment, Crusader Rabbit Stealth Band rang in the new year with Bobby, Mickey and Billy aboard, including Phil’s now-famous words, “Unity is possible.”


Mickey Hart Band


Mickey Hart has had a number of different ensembles under his command since the 1995 folding of the Grateful Dead, including groups like Hydra, Planet Drum, and along with Kreutzmann of course, the Rhythm Devils.

His Mickey Hart Band was a bit of a shape-shifter over about a dozen years of active duty, but, give or take a member or two, can be examined in terms of three eras:

  • 2000, which featured Vince Welnick on keys, ladys “Bobi” Cespedes and Humberto “Nengue” Hernandez on vocals and percussion, Rahsaan Fredericks on bass, Rick Shlosser on drums and Barney Doyle on guitar.
  • 2008, which had guitarist Steve Kimock, bassist George Porter Jr., keyboaridst Kyle Hollingsworth, percussionissts Sikiru Adepoju and Wilfredo Reyes Jr. and vocalist Jen Durkin.
  • 2011-2013, which included Adepoju, multi-instrumentalists Crystal Monee Hall and Tim Hockenberry, keyboardist Ben Yonas, gutiarist Gawain Mathews, drummer Ian Herman, percussionist Greg Ellis and bassist Vir McCoy. Ellis and McCoy left after a short time and Widespread Panic bassist Dave Schools joined the fold. In 2013, Hart toured with members of Tea Leaf Green.

There are a pair of strong albums from the last era, 2012’s Mysterium Tremendum, that combined Hart’s love of “cosmic sounds” produced by radio waves with actual, jazz-inflected tunes and 2013’s Superorganism which utilized Hart’s brainwaves to generate sounds. Both albums featured songs with lyrics written by Robert Hunter.