By Natalya Jones
By County Grind
By Liz Tracy
By Chris Joseph
By Liz Tracy
By Matt Preira
By Jesse Scheckner
By Michael E. Miller
Are you here for the Weir? If so, the third option for Deadheads (those not in the Philzone or Jerryside) presents itself this weekend in Boca Raton. RatDog — originally a side project of former Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir and Rob Wasserman — continues to take fans on a rowdy romp through the Dead catalog, interspersed with your favorite endless mix of covers from Dylan, Chuck Berry, and who knows who else's catalog. Although Wasserman is no longer with the group, fans of the band have known what to expect from RatDog, as they've been a staple in the jam band/covers world for over a decade.
The lineup of the group has changed and evolved over the years, but it can't be accused of not keeping up with the times. It's worked a component of fantasy sports into its website. Fans of RatDog are currently engaged in a battle to determine what songs will be played during specific slots in the band's set. Hundreds of 'heads get neck deep in this each year; the results can be seen on the fansite www.ratdog.org. Weir is cool with it — he's probably glad people still care. Besides, the Internet was basically invented so whacked-out fanatics of all shapes and sizes could have a nice place to get wild with their obsessions, and this is a perfect fit. If it sounds strange, consider that a company named Phantasy Tours encouraged them to do it.
Not everyone in the band knows about the new fantasy component, though. Fill-in lead guitarist Steve Kimock, formerly of Zero, the Other Ones, and the Heart of Gold Band, was shocked to hear about the game. "I would lose every time," Kimock reflected, thinking about his perpetual state of shock every time he sees the set list and has to scramble to learn any of 150 or so songs that Weir draws on to make each show happen. Kimock is on this tour filling in for fellow Other Ones alumnus Mark Karan, who's undergoing treatment for throat cancer. Kimock is right at home on stage next to Weir, since his acid-washed overdriven leads have been accompanying Bobby on and off for the past 20 years. Says Kimock: "I appreciate Bobby's playing more and more all the time, [especially] the depths of his experience with so many different styles of music."
Regardless of the lineup, when RatDog is in town, you can expect a mix of rock 'n' roll and country served with a side of bluegrass. You can also anticipate a whole bunch of razor-sharp improvisation and plenty of stage banter.