After it became clear two years ago that GrateVille Dead — Louisville’s tribute to the music of Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead taking place this weekend — was growing in popularity, the founders knew there was only one thing missing: camping.
In the true tradition of the so-called Deadheads who would follow the band along its tour stops in the 1960s and ’70s (and beyond), this year’s event includes access to a nearby campsite that also enables the two-day festival to continue on into the night.
“They kind of love the Dead like we do,” says co-founder Dennie Humphrey, “and we’re kicking them out at 11 o’clock, and they’re all hyped with nothing to do. We said, ‘Why not run a shuttle down the road instead of sending them off to different clubs?’”
They worked out an agreement with Turners on River Road, which is just east of Kingfish, to continue the festivities there, which is where the campground will be. Humphrey says there is room for 60 or 70 small campsites on the river, and there is a baseball field nearby that would likely hold that many or more.
The on-site lounge will keep attendees fed and also provide beverages, not to mention atmosphere.
Drawing on a Grateful Dead reference and then following it with a nod to the 1970s sitcom “Three’s Company,” Humphrey says, “It looks like a little ‘broken down palace.’ It’s really neat. The bar area feels like hanging out at the Regal Beagle.”
Camp facilities also include showers and bathrooms, a bar, food concessions, swimming and other campsite activities. Metal fire bins are on-site, so fires likely will be going. Only tents and sleeping bags will be allowed in the camping areas — campers will unload cars, and then park at a designated location.
The after-hours band on Friday will be Captain Midnight Band, while Hot Brown Smackdown will perform on Saturday. Both sets begin at 12:30 a.m., just after the main festival ends.
Of course, the two nights of music is what brought the festival to where it is, and there will be no shortage of fun to be had again there this year as Louisville celebrates Garcia’s birthday.
On Friday at Brown-Forman Amphitheater, the Merry Pranksters start things off at 4 p.m., followed by Restless Leg String Band, Electric Garden, and Born Cross Eyed. On Saturday, Old & In the Way with Hog Operation starts off the day at noon, followed by Kenny’s Garcia Band, the Allmanacs: A Tribute to Butch Trucks, Fat Box, Vessel and Hyryder.
GrateVille Dead is an all-ages festival and will include a children’s area, as well as plenty of food including Mellow Mushroom pizza, plus vendors selling Grateful Dead memorabilia. Happy hour drink prices are available 5-7 p.m. on Friday, and open until 3 p.m. Saturday. Yoga also will be offered, and GonzoToday TV will be conducting interviews and live online broadcasts.
The festival also will donate $1 per ticket to Strive502, a nonprofit that brings “creative wellness opportunities” to Louisville and “to design and facilitate meaningful creative wellness opportunities for local organizations, facilities, and the Louisville community” through workshops and a variety of music therapies.
Humphrey, who founded GrateVille Dead along with fellow Deadhead Ashley Angel, actually closed his long-time business the Monkey Wrench in the spring, in part to focus more on projects like GrateVille Dead, GonzoFest and a jazz club he is planning to open soon.
“You know what,” he says when asked what that has been like, “I can tell you this: I don’t think I ever want three months off again. As much as I know it was right to give up Monkey Wrench and say goodbye, it’s full speed ahead on this jazz thing. It’s the old cliché that one door closes, and another one opens.”
But he believes there’s a little bit of Monkey Wrench in the festival: “Monkey Wrench might be gone, but GrateVille Dead keeps it going. It’s that one time we get to meet up again and celebrate what the Wrench used to give to the community.”
The GrateVille Dead takes place July 28-29, with gates opening at 3 p.m. on Friday and 11 a.m. on Saturday. Two-day passes are $26, or $66 with campsite, and can be purchased in advance. The Brown-Forman Amphitheater is located at 1301 River Road; Turners on River Road is located at 3125 River Road.