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
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,
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
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.
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
Camping at the Lake :: Jerry Fest
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.
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
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 www.jerrygarciabdayfestival.moonfruit.com
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,
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.
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
Rhythmic Statues -
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.