by Mike Greenhaus
Weir’s Here: On TRI, RatDog and Solo Gigs
Just prior to his current Furthur tour, Bob Weir spoke about TRI Studios,
RatDog’s return and his new turn as a solo performer.
Photo by Jay Blakesberg
[The] Weir Here [broadcast] started out just as me—solo. In an effort to get the wheels moving—and to start to use the facility [TRI Studios] for what we built it for—I decided to start doing some live shows. Then, I started incorporating guests on those live shows. For the most part, we’ve been getting together relatively early in the afternoon and, by late afternoon, we’re ready to go. [Widespread Panic bassist] Dave Schools has become a regular. He lives around here and I invited him by to do one of the shows. It became apparent to us very quickly that we enjoyed playing together and hanging together.
Plus, he’s quick on the couch.
Over the past year or two, I’ve been working as a solo artist. Performing solo is a totally different dynamic—the songs are able to reveal themselves in a whole new light and I’m enjoying that thoroughly. The realm that these songs take me to is a whole new place. It’s an intimate dynamic, which is pretty cool. I started doing these solo tours all by myself and then, I did a couple of co-bills with people like Bruce Hornsby, Jackie Greene and Jonathan Wilson. It quickly became obvious to me that one thing I missed doing was playing with other people. I’ve also found that it’s a lot of fun to work with Jackie and Jonathan.
I get to have the solo stuff and then, I have somebody who is going to be fun to play with.
The Variety Show
I haven’t had a lot of time to do a lot of writing as of late, so I’m going to try to do that. I’ll probably [use TRI to record some new songs] even though I haven’t figured out what those will be. I’m not sure if Furthur is going to make a record. We could, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. We probably have enough material to do it but I don’t think Phil [Lesh] would be willing to make a record. I’ve been working on and off with Lukas Nelson, Willie’s son. He’s also a good player and singer. I expect that we’ll probably do a tour as well. Without variety, you can’t have a horse race and I’m getting that now. I’m enjoying it thoroughly.
This summer, RatDog is going to have Jonathan on guitar. It seemed like a fun thing to do and we got a big offer to play from The Peach Music Festival. In order to take full advantage of it, I wanted to make it special, so I brought Jonathan in. He’s a really good player—he’s got really good ears and picks up stuff really fast. He has picked up Dead tunes over the years, so on our recent tour, we went with the tunes he knew and the low-hanging fruit. He learned a couple of new ones [as well]. The guy is a good singer, player and songwriter. What I need to do now is learn a little bit of Jonathan’s stuff. [Laughs.]
I’d love to expand a bit beyond the Grateful Dead and into other places [at TRI]. For instance, I’d like to start bringing in jazz guys—or maybe Taj Mahal or another bluesman. I’d also like to bring in country artists. We’d mix in a little Dead stuff because that’s a lot of what I can bring to the party. But the idea for TRI has always been to concentrate on variety, and we haven’t quite gotten to where I’m looking to get in regard to that. The National guys were a ball to play with. There were a lot of instruments in that ensemble but everybody was listening and no one was playing too much. With these broadcasts, it’s all about adventure. That’s what the Dead have always been about