Taking it Furthur

The band fronted by two founding Grateful Dead members sold out the Taj’s Etess Arena like 
wildfire last winter, and Boardwalk Hall can expect an even larger throng of Deadheads Nov. 12. 

By Ray Schweibert

Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 2 | Posted Nov. 9, 2011

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Atlantic City’s proximity to two of the biggest East Coast hotbeds for Deadheads, New York City and Philadelphia, is primarily why smallish casino concert venues can draw sizable crowds with relatively little publicity when bands like Bob Weir’s Ratdog or Phil Lesh’s Phil and Friends visit the resort. 

But when the two Grateful Dead legends teamed up to form Furthur in 2009, surrounding themselves with other virtuoso musicians and quickly honing a tight-knit sound, tickets got gobbled up at a breakneck pace. Finding a Furthur ticket on the day of last February’s show at the Taj Mahal’s roughly 5,000-seat Mark G. Etess Arena was as tough as finding a beach-block parking space on July 4.

Lesh, the Grateful Dead’s bassist throughout its entire history (1965-’95) and Weir, its only rhythm guitarist in that 30-year stretch, return to Atlantic City with Furthur for the second time Saturday, Nov. 14, at Boardwalk Hall — a much larger venue than the Taj.

The band, which takes its name from the 1960s multicolored touring bus of author Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters, is also comprised of keyboardist Jeff Chimenti (a Ratdog veteran), lead guitarist John Kadlecik (from the heralded Dead tribute group Dark Star Orchestra), drummer Joe Russo and backing vocalists Sunshine Garcia Becker and Jeff Pehrson.

When Furthur appeared in A.C. last February it employed two drummers (as the Dead did through most of its history), but percussionist Jay Lane is currently touring with another San Francisco bay area-based band, Primus. 

Furthur “furthers” the Grateful Dead tradition of free-flowing improvisation and set lists never repeated from stop to stop. Its 16-song set list on a Nov. 5 tour stop in Wilke-Barre, Pa., included many of the Dead’s more recognizable numbers (“Hell In a Bucket,” “Eyes of the World,” “Sugaree,” “Franklin’s Tower,” “Casey Jones”), a longstanding traditional jam-session tune (“Viola Lee Blues”) and covers by The Band (“The Weight”), The Beatles (“Dear Prudence”) and Bob Dylan (“Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”). 

One of Furthur’s most salient aspects is not just Kadlecik’s incredible guitar skills, but his ability to very closely emulate the voice of the late, great Jerry Garcia. He also brings a unique improvisational brand to the music and personal panache to the mix, but some Garcia loyalists and Grateful Dead purists — based solely on principle — simply have no interest in post-Dead personifications since Garcia passed away in 1995.

That’s unfortunate, because Furthur is as close an extension of the original Grateful Dead as anyone is likely to see (barring the inclusion of surviving Grateful Dead drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, who are involved with personal projects). 

Allison Weasley is a Philadelphia resident who will celebrate her 23rd birthday — and her first full decade as a Grateful Dead fan — in Atlantic City on. Nov. 12. 

“My birthday marks the first official decade of loving the music and energy of the Grateful Dead,” she says. “I was 13 when I first saw Dark Star [Orchestra] and with Johnny [Kadlecik] singing his heart out, closing my eyes and feeling what I thought would be the closest thing to hearing songs of the Dead and the beloved Jerry Garcia. I then saw Ratdog, Phil and Friends, the Dead with Warren Haynes [another post original-band offshoot along with the Other Ones] and I thought I’d seen it all. I’ve seen the music transform and now it’s going to be an absolute honor to go to Atlantic City and see Johnny with Bobby and Phil in Furthur.”

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Comments 1 - 2 of 2
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1. Dennis said... on Nov 10, 2011 at 02:14PM

“How cool is this article?”

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2. CosmicTrippy said... on Nov 12, 2011 at 08:55AM

“Let's all make it a great night for Furthur in AC tonight!


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