The Mickey Hart Band, led by the former Grateful Dead drummer, makes a stop at the Rialto Theatre on Tuesday. Bassist Dave Schools calls Hart "a musical hero."


Bassist Dave Schools likens his time spent with Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart to working with a powerful force of nature.

"It is like trying to keep up with a tornado," Schools said in an interview from the road. "I don't think I've ever worked with anyone with such a hunger for music and such a desire to create new sounds that have never been heard before."

Best known for playing with the jam rock outfit Widespread Panic, Schools joined forces with Hart nearly two years ago as part of the Mickey Hart Band, which makes a stop through the Rialto Theatre Tuesday.

Schools and Hart had known each other in musical circles going back to 2004.

The mutual admiration compounded six years ago when Schools moved to Sonoma County in Northern California, a haven for oddball musicians such as Les Claypool and Tom Waits, and discovered that Hart was one of his neighbors.

The two became fast friends with a shared interest in exploring new ways to create music.

Schools, a longtime fan of the Dead, found the whole thing exciting.

"There was no Sly Stone for me to see when I was growing up," he said. "Keith Moon was dead. Jefferson Airplane was Jefferson Starship. The Grateful Dead was carrying the torch."

Schools joined the band's lineup in November of 2011 and contributed to the album, "Mysterium Tremendum," one of Hart's most innovative recordings to date.

Songs were laid out against sonic backdrops of white noise produced by the microwave radiation, solar winds and pulsars in space, as heard on Earth through radio telescopes.

Those soundscapes were then dressed up in a diverse blend of rhythms produced by the Hart Band and Hart collaborators, including percussionists Zakir Hussain and Giovanni Hidalgo.

Many of the lyrics were provided by Robert Hunter, who penned many prominent tracks for the Dead.

"What is not to love about the idea of playing with the sounds of the universe?" Schools asked. "Mickey encouraged me to try anything. That is where new ideas happen. That sort of scary, misty, unknown place."

Schools said the whole experience was surreal but exhilarating. He was pleased that Hart tapped him for the project.

"To meet someone who was a musical hero and have him respect me as a musician means the world to me," Schools said.

If You go

• What: The Mickey Hart Band in concert

• When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

• When: Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St.

• Cost: $25 through the Rialto box office, 740-1000.

Contact reporter Gerald M. Gay at or 807-8430.