Thursday, September 22, 2005

Comes a time for Garcia

From MarinIJ:

Here's an interesting conundrum. How do you throw a big party for 8,500 people when the guest of honor has been dead for 10 years? Make that really Dead.

On Saturday, musicians from across the musical spectrum will join together at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley to pay tribute to Jerry Garcia, the legendary guitarist for the Grateful Dead. Although a decade has passed since Garcia's death, the sold-out Comes a Time concert is the first major event to honor him, with all proceeds going to the Rex Foundation, the charitable nonprofit organization formed by the Dead in 1983.

"The real impetus behind the show was that Jerry's family wanted to mark this 10th anniversary with some type of remembrance," says Christopher Sabec, CEO and manager of the Garcia estate office in Sausalito. "Up to now, there hasn't been any formal kind of closure, and it became a kind of mandate for his family to celebrate Jerry's life."

Once the idea for a concert shifted into reality, behind-the-scenes planning kicked into high gear with duties divided among the foundation, the estate and promoters, Another Planet. The Grateful Dead office in Novato was also actively involved in the process, and Garcia's band mate, Bob Weir, agreed to act as the show's musical director to help configure the various combinations of musicians and collaborate on the set lists.

"I shared the stage with Jerry for 35 years and think about him every time I pick up my guitar," reminisces Weir, a longtime Mill Valley resident. "This special coming together is one way to celebrate all that Jerry has given us, to feel alive and good with Jerry's spirit."

A plan was formulated to recruit artists from a vast pool of people who had either played in or with the Dead or in one of Garcia's many outside projects and bands. Performers include Weir; Mickey Hart; Bill Kreuztmann; Donna Jean Godchaux; Bruce Hornsby; Trey Anastasio; Warren Haynes; Gloria Jones; Jackie LaBranch; David Nelson; Sandy Rothman; Melvin Seals; Patti Smith The String Cheese Incident members Jason Hann, Michael Kang, Keith Moseley and Billy Nershi; and Ratdog members Kenny Brooks, Jeff Chimenti, Mark Karan, Jay Lane and Robin Sylvester.

"We cast our net far and wide," says Sabec, "and the response was overwhelming. But it's a very complicated process dealing with so many different artists, all of whom all have numerous commitments. Working out their schedules and making all the necessary arrangements became a huge challenge. But somehow, it's all come together."

Giving back to the community and encouraging creative endeavors was something the Grateful Dead cared about deeply. Since 1984, the Rex Foundation has granted $7.7 million to some 1,000 grass-roots programs across the United States and around the world in support of the environment, the arts, education, social and economic justice.

"The Rex Foundation came about in the spirit of the whole environment that surrounded the Grateful Dead," says Sandy Sohcot, executive director. "They probably did more benefit concerts than just about any other band, and establishing the foundation formalized that effort and enabled the Dead to be proactive about distributing funds."

In true Grateful Dead fashion, the charitable foundation is a bit unconventional, with its beneficiaries tending to be programs that might otherwise be missed by larger, mainstream funders, yet are doing bold innovative and sometimes controversial work. One of the other elements that makes it so unique is that rather than have nonprofits apply for grants, the organization goes out and looks for these kinds of programs.

"On our Web site (, we list all the grants made since 1984," says Sohcot, "including the annual $10,000 Jerry Garcia Award, which was started in 1996 to encourage creativity in young people. I like to visualize Jerry's smile in connection with all those who have been supported in his honor and to all the good that will happen as a result of the Comes a Time benefit."

Garcia was always a favorite son of the North Bay, having lived in Marin for the last 25 years of his life. As an expansive circle of supporters gather for the much-anticipated event, there's a sense that this will also be a cathartic experience for many, who have waited all these years to honor the memory of a beloved artist, colleague and comrade, organizers say - an opportunity to show their appreciation in a public ceremony, a kind of musical eulogy.

"My hope for this show is that it kindles a sense of healing," Sohcot says.

"For many people, it's still hard to accept that Jerry isn't coming back. This is a way to come together after 10 years to say we're all still here, and we can honor Jerry by living well and furthering together what he and the other members of the Grateful Dead started."

"I think Jerry will be looking down on us with a big grin, seeing all these people coming together to celebrate his legacy," Sabec adds.

"It's going to be an amazing evening of community and music that will remind all of us what an extraordinary person he was."

As legions of Deadheads come together, organizers hope there will once again be dancing in the streets or at the very least, the aisles, by fans for whom Jerry Garcia did not fade away and the music never stopped.


Blogger Justin Kreutzmann said...

Yeah, it's going to be a lot of fun and some great music Saturday.

Thursday, September 22, 2005  

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