Bob Weir’s time, as he has promised us for decades, appears to have finally come. The guitarist and the Grateful Dead, the band he co-fronted with the late Jerry Garcia for their three full decades, have weaved their way back into a position of musical prominence. Weir is slated to play two sets this Friday, May 3rd, at the Beach Life festival in Redondo Beach, first as a guest in an acoustic set by the band Slightly Stoopid, and later with his latest trio, Wolf Bros, whose membership is completed by drummer Jay Lane and bassist/musical impresario Don Was. (Bruce Hornsby, another erstwhile Dead associate, plays a set of his own earlier in the day)
In the years between the band’s first shows in 1965 and their dissolution following Garcia’s death in 1995, the Dead held many roles in the national consciousness. Depending on where you stood, they were counter-cultural heroes or lawless villains. Critically, their reception ebbed and flowed like one of their jams; initially seen as cutting edge, they would eventually be dismissed as a nostalgia trip in the wake of punk and other developments.
In recent years, though, a new consensus seems to have emerged. The Grateful Dead are seen as pioneers of what is now called Americana, along with peers such as the Byrds and The Band, and the influence of their improvisational style is recognized not only on jam bands but by players such as Steve Shelly and Nels Cline as well. The group’s live recordings, once traded mainly amongst fans in varying degrees of audio fidelity, are steadily being mastered and made generally available, allowing a lay audience a clearer view into the Dead’s musical project. And, of course Weir has continued to make his own music, including the well reviewed 2016 album Blue Mountain.
Bob Weir and Wolf Bros have been playing together since last fall. Their sets, naturally, draw heavily from the catalogs of the Dead and Weir’s various solo outings, along with occasional covers like Donovan’s “Sunshine Superman.” A truly unique guitarist, Weir is normally heard playing in support of a powerhouse lead guitarist like Garcia or, more recently in Dead & Company, John Mayer, where his contributions can sometimes get overlooked. Standing on the beach, carrying both rhythm and lead roles with the trio, Bob Weir gets to shine for the crowd at Beach Life (buy tickets here) and those following on the live stream.
Previously on The LA Beat: The Beachlife Festival Brings Three Days of Music to the Surf and Sand