Bob Weir is a pioneer. Not because of his penchant for writing and performing songs about the Wild West, but rather as a founding member of the Grateful Dead. In 1965 he was one of the earliest settlers of Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, the band’s home base, as well as neighbors Janis Joplin, the Jefferson Airplane and other “head” bands. With On the Road cowboy Neal Cassady at the wheel of Key Kesey’s Merry Prankster bus, the Dead took the Haight-Ashbury ideal on the road as they became the unofficial official band for the One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest author’s “acid tests,” which tuned-in and turned-on the lysergic lights coast-to-coast. And, well, you know the rest. . .
For 30 years, Bob Weir was the rhythm guitar ace for the Dead, playing more than 2,300 live shows with the band. During that time, he stepped out of the Dead realm and embarked on a few solo endeavors, but his main focus was always with Jerry Garcia and the boys. After Garcia signed off the earth on Aug. 9, 1995, Weir’s focus shifted to his band Ratdog, which coincidentally played their first gig the day before. Since then, he has toured exclusively with Ratdog, except for a few reunion tours with his former Grateful Dead bandmates, who hit the road billed first as “The Other Ones,” then just as “The Dead” on subsequent tours.
The Dead’s most recent tour came last spring and it was during that time that Weir reignited the musical spark with another original founder of the group, bassist Phil Lesh. While those two have jammed together when their respective bands have crossed paths on the road (Lesh has been touring since 1999 with his outfit Phil Lesh and Friends), they have never hit the road together. But after the Dead tour ended last fall, the duo had the itch to keep the music going, and decided to form a new band called Furthur—possibly derived from the name of the
aforementioned Merry Prankster bus, also dubbed Further—along with guitarist John Kadlecik from the Dark Star Orchestra, Weir’s Ratdog bandmates Jeff Chimenti on keyboards and Jay Lane on drums, as well as second percussionist Joe Russo of the Benevento Russo duo.
On Saturday, Feb. 20 at 7 p.m., Furthur will be playing the Utica Memorial Auditorium, 400 Oriskany St., Utica. If you haven’t picked them up already, tickets cost $49.50 and can be purchased by calling 738-0164.
Weir took some time before a Furthur show in Charlotte, N.C., to chat with The New Times about reuniting with Lesh, the psychological impact of digital music, Hunter S. Thompson and recently enjoying a visit to the White House.