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Grateful Dead truckin' once again

By CHRIS KAHN -- Associated Press

ROANOKE, Va. -- The last time the Grateful Dead rolled into this sleepy Southern city, 15 years ago, thousands of merrymakers followed with their tie-dyed shirts and veggie burritos and sunny indifference to public nudity.

The civic center parking lot became a camp site and the city's new fountain was used as a shower. There were drugs and there was free love. And, of course, there was Jerry Garcia.

Thursday, the four remaining original members will begin again, touring together for the first time since Garcia's death in 1995. But this time will be different in many ways.

The parking lot will be chained shut until a few hours before the concert, and police are beefing up patrols -- standard precautions, concert officials say, in this post-Sept. 11 world.

The band also shows little resemblance to the gang that first entranced a generation 40 years ago.

Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart are all over 55 now. Each has his own band and they've moved in different artistic directions. Hart continues to produce records like Kodo's new Mondo Head album. Lesh started the Unbroken Chain Foundation, a charity, with his band.

The decision to tour together came gradually, band members say, as each began to play the old tunes. One by one, they realized how much the music had adhered to their souls.

"The muse is telling us what to do," Hart says. "We're not really directing traffic here."

This latest incarnation of the Dead -- which plays under the moniker "The Other Ones" -- will shuffle about 130 songs during a 14-city tour, including a number of Dead standards and some from their own bands. They've pulled out several songs from the early 1960s, such as "Till the Morning Comes," that have never been played live.

"Everybody's grown and expanded their horizons," Lesh says. "It's exhilarating ... this music demands to be played, and differently every time."

To get back into tour shape, The Other Ones met back at the Dead's California studios for three weeks, singing around a piano at first to remember everyone's part.

"I don't ever remember rehearsing like that, except for in the '60s when we'd play all day everyday," Hart says. "My callous is back."

Jimmy Herring, a journeyman who's sat in with the Allman Brothers and Jazz is Dead, was brought in to handle Garcia's guitar part. He said he'll try to stick to how Garcia played, but fans will most likely hear something different.

"It bothers me, too. I wish I could sound the way they sounded in 1962, but the equipment they used to make recordings back then were totally different," Herring said.

While the band may have grown up, the fans are expected to be as earthy and raucous as ever.

At a warmup concert in August, thousands of Deadheads converged on East Troy, Wis. The crowd was peaceful, but police issued 411 citations for drug violations and seized more than 51 pounds of marijuana, 7,300 doses of LSD, 10 pounds of hallucinogenic mushrooms, a tank of nitrous oxide and small amounts of other drugs.

In Roanoke, no camping is allowed on the civic center premises, and ticket holders can't enter until three hours before the concert begins. Incense and cigarettes have been banned except in one designated area, as has the sale of any merchandise not officially sanctioned by the band.

"Those are the rules for every concert now," said civic center marketing director Robyn Schon. "We are aware that the Grateful Dead have a following that likes to partake in illegal drugs, so we've beefed up our security. But that's the only change."

When the Dead last came to town, in 1987, more than 60 people were arrested for drugs and running naked in the parking lot. Authorities turned off the fountain when they discovered people bathing in it.

"We certainly know what it was like last time," police spokeswoman Shelly Alley said. "We'll have a large number of officers working the event."

Deadheads, who started showing up Wednesday morning, weren't pleased with the new rules.

"Wow, they're going to turn everyone away?" asked a 21-year-old New Yorker who goes by the name Star. "We're all big adults here -- what, do they think we're going to put graffiti on the walls or something?"

Star, who doesn't have a ticket to the concert, quit his job at a merchandise distribution company and plans to follow the band with his dog, Molson, all the way to the tour's finale, Dec. 6, in Oakland, Calif.

"I left yesterday morning with a tank of gas and less than $20," he said with a laugh, his hair tucked in a brown stocking cap. "But I've got like 40,000 of my best friends here. They'll take care of me."

Hart and Lesh said they weren't sure whether the group would get back together again after the tour. For now, they're happy simply to be back on stage together.

"The world needs this kind of vibe," Hart said. "We're chasing that feeling, that magic too. And we'll continue until the day we die."

Cities and dates on The Other Ones tour:

Nov. 14: Roanoke, Va.

Nov. 15: Washington, D.C.

Nov. 16: Albany, N.Y.

Nov. 18-19: Boston

Nov. 20: East Rutherford, N.J.

Nov. 22: Hartford, Conn.

Nov. 23-24: Philadelphia

Nov. 26: New York

Nov. 27: Cleveland

Nov. 29: Pittsburgh

Nov. 30: Detroit

Dec. 1: Indianapolis

Dec. 2: Chicago

Dec. 5-6: Oakland, Calif. (More on Grateful Dead)

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