The Other Ones a Grateful Dead cover band of the highest order

Monday, August 5th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

EAST TROY, Wis. (AP) _ They are The Other Ones, the world's greatest Grateful Dead cover band.

Even drummer and original band member Mickey Hart stammers not to call them the Grateful Dead and in some ways, they are even better.

Jimmy Herring's guitar cuts cleaner lines through the ensemble than did Jerry Garcia's.

Herring brings an edgier, more athletic command, spurring original members Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann and Hart to play as well as they ever have.

And while Garcia's slippery and delicate guitar lines used to slow the band down, his inimitable sound and otherworldly flair was the crown jewel on the band's complex web of noise.

Herring is clearly a worthy fit, but he doesn't possess Garcia's dark magic and doesn't peer around the troubled corners that Garcia oft explored.

There were some tributes. On a mid-set ``I Know You Rider'' on Saturday night, the band crafted a classy and reverent harmony to fill the hole where Garcia used to bellow about a headlight on a northbound train, a moment that historically drew raucous cheers.

A slice of the Dead's long-ago abandoned repertoire emerged to much delight on Saturday as the band ripped through a near-studio quality ``Born Cross-eyed,'' a jumble of vocal hairpin turns the Dead almost never played.

The Other Ones also upheld a longtime Dead staple: the hyperextended drums and space jams where the Dead's dissonant interplay followed several minutes of dueling drummers.

The most glaring hole, however, remained Garcia's frail and wizened voice: pianist Rob Barocco does a noteworthy imitation, but it feels canned, like the post-Jim Henson Kermit the Frog.

Individual members also sang Garcia's songs; bassist Lesh's tone-deaf blare is more relaxed, but still sounds better awash in harmony. His singing was more tolerable when it was heard less frequently.

There was much ado about security on the grounds but droves of glassy-eyed Deadheads streamed in and out of Alpine Valley Music Theatre with little trouble, weary but tolerant of the heavy-handed security to which they were rarely subjected in decades past.

Authorities sent scores of officers and tow trucks home early in the weekend as it became clear the all-ages mass came mostly to smile and do the wiggle dance.

First-night jitters behind them, The Other Ones cruised into Sunday, guitars ablaze. Herring drove the band confidently through a 40-minute odyssey that included five songs such as ``Eyes of the World,'' ``Saint of Circumstance,'' ``Mountains of the Moon'' and ``Fire on the Mountain.''

It was clear the weekend was a success.

That bodes well for The Other Ones' planned fall tour, tentatively announced last week _ and contingent upon the success of the Alpine event.

The trial run complete, it is likely The Other Ones will perhaps establish some of the momentum the Dead carried until its crashing halt in 1995 with Garcia's death.

And while the music has all the Dead's bombast and psychedelic power, The Other Ones still have only the Dead's songs, which means for now they're a Grateful Dead cover band of the highest possible order _ and not much more.

Hart spoke casually of a future with the band writing new material, but the plan for now is to have no plan. However, their apparent new appreciation for rehearsing _ a practice the Dead despised _ might just hatch a batch of new songs to freshen up their sets and keep them on the road for many years to come.