Grateful Dead Play Free Set At Haight Street Fair In 1968

During the early years of the Grateful Dead’s career, the band called The Haight District of San Francisco home. Photos of the group posing at the corner of Haight and Ashbury streets became iconic images of the first lineup of the seminal bay area psychedelic outfit. Back on March 3, 1968 the Dead played a free show for their neighborhood, appearing for a performance as part of the Haight Street Fair.

Then composed of Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, the Grateful Dead utilized the back of a flatbed truck for a stage that day exactly 48 years ago. Several blocks of the city’s streets were shut down as people flocked to watch the Dead’s set. Legendary rock photographer Jim Marshall was on hand and several of his photos were included on the inside gatefold of the band’s Live/Dead album.

A contemporary account of the day was reported by Jerry Carroll in the San Francisco Chronicle, writing at the time:

A four-block stretch of fabled Haight Street yesterday was voluntarily surrendered to thousands of hippies and hippie-watchers. And the hippies did what they do best; they transformed the street into a sunny arcade of pleasure, celebrating the now with unqualified exuberance. The Grateful Dead’s full-throated roar drowned out a monotonous burglar alarm at one end of the street; the Tracy’s Coffee and Doughnuts people rolled their jukebox out on the sidewalk; and countless trios and quartets formed and dissolved in between.

Portions of the show were captured on audio and grainy video clips capturing part of “Viola Lee Blues” can be streamed below.

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