On Sunday, November 3, 2019, Tom Constanten, Grateful Dead keys player from late 1968- early 1970, brought his Live Dead ’69 celebration to the Ardmore Music Hall just outside of Philadelphia. Comprised of Slick Aguilar (Jefferson Starship/David Crosby Band) and Mark Karan (RatDog/Other Ones) trading spots on lead and rhythm guitar, Robin Sylvester (RatDog) on bass and long-time Dead collaborator Ezra Lipp on drums.
And what musical lives they’ve been! Nelson and Cage, both synonymous with many decades of NRPS’ psychedelicized countrified stylings, have entertained concert audiences and home listeners with many, many other bands – Nelson with the David Nelson Band, as well as Old & In the Way, Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band, The Good Old Boys, Dead Ringers, Al Rapone & the Zydeco Express, The Papermill Creek Rounders, and way back in the early 1960s with the Wildwood Boys bluegrass band alongside Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter. Cage, in addition to his storied career with the NRPS, has delivered his trademark pedal steel guitar articulations with Great Speckled Bird, Stir Fried, Solar Circus, The Brooklyn Cowboys, Terry & the Pirates, and on substantial studio work with Bob Dylan and Anne Murray.
In the past few years since Fare Thee Well, as Grateful Dead music has morphed into its own genre, what bands play and how they play it has become an interesting series of choices. Do they want to play it straight, or do they want to interpret it through a filter (heavy metal, Celtic, Bluegrass, Hawaiian slack key guitar, etc.)? Do they want to emphasize the material the band played when they first became Dead Heads, or do they want to sample around? Good argument-starter: Is the best year 1972, or 1977, or 1989? Or fill in the blank...
“'Tis I, the intrepid traveller, come to lead his merry band of pranksters across the nation, in the reverse order of the pioneers! And our motto will be 'the obliteration of the entire nation' ... not taken literally of course, we won’t blow up their buildings, we’ll blow their minds!"
The Grateful Web’s John Schumm recently sat down with RatDog guitarist Mark Karan, currently touring with Terrapin Flyer and Melvin Seals. Mark speaks about being embraced by the Grateful Dead community, touring with Terrapin Flyer, the upcoming RatDog tour, his battle with throat cancer, his solo career, and so much more.
When Mark Karan takes a break from life on the road as lead guitarist with Bob Weir's RatDog, what does he do for fun? He hits the highway with his own band!
Since 1998, Mark has been touring with offshoots of the Grateful Dead (including The Other Ones, Mickey Hart's Planet Drum and Bobby Weir's Ratdog).
Before crossing over into the land of the Dead, Mark worked his guitar voodoo for the likes of Dave Mason, Paul Carrack, Delaney Bramlett, the Rembrandts, Huey Lewis, Jesse Colin Young, Alex Call and Sophie B. Hawkins.
The Grateful Web sat down with Mark Karan, guitarist for RatDog, backstage at the Paramount Theater in Denver to talk about the status of the jamband scene, changing demographics at the shows, Weir's insatiable need to be on the road and why Karan knows he is lucky as hell to be getting paid (and laid) to play with Bobby.