Bob Weir plays during a webcast concert celebrating what would have been Jerry Garcia’s 70th birthday
As testament to Jerry Garcia’s undying influence on the music and culture of rock ‘n’ roll, generations of Deadheads, musicians and family members came together Friday night for A worldwide webcast celebrated what would have been the 70th birthday of Grateful Dead icon Jerry Garcia’s.
Garcia’s lifelong friend and bandmate Bob Weir hosted the show, called “Move Me Brightly” from a line in the Grateful Dead song “Terrapin Station,” from the spacious performance room of TRI Studios, Weir’s ultra high-tech webcasting facility in San Rafael. The free show was streamed live in HD to untold numbers of Garcia fans around the globe via www.tristudios.com and Yahoo Music.
“I think everyone is keenly aware of Jerry’s legacy,” beamed Carolyn “Mountain Girl” Garcia, the charismatic rocker’s former wife, as she socialized backstage with friends old and new. “It just keeps getting bigger and bigger. There are all these kids out there who never went to a Dead show, who never saw Jerry live, but they’re still turned on to him. And those people are increasing all the time.”
As if to illustrate her point, Weir looked around at all the young musicians on stage with him at one point and joked, “I’m not going to announce anybody because I don’t know who they are, either.”
He was talking about such contemporary musicians as Jonathan Wilson, a long-haired, bearded, Laurel Canyon-based singer-guitarist who turned in a
moving rendition of Garcia’s paean to his San Francisco hometown, “Mission in the Rain,” joined by harmony vocalist Donna Jean Godchaux, the soon-to-be 65-year-old singer who holds the distinction of being the only woman ever to be a member of the Grateful Dead.
Thirty-seven-year-old Garcia fan Jonathan Wylie, who was invited to the show through TRI’s social media manager, remembered buying tickets to see the Dead in a Colorado concert in 1995. But it was canceled after Garcia died of heart
“So I never saw him,” he lamented as Weir and band played “Friend of the Devil,” one of the Dead’s signature songs. “But to be 10-feet from Bobby and these guys playing this song, one of my favorites, is unbelievable, just an amazing experience.”
Thirty-two-year-old Andrew Krimstock never got to see Garcia play in person, either, but still feels a spiritual connection to him 17 years after his death.
“The songs he wrote and played were the soundtrack for a lot of my life,” he said as he watched the show on a video monitor in one of the smaller side studios, where throngs of guests enjoyed drinks and a buffet and chatted over the pleasant din of the music.
Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh joined Weir for the opening song, “The Wheel,” and a couple others before departing to play a few miles away at his own Terrapin Crossroads restaurant and club in San Rafael. Country singer Jim Lauderdale read a poetic tribute to Garcia by David Crosby. It began, “If I could have picked one of us to speak for all, he would have done the job well.”
During the marathon show, young musicians from groups like Phish, Vampire Weekend, Hold Steady and the Yellowbirds took turns performing in honor of the man generally regarded as the father of the jam band scene.
“They’re lining up to pay tribute to Jerry,” observed Garcia’s 37-year-old daughter, Trixie. “With this event, we’re hoping people stop being sad and celebrate what it was that made them emotionally connected to Jerry in the first place. He was great at getting people to forget the drama and look at the bigger picture. The theme of this event is ‘Move Me Brightly,’ and this could be the start of a new era of joy and light.”
The evening began with a video tribute by Justin Kreutzmann, filmmaker son of Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann, that was emceed by actor Luke Wilson and featured comments by, among others, Carlos Santana, David Hidalgo of Los Lobos, members of Jane’s Addiction and the Jefferson Airplane’s Jorma Kaukonen, who noted that “there was something about Jerry that people loved.”
The stage was graced with an image of Garcia’s famed right hand with its half missing middle finger, accidentally cut off when he was a child by his older brother, Tiff, a Novato resident who was quietly awestruck by the hundreds of fans who turned out for the birthday tribute to his brother.
“It’s overwhelming,” he said in a voice eerily similar to Jerry’s. “There are so many people here I’ve known in the past.”
Sunshine Kesey, daughter of Carolyn Garcia and novelist and Merry Prankster Ken Kesey, noted that her father would have appreciated the Internet technology that allowed the birthday tribute to be seen far beyond the borders of Marin County, the Dead’s longtime home base.
“It’s nice to know that millions of people are partaking of this,” she said. “It’s amazing.