Dead & Company keep on ‘Truckin’

Jun 14, 2018

One of the longest and strangest trips in recorded music history makes another stop in the region when Dead & Company arrives in town on Tuesday at Darien Lake. The group consists of three out of four of the core four surviving members of The Grateful Dead along with longtime Bob Weir collaborator Jeff Chimenti, former Allman Brothers Band bassist Oteil Burbridge and singer-songwriter John Mayer, who has been a headliner at Darien Lake as a solo artist.

The origins of Dead & Company date back to a series of shows to mark the 50th anniversary of The Grateful Dead back in 2015. It was the first time a group of musicians had billed itself as The Grateful Dead since the death of guitarist Jerry Garcia in 1995.

With sold-out stadium “Fare Thee Well” shows in the Oakland and Chicago markets billed as the last opportunity to see The Grateful Dead proper, most people assumed that the July 5, 2015 show was the last chapter in The Grateful Dead’s history.

Dead & Company emerged just a few months after the Fare Thee Well shows. The lineup features founding Grateful Dead members Bob Weir, Micky Hart and Bill Kreutzmann; only bassist Phil Lesh opted out of participating in Dead & Company. Lesh continues to perform Grateful Dead material with his own band and did a short tour with Bob Weir earlier this year.

The Grateful Dead were frequent visitors to the Buffalo and Rochester area, performing at venues like The Rochester War Memorial (now called The Blue Cross Arena), The Buffalo Auditorium ( closed in 1996 and demolished in 2009), Rochester’s Silver Stadium (demolished in 1998) and Rich Stadium (now called New Era Field).

Dead & Company carries on the taping policy established by The Grateful Dead, which allows fans to capture recordings of the bands performance. Each show has a special “tapers” section and the “audience” recordings are widely circulated on the Internet on sites such as Archive.org, which holds both audience and soundboard recordings of nearly every Grateful Dead performance.

While there were many legendary shows in The Grateful Dead’s history, a Buffalo show at Kleinhans Music Hall on March 17, 1970 with The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is steeped in mystery because no known recording of the show exists. A reward of $2,000 has been offered for anyone that has a recording of the show.

Dead & Company’s eighth performance was at The First Niagara Center in Buffalo on Nov. 11, 2015. The Darien Lake show will be the first in Western New York since then.

You never really know what songs the band will perform, but recent setlists from Dead & Company have included fan favorites like “Scarlet Begonias,” “Fire on the Mountain,” “Sugar Magnolia” and “Truckin’” a song that is often performed in the Buffalo area because of the line “Truckin’ up to Buffalo.”

Vocal duties are split between Bob Weir and John Mayer, both of whom sing lead on songs originally sung by Jerry Garcia.

Grateful Dead shows were characterized as much by the scene outside the venue as they were what was happening inside. A makeshift hippie flea market known as Shakedown Street — after the song of the same name — is a common fixture at Dead & Company shows as well, and will likely appear in some long and strange form in Darien Lake parking lot.

The show begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are available through DarienLake.com and Ticketmaster.com.

By Thom Jennings, Batavia Daily News