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Dead & Company: See Backstage Photos From Summer Tour Opener

Go behind the scenes with Bob Weir, John Mayer, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann and friends at Charlotte show

Dead and Company On Tour Performing John Mayer North Carolina

Josh Goleman for Rolling Stone

Saying "Fare Thee Well," as the Grateful Dead did with some epic shows last July, doesn't mean that the members of the band have retired. "I'm not entirely sure what would bring somebody to think that a guy like me can walk away from this body of music," guitarist Bob Weir told Rolling Stone. Their latest incarnation, as Dead & Company, kicked off a seven-week summer tour on June 10th at Charlotte's PNC Music Pavilion. The band matches three Grateful Dead alumni (Weir, Mickey Hart, and Bill Kreutzmann) with three fellow travelers (John Mayer, Oteil Burbridge, and Jeff Chimenti).

We were eyewitnesses as the band prepared for their first show of 2016. Although the musicians mostly spent the hours before the show in individual dressing rooms, when they gathered in the fading summer light and headed for the stage, they were clearly excited to begin another leg of their long, strange trip.

"It feels new," drummer Bill Kreutzmann said. "With the add-on that I know the songs really well."

Dead and Company On Tour Performing John Mayer North Carolina

Josh Goleman for Rolling Stone

John Mayer Warms Up

John Mayer in his dressing room, which contained flight cases with labels such as "JM BRIM HATS." As he warmed up, he said, "I'm a student again." Playing the Dead's deep catalogue is challenging: after shows, he said, he sometimes has an internal dialogue where he chastises himself for every single error and missed opportunity. He cheerfully compared his preparations to training for a boxing match: "You get hit in the head if you don't get your arms up."

Dead and Company On Tour Performing John Mayer North Carolina

Josh Goleman for Rolling Stone

Bob Weir Inspects His Ax

After soundcheck, Bob Weir inspected a Parker Fly guitar, in an unusual orange-bronze shade, with a piece of tape on the back labeling it "112." He had owned the guitar for a while, but was considering using it more often because it was lightweight and MIDI-capable. He asked his guitar tech, AJ Santella, to fix the action, bringing the strings closer to the fretboard. "It's got character, I'll say that," Weir said approvingly of the guitar. "As the tour rolls on, I'm looking forward to what it has to say."

Dead and Company On Tour Performing John Mayer North Carolina

Josh Goleman for Rolling Stone

Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart Share a Laugh

Hart invited his fellow percussionist Kreutzmann onstage and showed off the deep, resonant sound he was getting from his kit. "A happy drummer is a dangerous drummer," Hart joked.

Dead and Company On Tour Performing John Mayer North Carolina

Josh Goleman for Rolling Stone

Mickey Hart’s Road Case

At this point in their careers, the members of the Dead have separate road cases, separate dressing rooms, and separate managers. But when they came together, offstage and especially on, their pleasure in each other's company was obvious.

Dead and Company On Tour Performing John Mayer North Carolina

Josh Goleman for Rolling Stone

Oteil Burbridge Gets a Trim

Bassist Oteil Burbridge got a ceremonial pre-show Mohawk from his wife, Jess Burbridge. "I'm usually in my underwear when she does this," he admitted.

Dead and Company On Tour Performing John Mayer North Carolina

Josh Goleman for Rolling Stone

Oteil Burbridge Sports a Mohawk

When he's not performing, Burbridge shaves his own head, he said. "I cut it bald, and in about a month I cut it again."

Dead and Company On Tour Performing John Mayer North Carolina

Josh Goleman for Rolling Stone

Oteil Burbridge Tries on His Game Face

Burbridge approved of his own stage-readiness. "We're not fucking around," he declared.

Dead and Company On Tour Performing John Mayer North Carolina

Josh Goleman for Rolling Stone

John Mayer Looks Over the Set List

In his dressing room, John Mayer approvingly inspected the set list while he warmed up. He said that he thought of his role as giving Weir the opportunity to play whatever he wanted, but that he had a lot of input into the choice of material: "A lot of it is what I think will make a cool set, and a lot of it is what I think Oteil and I can handle." The band prepared more than 100 songs for the tour, and through the first four shows, had not repeated a single one.

Dead and Company On Tour Performing John Mayer North Carolina

Josh Goleman for Rolling Stone

Bill Kreutzmann Soundchecks

Drummer Bill Kreutzmann was the first member of Dead & Company at soundcheck. "We were itching to get out of the studio," he said. "We couldn't wait to get out and play."

Dead and Company On Tour Performing John Mayer North Carolina

Josh Goleman for Rolling Stone

Jeff Chimenti and Oteil Burbridge Joke Around

Keyboardist Jeff Chimenti and bassist Oteil Burbridge share a dressing room. Chimenti has been playing with Weir for almost two decades; Burbridge made fun of himself for not knowing the Dead catalog as well as Chimenti.

Dead and Company On Tour Performing John Mayer North Carolina

Josh Goleman for Rolling Stone

John Mayer Displays a Bob Weir-Style Purple Polo

John Mayer held up a purple polo shirt, a tribute to Bob Weir's onstage fashion choices in the Eighties. "Mickey, remember how Bob used to wear the purple polo?" he joked with Hart. "We just got to get him into the cutoff jean shorts and we're back!"

"I wonder where he keeps them?" mused the drummer.

"They're under his pants," Mayer decided.

Dead and Company On Tour Performing John Mayer North Carolina

Josh Goleman for Rolling Stone

Dead & Company Share One Last Hang Before Showtime

Fifteen minutes before showtime, the members of Dead & Company gathered in the venue's hallway. "We spend our lives in hallways," Burbridge joked.

With sandals and his fanny pack, Weir was ready to rock. "They can't all be good hair days," he said.

Dead and Company On Tour Performing John Mayer North Carolina

Josh Goleman for Rolling Stone

John Mayer Snaps an Selfie

Guitarist John Mayer took a Dead-themed selfie. Looking forward to his ride with the band, he said, "It's like Grateful Dead Airways."

Dead and Company On Tour Performing John Mayer North Carolina

Josh Goleman for Rolling Stone

Dead & Company Take the Stage

The band ambled onstage and began the show with "The Music Never Stopped," "Cold Rain and Snow," and "Friend of the Devil." The sun was setting behind the crowd. Just before he hit the stage, Mayer told Weir how he thought the band's music evoked summer, and vice versa. With a smile, he said, "This is where I want to be."

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