The spring U.S. tour by The Dead may well be the first step towards turning the band into a recording entity again -- or at least that's what the surviving members of the Grateful Dead hope.
"I would think that if we stay on this path that's inevitable," percussionist Mickey Hart tells Billboard.com. "I think this could be a serious attempt at new Grateful Dead music."
But Hart and his bandmates agree that "you have to be able to play (old) Grateful Dead music in order to make new Grateful Dead music" first, which is what the group will be doing starting on tonight (April 12) in Greensboro, N.C.
"Right now I think we're trying to make the canon our own again and make it a really sumptuous feast as opposed to little hors d'oeuvres and stuff," Hart explains. "You gotta learn the musical ropeadope and be able to have conversations on an intuitive level with the other musicians, things that just take time."
But singer-guitarist Bob Weir is confident this version of The Dead -- which also includes founding members Phil Lesh on bass and Bill Kreutzmann on percussion, along with guitarist Warren Haynes and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti -- will have no trouble capturing that spirit.
"It's an organic kind of situation," Weir says. "We speak a language that no one else speaks. It comes from all those years on the road; if you piled up the time that we've spent just on stage together, playing, it's be years. Relationships develop. Feelings develop that I don't think can be found any other ways."
Some of those feelings -- what Hart says were "musical, personal, business and political differences" -- kept The Dead apart for four years. But those largely disappeared when the group came back together in 2008 to play a couple of benefit shows for the Barack Obama campaign.
"When it got right down to it, we really didn't have that many differences," Hart notes. "To lay a few of them aside in the name of good music was no big thing, because it was overwhelmingly apparent that we have to do this. The vibe is good."
Weir adds that The Dead plans to "really dig in" to its catalog at the spring shows, as well as during some planned summer festival appearances. He says the group prepared more than 150 songs at two separate rehearsal sessions, and more may be added during the course of the tour.
"We're on fire," Kreutzmann reports. "When we rehearsed...the music just got better and better every day. The music started playing [i]us.[/i] We didn't have to play the music. That's when I knew it was going to be good."