Lesh Won't Tour

First Appeared in The Music Box, April 1999, Volume 6, #4

Written by John Metzger


Early last month, Phil Lesh stunned the Grateful Dead community by announcing that he would not participate in this year’s Furthur Festival. Lesh cited both business and creative differences as the reasons why he will not tour with former Grateful Dead bandmates Bob Weir and Mickey Hart. Lesh, who underwent surgery last year to receive a new liver, also stated that he wanted to spend more time with his family.

This does not mean that Lesh is planning to cease performing altogether, although Deadheads wishing to hear the esteemed bassist will need to travel to the West Coast. Lesh acknowledged that he would tap his vast network of musician friends in order to appear at several West Coast benefit concerts for his Unbroken Chain Foundation. The first series of events is scheduled for April 15-17 at The Warfield in San Francisco, and though the line-up has not yet been unveiled, rumored participants include Phish’s Trey Anastasio and Page McConnell, drummer John Molo, and Zero guitarist Steve Kimock.

Lesh made the announcement by posting the following message on the band’s website:

"I prefer to let the music speak for me but I will respond to this because of my great respect and love for all Deadheads.... I agreed in January ’98 to join Bobby, Mickey, and Bruce to form a band for one Furthur Festival. The Furthur Festival is owned by Metropolitan Entertainment in New York and is completely separate from Grateful Dead Productions. I enjoyed playing with each and every musician in The Other Ones last year, but the tour was extremely stressful due to business and creative differences."

"I honored my commitment and made no promises for future shows. After my surgery I was approached about doing another tour, but it became clear that the same unresolved issues were still haunting us. Rather than try to make music in an atmosphere rife with disagreement, I decided to spend some time in nature with my family this summer, and will try to do a few Phil and Friends gigs at some of my favorite places along the way. For those who are concerned about the spirit of the Grateful Dead, let me point out that the decision-making process of the Grateful Dead was that if any one member of the band didn’t want to do something it was not done; our decisions were made by putting the music first, which is what I am always striving to do."

Last year, Lesh rejoined Weir and Hart for the first time since the passing of Jerry Garcia. Billed as The Other Ones, the group headlined the Furthur Festival and featured Kimock, Molo, keyboardist Bruce Hornsby, saxophonist Dave Ellis, and guitarist Mark Karan. It was the most successful year in the Furthur Festival’s three-year existence. As a result of Lesh's decision, there will be no Furthur Festival in 1999.

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