I'd seen quite a few Dead shows in the 90's when it was pretty doggone clear that this was the tail-end of an era. As much as we'd like to, there is no sense in romanticizing those final tours. Jerry was rarely more than physically present. Read Phil's book.
Seeing the Other One's in '98 was a bittersweet epiphany. We had no clue what to expect, and I got my first "Sailor>Saint," "St. Stephen," and it was the first time I'd heard "this is the season of What Now."
Since then, everything splintered. Phish, Widespread, SCI and so on. RatDog kept mutating, as did Phil's projects and the drummers various excursions. For me, that's all any of the guys were doing: projects. Phil's rotating roster of admittedly awesome musicians, Billy's bands, Mickey's experiments, and I always had difficulty viewing RatDog as a "band" per se, more like "Bob Weir & RatDog" or something. But I followed them all; I'll take what I can get, dig. And I loved it all (to varying degrees), but always felt a certain lack of cohesion, both with the bands and with the scenes.
So along comes Furthur......
How wonderful it has been to watch this evolve! Consider: for over a decade, both Phil and Bobby have had to assume the unlikely roles of frontmen. With Furthur, they've been able to step back, share the light, relax and merge into the band. It took a little experimentation; Jimmy doesn't sing, Warren couldn't really commit. But bringing in JK was a stroke of genius! With Chimenti, with Russo, and with Jeff & Sunshine stepping up, Furthur has gelled into a true, full-fledged band, and it shows, it's palpable. New songs?! I mean, this is some truly exciting stuff!!!
There are some unfortunate few in the lots, on the boards (um, not spelled bored, btw) who seem intent on fractionalizing the scene, nitpicking RatDog vs. Phil et al, which seems to me as petty as arguing over what brand of strings they play with. These guys are STILL rocking, at times harder and more passionately than they ever have! Where will I turn when this is done? I'd rather not speculate and, instead, simply be here now!!!