By Brian Ives
This weekend, the Grateful Dead will end their career with a trio of shows on July 3, 4 and 5 at Chicago’s Soldier Field. There’s a lot of people who have a lot of feelings about this; one of them is guitarist/singer Warren Haynes. Haynes, of course is a long time member of the now-retired Allman Brothers Band, he’s the frontman of Gov’t Mule and a solo artist.
But he’s also spent a lot of the time with the members of the Grateful Dead; he’s been an on-and-off member of bassist/vocalist Phil Lesh’s different bands over the years, and also played in the ad hoc reunion band simply called The Dead in the mid 2000s. So he has, perhaps, more insight into the band than most.
During an interview for a forthcoming feature on his upcoming solo album, Ashes and Dust, we spoke about his feelings about the end of the Dead.
“Well, I’m glad that they are doing final shows,” Hayes said. “I thought it was important for them to do something for the 50th anniversary. I — probably like everyone else — wish it had been a little bit more.”
Haynes will be promoting his album for much of this year, but he does have at least one gig as a member of Lesh’s Phil and Friends lined up for at September’s Lockn’ Festival in Virginia this September.
“Phil and I continue to work together,” he says. “Which I still enjoy very much. But I think the door is also open for all those guys to do whatever they want to do and have fun. It’s good to see that they still all love playing music and being on stage. that’s what it’s all about: maintaining that lifelong passion.”
For these shows, Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio is playing lead guitar and singing Jerry Garcia’s songs. Was Haynes asked to participate in the Fare Thee Well shows, given that he’s filled that role in the past?
“It’s not something we talked about, but I’ve got a lot of my own stuff going on at the moment. I’m curious to see the whole thing, I’m glad Bruce Horsnby is doing it. I wish I could be there to see it, I’m sure it will be great.”
Does he have any advice for Anastasio, given his experience?
“Well, I think any time somebody steps into that sort of position, what’s required of you is that you inject your own personality into the performance. And if you’re the right person for the job — which Trey is — that’s what the band expects of you and that’s what the audience expects of you. And whatever minority of the audience doesn’t want that, I think they are just that: a small minority of the audience. I was very lucky when I joined the Allman Brothers Band: no one wanted me to play more like Duane Allman. Or less like Duane Allman. It was, ‘You be yourself.'”
He continues, “When I started working with the Dead, they didn’t really want someone to sound like Jerry. I think it was important to them to try to discover other chemistries within the band. Because when you lose such an amazing chemistry like that, you’re never gonna get it again; you may as well look in other directions. And that’s what playing music is all about: playing with people and discovering chemistries. When Gov’t Mule lost [founding bass player] Allen Woody, we weren’t looking for a clone of Woody, we wanted someone who brought their own personality to what we did.”
If you don’t have tickets for the final three Grateful Dead shows, you can watch them on YouTube.