Grateful Dead music of all stripes to flourish at Skull and Roses Festival in Ventura


This weekend’s Skull and Roses Festival in Ventura is, on one level, a parallel dimension reversal of the typical pop music festival.

Instead of dozens of acts playing a disparate array of songs from any number of different songwriters, nearly two dozen performers draw their set lists from a single source: the Grateful Dead.

The event taps the plethora of groups that the venerated San Francisco jam band has spawned over the decades, and if the songbook is the same, the manner in which they interpret it is anything but.


The lineup for the three-day festival, which runs Friday to Sunday at the Ventura County Fairgrounds (long a favorite venue for the Dead), spans from Cubensis, the long-running L.A.-based Dead tribute band, and the Grateful Bluegrass Boys, which puts a mountain-music spin on the songs, to Punk Is Dead (punk rock) and Shred Is Dead (heavy metal).

“Grateful Dead music has become a standalone genre of music that is played by bands in every city in the country,” longtime Dead spokesman Dennis McNally tells The Times. “Bruce Hornsby called them ‘hymns,’ and he’s put his finger on something — they have that resonance and authority.”

Others on this year’s Skull and Roses Festival bill include Golden Gate Wingmen, Stu Allen & Mars hotel, Roosevelt Collier, Circles Around the Sun, Melvin Seals and JGB.

McNally noted the particularly distinctive spin that Collier has on the band’s deep repertoire, describing him as “a brilliant part of the Florida evangelical sacred steel [guitar] world, who jammed with Bob Weir and now plays Grateful Dead music.”

As he also noted, “the Grateful Dead will be remembered for generating arguably the most extraordinarily passionate and involved following of any music act ever. The proof is that the [1995] death of Jerry Garcia did not end this. Twenty-two years later, Dead & Company will fill stadiums, but that only hints at the phenomenon.”

Tickets and additional information are available at the Skull and Roses website. Prices range from $39.95 for single-day admission on Friday to $139.95 for adult three-day weekend passes.


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