It was something of a spiritual experience for fans of doo-wop and Deadheads alike. A twin bill featuring Bob Weir’s collective Ratdog and doo-wop legends the Persuasions played the Electric Factory last Friday and Saturday nights.
The lineup begged the question: Can doo-wop really mix with the Dead?
According to the Persuasions, who came out on stage decked out in tie-dies on Friday night, they have met spiritually with the Dead and with the late Jerry Garcia.
The group’s new CD, Might as Well, is a collection of Grateful Dead songs performed a cappella.
During their set they explained the spiritual connection between the two groups, but it wasn’t until Weir and Ratdog came out that the prophecy was fulfilled.
After an acoustic trio through the first three songs, the full group came on stage as did the Persuasions. It was at that point — when doo-wop met the Dead — that the spiritual high point of the night was reached.
Weir, decked out in his Birkenstocks and khaki shorts, joined with the tie-dyed Persuasions on the song “Liberty.” The Persuasions, who took their names from a verse in the Bible, finally got to sing with a band behind them. When they started out 39 years ago, they told the crowd, they were asked how they would survive without a band.
Despite no backing band, the group survived like the music of the Dead. Ratdog, made up of former Grateful Dead guitarist Weir, bassist Rob Wasserman, Jay Lane, Jeff Chimenti and Mark Karan, wrapped up its eastern leg with the two shows in Philadelphia. Friday’s show was the end of the line for the Persuasions, however.
After the two groups shared hugs and thank you’s, Ratdog took over performing songs like “Bury me Standing,” “Greatest Story Ever Told” and a stellar version of “Good Morning Little School Girl.”
A “Dark Star” jam followed which fell into “Weather Report Suite.” Things mellowed out before Wasserman played one of his patented bass solos.
On his electric standup bass Wasserman struck, beat and bowed the strings with the precision that only he could bring to the band. The solo ranged from subsonic bass to a classical concert-like sound.
Weir and the rest of the group came back out and continued with Wasserman in a jam and “Ashes and Glass” before ending the show with a four song medley.
“Help on the Way” Ratdog calmed the crowd before tearing things up with “Slipknot!” The entire Electric Factory turned into a mesh of dancing bodies swaying to the music. From the bar to the floor, people were moving. Even the security guard in between the two groups got into the flow.
For an encore, the group started singing the words of “Franklin’s Tower” and talked about the many different ways to roll a doob. Ending with “Throwing Stones,” Ratdog proved to everyone that there is a spiritual connection between the Dead and its fans.