By 1972, there was no denying the sheer force of the Grateful Dead, their fanbase, and their music. The Deadhead community was firmly established, filled with peace-and-love seekers eager to chase the music around the country. The Dead, in turn, toured relentlessly, and by fate of bad luck, ended up at the Old Renaissance Faire Grounds in Veneta, OR to perform what would go on to become one of their most beloved performances, on this day 50 years ago on August 27th, 1972.
The performance was actually a benefit concert to raise money for a local yogurt eatery owned by members of the Kesey family–the same family belonging to the acclaimed writer, Merry Prankster, and original Deadhead, Ken Kesey. When Ken’s brother needed some financial after a bout of bad publicity led to the loss of the Springfield Public Schools milk account, he asked his old friends in the Grateful Dead to come to Veneta and throw a benefit concert to help out the cause of keeping the eatery open.
The band would make their way up to Oregon to help their old Acid Test pal to play an absolutely loaded two sets worth of Dead classics including “Sugaree”, “China Cat Sunflower” > “I Know You Rider”, “Bertha”, “Playing In The Band”, “He’s Gone”, “Bird Song”, “Dark Star”, “Sugar Magnolia”, “Casey Jones”, and “One More Saturday Night” throughout what was a very hot summer day in Oregon.
The concert was professionally filmed, although the footage wasn’t released until many years later. The four-camera footage of eleven songs performed that day in the summer of ’72 is still some of the best that has been shared from the band’s early years. The performance/concert documentary was finally released by the band in 2013 as Sunshine Daydream. Fans can listen to the entire performance via streaming services like here on Spotify.
Watch select performances from the original 1972 concert below, in addition to a behind-the-scenes mini-documentary chronicling the backstory behind the August 1972 benefit below.
Grateful Dead – “Bird Song” – 8/27/72
Grateful Dead – “Bertha” – 8/27/72
Grateful Dead – “Dark Star” > “El Paso” – 8/27/72
Sunshine Daydream – Bonus Footage
[Video: Grateful Dead 24/7 Wheeler]
[Originally published 8/27/17]