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VENTURA COUNTY WEEKEND | ROCKTALK

Hippies Come Together for a Day of the Dead

Grateful fans at the Further Festival will hear members of their beloved band perform, along with Bruce Hornsby and Los Lobos.

August 01, 1996|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Where have all the hippies gone? Did they all grow up, get haircuts, buy shoes or even come down? There's no telling where they chill out during the rest of the year, but a large tie-dyed contingent of grizzled geezer hippies--from the '60s--as well as the '90s-teenage models will descend today on the Ventura Raceway for the Further Festival, which starts at 4 p.m.

Thousands of gyrating Deadheads will be swirling to the sounds of good old rock 'n' roll and, incidentally, jamming the racetrack with thousands of dancing feet. Outside in the parking lot, expect to see vast numbers of the world's slowest land vehicle--VW vans, which would be incomplete without Grateful Dead bumper stickers.

And there will be plenty of those stickers because this is essentially a Dead show that's, well, not really a Dead show. Some members of the band will be playing; also it's presented by the Bill Graham organization, longtime Dead promoters, and well advertised on the Grateful Dead hotline. But without Jerry Garcia, the member of the band who died Aug. 9, 1995, it can't actually be a Grateful Dead show.

Maybe it's the Dead A.J. (After Jerry), but what a long strange trip it remains. Former Dead members guitarist Bob Weir and bassist Rob Wasserman will play their brand of bluesy rock with their pals in Ratdog. Dead drummer Mickey Hart will perform along with an international cast of percussionists as part of his band, Mystery Box. Three-time Grammy Award winner Bruce Hornsby, who often played with the Dead, returns. Hot Tuna, featuring members of Jefferson Airplane, will do an electric set.

The Further Festival has also solved one of the major bummers of concerts, all those free BMWs--Basic Monotonous Waits--between acts. At this gig there will be halftime entertainment in the shape of wise-guy folk singer John Wesley Harding and blues dude Alvin "Youngblood" Hart. Besides all that, the Flying Karamazov Brothers will jump around and do whatever it is they do.

Most of this has a definite Bay Area flavor to it. But it is not a wholly Northern California invasion, because representing the Southland and East Los Angeles are those Grammy Award-winning roots rockers Los Lobos. Lest you think otherwise, this gig is a natural for the band, according to sax player Steve Berlin.

"In the past, when it was the whole Grateful Dead, we opened for them several times in the '80s and '90s," said Berlin. "Those were always some of our most pleasurable opening gigs. Anyway, when this thing was still in its formative stages, they asked us to do it, and we're a band of like-minded musicians. I guess it's a soul thing."

*

The Dead, of course, was a legend that began in 1964. The group made zillions of fans through constant touring, which featured endless, mindless and senseless jamming, all without the benefit of much airplay, MTV or industry hype.

Los Lobos is no slouch in the longevity department either, having survived 23 years of its own strange trip. In the early '80s when Slash Records was on the cutting edge of the new wave, Los Lobos was one of their bands, along with X, the Blasters, Rank & File, Violent Femmes, Fear and the Gun Club. Los Lobos has lived long and prospered more than the others.

"Having known most of those guys, I know how hard it is to keep a band together. It takes a special group of guys," said Berlin. "One thing about Los Lobos is that they were together for nine years before they ever signed a record deal, and all the personality problems and little snits were all taken care of. It's like a marriage--it has its ups and downs."

Los Lobos has a new album, "Colossal Head," that is as good as any other of their many albums. Whether in English, Spanish or on Jupiter, these guys rock. And they have just what the world needs--another good railroad song, "Everybody Loves a Train."

"I guess all the albums have been another step on the evolutionary scale. Now we're walking upright, with opposable thumbs, and we've stopped eating sludge," said Berlin. "I guess it's funkier than anything else we've done, but there's no way to describe what we do. It's blues and country and norteno and whatever. We don't really plan stuff--good things just happen to us. Obviously, we won't be pounding out our hits. We don't have any, or many."

The tour has been going for a few months and thus far they have performed 25 shows.

"It's all very interesting, but there's obviously a huge hole in the middle of this thing," said Berlin. "It's not the Grateful Dead."

When it was the Grateful Dead, it was the best party Ventura ever had. The first local Dead gig, in 1982, featured about 13,000 Deadheads.

This year, the city is expecting another big crowd, and, of course, big crowds can mean big fun, something all city officials worry about. To make certain that no one has too much fun, no camping and no beer will be allowed. But there will be a vending fair in the parking lot and, thus, a great opportunity to eat some strange food and also pick from among a few thousand different Dead T-shirts.

DETAILS

* WHAT: The Further Festival, featuring Los Lobos, Bruce Hornsby, Ratdog, Mickey Hart's Mystery Box, Hot Tuna, John Wesley Harding, Alvin "Youngblood" Hart.

* WHERE: Ventura County Fairgrounds, 10 W. Harbor Blvd., Ventura.

* WHEN: 4-11 p.m. today.

* HOW MUCH: $27.50.

* CALL: 648-3376.

* FYI: To find out more about the tour, call the Grateful Dead Hotline at (415) 457-6388

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