by Dennis McNally
Everyone knows a Dead Head—fans of the San Francisco ‘60s band the Grateful Dead. Hippies in tie-dye, right? The band’s best-known member, Jerry Garcia, passed on more than 20 years ago, but did you know that there are even more Dead Heads now than when he passed? And that lots of fans now weren’t even born before he died? AND that thousands of them will gather at Ventura County Fairgrounds this April to listen to his music? The truth is, Grateful Dead music has become a genre all its own, something like blues or jazz. People play it all across the nation (and in Europe and Japan, for that matter). The songs are “Hymns,” said the great pianist Bruce Hornsby, and he’s got a point. This 2nd annual weekend festival is one you won’t want to miss.
Back in the ‘60s, two poster artists looking for images for a poster found a beautiful portrait of a skull crowned with roses in an old edition of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayam and adapted it. But the name Grateful Dead comes from a folk tale and doesn’t have any connection to anything ghoulish. Ventura visitors will have a unique opportunity to sample Grateful Dead music played in a wide variety of ways at the Skull and Roses Festival. There will be a bluegrass band (Grateful Bluegrass Boys), a progressive-jazz-fusion band with heavy metal overtones (Shred is Dead), punk (Punk is Dead), Hawaiian slack key guitar (slack key master Stephen Inglis has just released “Cut the Dead Some Slack”), and even sacred steel—born to the Florida African-American evangelical tradition, Roosevelt Collier met a member of the Dead and fell in love with the music.
The festival will feature more than 30 crafts booths and a lot of happy people nestled right up on the Pacific Ocean; what’s not to like? For more information, go to www.skullandroses.com.