To define the Grateful Garcia Gathering is easy: Think of every wonderful outdoor camping music jam you've ever been to, then add good ol' Jerry Garcia's 62nd birthday to that experience, and you've got the Grateful Garcia Gathering! The 3Gs, which took place July 30 through August 1 at NCN-North Campground in beautiful western Wisconsin, was a truly magical musical and spiritual experience for all those lucky enough to attend. It featured all the amenities and luxuries of a well-run festival, including 60 acres of gorgeous surroundings, a five-acre picturesque spring fed lake with sandy beaches, and modern bathroom facilities with showers.

Grateful Garcia Gathering
Of course, such a gathering would not be complete without a musical lineup to compliment the special vibe of the life, music, and art of Jerry Garcia. The 3Gs presented 19 incredible bands, each adding their own unique stamp on the musical journey that took place during the weekend. The vast majority of these bands, including Minglewood, Grateful Gary & Friends, Boney Fingers, Waterband, Eternity, Drew Scott, Northern Lights, and The Jones Gang were all heavily influenced musically by The Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia Band. Many of these bands and solo artists traveled great distances to be a part of the Grateful Garcia Gathering.

Festivalgoers were in for a real treat, as Jerry Garcia's longtime friend/vocalist/organist Melvin Seals and his band JGB served as the headliner for Sunday night's show. Melvin invited Dark Star Orchestra guitarist John Kadlecik to join JGB along with Stu Allen on guitar, Marty Harland on bass, and Bruce Spencer on drums. Together, they belted heartfelt tunes that would have made even the Dead proud. John Kadlecik and Stu Allen were equally awesome, both doing much justice to the vocals and guitar playing of Jerry Garcia. Vocally, their voices are very similar. I would look up while dancing and be surprised to see who was singing! Not to mention, both John and Stu would alternate verses on songs, making it even more difficult to determine who sang! John's playing was always smooth and comforting, much the way he plays with DSO.

Both John and Stu playing together was the total package and JGB could not have been better. Jerry would have been very proud of what was happening on stage that night!

Melvin Seals' JGB at Grateful Garcia Gathering
Melvin Seals played many Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia Band nuggets. "Bread Box" was a treat that brought me back to Irvine Meadows, for Jerry's 50th birthday. "Cats Under The Stars," "I Shall be Released," "Tore Up Over You," "Sisters and Brothers," "Tangled Up In Blue," and "Sugaree" were just a few of the tasty treats performed.

They encored with "Shining Star." Before the encore, Melvin Seals told the crowd that this was Jerry Garcia's favorite song to play with the Jerry Garcia Band. That set the stage for the emotions to fly! Then towards the end of the song, Melvin stopped suddenly and said:

"Hold on, bring the music down a minute. I want to talk for a minute; do you mind if I talk to you for a minute? (Cheering). Since this is Jerry's birthday, I want you all to do something for me. I think it would make him smile! I know he's listening, because he said in the song, 'I'll be standing on the moon, awww yeah." So, I know he's listening and even though it is overcast tonight, somewhere there's a bright star up there! That bright star is one of the greatest guitar players of all time, Jerry Garcia! So, this is what I want you all to do. I want to change the lyrics of the song real quick, and have you all sing it! We're gonna send and show some love back to Jerry! This is what we're gonna do: "Jerry you are my shining star, shine your light this way."

The crowd sang the lyrics at the top of their lungs. Many folks, like me, had tears rolling down their cheeks. Everyone felt an amplified sense of togetherness that had been the theme of the 3Gs.

I heard a rumor from that Melvin Seals & JGB are already booked for two nights at next year's Grateful Garcia Gathering. Start making plans now because this event is sure to be a thrill for deadheads and music fans alike!

Happy birthday Jerry!

Tim (SUNDOG) Corcoran
JamBase | Wisconsin
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[Published on: 8/22/04]

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