Venture capitalist and musician Roger McNamee said it best Friday as his band Moonalice covered a couple of hours of Grateful Dead songs outside the main library on the University of Santa Cruz campus.
"Higher education and higher music have converged," he told a crowd of Deadheads.
The scene of swirling dancers, tie-dye and pot smoke at the McHenry Library, which houses the new Grateful Dead archive, could have been right out of the '60s. Only this time, that was the age of most of the participants.
Still, for a few hours they gave proof to the Dead lyric that "the music never stopped."
The archive has had a few private showings for contributors who have donated the $2 million to get it housed with the mix of joy and dignity the psychedelic jam band deserves, but this was its formal opening, held after the school year for fear of the possible chaos a big event could cause.
It was minor. Parking on campus is so limited that attendees had to walk eight minutes through forested paths to find the party. It was a challenge. Only about 500 people found their way there, with not more than 300 in one place at one time.
But the ooohs and aaaahs from those seeing the collection for the first time made it feel like a kid's first trip to Disneyland.
"When was your first show?" was the question most asked in the glass-fronted 1,400-square-foot former classroom. The answer heard most was in the 1970s.
As important as the three-dimensional exhibit is the digital one, which also opened the same day and gives fans a chance to see 25,000 artifacts online that were digitized with a grant for $615,000. They can track the band's history from home.
"I got my degree from UCSC but I got my education from the 250 Grateful Dead shows I went to," said Santa Cruz County Supervisor John Leopold, welcoming the crowd. He claims to be the local representative with the most Grateful Dead concerts under his belt.
The archive was announced in 2008 by Dead members Bob Weir and Mickey Hart. It isn't like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with historic guitars and clothing, but rather a chance to see the paperwork behind the band, including posters, concert contracts and a letter from the father of former Dead keyboardist Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, who died of alcohol abuse.
This first public exhibit called "Box of Rain: Archiving the Grateful Dead Phenomenon" detailed the band's business dealings and the birth of the archive. It was a bit drier than the preview exhibit which in November focused on songs and concerts, but seeing what was going on behind the curtains of a band that pioneered the rock 'n' roll business as well as its music made for some eye-opening moments.
Where else could you see the minutes of the Dead's business organization, in which bassist Phil Lesh was listed as recording secretary? The most serious moments included the fan's tributes to Jerry Garcia after his death and a heart-rending letter to the band from the remorseful father of the band's former keyboardist who talked about his failures as a parent.
This current exhibit will run at least until the end of the year, said archivist Nicholas Meriwhether on the Archive's Facebook page.
Friday's festivities were far better than expected. Fans bought Dead-Banana Slug T-shirts for $29 and sweatshirts for $45. They bought commemorative posters for $50, which went to the archive. And despite the no smoking signs, there was smoking, but not of cigarettes.
Moonalice, in this show, was more than a vanity band for a wealthy businessman. They played the Dead music that inspired them with a true style and joy that translated easily for Deadheads and casual fans.
The band is stacked with pros including drummer John Molo, who played with Bruce Hornsby and Phil Lesh's solo band; Barry Sless, another Phil and Friends graduate and member of David Nelson's band and Pete Sears, formerly of the Jefferson Starship as well as front persons Roger McNamee and his wife Ann.
They at Santa Cruz's Medical Marijuana Festival last October, but, like the Dead, have off and on shows. This one was dead on. Moonalice played on the grass outside the libary with no stage so fans could mingle and dance right up with them, something that happened in the earliest days of the Dead's history.
It was a perfect christening for one of the only venues a rock band has never played: a library. There were no shhhhs anywhere.
Here's a good story about how the archive came together and why in Santa Cruz, instead of Stanford.
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