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.
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.”
"I never set out to emulate Jerry Garcia. I set out, in the 1990s, to learn about music and how it was constructed, and I was playing in bands that played original music."
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The Philadelphia-based band Steal Your Face is no stranger to southern New Jersey, having done numerous local gigs including after-parties at Atlantic City’s Hard Rock Café when the Allman Brothers Band and Furthur (the band featuring the Grateful Dead's Bob Weir and Phil Lesh, among others, which is coming back to Atlantic City in November) were each in A.C. last year. Early last month, though, the band jammed for the first time on the deck of a party boat during a three-hour back-bay tour of Margate. “I was really impressed by how cool that was and how well it went,” says Steal Your Face rhythm guitarist Garry Engle. “Everybody had a great time, so we’re doing it again.” This Saturday, Sept. 17, from 7-10pm, the five-man band (also including lead guitarist Curtis Eustace, drummer Lou Zalvino, bassist Paul Baroli and keyboardist Michael Morrow) will do another sunset jam aboard the 65-foot Jessie O’ II party boat. The boat leaves Captain Andy’s Marina (9317 Amherst Ave., Margate) at 7pm and includes a buffet dinner, live music and scenic bay cruise for $40 per person, or $75 per couple. There will be no liquor served, but patrons are welcome to BYOB. Call 412-3635 for reservations. Click here for an awesome...
So well received was last year’s appearance at the Taj that Furthur, founded and fronted by original Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh and rhythm guitarist Bob Weir, returns to Atlantic City this November — in a venue that can accommodate about three times the Deadheads.
Southern New Jersey jam-band fans got a sampling of Jeff Mattson’s prodigious guitar-playing skills almost exactly one year ago, at the inaugural Tony Mart’s Rock ‘n’ Roots Jam in Somers Point on Jerry Garcia’s birthday, Aug. 1.
“They didn’t retire. They come out of the woodwork for things like this.”
“One More Saturday Night” is a Grateful Dead song that will certainly understate the case Feb. 27 in the eyes of the faithful fans of the American jam band out of 1960s San Francisco. This night — starting 8pm at the Taj Mahal’s Mark G. Etess Arena — will most definitely be special.