Not Fade Away
Sifting through a work week worth's of Grateful Dead footage
By Jim Caligiuri, 1:03PM, Wed. Apr. 11, 2012
How much is too much? On the heels of last year’s 73-CD box set of every show on the band's infamous 1972 European tour, Shout! Factory is releasing the Grateful Dead's All the Years Combine, a 14-DVD set with a running time of nearly 38 hours. Deadheads, are we screaming “enough” yet? Probably not.
By now, a segment of hardcore fans already own a bulk of the contents on this box. Happily, there's enough rarities to justify the $140 price tag. Prime among them is the 1987 film So Far.
Making its DVD debut, So Far combines in-concert and live-on-a-sound-stage performances enhanced with what were state of the art visual effects at the time and which seem rather cheesy today.
Although the Dead began in the Sixties and there's enough audio tape of its concerts to circle the earth several times, finding top-notch film and/or video of the Bay Area juggernaut can be difficult. The first DVD here, The Grateful Dead Movie, is from the mid-Seventies, while the View From the Vault series ran from 1987 through 1991.
Of notable interest is Ticket to New Year’s, recorded in Oakland as 1987 turned in 1988 and featuring special guests the Neville Brothers and Ramblin’ Jack Elliot. There’s also a bonus disc with previously unreleased performances, plus a documentary directed by Justin Kreutzmann, son of Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann, and an enlightening interview with the band’s archivist David Lemieux.
Truthfully, the Dead was never really much to look at, so there are times when I never even watched the screen, content instead to listen, and was struck by moments from Radio City Music Hall in 1980 and Buffalo, New York, in 1989. It’s amazing that the band hasn’t existed since 1995, when Jerry Garcia passed on, and that not only haven't Deadheads faded away, there's still enough of them to make a project like this and the Europe 72 box, which sold out, commercially viable.
If that’s not enough, next Thursday, April 19, will be the second Meetup at the Movies, where a previously unseen 1989 Grateful Dead show from Alpine Valley in Wisconsin will be screened nationwide. Several local theaters are scheduled to participate.
Less than a week later, on April 26, one of the band's drummers, Mickey Hart, leads his new band at La Zona Rosa. Surely some Dead classics will be revived.