A Return Engagement at the Crystal – 50 Years On

Hello from the History Department! (Please note: That is not us to the left, that is the Grateful Dead, ca. 1968.)

This past Friday and Saturday, February 2 & 3, Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh (at far right) returned to the Crystal Ballroom, fifty years to the day, since the now-legendary 1968 “Quick and the Dead” tour, which featured the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service (see poster below, an original copy of which hangs at the Kennedy School). This time around, Lesh was accompanied by his Terrapin Family Band, including his son Grahame.

Highlights of those 1968 Dead performances at the Crystal would comprise parts of one side of their seminal second album, Anthem of the Sun, as released five months later in July 1968 and which was ranked #287 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

Anthem of the Sun was our vehicle,” drummer Mickey Hart recalled. “It was our springboard into weirdness. Now we’re not tethered by the engineers or the technology of the day, we can fly the lofty peaks. And of course, we knew nothing of the studio. It was startling, it was new, it was invigorating, it was the edge.”

This past weekend, we had the opportunity to record a speedy yet concise interview with Phil Lesh, the results of which will follow from videographer Kat Nyberg. (Because, honestly, I’m not quite sure what it is we talked about — it was a colorful, kaleidoscopic blur of conversation, over in less than 10 minutes.)

In the meantime, below is a photo of Phil Lesh holding McMenamins historian Tim Hills’ book The Many Lives of the Crystal Ballroom, handed over to Lesh after he asked about the big band era at the Crystal. I hope he doesn’t mind the scribbled notes that were left inside it. He was also pleased to know that one of the giant round murals in the ballroom (by artist Joe Cotter) commemorates the Crystal’s psychedelic era, of which the Grateful Dead were obviously a major contributor.

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