While the saying is, “Never miss a Sunday show,” the extended holiday weekend pushed the adage to, “Never miss a Monday show.” Down on the white-sand beaches of Cancún, the Dead Ahead Festival came to a countrified climax as the second of two guest-filled headlining performances brought Sturgill Simpson and Margo Price into the Grateful Dead sphere with help from contemporary jam golden boy Rick Mitarotonda of Goose.

Like the night before, the two-set performance at the Moon Palace resort featured a house band of Bob Weir, Mickey HartJay Lane, and Jeff Chimenti, with alternating bassists Don Was and Jay Lane. Simpson retained his spot as the permanent guitarist throughout the show, with Mitarotonda entering the Thunderdome as his six-stringed and vocal partner (in place of Derek Trucks from the night prior) and Price taking Susan Tedeschi‘s vacated position as intermittent vocalist/guitarist.

With the addition of Price, the stylistic scale tipped more toward the Dead’s country connections. In the first set, the Dead Ahead band explored the group’s twangy roots with covers of Merle Haggard‘s “Mama Tried”, John Phillips‘ “Me and My Uncle”, the original “Loser”, Kris Kristofferson‘s “Me and Bobby McGee”, and the set-closing take on The Band‘s “The Weight” that took full advantage of the available stable of singers.

The Dead’s roots in Western music stretch back to 1970s doubleheader of Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty. Stepping out of the psychedelic ’60s, the band explored other American art forms, something late guitarist Jerry Garcia had been long interested in going back to his days as an ace banjo player in the early 1960s.

Fast forward to the present day, and guitarist/vocalist Bob Weir has taken a decidedly folkie bent in recent years. With his Lorax-like beard, slow drawl, and storyteller vocal delivery (and relaxed tempos), Weir has positioned himself as the elder statesman of the jam world and the keeper of its oral traditions. His 2016 folk album Blue Mountain cemented this portrayal, with Weir traveling across the nation to tell the stories on his Campfire Tour. Nowadays, audiences are more likely to see Bobby perform with songwriters like Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and J.D. Souther than they are to see him with the next generation of jam bands.

Last night’s Dead Ahead show saw those two stylistic paths converge as Bobby built his dream team band. On the one side were country ass-kickers Simpson and Price, both of whom he collaborated with at this year’s Farm Aid in a preview of things to come, and the other was Mitarotonda, leader of the group dubbed “the next great American jam band.” While the first set leaned on the Dead’s rootsy connections, set two turned its focus to the band’s trademark improvisational legacy.

Related: Dead Ahead: Sturgill Simpson, Derek Trucks Give Grateful Family New Company In Mexico [Videos]

Set two had all the hits, from the opening “Scarlet Begonias” > “Fire on the Mountain” to the closing climax of “The Other One” > “Morning Dew”. Bobby bounced along Oteil’s bass on “Estimated Prophet” before Mitarotonda shockingly took lead vocals on “Eyes of the World”. The different musical flavors coalesced as Sturgill’s more straight-ahead, ruff-and-tumble playing filled out the edges around Mitarotonda’s foundational leads that pushed the jams forward, with Weir conducting his hand-picked orchestra.

In addition to playing the classic, this Dead Ahead set also saw two emotionally significant bust-outs for Bobby. The first came at the very beginning of the show, following the opening “Shakedown Street”, as Weir performed “The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)” for the first time since July 4th, 2015 at the Dead’s 50th anniversary Fare Thee Well show in Chicago. The deep-cut gem from the Dead’s self-titled 1967 debut featured the invitation, “Hey hey, come right away, join the party every day,” which perfectly encapsulated Dead Ahead’s mission of inviting musicians from all different ends of the spectrum to join the Grateful Dead family.

But Bobby saved the biggest surprise for last. After a scorching “Morning Dew” closed the second set, Weir returned to the stage with all his guests in tow for his first performance of “Attics of My Life” since July 5th, 2015. The song served as the emotional finale of the Fare Thee Well run, which at the time was billed as a closing chapter of the Grateful Dead legacy—little did anyone know that one month later three of the Core Four original members would launch a new project, Dead & Company. Nearly nine years after that encore at Soldier Field, last night’s finale still packed the same emotional punch as the Gulf of Mexico welled up with Deadhead tears.

In the secret space of dreams
Where I dreaming lay amazed
When the secrets all are told
And the petals all unfold
When there was no dream of mine
You dreamed of me

So here we are, almost a decade after Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, Phil Lesh, and Bill Kreutzmann fared us well. Nine years later, the members of the Grateful Dead—though splintered from each other—continue to dream of us. There will come a day when the petals have all unfolded, but the dream will still remain. And if there’s something that Dead Ahead proved, it is that that dream will live on through so many more dreamers than we ever realized.

Revisit Live For Live Music‘s coverage of Dead Ahead: Night 1 | Orebolo with Sturgill | Night 3.

Dead Ahead – “The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion) – 1/15/24


Dead Ahead – “Mama Tried” (Merle Haggard) – 1/15/24


Dead Ahead – “Me And Bobby McGee” (Kris Kristofferson) – 1/15/24


Dead Ahead – “The Weight” (The Band) – 1/15/24

[Video: Vitamin J]

Dead Ahead – “Eyes Of The World” – 1/15/24


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Dead Ahead – Moon Palace Cancún – Riviera Maya, MX – 1/15/24 – Full Audio

[Audio: EJL95]

Setlist: Dead Ahead | Moon Palace Cancún | Riviera Maya, MX | 1/15/24

Set One: Shakedown Street, The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion) [1], Mama Tried (Merle Haggard), Me And My Uncle (John Phillips), Loser, Bertha, Me And Bobby McGee (Kris Kristofferson), Bird Song, The Weight (The Band)

Set Two: Scarlet Begonias > Fire On The Mountain, Estimated Prophet > Eyes Of The World > Franklin’s Tower > Drums > Space > The Wheel, The Other One > Morning Dew

Encore: Attics Of My Life [2]

[1] LTP by Bob Weir 7/4/15

[2] LTP by Bob Weir 7/5/15