The early days of the San Francisco counterculture rock scene of the 1960s were a veritable breeding ground for talent. Many fabled groups came out of that time and place including the Grateful DeadJefferson AirplaneSantanaQuicksilver Messenger ServiceBig Brother and the Holding Company, and many more. But what was even more remarkable than the depth of the pool of talent was the deep-seated nature of brotherhood between these acts.

With all of these star-bound groups coming up at the same time, one could easily imagine a fierce level of competition between them. After all, there were only so many venues in San Francisco. Instead, however, these groups formed everlasting friendships as they rose up through the ranks together from playing for free in Golden Gate Park to sharing the spotlight at Bill Graham‘s Fillmore West and, later on, Winterland Arena.

As the decades passed, some of these acts fell by the wayside while others remained dominant touring draws for years to come. On January 26th, 1993 at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum something of a San Francisco countercultural reunion took place on stage as the Grateful Dead were joined by Carlos Santana for a portion of the show.

Though Bill Graham died in 1991, the feeling through the latter half of the second set took on the laid-back nature of one of the rock impresario’s jam-packed bills at the Fillmore West. Old friends came together once more as Santana came aboard during the tail end of the “Space” jam and held on tight as the Dead fired up a Haight-Ashbury-era standard, “The Other One”. With cowboy Carlos at the wheel, trading leads with Jerry “Captain Trips” Garcia, the improvisation and spirit of brotherhood flowed like days of old.

The real test came with the following “Stella Blue” where Santana added his own sparing guitar phrases while leaving Garcia the spotlight on his ballad. The second set came to a climactic conclusion with another San Francisco Dead staple of “Turn On Your Lovelight”, though Bob Weir was now on vocals as opposed to the early days of Ron “Pigpen” McKernan. Santana then returned with the Grateful Dead to the stage once more for a rocking cover of “Gloria” to close the memorable evening.

Listen to Carlos Santana sit in with the Grateful Dead at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum 30 years ago today, January 26th, and check out some photos of the performance by Jay Blakesberg below.

Grateful Dead – Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum – Oakland, CA – 1/26/93


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[Originally published January 26th, 2021]