I ignored this thread originally because the title didn't interest me; I recently saw one of the responses and it looked interesting, so I read the post. I am primarily interested in throwing in my two cents about the Dead versus Furthur, not about the original post.
I saw ~360 Dead shows from 1979-1995, as well as the various offshoots (Keith and Donna Band, Kingfish, JGB, Weir/Wasserman, Garcia/Kahn, Planet Drum, etc) ~50 times. I mention the numbers to illustrate that I exerted a lot of energy to follow Jerry and friends and that he was a huge part of my life. After Jerry died, I continued going to Dead related shows but I really only went to shows in my area, because none of the post Jerry incarnations did a lot for me. I generally enjoyed Ratdog shows and there was the occasional Phil and Friends shows (Glens Falls w/Trey) that was pretty good, but none of them inspired me to travel to see them. I kept going to local shows because the Dead had been such a large part of my life and,on occasion, there were moments that brought me back to the magic, even if it was weaker. I guess I never really gave up on the notion that the magic was still there, waiting to come out. On the other hand, I am not big on clone bands, and the idea of DSO never drew me, although I inadvertently saw DSO, once with John and once post John. When Furthur first started, I assumed that they were going to be in the same vein as the other post Jerry bands, and I made no effort to see them until summer of 2010, when I saw Herkimer and Lowell. Some of the reviews were pretty good, so I made the effort to go to Lowell. I ended up in this little protected section and met a nice woman who had also ended up in the same space. She was following some localish, not dead related band, and had happened upon the show in her journeys. She also had been less than excited about post Jerry shows and was dubious about Furthur, but had taken a chance wit this show. I'm telling you this story, because we both enjoyed the show and were surprised that they were actually pretty good, and fun. As a consequence, I also ended up going to Herkimer, and was really impressed, especially by the first set. To make a long story short, by 2011, I was going to everything in the Northeast - so I saw ~ 25 shows last year and I'm on track for the about the same this year. I really enjoyed this years sumemr tour.
So here's my take Furthur, DSO, TXR incarnations, etc. I love Furthur; I think they are a lot of fun. I've read all the negative raps - Furthur's tempo is slow, JK is a fake Jerry, they are trying to reproduce the Dead, there is no longer a sense of magic or anything can happen, etc. I don't really analyze it that way, even though I'm traditionally very analytical about individual shows. I just know that I go to DSO and they do nothing for me. I went to most post Jerry shows and they were ok but didn't do a lot for me. I went to Furthur and I enjoyed it so much I want to go to more shows. I don't mind the slower tempo - the Dead's tempo differed enormously over the years. I know a lot of deadheads who loved the faster paced mid 80s (like 85) where the tempo was fast and the jamming minimal. I love years like 73 where they had a slower, jazzy tempo with lots of jamming. As far as JK, I think he's great. Many guitarists focus on a prior guitarists style or are influenced by many people's styles. I recognize that JK has been very focused on Jerry's style, but I don't find that to be insulting like many people apparently do. I believe that if you love something enough and you put in the right amount of work to get good at something, you can find something magical happen - I suppose I think of it as corollary of Without Love in the Dream It will never Come True. I've often though over the years how amazing it wold be be able to play like Jerry and to experience what it's like to be on the other side of the equation. Well, JK took my dream and ran with it. And with enough love and perseverance, it paid off (there is a notion I've read about 10000 hours being the changing point). I don't find JK as insulting to Jerry - do you really want to belittle Jerry's ability by suggesting that another person could come along and play exactly like him. I would also suggest that I only see JK reflect one of part of Jerrys depth. I think he is very good at Jerry 73 type style and less so with the more rocking 80s style. As a consequence, I don't find Furthur to be perfect. Some things Furthur does just don't hit me like when the Dead did them (Scarlet Begonias), other songs I think they do really well (let it grow, viola lee, caution, unbroken chain). But overall, I find them really fun.
I look at it like we are actually lucky, that after all this time, we have something that reminds of the how fun the Dead and Jerry were. Is it the same - no. Is it magical in that anything can happen - probably not, but we don't know here it will lead if it keeps going. I also think that while JK obviously focused heavily on Garcia, he has a different style and that over time he is will develop even more of his own style.
I recently find myself thinking that maybe "The Music Plays the Band" is true, that maybe the Dead, Furthur and some of the recent TXR incarnations are really just conduits to something magical that wants to get out, that the "Grateful Dead" is a metaphor for the X factor or whatever you went to call it. I am not suggesting that JK is anywhere near as amazing as Jerry or ever will be. Or that Furthur is as strong as the dead - they are not. Sometimes I think it's just because Phil (and Bob) are still part of this (Phil is amazing), and yet Bob's Jerry tribute, with a random collection of people many of whom are only connected because they appear to have been drawn in by this Grateful Dead thing, suggested to me that the "Grateful Dead" can potentially live on after Phil and Bob are gone. As I listen to some of the TXR streams, it just re-enforces this. Some of it is really good.
"While you were gone
,these spaces filled with darkness
. The obvious was hidden.
With nothing to believe in
, the compass always points to Terrapin"