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Ex-Grateful Dead Members Weir, Lesh to Bring Furthur to Sweetwater in Mill Valley

Quartet of shows Jan. 16-19 comes on the heels of the band’s end-of-year shows in San Francisco.

Three years after putting a charge into downtown Mill Valley, the psychedelic circus that is the post-Grateful Dead band Furthur is set to play four shows at the Sweetwater Music Hall later this month.

The band confirmed the shows, set for Jan. 16-19, in an announcement on its website on Sunday. Tickets have yet to go on sale, causing the venue’s phones to be ringing off the hook ever since, but an announcement is expected this week, according to Sweetwater Manager Aaron Kayce.

“There is a really rich Grateful Dead legacy here in Mill Valley that is being reborn at the Sweetwater Music Hall in a lot of ways,” Kayce said. “This is the crowning jewel of that rebirth.”

Furthur, named after Ken Kesey's psychedelic bus, was co-founded in 2009 by longtime Mill Valley resident and Sweetwater co-owner Bob Weir and Ross resident and Terrapin Crossroads owner Phil Lesh, both original members of the legendary rock group that officially disbanded after guitarist Jerry Garcia died in 1995. They just finished a series of shows at the 8,000-capacity Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco.

Kayce said Sweetwater’s owners and management had been trying to get Furthur to play the 300-capacity venue since its opening in January 2012 in the same Masonic Hall space where Furthur played some of their rehearsal shows in late 2009 and early January 2010 in advance of their first national tour. Getting the schedules of the band’s seven members to align and finding creative ways to fit a band that travels with multiple tractor-trailers full of sound gear into a tiny venue were the biggest hurdles, Kayce said.

In addition to Weir and Lesh, the band includes John Kadlecik of Dead cover band the Dark Star Orchestra on lead guitar, Jeff Chimenti of RatDog on keyboards, Joe Russo of the Benevento/Russo Duo on drums and Sunshine Becker and Jeff Pehrson on vocals.

Weir, not surprisingly, was crucial in making the shows happen, according to Kayce.

“He was the linchpin, for sure,” he said. “You don’t get a stadium band to play a music hall without a little insider help.”

Squeezing the band’s stadium-sized following into a small town could also prove to be a challenge, as it was for Furthur’s last drop-in on Mill Valley. At that time, several local residents and business owners said having legions of Deadheads descend on downtown was overwhelming, particularly those who didn’t have tickets for the Masonic or 142 Throckmorton Theatre shows.

After reports of public urination and shoplifting on the nights of the first shows in late 2009, Mill Valley Police increased its patrols in the area at subsequent shows and complaints died down, according to Mill Valley Police Sgt. Paul Wrapp.

Wrapp said the department had no plans to add staff for the nights of the Furthur shows, but hoped to stay in touch with Sweetwater management and adjust if issues arise.

“Unless we get some intelligence that it’s going to be a problem, we’ll be at regular full staff,” he said.

If there are a large number of people showing up downtown without tickets to the shows, Wrapp noted that police are limited in what they can do.

“It’s not like we can just kick them out of town,” he said. “But we’ll definitely look to deter any criminal behavior.”

Kayce said the venue was bringing in outside security from San Francisco venues like the Fillmore and the Independent to handle the additional surge of people Furthur will bring.

“A major concern for us is trying to make this work for the community,” he said. “We realize that bringing a band of this size to this size of a venue puts a big stress on the community, and we want to be extra sensitive about that. We’re doing our best to make this the least disruptive as possible.”

Jack January 03, 2013 at 03:36 PM
Thank you Bob, welcome Furthur, wish I had a ticket, and please let's be kind to the Deadheads who visit, certainly gentler people than those who typically descend on other random events in Mill Valley. After all, there was never nowhere safer place to be than at a Dead show. My favorite downtown restaurant owner, who has no particular awareness of this culture, waxed poetically at how nice they were last time they were here, and how they ate, drank and made kind and gentle merry when they visited his place. Good tippers too! Jack says let's have some fun and be grateful for the experience.
Karen Popp January 03, 2013 at 03:36 PM
Really? Yeah, I am about as concerned about the impact on downtown as a heard of locusts arriving. Music is a tradition in Marin, most of us who live here love it, and the creative people it inspires.
Sylvia "Chipps" Newsom Barsky January 03, 2013 at 05:32 PM
It may be a wise idea to bring in portable outdoor toilets during the shows as I understand that the bushes were were in constant use last time....

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