Furthur Falters

The Other Ones - Rusted Root - Hot Tuna

New World Music Theatre - Tinley Park

July 16, 1998

First Appeared in The Music Box, August 1998, Volume 5, #8

Written by John Metzger

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Three years after the passing of Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh decided to rejoin former Grateful Dead bandmates Bob Weir and Mickey Hart on the road. For the last two years, Weir and Hart along with keyboardist Bruce Hornsby have continued their annual Summer pilgrimage across the United States as part of the Furthur Festival. While those tours boasted a full-day of music that featured each of these musicians' individual projects, this year's show clearly was different. For starters, the festival was shortened to just three bands providing merely an evening's worth of material instead of a day-long celebration.

As expected, the show was hyped to the hilt as Lesh joined Weir, Hart, and Hornsby in a reunion of sorts called The Other Ones, which was contrived to headline the tour. Also performing were Hot Tuna and Rusted Root. Adding to the heavy-duty marketing campaign that surrounded the show was the fact that the band had been tackling such longtime favorites as Dark Star, St. Stephen, and The Eleven. Unfortunately, this managed to bring back the revelers whose idea of a spiritual experience is to drink massive quantities of alcohol, scatter beer bottles aimlessly across the parking lot and surrounding community, and pass out in their seats.

Joining Lesh, Weir, Hart, and Hornsby were Ratdog saxophonist Dave Ellis and Hornsby drummer John Molo. Rounding out the group were two last minute additions: guitarist Steve Kimock from the underrated Bay Area band Zero and guitarist Mark Karan from The Rembrandts, progenitors of that awful theme song to Friends.

On July 16, The Other Ones pulled its caravan into the New World Music Theatre in Tinley Park, Illinois for what would turn out to be a rather disappointing endeavor. The Other Ones started out strong enough with a solid, if uninspired Truckin'. Gradually, the band picked up steam and carried the end of the song into a massive jam that hinted heavily at, but never quite reached The Other One. Instead, the excursion suddenly mellowed and hinted at Broken Arrow before veering into Jack Straw. Lesh's familiar bass patterns sliced through the tune as Weir, Molo, and Hart slapped a rhythmic exclamation point onto the end of each line in the final verse. Unfortunately, it's here where everything unraveled.

Karan and Kimock failed to provide much of anything the entire evening. Every solo opportunity that they were given seemed scripted into the song. Every note they played seemed designed merely to copy one of Garcia's riffs. There was no originality, no emotion, and no soul to the material. In addition, every time they played it seemed as if they wanted to end their solo as quickly as possible, which left huge gaps in the music.

As the show spiraled out of control, it became obvious that there was little interaction among any of the band members. No one smiled, no one laughed, and no one talked. It was quite telling that the guitarists were separated from the rest of the band: Kimock sat on a stool for most of the show, and there were long periods of time when he didn't play a note.

Song after song rolled by: Mystery Train, Loose Lucy, Friend of the Devil, and Loser. Ellis did the best he could to lift each tune above the monotony of the set, displaying his vast skill and adding a graceful energy that was severely needed. In particular, he put everything he had into Loser, which seemed momentarily to bring The Other Ones to life.

Estimated Prophet followed, and it was The Other One's best performance of the evening. Weir recovered his identity and belted out the vocals with passion and conviction, adding a number of screams and howls to the ending of the song. Ellis came to the rescue again as he ripped through a solo that mirrored Branford Marsalis' and Clarence Clemmons' collaborations with the Grateful Dead. Finally, Kimock woke up and tore into an inspired solo that led the band into its first and only group improvisation of the night. The ensemble finally had melted into one being, but as quickly as it started the journey came to an abrupt halt and headed back into the conclusion of Estimated Prophet.

A short segment of drumming led into a solid Corrina, which was anchored by Lesh's dynamic bass and Ellis' blazing saxophone. The song dissipated back into a much longer percussion piece, featuring Molo and Hart in an up-tempo, energetic, and inspired duel. They played off each other perfectly, and Hart appealed to the audience to cheer each round of thunderous rhythmic pulses.

The rest of the band returned for a space-filled segment featuring Hornsby and Ellis which mutated into a brief bit of interplay that was reminiscent of the collaborations between Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane. Sadly, the energy once again faded into thin air. Rainbow's Cadillac merged into The Other One, which contained only the song's second verse as well as another rather abrupt ending. A bland China Doll led to Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad, which finally regained a great deal of energy and momentum only to come crashing down when the lights to the venue came on immediately (and unexpectedly) after the tune's conclusion. It was only 10:30 at night.

It seems as if each year the curfews at Jam Productions' monstrosity of an arena just keep getting earlier, though the time seems to be based more upon whom the performer happens to be rather than what night of the week it is. Unfortunately, since Jam bought-out and closed down Poplar Creek, the other (and much better) Chicago-area outdoor venue, they can do just about anything they want, much to the chagrin of the ticket-buying public. While this wasn't exactly the best that the Grateful Dead's former members had to offer, they never even had a chance to redeem themselves by capping the show with a transcendent conclusion.

Rusted Root opened the concert with an hour-long set, which started out with a pristine Artificial Winter that slid into Laugh as the Sun via a subtle acoustic guitar/percussion jam. Magenta Radio, a song from the band's forthcoming album, harkens back to the group's more popular material. Its set concluded with a beautiful, majestic Back to the Earth, an extended drum excursion, and a rousing Ecstasy that featured some brilliant rhythm guitar from Michael Glabicki.

Hot Tuna and Rusted Root collaborated on a stunning rendition of the Rolling Stones' You Can't Always Get What You Want. Guitarist Jorma Kaukonen slashed out several searing guitar solos, while Jack Casady and Patrick Norman teamed up for a brilliant battle of the basses, as the rest of Rusted Root flavored the song with polyrhythmic intensity.

Hot Tuna performed a solid 45-minute, middle set that was marred by a horrible vocal mix. It was nearly impossible to tell what Kaukonen was singing. The band improved with each song and peaked with guitarist Michael Falzarano's Just My Way and a cover of Jimmy Reed's Baby What You Want Me to Do.

Overall though, it was an evening full of disappointment. The Other Ones was a far cry from its potential, and it seemed to lack any desire to recapture the essence of what had made the Grateful Dead so great. The concert became just another show as the band failed to become a cohesive entity capable of churning out mind-bending, life-affirming, soulful music. Instead, it remained a collection of individual musicians who were satisfied simply to sit back and meander through a few old favorites. What's puzzling and disconcerting is that, several beers in hand, the audience didn't seem to mind.

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Copyright 1998 The Music Box