Dueling New Year's Eve Shows Leave Deadheads Spinning

New Year's Eve gigs have been a long-standing Grateful Dead tradition, but this year Deadheads face a tough choice.

While ex-Dead bassist Phil Lesh performs at the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center in Oakland, California, his former Grateful Dead bandmates, who bill themselves as the Other Ones, will be playing across town at the Network Associates Coliseum.

Representatives for Lesh and the Other Ones declined to comment on the conflicting gigs, but the Other Ones posted a message at www.dead.net on Friday.

"For 30 years or more, we all knew that a New Year's Eve without the Dead was unthinkable. Acting under the information that Phil and Friends were planning an East Coast show — information which we worked hard to be absolutely certain was correct — the Other Ones planned a New Year's Eve gala at Oakland Coliseum. Well, things change."

Lesh toured with the Other Ones — whose lineup includes drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart,

guitarist Bob Weir and keyboardist Bruce Hornsby — on 1998's Furthur Festival. The 1999 tour was canceled while Lesh recovered from liver transplant surgery, and eventually Lesh opted out of the group, citing philosophical differences.

A rift continued to develop between Lesh and his former bandmates, partly over a plan to use venture capital to digitize the Grateful Dead's vast storehouse of live recordings. The Other Ones toured this summer with bassist Alphonso Johnson stepping into Lesh's role.

Fans have been debating the merits of the two groups on the Internet, with nearly the ardor of Republicans and Democrats discussing the presidential election.

"By dividing the audience and turning Deadhead against Deadhead, it can't help but become a partisan matter," Grateful Dead Hour radio host David Gans said. "It's a damn shame is what it is. ... They're dividing the audience. They're competing for the affection and the ticket money of the people who have loved

them all this time. It's sad because it's sticking the audience in the middle of a custody dispute."

"It breaks my heart," said 32-year-old Carolyn Tobin of San Francisco, a veteran of more than 800 Grateful Dead concerts. "This election is tearing the country apart, and at the same time — in the same week — I found out that Phil and the Other Ones are playing conflicting venues on New Year's Eve. ... Can't we all just get along?"

Lesh's band for New Year's Eve will include keyboardist Rob Barracco (Zen Tricksters), guitarists Warren Haynes (Allman Brothers Band, Gov't Mule) and Jimmy Herring (Allman Brothers Band, Aquarium Rescue Unit), and drummer John Molo (Bruce Hornsby, Other Ones).

The Other Ones' lineup won't feature usual guitarist Steve Kimock that night, but legendary funk mob Parliament/Funkadelic will join the group, as will "surprise special guests."