Ain’t Necessarily Dead Fest, Celebrating The Music Of The Grateful Dead

Ain't Necessarily Dead Fest Summer Music Festival

Last summer after attending the two Santa Clara Grateful Dead Fare Thee Well shows and all three Fare The Well 50th Anniversary Shows In Chicago, we wanted more — more live music, more concerts, more date nights, and more Grateful Dead.

Completely by chance, our wish was fulfilled. We discovered a one day music festival in Auburn near our house — the Ain’t Necessarily Dead Fest. Created by Scott Holbrook and Keep Smilin’ Productions, the free, family-friendly “Dead Fest” features a variety of local and bay area bands on two stages playing the music of the Grateful Dead.

We took the kids and headed to the Auburn Regional Park to check out the free summer music festival celebrating the music of the Grateful Dead. It was our first music festival experience of any kind, so we didn’t really know what to expect and brought nothing with us but cash and a blanket — we ended up shutting down the event.

We relaxed on our blanket under the trees listening to music from Midnight North, Moon Alice, and Stu Allen & Mars Hotel on the main stage, and on the side stage, we discovered some awesome local bands including Saints of Circumstance. We enjoyed beer from Auburn Alehouse and ate some great food, and the kids played all day in the kid zone.

We had a blast. So needless to say we put the 2016 2nd Annual Ain’t Necessarily Dead Fest on our calendar the minute we found out the date.

Ain't Necessarily Dead Fest

2nd Annual Ain’t Necessarily Dead Fest

This year we were prepared. We packed a picnic dinner and snacks, low rise lawn chairs, and a big blanket. The event officially ran from 1:00pm to 10:00pm, but we arrived early to be sure we snagged a great spot in the shade. Success!

While we did pack a picnic, the event was again free this year, so we made sure to support the sponsors and vendors.

We bought beers, sno-cones, and even some tie-dye! We also bought the kids wristbands for the kid zone again, so they could run around the park and play on the slides and obstacle courses, run in the hamster balls, and do the rock climbing. It is so awesome that our kids are finally old enough to be able to go back and forth from our home base under the trees and the kid zone, or to come find us at one of the stages.

Brian and I had a blast dancing in the grass, listening to the music we love, and hanging out with our Grateful Dead family — all of the friends we have met from attending so many local events and concerts.

Main Stage

The Ain’t Necessarily Dead Fest once again had two stages. The main stage featured:

  • Chalice Star
  • Lonesome Locomotive
  • Tracorum
  • Midnight North
  • Moonalice
  • Stu Allen & Mars Hotel

We really enjoyed the reggae versions of the Dead songs played by Chalice Star and the energy of Tracorum joined by our friend Murphy Murphy, even in the hot, blazing sun.

I also loved Midnight North’s set. We’ve seen then a few times now, and you can always tell they are truly having a great time on stage. Midnight North is headed by Grahame Lesh (son of the Grateful Dead’s Phil Lesh) and front-woman Elliott Peck, as well as organ player and guitarist Alex Jordan. The band also features bassist Connor Croon and drummer Alex Koford.

Headlining the event was Stu Allen & Mars Hotel. Stu Allen often plays with The Grateful Dead’s Phil Lesh and regularly plays at Phil Lesh’s venue, Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael. Brian and Natalie have been to a few Stu Allen & Mars Hotel shows on their Daddy/Daughter Date Nights, so she was excited to see them again.

Homegrown Stage

Alternating with the main stage, local Dead bands entertained the crowd on the Homegrown Stage. Run by our friend Todd Gardner and The Saints Of Circumstance, the Homegrown Stage featured:

  • The Cheeseburger Boys
  • Campfire Crooners
  • The Gnaw Ridge Duo
  • The Saints of Circumstance

The Saints of Circumstance are actually one of our favorite local bands. We actually discovered them at the 2015 Ain’t Necessarily Dead Fest. We thought they were awesome, so we took a photo of the lineup so we could google them later and find another show — and we’ve seen them many times since.

I was also excited to check out the Campfire Crooners for the first time, as my parents are neighbors with a member of the band and have mentioned how great they are several times.

Ain’t Necessarily Dead Fest 2017

The Ain’t Necessarily Dead Fest is a free, one day music festival — one of the largest outside of San Francisco in Northern California. Scott Holbrook and all of the volunteers who dedicated time to make this event happen truly create a warm, friendly, inclusive event that is fun for the whole family.

Fans come from all over, even from out of state for the event. Everyone is friendly and up for a good time, and it’s not uncommon to make new friends.

We’re already looking forward to to the Ain’t Necessarily Dead Fest 2017. We wouldn’t miss it.

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