The Grateful Dead's hyped reunion is back from the dead thanks to local officials in Wisconsin.
The Walworth County Executive Committee late Friday approved promoters' plans to stage "Terrapin Station: A Grateful Dead Family Reunion," a two-day festival August 3-4 at the Alpine Valley Music Theater in East Troy. The event will mark the first time the surviving members of the legendary jam band--Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann, and Mickey Hart--will play a full show since frontman Jerry Garcia died of a heart attack in 1995. (The band is billing itself as the Other Ones.)
The 5-0 vote by county officials resurrected a festival that seemed doomed just weeks before, after the Walworth County Highway Committee scuttled the reunion over concerns about security and crime, inevitable traffic jams and the impact of thousands of patchouli-soaked, tie-dyed Deadheads invading the normally pastoral resort community--which happened the last time the band played Alpine Valley back in 1989.
But after a two-day appeals hearing, during which the band and promoter Clear Channel Entertainment presented a revised security plan, the county board decided to unanimously override the earlier decision.
"Obviously we're delighted. The initial negative decision was based on misinformation, and we sat down and communicated more information," says Dennis McNally of Grateful Dead Productions. "[Grateful Dead Productions and Clear Channel] have a fair amount of experience with this sort of thing...and we knew we could make this work."
What sealed the deal for county officials was how organizers decided to handle the thousands of ticketless Deadheads expected to show. The venue can only hold about 35,000 concertgoers and has been sold out for weeks. Local authorities fear as many as 200,000 members of the Dead nation could descend on Alpine Valley for the show.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Clear Channel's elaborate security arrangements include dramatically increasing the number of law-enforcement officials hired to monitor security and traffic, providing more than 40 tow trucks to haul off illegally parked cars and putting up a $100,000 bond for any property damage that might occur to the surrounding community. All told, Clear Channel is expected to pony up roughly $200,000 to ensure a truckin' good time and avoid a repeat of the 1989 fiasco.
Promoters will also enlist band members, fans and advertisers to get the word out asking ticketless fans to keep away.
"We will spend the next month telling every Deadhead in America, 'If you consider yourself a Deadhead, you will not come without a ticket,' " says McNally. " 'You will be sabotaging everything we ever stood for if you come without a ticket.' "
As for rumors that the Other Ones will reincarnate the Dead's traveling circus by hitting the road in the fall for a full-blown tour, McNally demurs, saying it all depends on how the August shows go and what band members decide from there.
"For the record, nothing is planned," he says. But, noting the good vibe during recent rehearsals, McNally adds, "It wouldn't surprise me."