Fare Thee Well, Grateful Dead. And Thanks for All the Tech

Yeah, they were the quintessential hippie band, but the Grateful Dead was also one of the most pioneering groups in terms of tech. Wired explains why.

WHEN THE MUSICIANS once and forever known as the Grateful Dead take the stage in Chicago this weekend to cap a two-city, five-show 50th anniversary run, Deadheads the world over will have myriad ways to join the fun. As with any high-profile event these days, fans can tune in to pay-per-view streams and satellite radio feeds, watch theatrical simulcasts, or attend any number of viewing parties.

What sets the band’s “Fare Thee Well” gigs apart isn’t that these options are available, but that they exist in large part because of the Grateful Dead itself: The group and its associates pioneered rock concert broadcasts, making it a regular practice starting with a show at the Carousel Ballroom in 1968.

The Dead, long stereotyped as hippies stuck in the Summer of Love, surely seemed anachronistic by the time it disbanded in 1995 after the death of guitarist and songwriter Jerry Garcia. But the Grateful Dead remains one of the most innovative and tech-savvy bands in pop history. Long before it became necessary (or cool) to do so, the band embraced a DIY ethos in everything from manufacturing its own gear to publishing its own music to fostering a decentralized music distribution system. The Dead’s obsession with technology was almost inseparable from the band’s psychedelic ambition and artistic independence.

Read on.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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