Film & TV

Sunshine Daydream Brings the Grateful Dead Back to Life on August 1

If the Grateful Dead perished with the demise of its leader and spiritual guru, Jerry Garcia, in 1995, then it's also true that the band's resurrection has been ongoing ever since.

Indeed, the steady stream of remastered albums from its seminal Warner Bros. catalog, at least half a dozen official issues of the Dick's Picks bootleg series, an endless series of tributes (the latest being A Buck Dancer's Choice, A Benefit for the Rex Foundation) and archival DVDs suggest that while the surviving Dead members may have put the band and its brand to rest, the spirit of that original incarnation lives on. Indeed, the onetime psychedelic sextet has spawned several offshoots, notably The Dead, the Other Ones, and Furthur, all of which ensure that the music and the magic of the Grateful Dead live on.

More than that, though, this allows Garcia, Pigpen, and his keyboard-playing successors, Vince Welnick, Keith Godchaux, and Brent Mydland -- all of whom found death a common denominator -- continue to live on. Garcia in particular retains his immortal iconic stature. "Jerry, who for lack of a better word -- because it's the best word -- was as charismatic as any musician I've ever known," the Grateful Dead's longtime publicist Dennis McNally told me a year or so ago. "Everybody in the band and in the audience related to him as their connection to what was going on."

That connection continues with the third-annual "Grateful Dead Meet Up at the Movies 2013," taking place on Thursday, August 1, at 7:30 p.m. The annual event expands to seven South Florida movie theaters (see the list below) and features the concert film Sunshine Daydream, filmed at the Oregon Country Fair in Veneta, Oregon, in 1972 on 16mm film and now restored. The performance, which took place the same year as the band's landmark Europe '72 tour, was staged as a fundraiser for the family of Merry Prankster Ken Kesey to help in their struggle to keep their Springfield Creamery afloat.

Offering all new stereo and 5.1 audio mixes, the set list includes numerous Dead standards, among them, "Bird Song," "Dark Star," "Jack Straw," and "Playing in the Band." Moreover, it offers a revealing look back at a time when the America's counterculture was immersed in sheer celebration, a joy that came with being young, the ability to bond with a band, and enjoy life at a time when the possibilities were boundless and every day brought a new adventure.

That was certainly the "Sunshine Daydream" of Deadheads. "From my point of view, all the real fans were Deadheads," McNally opined. "You can make a point of how many shows you've seen, how much of your personal life you gave up to prepare for the next tour, etc., etc. That's certainly a valid description.

"When I was starting out, the competition was not so much how many shows you've seen but, when the band is tuning and getting ready to play the next song, how many notes will it take you to guess the next song? I can name that tune in four notes! I was a fierce competitor in that silliness. But in general, the great thing about Deadheads was that there was a sense of inclusion. If you're here, then you're part of the family."

Time then to enjoy a Sunshine Daydream and a family reunion as well.

Sunshine Daydream will be shown at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, August 1, at the following local theaters:

  • Aventura Mall 24 with IMAX, 19501 Biscayne Blvd., Aventura
  • Magnolia Place 16, 9645 Westview Drive, Coral Springs
  • Cinemark Paradise 24 with XD, 15601 Sheridan St., Fort Lauderdale
  • Cypress Creek Station 16, 6415 N. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale
  • Sawgrass Stadium 23 with IMAX, 2600 NW 136th Ave., Fort Lauderdale
  • Movies @ The Falls 12, 9000 SW 136th St., Miami
  • South Beach Stadium 18, 1120 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach

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Lee Zimmerman