“When we are done with [the concerts], they can have it.”
– Jerry Garcia
Let us today give grateful thanks to the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia, born on this day in 1942 and again and again throughout the ’60s and ’70s. When all the psychedelic crowds had gone home after Woodstock, when Monterey was just a memory in people’s hearts, when Haight Astbury had succumbed to the capitalist Me Generation, Jerry Garcia it was and the Grateful Dead it were who carried the torch for that original hippie spirit. Rather than satisfying the demands of some greedhead bigshot manager by concentrating the band’s energies into each new record release, the Dead instead chose to become a concert experience: touring became far more important than albums, and around the band a lifestyle began to develop. While other artists raked in their record royalties, Garcia openly encouraged Deadheads to tape the band’s concerts. Bootlegs became the preference for many fans, obsessed as they all were to keep the flame of ’67 alight and anarchistically active. It was only through this righteous open-mindedness that the Grateful Dead manhandled the spirit of the Saturday night dance into an alternative never-ending festival.
The legacy of the Grateful Dead is still evident all around us: from the open-house policy of Penny Rimbaud’s Crass experiment, to the free festival policies of ’70s bands such as Hawkwind and the Edgar Broughton Band, and even in the spontaneous raves of the late ’80s and ’90s. And in this SydArthur Festival, wherein participation is of paramount importance, no one from the psychedelic scene better represents that great inclusive spirit than Jerry Garcia.