Yesterday would have been Jerry Garcia’s 70th birthday. Though he died almost 17 years ago, the Grateful Dead‘s de facto leader lives on through the music. Countless hours of recorded shows preserve the historical legacy, and the spirit of the band continues with Furthur, Phil Lesh & Friends and many others.
Garcia’s birthday was marked with a special screening of The Grateful Dead Movie, shown in theaters across the country NCM Fathom Events. The classic 1977 movie was paired with a short film made just for the occasion.
The opening film, directed by Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann’s son Justin, focused on the impact Garcia had on his band and music in general. It featured interviews with Bob Weir and others outside the immediate Dead community, like Carlos Santana. Weir offered a look inside his TRI Studios, including footage from the recent Bridge Session webcast featuring members of the National, the Walkmen and others. The younger Kreutzmann is directing a similar webcast, featuring Weir, Neal Casal, Cass McCombs, members of the Hold Steady, Vampire Weekend, Furthur and Phish.
The Grateful Dead Movie documented the band’s five-night run at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom in 1974. The film’s setlist is entirely classic — “Playin’ in the Band,” “Sugar Magnolia,” “Truckin’,” just to name a few.
Interviews with the band, crew and fans were added to the concert footage to capture the period. While the performances undoubtedly depict the group’s musical prowess, the other scenes show the mammoth “Wall of Sound” system carted from city to city and the general attitude and devotion of the fans.
Not much has changed with the fans. Even though the footage is almost 40 years old, people stood up in the theater to dance, clap and sing along with songs like “Eyes of the World” and “One More Saturday Night.”
Though the faces have changed both on stage (or on screen) and in the crowd, most things are very much the same. There’s still nothing like a Grateful Dead concert.