50 years ago today, one of the greatest–and most quintessentially American–rock bands to ever grace the stage came to life at an LSD-fueled house party in San Jose, CA. The group had played a few gigs prior to that night, but the December 4, 1965 performance, at one of Ken Kesey and the Prankster’s famed Acid Tests, was their first as the Grateful Dead.
Over the course of their 30 year history, the band would go on to build up rock music’s most devoted following, with thousands of adoring fans travelling around the country to attend their multi-set, jam-fueled shows night after night. Their unique, often mind-bending, music was something to behold, but the spirit of the colorful community that they fostered was what ultimately kept people coming back for more.
Despite their popularity, long career and seemingly endless touring regimen, the Grateful Dead only made it to Louisiana ten times. Just five times if you consider the fact that two of those stops consisted of multi-night runs.
The band shied away from the Big Easy for most of the 1970s, after much of the group was famously arrested following a drug bust at their Bourbon Street hotel. The incident took place after their January 30, 1970 concert at The Warehouse, and they were released from jail in time to play two more shows at the venue before leaving town. The band wouldn’t return to New Orleans until their two-night Saenger Theatre run in 1980, though they did immortalize their misfortunes in the 1970 American Beauty classic “Truckin'” (“Busted, down on Bourbon Street/ Set up, like a bowling pin/ Knocked down, it get’s to wearin’ thin / They just won’t let you be”).
In honor of today’s anniversary, we’re sharing a clip from the Grateful Dead’s final performance in New Orleans, their October 18, 1988 concert at the UNO Lakefront Arena. The show featured a notable encore that saw the Neville Brothers and The Bangles join them on stage for a cover of the New Orleans staple “Iko Iko” and Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” Check out a clip of “Iko Iko” below.