The Grateful Dead are one of the most storied bands in rock history. As the godfathers of the jam scene, Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, and Ron “Pigpen” McKernan became icons of the counterculture that arose in the ’60s and ’70s. Now, the group’s 30-year journey will be captured for the first time in a full-length documentary from director Amir Bar-Lev and executive producer Martin Scorsese, Long Strange Trip.
Amazon Studios picked up the over four-hour film ahead of its premiere at Sundance. Beginning May 25th, one-night only screenings will take place across the country, including in New York and Los Angeles on May 26th. It will also be available as a six-part Amazon Prime Video series as of June 2nd. In anticipation of the release, the studio has today shared an exclusive clip from the doc.
One of the most amazing aspects explored in Long Strange Trip is how Grateful Dead’s ethos was so impactful that it birthed its own subcultures within itself: the Deadheads. These were the people you’d see at every Dead concert across the country, many following the band along their tour path. There were the Wharf Rats on the 12-step path, the Spinners dancing in the hall and bowing down to Garcia the Prophet, and the famous Tapers recording the shows. There was even a Deaf Zone where the hard of hearing would feel the vibrations of the music through balloons and watch sign language interpreters signing the lyrics.
Meet all the Deadheads in the clip above, and catch Long Strange Trip in theaters later this week. Find tickets for all the screenings nationwide here. The official synopsis is below.
“The 30-year odyssey of the Grateful Dead was the most unlikely success story in rock ’n’ roll history. Famously averse to publicity and seemingly incapable of recording radio-friendly hits, they flouted music-industry convention by giving their live music away to a global network of tape traders and becoming the highest-grossing concert act in America through word of mouth alone.
Directed by Amir Bar-Lev (The Tillman Story) and executive produced by Martin Scorsese (The Last Waltz), Long Strange Trip is the first full-length documentary to explore the fiercely independent vision, perpetual innovation, and uncompromising commitment to their audience that made the Bay Area band one of the most influential musical groups of their generation. Artfully assembling candid interviews with the band, road crew, family members and notable Deadheads, Bar-Lev reveals the untold history of the Dead and the freewheeling psychedelic subculture that sprouted up around it. The film also provides poignant insight into the psyche of late lead guitarist Jerry Garcia, whose disdain for authority clashed with his de facto leadership of the sprawling collective that kept the show on the road.
With a soundtrack that captures some of the band’s most dynamic live performances as well as unguarded offstage moments and never-before-seen interviews, footage and photos, Long Strange Trip explores the Dead’s singular experiment in radically eclectic music making. Much more than the ‘behind the music’ backstory of an exceptionally talented and beloved group of musicians, the film is at once an inspiring tale of unfettered artistic expression, a heartfelt American tragedy, and an incisive history of the rise and fall of 20th-century counterculture.”