Leaning into a lyric that some Grateful Dead fans may find useful during this protracted “unprecedented moment,” “Through this world of trouble we must love one another.”
The line is from “My Sisters and Brothers,” which might be among the lineup performed over two days as part of Axial Tilt, an all-star Grateful Dead celebration coming to SoMo Village in Rohnert Park this weekend.
The upcoming event is a reprise of sorts for Axial Tilt—the first took place in 2015 during New Orleans-based Jazz Fest and was timed to celebrate the Grateful Dead’s 50th anniversary as a band. Mounted by impresario Mitch Stein’s Poolside Productions, this iteration of the event is the first to transpire in the Bay Area—birthplace of the Dead.
“The Grateful Dead and their fans are the embodiment of ‘community,’” says Stein of the band’s enduring legacy in the Bay Area and beyond. “Regarding the musicality inherent in any Grateful Dead show and, in our Deadheads’ lingo—and reference to a lyric from [the song] ‘The Music Never Stopped’—the music really does play the band with the Grateful Dead.”
The two-day musical event consists of one acoustic set and two electric sets, culminating in five hours of live Grateful Dead music, with nary a song repeated either night. The band is comprised of names long-associated in the extended Grateful Dead family, including guitarist Stu Allen (Phil Lesh & Friends, Stu Allen & Mars Hotel), guitarist Rob Eaton (Dark Star Orchestra), vocalist Lisa Mackey (Dark Star Orchestra), bassist Stephen Ramirez (CRYPTICAL, Zen Tricksters), drummer Jay Lane (RatDog, Wolf Brothers, Primus) and percussionist Wally Ingram (Bob Weir + Phil Lesh Duo). Stein, himself a veteran keyboardist for CRYPTICAL and Gatorators, will also perform.
As for the band the aforementioned musicians are celebrating, Stein attributes the Grateful Dead’s enduring legacy to a variety of factors.
“I can’t think of another collection of musicians—let alone one that performed more than 2,300 concerts over 50 years, and who continue to perform in various configurations to this day—whose symbiotic relationship with their fans is as much of the experience as the notes being played,” says Stein. He also attributes the fact that the original Grateful Dead allowed, if not encouraged, their fans to record their live concerts and share the copies of the material, which spread their music “farther and wider than anything the record company could have done.”
Going “viral” in an analogue age was no mean feat pre-Internet. These days, however, notions of virality come fraught with Covid considerations. Stein and his collaborators are prepared.
“This is not a political issue for us,” says Stein, who is steadfastly clear-eyed about the pandemic. “Covid is still very much around, and while those of us involved with Axial Tilt are thrilled to be able to get back to doing what we love to do—and are specifically doing it outdoors—we can only do so with the peace of mind that comes from knowing that every single person in attendance is as protected as they can be.”
Proof of vaccination (including at least a single booster) is required, and masks are not mandated but are encouraged.
Axial Tilt commences 5:30pm, July 23 and 24, SOMO Village Redwood Grove, 1100 Valley House Drive, Rohnert Park. For more information and tickets, visit dhowl.com/axialtilt.