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Help keep Free Dead in the Park Free and donate to Riverkeeper.

Presented by:

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Sponsored by:


Also sponsored by "Friends of Free Dead in the Park."



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Stella Blue’s Band is excited to play the fifth Free Dead in the Park concert to benefit Riverkeeper, presented by The Capitol Theatre and RYTHM Cannabis. Following in the footsteps of the Grateful Dead over 50 years ago, Stella will take to the same stage at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park in New York City at 4:30pm on Tuesday, May 14, for two sets of music to raise awareness and funds to help clean the Hudson River.

Contact Steve at if you'd like to help out Riverkeeper and become a Friend of Free Dead in Park.

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An exclusive commemorative t-shirt featuring a photo of Bob Weir onstage taken by the one and only Jay Blakesberg will be on sale at the event and its proceeds will also benefit Riverkeeper. The band is grateful to Bob Weir and Jerry Garcia’s management for permission to use this historic photo.

Pre-order your shirt and support Riverkeeper's efforts of protecting the Hudson River by donating here.


This event would not be possible without the help of the following donors. Stella Blue's Band would like to thank this special group we call Friends of Free Dead in the Park:

Alex Blavatnik

Morgan Le Fay Dreams Foundation and Paul McCulley

The Lanza Family Foundation

James Atwood

Matthew Basso

The Capitol Theatre

Peter Shapiro

Bob Weir

The Garcia Family Foundation

Scott Schaevitz

Robert Pisani

For Media Inquiries or to Support Free Dead in the Park, email Steve using the form below:

Thanks! Message sent.

Stella would also like to thank:

The New York City Parks Department (especially Scott Ritter)

The New York City Police Department

The New York City Fire Department

Matt Busch

G4D Productions

Jon Dindas

Perry Winston & Best Instrument Rentals

Linde Ostro

Adam Levy (Zapshots Photography)

Kraig Fox

and our graphic artist Brian Woodruff


Famed Grateful Dead Photographer Rosie McGee took the iconic shot of Jerry at the Central Park show . She graciously penned this original recollection for us.

March 15, 2018

Okay, so I was asked to recall more details about the Grateful Dead’s May 5, 1968 free concert at the bandshell in Central Park than the short paragraph I wrote about it in my book, “Dancing with the Dead—A Photographic Memoir”. My response was, “Oh sure! It was only about 50 years ago. No problem!” And then, I laughed.

I do remember it was warm and sunny in the park that day; and as you can see in the photo of Jerry, the audience packed every bit of the space in front of the stage. In the Jefferson Airplane photo, you can also see the edge of the wall that curves around the back of the bandshell, where all our compatriots in the Airplane and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band were scattered when they weren’t onstage.

Also leaning and sitting on the road cases scattered around the back,  (but not in the photo), were those of us who’d accompanied the California bands to New York, including Carolyn “Mountain Girl” Garcia and her then two-year-old daughter, Sunshine Kesey; actor Larry Hankin; a few of the Merry Pranksters; photographer Linda (then-Eastman) McCartney, and others.

As was frequently the case when the Airplane and the Dead shared a gig, the bystander band heckled those onstage often and mercilessly. The two bands and

Click on photos below to enlarge

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Bob Weir, Central Park, 5/5/68
Jerry Garcia, Central Park, 5/5/68
Pigpen, Central Park, 5/5/68
The Airplane, Central Park, 5/5/68

their families shared a strong bond of camaraderie and mutual appreciation from the earliest days of Marty Balin’s Matrix nightclub in 1965; through the pivotal Human Be-In in 1967; to the rise of the music hall concert scene at the Family Dog on the Great Highway, the Avalon and the Fillmore; to the Montreal Expo ’67 road trip with Bill Graham; and just before this New York trip, the two bands’ (doomed) joint venture in running the Carousel Ballroom for a few wild, exhilarating months.

It was from that back wall of the bandshell that I was able to take these photos of Jerry and Bob, with the audience fully visible behind them. (Interesting side note: over the years that the photo of Jerry has been displayed in galleries and seen in books and films, at least a dozen folks have contacted me to say they were in the audience that day, and either found themselves in the photo – or asked if I had any other views as they were ‘just to the right of the frame’.)

Given the free access I’d always had with the Dead, I then moved around to the side and front of the stage to take photos of Phil and Pigpen. And finally, as my state of mind shifted into a much higher gear, I was compelled to put down the camera, and went out to dance onstage for the rest of the Dead’s set.

Taking photos of, and dancing onstage with the Dead at that show in Central Park on a sunny May afternoon in 1968, in front of a wildly happy and appreciative audience, are among my favorite memories of my many years with the Dead.

I’m thrilled to know that, 50 years later, the event will be remembered with a new generation gathering to celebrate the music of the Grateful Dead; and their legacy of bringing together a community of happy, like-minded folks to dance away a sunny day in Central Park.

Wishing you all the best always!

  • Rosie McGee, Author & Photographer

© Rosie McGee, 2018

Were you there?

Did you see the Grateful Dead in Central Park?

Share your memories below:


May 4-9, 1968: New York




The Grateful Dead have lost a lot of weight. Pigpen is almost svelte, and Bill the Drummer doesn't look so good. Musically they've added so much weight that their old album (new one due in July) now sounds like your speakers have turned to sieves. You first heard it in December those two nights at the Village Theatre. What is the same is the purity. No tricks, just music, hard, lyric, joyous - pure and together, dense and warm as a dark summer country night. There's the Dead, and then there's everybody else. 

That spiraling new riff that comes through almost everything they play now - including the old stuff, pushed hard by Bill and the New Drummer, winds above you, around you, swoops you into a driving, pulsing, always always musical solid state of energy - enough to (incredibly) lift at least one New York audience to its feet dancing last week, Sunday in the park. They nearly caused a civic disturbance by stopping when the permit said they had to (disturbance cooled by Bill Graham). It was beautiful. The audience - a little wiped out from hours of Butterfield Blues, Airplane, crush, and waiting - milled and sat. The Dead played: it was New York, but it was a free concert, in a park, on a sunny Sunday. The Airplane, back in the bandshell listening, grooved. The Dead started cooking. 
Suddenly a teenybopper was up down front, all limegreen and longhair and motion. The row of photographers in front of her were up. Then the audience, not in rows, but en masse, was up, dancing, screaming, frenzied. A firecracker went off onstage. Bubblegum flew. A drumhead popped and drumsticks flew. Everyone onstage was dancing. Suddenly it was over. There WAS something like it once before. Newport, Duke Ellington, Jonah Jones wailing in the wings on rolled-up newspaper, 27 choruses by San Salvadore. The Newport cops requested and got an end to that. There was no riot then. But that was Newport, and New York audiences don't come lightly to their feet. There was no riot this time either, of course - there was football in the meadow, and a promise of three nights at the Electric Circus. 
The night before, in a set without a break that lasted over two hours, they played one epic number that lasted over an hour. The Dead were at Stony Brook, but the audience was nowhere at all, perhaps partly because the lightshow, which was good, very good in its own right, but inexperienced, was off on some trip that intruded on the music instead of backing it. 
Tuesday the Dead opened (at a stiff $4.50 a head) at the Circus, which has good acoustics and is a generally relaxed place to listen. Their first tune is always a shambles - "You'll have to wait till we figure out who we are and what we're doing here," says Jerry Garcia. When they find out, Garcia climbs all over your head with those beautiful riffs shot out of outer space: Bob Weir is there, always there, building, building; Phil Lesh, those long sets; Pigpen, riding everything. There's the Dead and then there's everybody else. 
Wednesday, after one set that was nearly perfect, they busted eardrums with a full-volume "Viola Lee" - retaliation on a non-dancing audience, not their best sound or act. It's a drag they're dragged by non-dancing. New York's not quite ready, but if they stayed there it would happen sooner. It's still hard to move and hear simultaneously, but at least they raised one audience last week. 
Thursday they played a touching "He Was a Friend of Mine," then I understand some Kew Gardens mama invaded the stage and broke up the last set. Lesh booted her where appropriate, drumsticks flew again (aimed this time), Weir got beaned by a flying cymbal, the drummers stalked off. I wouldn't know. Suffering a back strained by nearly a week of sitting backless and standing for the Dead, I was kacked out in the dark rear of the Circus. Where do THEY get the energy?


  1. (by Annie Fisher, from the "Riffs" column in the Village Voice, May 16 1968)

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