Picture this: The sun is shining its last golden light of the day, and has now begun to commingle with the stage lighting and the dancing under the shadowed live oak trees. Kindness is a rule as people are inspired by the music and the celebration to open their hearts, and feel the love. That describes a day at the Jerry Garcia Birthday Festival, a Texas tradition that grows larger each year.

The 8th annual festival will be at Moon River Bar and Grill, in Spicewood, Texas on August 6 and 7. The pairing of the Jerry’s Birthday Fest and Moon River couldn’t be more perfect. Moon River, owned by cool cat Brook Garden, is nestled among a shady grove of live oak trees and is only 200 yards from the entrance of one of the most beautiful lakeside camping spots in Texas, Pace Bend Park. How ideal can this be? Camping, swimming, boating, fishing, and just hanging out on Lake Travis during the day and partying under the moon at night!

An added bonus is the INCREDIBLE home-cooked food prepared at the Moon River grill! With an outdoor stage, a completely shaded area for dancers and arts and craft vendors, this year Jerry Garcia Birthday Festival couldn’t be at a cooler location.

I’ve attended the festival each of the past four years, and always look forward to its return. I wasn't fortunate enough to become acquainted with the music of Jerry Garcia before his death in 1995. In fact, I was only familiar with a few Grateful Dead tunes when I attended my first Jerry Garcia Birthday Festival. I was drawn to the event after seeing the lineup, which consisted of many of Austin’s finest musicians. This festival had always been about showcasing the best bands in the Texas jam band scene.

To properly research this article, I wanted an education about the man whose birthday is being celebrated. Mike Morgan, the festival organizer and member/founder of festival bedrock Flounders Without Eyes offered to guide me through Jerry’s world. Morgan grew up in the Bay Area of California in the 60’s and 70’s, and was there to bear witness to the Dead phenomenon from its beginning. He fell in love not just with the Dead, but also with all of Jerry’s musical endeavors and solo projects, including his many collaborations with David Grisman. In Morgan’s mind, if not for Garcia’s involvement with “Old and In the Way”, the current bluegrass explosion may never have happened.

Camping at the Lake :: Jerry Fest
For Morgan, 29 years of Garcia shows in all forms led to his passion for various styles of American music. Morgan certainly helped me understand what it was about Jerry Garcia that was so dynamic. Listening to Morgan, you feel why so many people love Jerry’s music and were inspired by Garcia to strive for a high quality of life and family while maintaining a low profile lifestyle. Garcia is so widely loved by so many; their dedication reaches far beyond death to flow into this celebration of life.

However, words were not enough to complete my education on this subject. Instead of having me listen to the Dead and hear him recant tour stories, Mike invited me to jam with him at his recording studio, The Zone. As a result, I began to see that Jerry Garcia was all about inspiring others to enjoy the moment. The group of excellent musicians in attendance were completely accepting and encouraged creativity by making one feel there are no wrong notes. Don Baker of Flounders Without Eyes explained, “Mistakes will only lead to something more beautiful”. He went on to say that the Grateful Dead’s music worked because they were not afraid of failing. Each night they played, risks were taken and as a result every gig was completely different. That’s why so many people got into taping their shows. Any night could be ‘the one’ that tapers would trade for decades.

Perhaps this best explains why the Jerry Garcia Birthday Festival is phenomenal every year. It’s a music festival born from the life of a man who was dedicated to creating the perfect environment for amazing music and endearing moments. This event is about bringing people together for a great time, good vibes, and plenty of smiles.

I learned my first dead song last night, "I know you Rider". It brought tears to my eyes, and I was humbled with feelings of admiration and love. I confess that I have suffered for a while from a serious creative block with both jamming and songwriting. Working on this article has really helped free me of these inhibitions. I’ve been reminded that harsh judgments for yourself and others stop the flow of the music, while an open heart invites the music home. I am thankful for writing this piece and I’m grateful to Mike Morgan and others who have worked so diligently to bring people together in the spirit of Jerry Garcia.

"I know you rider, gonna miss me when I'm gone."

All event information about bands, camping, location, directions and cost, and can be found at

A special thanks goes out to all the sponsors, who make this event possible: Austin Soundboard, whose founders and volunteers are dedicated to exposing the finest jazz, jam, and alternative bands both locally and nationally. Like Morgan--and Jerry--they ensure originality and variety is rewarded in the Austin music scene. All of the Jerry Garcia Birthday Festival sponsors like KGSR 107.1, Old Settlers Music Festival, Sweet Leaf Tea, The Zone Recording Studio, Panic Fans for Food, Goliath Studios and Kristina’s Creations are playing a part in keeping the music fresh and real.

How about the bands?
This year, like always, is stacked with veterans and up-and-coming jam bands from Austin and all over Texas.


Friday August 6, 2004

Mikado 5:00 – 6:00
Influenced by the Grateful Dead and Steve Kimock, Mikado has developed an original sound. Young, hip, fresh, and friendly.

Django's Moustache 6:30 – 7:30
European gypsy masters serving a feast of hot jazz. “Take some Dallas swing, sift in a bit of San Antonio backbeat, drizzle with Houston blues and bake in South Austin until ready.

Hip Shakin' Mama 8:00-9:00
Powerhouse Motown-style lead vocalist Jenny Meir makes any hips shake. Have a helping of Hip Shakin’ Mama for a dancing-good time.

The Portal All-stars 9:30–11:00
Hosted by two renegades from the legendary Groovin Ground, the Portal is simply music, free of the confines of set lists and rehearsed arrangements. The only rule is to listen and collaborate. It is NOT an open mic. It's not jazz, jam, or blues. It's MUSIC, created spontaneously by people who allow it to flow through them, and listeners who allow themselves to be a part of the process.

Larry 11:30 – 1:00
Larry has built a huge family stretching throughout Texas and Colorado that's slowly seeping into the pores of America. They have played with many amazing bands, and festivals around the country including Merl Saunders, Leftover Salmon at Salmon Fest, Greyboy All-stars, High Sierra Music Festival, Old Settlers Music Festival, Col. Bruce and ARU, and Chris Duarte, to name a few.

Dead Jam - 1:00 a.m. till???
Collected musicians from each night will take part in performing selections of Grateful Dead music.

Saturday August 7, 2004

Earth Tone Players
The Earthtone Players perform southern jazz-rock, acid jazz, psychedelic rock, and instrumentals.

Moving Matter - 4:00-5:00
A three-piece instrumental whirlwind, Moving Matter is one of the freshest faces in the Austin jam scene.

Foscoe Jones - 5:30–6:30
A funky, eclectic mix of Texas songwriter sensibilities with hard rocking, hip jams. Foscoe is original, fun, and most certainly uplifting!

Jabarvy - 7:00-8:00
An eclectic mix of rock, jazz, folk, blues, and funk. Jabarvy’s on a mission to break down barriers between music genres and music listeners. This nine-piece band of very cool and experienced musicians is a group to watch out for.

Grimy Styles - 8:30-9:30
New on the Austin music scene Grimy Styles’ direction is predominantly classic roots dub/reggae with an added mix of funk, jazz, and electronica. Even European influences can be heard with touches of experimental tango and waltz.

Rhythmic Statues - 10:00-11:00
Rhythmic Statues is a cosmic-country, herbal-delic, groovin' dance band. What happens onstage mirrors what happens offstage. The music leads, the musicians follow and set the audience to dancing.

Flounders Without Eyes - 11:30-1:00
This band displays an incredible range of musical styles--from Motown to psychedelic, blues to country and bluegrass. With a huge repertoire of Grateful Dead music this band always delivers a party in the best sense of the word.

Lyndol Descant
JamBase | Texas
Go See Live Music!

Take full advantage of all JamBase has to offer by signing up for an account!

You'll receive

show alerts

when your favorite artists announce shows, be eligible to enter contests for

free tickets

, gain the ability to

share your personalized live music calendar

and much more. Join JamBase!