Welcome to #5DaysOfTheDead. On Friday, Dec. 1, Dead and Company, featuring the core surviving members of seminal rock band the Grateful Dead will perform at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. The band, in any of its many forms, hasn't performed in Dallas since October of 1988, so we thought it would be fitting to spend a few days looking at how the group became legends and why its legacy is as strong today as it ever was.
On Aug. 9, 1995, Grateful Dead leader Jerry Garcia died of heart attack, seemingly ending the psychedelic run of one of America's most beloved bands.
For decades, the band, which also included the surviving core of Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh and Mickey Hart, among many other contributors, served as acid-washed pied pipers. As the leading lights of the 1960s counter-culture and poster boys for the "Summer of Love" in 1967, the Grateful Dead ushered in a new era of boundless rock 'n' roll where the length of an improvised guitar solo was only eclipsed by the chemically-induced high of one of the many deadheads who followed the group around the country.
But in the summer of '95, it seemed as though the sun had set on the Dead as a touring unit. Besides, after entering the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the previous year, it was safe to say the band had done all they could've possibly dreamed of doing after emerging from San Francisco as The Warlocks in 1965. And a new generation of Dead-inspired jam-bands including Phish and Dave Matthews Band began drawing a younger, still patchouli-scented crowd. They seemed primed to take the tie-dyed baton from the Dead if they were to stop playing completely.
Weir had formed RatDog shortly before Garcia's death, while Lesh and Mickey Hart also formed their own namesake groups. Reports of interpersonal conflicts between the bandmates were rampant, but it's not as though any of them would ever escape their primary status as a Grateful Dead icon. And in 1998, Weir, Lesh and Hart, along with keyboardist and frequent Dead collaborator Bruce Hornsby, toured as The Other Ones.
That quasi-reunion would be but the first of many unlikely encore acts for the Grateful Dead after the death of its leader.
For the next few years, The Other Ones featured some combination of Weir, Lesh, Hart and Kreutzmann, along with a revolving door of friends, until the group changed its name to The Dead, a more direct ode to its legacy. With tours in 2003, 2004 and 2009, The Dead regained its grand stature on the festival circuit and found a younger audience that, in the midst of a poor economy and increased distrust in the federal government, identified with many of the same anti-establishment values of the band as its original Haight-Ashbury fanbase did four decades prior.
In 2015, the Dead celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Grateful Dead with a short series of Fare Thee Well concerts, where the core four were joined by Phish frontman Trey Anastasio for what many thought would be the final shows ever performed under the Grateful Dead banner. But a few months later, the first Dead & Company tour was announced. That Lesh wouldn't be joining the others was notable, but it was the addition of tabloid poster child John Mayer that represented perhaps the quirkiest twist for a group with generations of surprises hidden in its history.
Skeptics were a plenty, yet reviews for John Mayer, who performs Garcia's guitar and vocal parts, have been favorable, with the iconic Dead tour mates offering full-hearted support.
It's been nearly three decades since the Grateful Dead last played Dallas, at Reunion Arena. But judging by the long, strange trip the group has been on thus far, it won't be a shock if we see it back here in some form after another 30 years.
Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. at American Airlines Center, 2500 Victory Ave., Dallas. $75-$450. ticketmaster.com.