Last week, Dead & Company revealed that the band was retiring in 2023. It was like deja vu again.
Released final concert details reveal that Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, John Mayer and Bob Weir (along with Oteil Burbridge and Jeff Chimenti) will perform their final shows here at Oracle Park on July 14-15, 2023. It all seems fleeting.
When Jerry Garcia, the iconic guitarist, singer, songwriter and eternal face of The Grateful Dead, died 27 years ago at a Marin County drug treatment facility, somehow another, his group persevered. Almost intact.
Consider the recent doc about fans’ dedication to the American counterculture band, After All is Said and Done: Recording of the Grateful Dead 1965-1995 by Mark A. Rodriguez, as a recent example of our endless fascination with the dead.
I attended the Jerry Garcia memorial in Golden Gate Park on August 12, 1995. My roommate – a pensive jazz drummer with a quick temper – dragged me along to pay his respects.
Garcia had passed away on August 9, and Deadheads from all over the world descended on San Francisco with excitement and intent. 710 Ashbury Street, the three-story Victorian townhouse where members of the Grateful Dead first lived together, as well as the Golden Gate Park polo ground, became the unofficial sites of his bereavement.
I’m no Deadhead, but I respect the musicality of the band, which always depends on what night of the week you catch them. I loved Phil Lesh, their bassist. And living in this town, I felt like it was my duty to pay tribute to Jerry. (Also, those Jerry Garcia Band records were pretty on point.)
As the memorial service in the park began, 20,000 people – likely more – showed up, smoked, beat drums, kicked hacky bags, waved white sage sticks and shared the camaraderie. Wise words were spoken by drummer Mickey Hart, former Jefferson Airplane member Paul Kantner, ’60s counterculture guru Wavy Gravy, and widow of Jerry Deborah Koons Garcia, to name a few. -ones. Only recorded music was allowed to be played from the stage.
Right there, during a memorial, I heard tapes of the band from their early 70s European tours, and mang…those cats were kind of jamming their asses. It was hippie for sure, but not the “catch a hug” hippie fashion they then slipped into during their big 80s swing on MTV. It was the legit shit that those old school hippies were talking about, but no one young or outside the Deadhead bubble really believed.
Right there, sending Jerry, my appreciation for the musician grew. I finally had an entry point in the band’s version that appealed to a rhythmic ear. I still don’t own ANY Grateful Dead music, but I know what to take if I need this kind of solution.
As the crowd lingered for another hour after the memorial ended and the SFPD began to arrive, Hart mildly urged attendees to return home. Right on cue, the moment I knew was coming happened: an emotionally hurt Deadhead guy screamed, obviously crying inside:
“Where are we going man, where are we going?”
For a time after Garcia’s death, the answer was Phish concerts. I personally attended several Medeski Martin & Wood shows, live IRT around 1996, I was overwhelmed by Deadheads at GAMH and Bimbo’s. They were times.
In the decade since, Deadheads have found their way into bands like Hiss Golden Messenger, Dr. Dog, and even Kamasi Washington for that far-flung excursion that makes light travel in fantastic fashion. Given John Coltrane’s praise throughout Jerry Garcia’s career, this latest transition seems like a simple math.
While many aficionados, scholars, and faith keepers were disappointed last week to learn that Dead & Company was coming to a close, the deaths – in one form or another – will always continue. Leave Haight Street to the recruits.
Here are some upcoming ways to keep those extended improvisation vibes going:
STERN GROVE FESTIVAL: TV CONCERT SPECIAL ON KPIX CHANNEL 5, SAT/15
Considered the oldest music festival in the San Francisco Bay Area, the 85th season of the Stern Grove Festival was a resounding success. Images from over 10 artists from this year’s lineup will be featured in this special, featuring performances by Toro Y Moi, Tower of Power, Too $hort and Geographer, as well as Cold War Kids, LeAnn Rimes, Old Crow Medicine Show and Suite. Plus, you’ll get to watch footage of Phil Lesh & Friends playing a cover of the famous Grateful Dead song “Shakedown Street.”
It will be broadcast on Saturday 15 from 7:00 p.m.
More info here.
GRATEFUL DEAD MEET-UP AT THE CINEMA AT THE BALBOA THEATER, NOVEMBER 1 AND 5
The Grateful Dead would go on to sell records like never before after their performance at the Tivoli Concert Hall on April 17, 1972 was shown on Danish television. The show was a stop on the band’s illustrious Europe 72 tour, and its footage will be presented at the Balboa Theater next month as part of the concert’s jaw-dropping 50th anniversary celebrations. This film depicts a key chapter in the band’s formation: this European tour helped the Dead bring the sounds and concepts of San Francisco to a global audience.
Get tickets for the screenings here.
GRATEFUL DEAD NIGHTS AT THE ASHKENAZ COMMUNITY MUSIC AND DANCE CENTER
A tradition that dates back to the 20th century, Ashkenaz’s Grateful Dead night is constantly evolving. It’s fronted by some of the Bay Area’s top performers, and a rotating cast of incredibly talented musicians grace the stage each week, drawing from the band’s vast catalog to delight Deadheads and dancers of all generations. The Wed/12 edition features China Cats, October 19 sees Scott Guberman & Friends, and Matt Hartle & Friends take the stage October 26-27.
Purevshase tickets here.