Grateville Dead: A Day-Long Celebration of Jerry's Birthday and The Dead

Monkey Wrench owner Dennie Humphrey and bartender Ashley Angel had the idea for Grateville Dead after going to Abbey Road on the River. With all the Deadheads, Dead-influenced music and Dead cover bands around these parts, they wondered why Louisville doesn’t have a festival celebrating all things Dead. Then, being the make-it-happen kinda folks they are, they stopped wondering and started planning. They set the celebration date for Jerry’s birthday (on August 1, he would have been 73!) and started using their network of kind friends to secure a lineup of some of the best Dead-inspired music around. The two are so passionate about Grateville Dead that they pooled their personal funds to make it happen.

“We want Dead all day,” Dennie explains, “and all these bands are creating Dead sets for the festival.”

Hot Iron Skillet opens the festival at 3 p.m. They’re heavy on the strings with a banjo and mandolin.

The Merry Pranksters are scheduled for 4:30 p.m.

“We knew right away that we had to have them,” Dennie says. “Grateville Dead wouldn't be anything without the Pranksters because they’ve been playing Dead covers around town for nearly 30 years.”

Slow Down Johnny is scheduled for 6 p.m.

These guys were in the Grateful Dead jam band Emily’s Garden and they’ve got Christopher Fuller from Born Cross Eyed playing keyboards with them for their set of Grateful Dead tunes.

Phiasco is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Traditionally a Phish cover band, they’ll be playing the Dead on Saturday, which only makes sense given that Trey Anastasio joined the Dead for their “Fare Thee Well” shows.

The Rumpke Mountain Boys come on stage at 9 p.m. to close the festival. This phenomenal Cincy bluegrass band is no stranger to Dead festivals. They’re a staple at fests like Terrapin and Dark Star Jubilee, and it’s for good reason that they have a large and loyal following.

“All the bands are really psyched,” Ashley says, and while festival goers “may hear some overlap, all the bands have been in contact about their sets.”

With music lined up,  Ashley and Dennie turned their attention to food, drink and amenities. In tribute to the food staple of Dead shows — the lot-grilled cheese — Lil’ Cheezers food truck will be on site, as will Momma’s Mustard and Pickles food truck.

“As soon as Momma’s heard about the event, they said, ‘We’ve got to be a part of this,’” Dennie explains. “That’s the way the whole thing came together. People who love the Dead, like the guys at Good Wood Brewery, wanted to be part of it as soon as they heard about it too. Good Wood is unveiling a bourbon-aged beer at the festival.” Cumberland Brews will be there, as will Sweet Water, who’s donating a kayak for a giveaway.

The Brown-Forman Amphitheater on River Road offers plenty of space for hula hoops, spinners and a Shakedown Street, where vendors will set up shop.

Grateville Dead is a family-friendly event with part of the motivation for the festival being the opportunity to share the love and kindness across generations. “Ages 10 and under are free,” Dennie says, “so bring the kids.”

When asked what it is about The Grateful Dead that inspired them to put together the festival, Dennie and  Ashley share a similar experience, albeit experiences that span two decades. Dennie’s first show was Deer Creek 1990 (Ashley was 1-year-old), and  Ashley’s first show was four years after Jerry died when she saw Further in 2009. “That’s kind of cool,” she says to Dennie when they put this together. “My first show was ’09 and yours was ’90.”

Explaining the source of his passion, Dennie describes his first show, “The first thing I saw in the Dead at that time was everyone moving and dancing, and I was like, ‘Oh, my god, you can be you.’ It was the first time I had been in a community of people that accepted you no matter what. The freedom of just being yourself.”

Ashley, who saw the “Fare Thee Well” shows in Santa Clara and Chicago, says, “Those were the two greatest weekends of my life. The Dead are “literally a band beyond description and the greatest thing to be a part of.”

Ashley and Dennie appreciate the spirit of festivals like Terrapin and Jerry Day in San Francisco and wanted to create a celebration of that nature on the local level for our city. “If we can create that here, that’s the idea,” Dennie says. “Hopefully right here in this little cool park.”

Ashley and Dennie are hoping to see 500 festival goers. At $10 a head, that would allow them to recoup their investment in Grateville Dead, and anything they might make beyond that will be put aside for next year in hopes of growing the festival.

Tickets are $12 the day of the festival, but can be purchased for $10 in advance at The Monkey Wrench, Cumberland Brewery, GoodWood Brewery and Eventbrite.

Saturday, August 1 Grateville Dead Brown-Forman Amphitheater 1301 River Road $12 ($10 adv.); 3-11 p.m.