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The Seven-Year Itch

Jerry’s out, but the Grateful Dead live again. What will the fans’ verdict be?

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Deadheads will soon be confronted with a far knottier question than whether Vol. 14 of the ”Dick’s Picks” series is superior to Vol. 24. To wit: Is a Grateful Dead gig without Jerry Garcia historical — or just heretical?

After all, the band famously said that they’d never re-form without Garcia. But seven years after the Dead’s guitar guru got the chance to eternally ponder the implications of his band’s name, a reconstituted Grateful Dead will play their first shows (as the Other Ones) in Alpine Valley, Wis., on Aug. 3 and 4. As it happens, the event — dubbed ”Terrapin Station” after the Dead’s 1977 album — will fall between Garcia’s birthday (Aug. 1) and the anniversary of his death (Aug. 9).

”I’m sure we’ll get some criticism for doing it,” allows bassist Phil Lesh. ”But I hope the excitement generated by the music and energy will outweigh it. In a way, it’s an homage to Jerry.”

Lesh reports that the other surviving members of the Dead — guitarist Bob Weir and drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart — ”have been sniffing around each other for a little while now” and decided to go for it. Augmenting the originals will be guitarist Jimmy Herring and keyboardist Rob Barraco from Phil Lesh and Friends, and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti from Weir’s group RatDog. Lesh (whose own band is touring this summer to promote its new CD, There and Back Again) declines to say if this is just a one-shot deal: ”Sometimes, it’s good to just think in the moment.”

How would Jerry feel about the reunion? ”I don’t believe that once we leave this plane we spend a lot of time looking down, so I can’t say,” says Lesh. ”But if he was alive to see it in some way, I think he’d say, ‘Right on.’ And he’d breathe a sigh of gratitude that he didn’t have to be up there [playing].”