GrateVille Dead will celebrate 50 years of the iconic band.
GrateVille Dead will celebrate 50 years of the iconic band.

It’s been 50 years since the Grateful Dead first formed in San Francisco by rock pioneers Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Ron McKernan, Phil Lesh and Bill Kreutzmann. While the band doesn’t have immediate ties to Louisville, other than playing here throughout the years, it hasn’t stopped local Deadheads from planning a festival tribute that’ll be held at Waterfront Park on Saturday, Aug. 1, which, fittingly, would have been Garcia’s 73rd birthday.

It’s no surprise that Monkey Wrench owner Dennie Humphrey is one of the organizers (along with Ashley Angel) of GrateVille Dead, as he’s been live-streaming Dead concerts on the bar’s rooftop this month. Humphrey tells Insider he first got into the Dead when he found a cassette tape of What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been in 1991.

“I heard this root sound, and the similarities took me back to the bluegrass side of my family in Hardin County,” he says. “From there, I realized Jerry played banjo on the side. There it was — bluegrass music. It brought me back home through music. This music opened my mind and heart.”

That same year, Humphrey says he began seeing Louisville’s Dead tribute band, the Merry Pranksters, at Jockamo’s Pizza on Bardstown Road.

Unfortunately, Dave Young, a founding member of the Merry Pranksters, died earlier this week. Humphrey says they’ll be selling “But First, A Toast” T-shirts at the festival in Young’s honor to help cover funeral expenses. The slogan comes from the musician’s familiar sign-off as he would lead the audience in a toast.

Rumpke Mountain Boys
Rumpke Mountain Boys

GrateVille Dead will feature many local bands and musicians performing Dead sets, as well as Cincinnati’s Rumpke Mountain Boys, whose bluegrass sound was inspired by the band. There also will be arts and crafts vendors, food trucks and craft beer.

The family-friendly music festival takes place Saturday, Aug. 1, from 2-11 p.m. at the Brown-Forman Amphitheater at Waterfront Park (between the old Tumbleweed and the Louisville Rowing Club). Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the gate and free for children 10 and under.

Here is the official GrateVille Dead lineup:

  • 3 p.m. — Hot Iron Skillet
  • 4:30 p.m. — Louisville’s Merry Pranksters
  • 6 p.m. — Dead Set One with members of Slow Down Johnny
  • 7:30 p.m. — Dead Set Two with Phiasco
  • 9 p.m. — Tribute to Jerry and the Grateful Dead featuring the Rumpke Mountain Boys

Sara Havens

Sara Havens

Sara Havens is the Culture Editor at Insider Louisville, known around town as the Bar Belle ( She's a former editor of LEO Weekly and has written for Playboy and The Alcohol Professor. Havens is the author of two books: "The Bar Belle" and "The Bar Belle Vol. 2."