By: Clayton L. Luce
Slideshow and cover photo by: Michael Palmer
Videography by: Steve “Shooter” Russell
They did it again! Those sneaky, dirty hippies converged once more onto the pristine grounds and picturesque vistas of the Louisville Waterfront Park to commence a weekend of drinking, laughing, probably smoking marijuana and playing loud hippy music through giant loudspeakers at 2,000 decibels late into the evening.
The event occurred at the Brown Forman Amphitheater, although it was reported to GonzoToday that several hippies were also spotted wandering through other areas of the park, some of them bathing in the shitty river and yet others taking cool baths in the temperature controlled fountains of the main lawn. Despite these obscure and terrifying occurrences the festival was reasonably contained and carried out in a highly responsible manner by festival co-founders Ashley Angel and Dennie Humphrey, who might themselves be hippies or some other thing not far removed. Ashley wears dreadlocks and Dennie smiled far too much for your average debt-bound, cash-strapped angry white American. Why was he so happy? And what the hell was Grateville Dead anyway? Well I for one was bound to find out and and so – sweating profusely and fresh out of hash – we headed in to get some sort of usable footage and maybe a coherent story from one of these drunk hippies.
Immediately upon entering the venue I was impressed by the production quality and general cleanliness and pleasant aesthetics of the amphitheater. The built in half arena contained music, which through natural amplification of the amphitheater seemed to be pleasantly reflected back out towards the Ohio River behind the stage and the sound quality from any point in the venue was of the highest quality.
The vendor midway, called Shakedown Street, was packed with vendors of every counter-cultural stripe, and peddling virtually every form of Grateful Dead memorabilia available to western civilization. Food vendors included hotdogs, corndogs, Philly cheese steaks and more and of course the Goodwood sponsored bar, which was my first stop upon arrival. After finding out the booze cost money, my second stop was to find Dennie Humphrey in order to get some free liquor and access to the production stage beer cooler which seemed to be full of beer, and which the production crew seemed to be drinking from heavily. There I set up an impromptu headquarters and set out to cover the event, well hydrated and once again stoned thanks to band and production members who took good care of the press and kept us drunk and stoned the entire weekend.
Of course all this talk of dirty hippies, rock and roll, liquor and marijuana might make this seem like some sort of morally doomed sex orgy, but it certainly was not. There were children everywhere, laughing, dancing and playing, participating in festival sponsored arts and crafts and generally being the little bastards that most children are. Grateville Dead is definitely a family friendly affair, of course only if you voted for Bernie or are generally abstaining from taking part in the 2016 political circus. Yes, these were the children of progressives and liberals and communists, but nonetheless, responsible people.
As for the music, it was the typical jam band fare, but delivered through some truly remarkable talents from the region including Rumpke Mountain Boys, Steve Cooley, Slow Down Johnny and The Merry Pranksters. The festival began Friday evening and ran through Sunday, with each evening wrapped up with a final late night act at a local venue in town for the after-party.
“This thing just literally came during a conversation a year ago when Ashley was like, ‘how come there is no Grateful Dead festival on the river?” and 7 weeks later we were at the inaugural Grateville Dead festival of 2015. People loved it and this year we’ve tripled the stage time,” said Grateville co-founder Dennie Humphrey, a local entrepreneur, co founder of a sister festival called GonzoFest and owner of local Louisville watering hole, The Monkey Wrench. “The response has been incredible.”
There were a few instances of ominous weather on the horizon and even a temporary pause in the show for rain for about an hour on Day 1, but the weather ultimately remained favorable and all of the performances were carried out as promised.
“Man this thing is special,” said one member of the crowd, sporting a long beard and colored John Lennon style sunglasses. “It’s like magic, man. Like magical motion. Like a magical motion potion”
By the time I left the venue for the last time on Sunday evening the last act was wrapping up and people were crying, and snotting all over each other and laughing like a bunch of idiots. It almost had that nostalgia of a family reunion, as people said their goodbyes for another year. One thing seems certain- they will be back next year, louder, wilder and stranger than ever. Grateville Dead is the reason we beat back the Nazis in World War II and impeached Nixon shortly thereafter, and also why George Bush went gradually insane and became an artist. It represents a sort of collective hope that maybe instead of hardcore liquor and fucking each other, we could all drink a little beer and make love, and instead of snorting cocaine and wiping small countries off the map, we could just smoke a little more pot and enjoy something truly beautiful for a few days of shit water and sunshine.