Music fans in Austin have been paying tribute to Jerry Garcia on the anniversary of his birthday since the year after the legendary musician passed away. In the only fitting way to celebrate a man like Jerry, the birthday festivities have always been a celebration of the music that he wrote and inspired as well as the spirit that the Grateful Dead channeled for its long and distinguished career.

Jerry Garcia Bday FestivalThe 7th Annual Jerry Garcia Birthday Festival will move from last year’s Lakeside venue to the heart of downtown Austin, and the event will span a four-day period between July 31st and August 3rd. The Vibe will host the festivities this year with a newly-designed setup offering two stages of music to keep the tunes churning constantly, so people don’t have to stop dancing while bands break down and set up equipment between sets. In addition to the 25 bands that will be performing throughout the weekend, there will also be vendors, crafts and food on hand to add to the celebration and feel of the event.

Larry is headlining the first evening of music on Thursday, July 31st, with its self-described “Southadelic Hick-Hop” stylings both a fitting tribute to a jovial man of many musical influences and a popular treat for the band’s hometown crowd, fueled by Austin’s diverse music scene. Larry will be supported by several acts including the Lubbock-based Synthetic Six and a local band called The EarthTone Players, both of which bring a different style of electric improvisational music. Foscoe Jones will get the night rolling with his modern take on folk music, and Hip Shakin Mama is also on the bill.

Friday night brings a lot of action for the actual anniversary of what would have been Jerry’s 61st birthday, with a packed bill of very different acts. olospo will headline the evening, bringing Austin an always welcome taste of the Dallas band’s high-energy sound. Also on the bill are longtime Texas favorites The Hightailers and the Austin bluegrass quartet Cooper's Uncle. Be sure to keep an eye open for the rock/jazz/dub fusion of Mikado, as well as the funk/zydeco/groove sounds of Dr. Zog – both of which will also be performing Friday night.

The party keeps going all afternoon and well into Saturday night with another one of Austin’s longtime staples, Flounders Without Eyes, who will headline directly after Djanjo’s Moustache. Also worth catching that day are Groovin Ground and Spoonfed Tribe, two bands whose performances feature solid dance grooves as well as dazzling lights and visual effects. Unified Feel Theory will blend jazz, Latin and funk earlier in the day, along with other acts including Mellowship, The Flavor Conductors and ISM.

Last Free Exit will headline on Sunday night, to wrap up the festivities shortly after Bakin Brownies finishes its set. Jabarvie will play earlier in the evening, as will Erbamate, an innovative Austin band that combines organic instruments with turntables to produce a hybrid of hip-hop and acid jazz. Also on Sunday’s bill are Fascination 127 and The Dancing Bears.

Each afternoon will begin with a happy hour featuring Grateful Dead video footage inside The Vibe. Individual admission for the shows on Thursday, Friday and Saturday are $10, and Sunday’s show is $5. However, a $25 pass can be purchased at JamBase Tickets for the entire weekend, and pass-holders get $1.50 beers and $2 mixed drinks throughout the festival.

It’s going to be a long celebration fitting for a man whose career and repertoire was as vast as his legions of friends and fans. Come out and enjoy a weekend full of Austin’s finest music, and help Jerry blow out the candles on his birthday.

Exact show times and more information are available on the Jerry Fest website.

Travis Langdon
JamBase | Austin
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