Believe it or not, it’s 2012. The Grateful Dead has been an American institution for almost 50 years, longer than many people live. And it’s not just Furthur out there touring, the Dead’s music continues to live on in more bands than one could ever imagine after so many years. Here’s a sampling of what 2011 meant in Grateful Dead land, and what’s in store for 2012:
Photo: Mary Ouellette / SoundSpike
Bob Weir and Phil Lesh’s Furthur continue to tour from coast to coast, the incarnation closest to the original Grateful Dead experience. While there are haters and lovers of Furthur, all true deadheads can rejoice in seeing Bobby and Phil share the stage and make magic. To get a feel for where the band is at today, check out this show from Madison Square Garden from November 10th.
2012 Forecast: Furthur already has a spring tour booked, and will likely continue to tour at least through the end of 2012. With more Phil and Friends shows in the works and a possible Ratdog reunion tour, 2012 may be a lighter touring year than 2011.
2. 7 WALKERS
If you haven’t heard the debut album or caught a show from Billy K. and Papa Mali’s ‘7 Walkers’, do yourself a favor and check them out. This stripped down ensemble invented a whole new genre of Grateful Dead known to fans as ‘Swampadelica’. Their album is soulful, bluesy, fun, and a must have for deadheads. You can buy it from the official 7 Walker’s site here.
2012 Forecast: Next up for 7 Walkers is a series of shows with Steve Kimock aboard next week’s Jam Cruise. After that, look for continued dedicated attention and touring from Billy K. as well as a possible follow-up studio album.
3. MICKEY HART BAND
Mickey has put together a brand spanking new band for 2012 with a whole slew of new original songs taboot. Check out the YouTube above to see the cast of characters that Mickey has assembled. The band just recently finished up a winter tour that was pretty smoking from what I’ve heard. Let’s hope Mickey keeps this band around for a while and releases some of the great new originals they’ve composed.
2012 Forecast: Mickey and his new band already are still in the midst of a few January shows and then will likely be releasing an album of original material with a supporting tour to follow later in the year.
4. PHIL LESH AND FRIENDS
Phil Lesh reunited ‘Phil and Friends’ this year at Warren Haynes’ annual Christmas Jam. Check out the vid above of a playful China Cat Sunflower from the reunion. The Xmas Jam group featured Jackie Greene, Warren Haynes, Jeff Chimenti, Joe Russo, and of course uncle Phil himself.
This was just a preview though, Phil and Friends will be playing 3 shows in Colorado in February of 2012 with an amazing lineup of John Scofield and Warren Haynes on Guitar, Jackie Greene on Keyboard/Guitar, John ‘The Lion King’ Molo on Drums, and Phil. These shows promise to be nothing short of epic. To get a feel for what the shows might be like, check out the vid below of a very similar band featuring Warren and Sco from Mountain Jam 2007. I was at this show and it is probably my favorite P&F show ever out of many, many shows I’ve seen.
2012 Forecast: Aside from the February shows, rumors have been swirling that Phil and Friends will crank out some more shows in 2012. Expect to see some one-off or mini-runs at Phil’s new Terrapin Crossroads venue.
5. DARK STAR ORCHESTRA
DSO continues to tour relentlessly, from New York to San Francisco to Jam in The Dam and beyond, bringing unmatched energy, passion, and love for the Grateful Dead canon to ‘Starheads’ everywhere. With Jeff Mattson firmly settled into the lead role in Dark Star, fans everywhere (including myself) can’t stop singing the praises of the new frontman and the raw 60s and 70s style psychedelic guitar work he brings to the band. If you’re still a skeptic on Dark Star and think they’re just a ‘cover band’, stop fooling yourself and catch them on their upcoming tours, you will not be sorry!
2012 Forecast: DSO is sure to keep up the relentless touring in 2012. So far the band is playing the NE and SE in the winter, Jam in the Dam in March, and the West Coast in April. Expect a NE and festival tour in the summer, West Coast in late fall, and a return to the NE for NYE 2012.
Bonus Dead: As if this wasn’t enough, RATDOG is reuniting on January 25th for a special webcast show from Bob Weir’s TRI Studios venue that he launched in 2011. The golden road really does go on forever, and there’s nothing to do but smile about it.