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A Look Back @ Bonnaroo 2016: Part 2 – Dead & Co.

11 Jun 2017

written by Croma


A Look Back @ Bonnaroo 2016: Part 2 – Dead & Co.

Photos and Text by Tim Borland

_MG_8527John Mayer and Bob Weir

While Mod Mobilian eagerly covers bands like U2 and Red Hot Chili Peppers at Bonnaroo 2017, take a look back at some of the great performances our crew documented last year. One of the biggest headliners of the weekend was Dead & Co., a new project containing original members of The Grateful Dead alongside Allman Bros Band bassist Oteil Burbridge, frequent keyboard collaborator Jeff Chimenti, and guitarist songwriter John Mayer. Mod Mobilian was one of the few publications invited to photograph Dead & Co. from the main stage photo pit.


Some fans were definitely skeptical as to how this performance would turn out. Guitarist Bob Weir and percussionists Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart have long toured with different projects along the festival circuit since the death of Jerry Garcia in 1995. However, the addition of the very non-festie crooner John Mayer was an unknown and untested element. Would they cover Mayer ballads? Could Mayer accurately replicate the many difficult guitar parts within the Dead’s repertoire?

_MG_8546Oteil Burbridge

Many concerns were immediately squelched as the band members took to the main stage opening up with “Truckin’.” Many music lovers are not aware that John Mayer is a very underrated guitarist, whatever one might think of his solo material. And thankfully, the entire set was all Grateful Dead favorites, opening strong in the first set with tracks like “Playing In The Band,” “Tennessee Jed,” and “Shakedown Street.”

_MG_8605Jeff Chimenti

For Southern jamband fans, the Dead & Co. Bonnaroo performance was the most recent opportunity to see multiple Dead members onstage. The core four, which also includes original bassist Phil Lesh, had performed Fare Thee Well in Chicago, Ill. and in Santa Clara, Calif. during 2015, but unfortunately had no southern U.S. dates. Dead & Co., which contains three of the core four, helped to sate the needs of Dead fans around the country who could not make it to those five epic performances.

_MG_8621Donna Jean Godchaux

Although Dead & Co. does not include Phil Lesh, Bob Weir and the rest of the band did have a few surprises at Bonnaroo 2017 for longtime fans. Donna Jean Godchaux joined Dead & Co. for multiple songs throughout the evening. The Killen, Ala. resident was an official member of The Grateful Dead from 1972 to 1979, and she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the band in 1994. This guest performance was a huge nod to fans who had long appeared at shows hoisting signs stating “Where’s Donna?” after her exit from the band.


Dead & Co. closed out the first set with a speedy “Casey Jones,” with John Mayer handling vocals. The tempo of the song gradually increased in speed driving the audience into a frenzy just before the set break. As Weir promised fans the band would return after a short break, the Steal Your Face logo appeared in large form on the What Stage digital screens.


During the second set John Mayer tackled “Slipknot!” with the band. The song in particular has been referenced by the guitarist as one cover which has advanced Mayer’s personal guitar skills. The set continued with classics such as “Scarlet Begonias,” “Fire on the Mountain,” and “Terrapin Station.”

_MG_8568Bill Kreutzmann

Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann displayed their clocklike percussion skills with “Drums” and “Space.” As the echoes of the drums filled the air, the audience danced and cheered. With their diverse setup and varied skills as well as creative experimentation, Hart and Kreutzmann can create almost a whole band sound with strikes, sound effects, and polyrhythms.

_MG_8578Mickey Hart

Dead & Co. closed out the second set with “Franklin’s Tower.” Fans in the audience sang along with the familiar chorus of “…roll away the dew.” But the musicians were not quite done yet. The company returned to the stage for an encore performance, treating fans to The Grateful Dead’s only Billboard Hot 100 top 10 hit, “Touch of Grey.”

_MG_8562Prior to the encore, Weir took the opportunity to address the crowd and criticize the actions of corrupt politicians. The Dead & Co. performance came only a day after the mass murder at a gay club in Orlando, Fla. which killed 49 people and injured 53. Bob Weir, a very open minded and outspoken musician, spoke out in favor of LGBTQ rights.


“If you got gay friends, tell them ‘Sorry about what happened today.’ You know, it’s funny … the Lt. Governor of Texas and a distinguished representative in the house from Georgia… Well, that guy last week was reading quotes from the bible saying how gay people deserved to die. And today, after the incident down in Florida, the Lt. Governor tweeted that, well, ‘They’re gonna reap what they sow.’ I tell you what. I want to ask you a question: Is there a difference between that mindset and the mindset of the folks in the Taliban or ISIS? The hatred and intolerance is the same. They may pull it from different books, but it’s the same fucking thing. Register and vote. Get those assholes out of there,” Bob Weir said, addressing the crowd.


The brief statement on politics illustrates how The Grateful Dead was not a band who only endorsed having a “long strange trip.” The Dead were (and still are) committed to equality and civil rights. The members continue to use their platform as musicians to encourage a positive response within U.S. communities. Very few band’s are willing to put their statements and opinions out into the court of public opinion out of fear of negative judgment. However, Bob Weir has never been afraid to take a stance when a group of people is being marginalized. The Dead & Co. end of concert PSA could not be more potent than at Bonnaroo, a place full of diversity with different ages and ethnicities gathering in one place from all over the country.



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