Attempting to recreate a lost Grateful Dead show from 1967 based on memories from people who were there is no easy feat. Honestly, most of us probably can’t vividly recall Further at the Edgefield in September, let alone a show that happened 50 years ago in what used to be a Masonic temple. Travis Neel still managed to resurrect what he knew about the show Friday night at the Portland Art Museum, tapping into a void in Dead history as part of his thesis project.
Aptly titled “Turn on Your Lovelight,” after a song that may have been played live that night, the project was undoubtedly Dead-like—or as Dead-like as it could be, given it was held in an art museum with staff members serving more as chaperones than security.
U.S. Cadenza, one of the original opening bands, reunited to kick off the event in the PMA’s Kridel Grand Ballroom to a host of friends, family and a slew of art-goers meandering through the museum as part of the Shine a Light event. The five-piece played a blues-R&B fusion close what they might have played in ‘67, tacking on a riveting cover of “Turn on Your Lovelight” to close it out.
Garcia Birthday Band, a local Dead tribute act, followed. The group built a setlist curated from what the Dead were playing at the time, rehashing classics like “Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)” and “Death Have No Mercy,” as well as few other tunes concert attendees supposedly remember from the original show. As imagined, the group jammed the bulk of the songs, fleshing them amid the psychedelic liquid light show and accompanying go-go dancers on either sides of the stage.
There may not have been thousands of attendees or so that filled the Temple that summer in ‘67, but there was a fair share of art attendees and Deadheads alike, donned in Dead tour shirts and tie-dye. Although I never actually saw anyone smoking, the smell of pot wafted through the air on several occasions, hovering above the 20 people fluidly dancing in their own little world in the center of the room. There was some hula-hoopers in the back.
True to the original night, there was also no encore (some audience members were really not happy about this). However, we will truly never knew how close Neel’s reenactment was to the original show. Then again, we’ll just have to keep our eye out for those precious bootlegs.All photos by Brandon Widder