Warren Haynes keeps a busy schedule: He’s one-half of the guitar team in the Allman Brothers Band, he leads his own group Gov’t Mule, he has a solo band, and he occasionally plays solo acoustic shows. And next month, he’ll perform with ensembles larger than he’s ever worked with in the past. Between playing Allman Brothers show and the Govt’ Mule tour this summer, Haynes will lead a series of symphony orchestras on a tour that pays tribute to the late Grateful Dead leader Jerry Garcia.

“The Jerry Garcia Symphonic Celebration” kicks off June 18 in Pittsburgh, where Haynes will be joined by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. The tour will continue with two bursts of dates throughout the summer, with Haynes being accompanied by local orchestras in each of the eight cities. (Full list of performances here.)

Haynes, of course, has a history with the Grateful Dead. He played in bassist Phil Lesh’s band, Phil Lesh & Friends, for years, and produced Lesh’s 2002 album There And Back Again. He also did some time in The Dead, which featured Grateful Dead members Lesh, guitarist/singer Bob Weir, and drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann.

Haynes organizes some annual musical events — the Mountain Jam festival every summer and the Christmas jam in December — but he says this tour wasn’t his idea.

“We got a call from the people representing the Garcia Estate, saying they wanted to do a series of symphony shows doing Jerry’s music, and that they were going to have a few guest performers, and they wanted to know if I wanted to be the first guest artist,” he told “I was very honored.”

It turns out, Haynes had wanted to go the orchestral route for some time, but never had the right concept, until now.

“I’ve always wanted to do something with a symphony, but I never have, so it’s a really great challenge for me, and I was really psyched. I think it’s gonna be really amazing.”

Of course, a hallmark of both Garcia’s and Haynes’ music is improvisation. But how much can you improvise with an orchestra, particularly when you are performing with a different one every night?

“I felt like it was very important that we take the Grateful Dead spirit and to approach the symphonic production in a way that is different from the norm,” he explained. “I didn’t want it to be just like a symphony playing that music. We’re starting to figure out that there are ways to make it work. There are going to be certain windows that allow for improvisation. Other times, I have to keep my solos more part of the structure.”


— Brian Ives, 


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