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A Dead Miscellany: A scholarly and musical celebration of the Grateful Dead

December 19, 2023 @ 7:00 pm

John Brackett and Michael Kaler, with David Gans and the Broken Angels

Join City Lights, Duke University Press, and the Rex Foundation in celebrating two new books about the Grateful Dead

Live Dead:
The Grateful Dead, Live Recordings, and the Ideology of Liveness
by John Brackett
published by Duke University Press


Get Shown the Light:
Improvisation and Transcendence in the Music of the Grateful Dead
by Michael Kaler
published by Duke University Press

at The Lost Church, 988 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133-2310

Admission $15.00 (Ticket Registration TBA)

Duke University Press has produced two new books exploring the myriad aspects of the cultural phenomena known as the Grateful Dead. Through an evening of discussion and then grooving to the tunes of David Gans and the Broken Angels, join us in revisiting the Dead in a whole new light.

About Live Dead:

The Grateful Dead were one of the most successful live acts of the rock era. Performing over 2300 shows between 1965 and 1995, the Grateful Dead’s reputation as a “live band” was—and continues to be—sustained by thousands of live concert recordings from every era of the group’s long and colorful career. In Live Dead, musicologist John Brackett examines how live recordings—from the group’s official releases to fan-produced tapes, bootlegs to “Betty Boards,” and Dick’s Picks to From the Vault—have shaped the general history and popular mythology of the Grateful Dead for over fifty years. Drawing on a diverse array of materials and documents contained in the Grateful Dead Archive, Live Dead details how live recordings became meaningful among the band and their fans not only as sonic souvenirs of past musical performances but also as expressions of assorted ideals, including notions of “liveness,” authenticity, and the power of recorded sound.

About the author:

John Brackett is Instructor of Music at Vance-Granville Community College, author of John Zorn: Tradition and Transgression, and coeditor of The Routledge Companion to Popular Music Analysis: Expanding Approaches.

About Get Shown the Light:

Of all the musical developments of rock in the 1960s, one in particular fundamentally changed the music’s structure and listening experience: the incorporation of extended improvisation into live performances. While many bands—including Cream, Pink Floyd, and the Velvet Underground—stretched out their songs with improvisations, no band was more identified with the practice than the Grateful Dead. In Get Shown the Light Michael Kaler examines how the Dead’s dedication to improvisation stemmed from their belief that playing in this manner enabled them to touch upon transcendence. Drawing on band testimonials and analyses of early recordings, Kaler traces how the Dead developed an approach to playing music that they believed would facilitate their spiritual goals. He focuses on the band’s early years, the significance of their playing Ken Kesey’s Acid Test parties, and their evolving exploration of the myriad musical and spiritual possibilities that extended improvisation afforded. Kaler demonstrates that the Grateful Dead developed a radical new way of playing rock music as a means to unleashing the spiritual and transformative potential of their music.

About the author:

Michael Kaler is Associate Professor, teaching stream, at the Institute for the Study of University Pedagogy at the University of Toronto Mississauga and author of Flora Tells a Story: The Apocalypse of Paul and Its Contexts.

About David Gans and the Broken Angels

The Broken Angels began as an ever-changing confederation of Dead-influenced musicians, organized by David Gans, which first came together in a regularly scheduled series of jams on Tuesday nights at Blake’s in Berkeley. When that gig ended, Gans began to appear with different groups of Broken Angels at various Bay Area venues. In September 1997, at the first “Deadhead Community Center” benefit, held at Berkeley’s venerable Ashkenaz Music and Dance Club to help that venue raise money for a new P.A. system, Phil Lesh dropped by and delighted the assembled throng by joining the Broken Angels for a couple of tunes. This inspired further Lesh/Angels collaborations in November and December at Maritime Hall and on January 31 at the Fillmore, to benefit the Unbroken Chain Foundation. David Gans is a musician, songwriter, and music journalist. He is a guitarist, and is known for incisive, literate songwriting. He is also noted for his music loop work, often creating spontaneous compositions in performance. He is the co-author of the book Playing in the Band: An Oral and Visual Portrait of the Grateful Dead, and the host of the weekly syndicated radio show The Grateful Dead Hour. He currently co-hosts a radio show with Gary Lambert on Sirius XM’s The Grateful Dead Channel called Tales from the Golden Road, a call-in show about the Grateful Dead.

About the Rex Foundation:

The Rex Foundation aims to help secure a healthy environment, promote individuality in the arts, provide support to critical and necessary social services, assist others less fortunate than ourselves, protect the rights of indigenous people and ensure their cultural survival, build a stronger community, and educate children and adults everywhere. In the fall of 1983, members of the Grateful Dead, with family and friends, established the Rex Foundation — named after Rex Jackson, a Grateful Dead roadie and later road manager until his untimely death in 1976 — as a non-profit charitable organization, allowing the band to proactively support creative endeavors in the arts, sciences, and education. The Foundation has continued to make grants funded by the very elements that hold our community together: music, connection, fun, creativity and community spirit. Since 1984 the Rex Foundation has granted $9 million to over 1,300 recipients.


This event is made possible by support from the City Lights Foundation. To learn more visit: https://citylights.com/foundation/


The Lost Church
988 Columbus Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133-2310 United States
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