Grateville Dead music festival returns to Waterfront Park this weekend for fifth year

In May of 1965, a bare 15 months after the Beatles arrived from the U.K. and changed the world of American rock ‘n roll as broadcast on the Ed Sullivan Show, American rock would hit an even higher gear, stretching even further (or as Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters bunch would tab it, “Furthur” than ever before when the Grateful Dead formed in suburban San Francisco.

Grateville Dead Music Festival
The Grateville Dead Music Festival takes place this weekend at Waterfront Park.

Those moments all but relics now, they were recently relived in another summer of innocence, just before the 2016 elections when the surviving members of The Dead played a run of Fare Thee Well shows in the Bay Area, as well as in Chicago, in the summer of 2015, celebrating 50 years of the band.

The shows brewed together an ambiance of scarlet-incense nostalgia with a modern-fresh bouquet of begonias smelling like current relevance. A new summer was tied up in tie-dye, and hair was allowed to grow and flow, if only in our Dead-Head-stickered Cadillac minds.

That same summer, at the Brown Forman Amphitheater in Louisville’s Waterfront Park, a more local celebration of The Dead was born. Now entering its fifth year, former Monkey Wrench operator, now of Jimmy Can’t Dance fame, Dennie Humphrey & Co. return this summer with an updated batch of homegrown now-stalgia, Grateville Dead, celebrating those playing in the band and generally just doing their best to keep Louisville weird.

For those on the bus in 2019 as it makes its long, strange trip down by the riverside at Waterfront Park, they will be treated to Indy-based Dead-cover-canonists Hyryder, along with Born Cross Eyed and local Dead-staples The Pranksters and Electric Garden, along with Fat Box, and psychedelic-bluegrass rife with bits of Jerry’s soul from Hot Brown Smackdown and Mama Said String Band.

All of that will be supported throughout the weekend ahead of frequent contributor to Dead-member solo projects, Stu Allen, perhaps the biggest “get” of the five-year history of Grateville Dead.

New this year are afterparties at nearby venues. On Friday, Zappa-meets-Stranger-Things with Captain Midnight at Goodwood Brewing, fittingly, at midnight.

On Saturday, The Stolen Faces will try to steal yours at Gravely.

And on Sunday afternoon, you can cool down (or heat up) at Mellwood Tavern with The Snozzberries, Hog Operation and another heady dose of The Merry Pranksters.

Off the stage, Grateville Dead has brought a tradition of reasonably-priced food and insanely-priced craft beer alongside a shakedown of jewelry, clothing and everything else in between to get your mind right.

Single-day tickets for Friday and Saturday are $25, or shell out another $10 for both nights (plus a $3 fee).

The afterparties are as free as you were born.

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