- - Thursday, June 23, 2016

John Mayer doesn’t need the extra work Dead & Company provides. However, upon receiving the invitation to play with the latest incarnation of the Grateful Dead last year, Mr. Mayer, 38, dropped everything to join the supergroup, which will perform Thursday at Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, Virginia.

“The music these guys make, the music of the Grateful Dead, made this such a no-brainer [that] I wanted to put the [solo] record on hold,” Mr. Mayer told The Washington Times. “I’m really thankful for the solo career, but I want to do this.”

Mr. Mayer never dreamed of jamming with the Dead, or any big act, while coming of age during the 1990s.

“When I was a kid in high school, I would disappear into my room every day learning the blues,” Mr. Mayer said. “I wasn’t a Deadhead, but I saw kids from my high school come back from [New Jersey’s] Giants Stadium [Grateful Dead] shows.

“I wasn’t part of it, but I was always observant.”

But as a professional musician, Mr. Mayer is indeed a part of it, jamming on-stage with what’s left of the Dead. Vocalist-guitarist Bob Weir is flanked by Grateful Dead alums Mickey Hart on drums and percussionist Bill Kreutzmann, as well as bassist Oteil Burbridge and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti.

“John gets it,” Mr. Weir said of having the talented musician aboard. “It was a no-brainer for me to hook up with him and chase this muse.”

The common denominator between Mr. Mayer and Mr. Weir is adventurous playing and a passion for the blues.

“When you’re into music the way Bob and I are, it’s almost like collecting baseball cards,” Mr. Mayer said. “You collect the Texas blues card. You collect the Chicago electric blues card. You collect the country-western card.”

Mr. Mayer, who only listened to the Dead in a casual manner until 2011, is immersed in a band that is beyond the blues.

“They’re incomparable,” he said. “There is no other band like the Dead.”

That’s not hyperbolic. The Dead has been on a unique, strange trip since forming in San Francisco in 1965. The godfather of jam bands combined country-rock, folk and psychedelia for a sound all its own. The late Jerry Garcia and his bandmates disregarded convention and thrived as the ultimate cult act. The Dead had just one top 10 hit (“Touch of Grey” in 1987) during their long run. Many of their fans, known as Deadheads, traveled the country following the group. The Dead faithful still travel with the band, dance in celebratory fashion and sing along with each tune.

“This is an experience unlike anything else,” Mr. Mayer said.

The reaction of the audience, primarily composed of baby boomers, is remarkably similar to how Dead fans reacted during shows a generation ago. When Dead & Company delivered “I Need a Miracle” and “Crazy Fingers” in Camden, New Jersey, Monday, aging Deadheads left their seats, danced and raised their fists in a triumphant manner.

But how long can Dead & Company last considering that three of its core members are encroaching on their seventies? According to Mr. Weir, the long, strange trip could be longer than anyone anticipates.

Mr. Weir told The Times that he had a dream that, after the band’s fall tour, Mr. Mayer would keep the music alive even after the original members are gone from this earth.

“I was viewing this from about 20 feet behind my head, and I looked over at John, and it was 20 years later, and John was almost fully gray,” Mr. Weir said. “I looked at Oteil, and his hair was white. I looked over to my left, and Jeff’s hair was all gray.”

This dream band, he said, “was all new guys, younger guys, holding forth, doing a great job.”

Mr. Mayer, who has carved out a niche for himself as a cerebral guitar hero who combines jazz chords with pop structures, is up for balancing his solo career with the supergroup.

“I will never close the door on Dead & Company,” Mr. Mayer said. “I think it’s always going to be worth doing.”

There is also the possibility that the band could craft some new material.

“I would be very interested to see what this band could do as composers,” Mr. Mayer said. “I’m open to anything.”

Dead & Company appear Thursday at Jiffy Lube Live, 7800 Cellar Door Drive, Bristow, Virginia, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $40 to $149.50 by calling 703/754-6400 or visiting LiveNation.com.

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