Taking it Old School: Fiske Planetarium’s Grateful Dead Show Pays Homage to the Dead’s History in Boulder  

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By Jane Appel


Calling all Grateful Dead, music, light show and technology enthusiasts to mark their calendars for April 26! Fiske Planetarium is collaborating with the CU Boulder College of Music and the Colorado Music Experience to put on a show dedicated to the Grateful Dead’s storied history in Boulder. 

The show is titled “Lights – Sound – Dialogue” and entails exactly that. It will be hosted by G. Brown, founder of the Colorado Music Experience, who has his own history with the Dead. There will first be a light show in real-time performed by Chas Barbour, Patrick Cullie and Hank Schmidt—all members of the team who provided visual backgrounds for the Grateful Dead’s concerts. Then, live music from David Gans, musician and author of books about the Grateful Dead’s evolution; Micheal Sebulsky, music theory lecturer at CU Boulder College of Music; and Kenny Passarelli, bassist and Colorado native who has played with Elton John! Finally, there will be a conversation about the Dead and their famously unique shows.  

“Lights – Sound – Dialogue” will honor four Grateful Dead appearances in Boulder: Two at Folsom Field in 1972 and 1980, the CU Events Center in 1981 and, the first and most exciting, at the University Memorial Center (UMC) in 1969.  

“It [the show] is a symposium discussing and demonstrating the improvisational nature of the Dead’s performances, both in terms of visuals (the light shows) and the sound,” Brown said, “they built on their music to create one-of-a-kind experiences instead of the usual circus coming to town and putting the same thing out every night.”  

The light show at Fiske will be produced in real-time, as it always was at Dead concerts, but instead of projecting on a bed sheet, it will be on the Fiske dome.  

And, if all that still doesn’t pique your interest, allow a short story from G. Brown’s life to persuade you to go on April 26. 

Brown’s friend, Bruce Hornsby,  was playing keyboards with the Dead in ‘91 and ‘92 and invited Brown to sit on stage next to the piano—about six feet away from Jerry Garcia and the rest of the band—during a performance in Denver. 

Brown said of the experience, “It was one of the greatest gifts I ever got to witness first-hand. Close up, that telepathy if you will, you could tell that Bruce’s presence had reignited a spark in Garcia on stage, taking different improvisational paths. I will always be grateful I got to witness that.” 

Whether you are a fan of live music, a Deadhead or interested in the history and growth of technology and light shows, this will be a night you don’t want to miss. There are two opportunities to watch this show on April 26: 6:30-8:00 p.m. and 9-10:30 p.m. Get your tickets now before they sell out!  

More information and tickets