Happy Earth Day: Looking Back on Jerry Garcia’s 1990 Trip to Hawaii

Raffaela Kenny-Cincotta on April 22, 2020
Happy Earth Day: Looking Back on Jerry Garcia’s 1990 Trip to Hawaii

April 22 marks Earth Day, a day of awareness and action for the environment.

To celebrate, we’re looking back at one of the Jerry Garcia Band’s most unique shows, a 1990 Hawaii stop that showcased Garcia’s passion for conservation and live music alike.

Interestingly, promoter and longtime Grateful Dead confidant Bill Graham inaccurately billed the May 20 gig as an Earth Day performance (as previously mentioned, Earth Day is on April 22).

However, the band certainly put the environment first, filling the intimate Hilo Civic Auditorium to benefit The Ocean Recreation Council of Hawaii.

According to a 1970 article in the Hawaii Tribute Herald, Garcia saw the outing as a “working vacation” with a May 12 show in Wakiki – his first island show since 1970 – and the May 20 “Earth Day” gig.

Of course, Garcia also used the Hawaiian getaway to foster his passion for scuba diving, a hobby introduced to him by Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kretuzmann. He also spent time with local officials advocating for the reefs he loved exploring so much, particularly when it came to reckless anchoring by fishing and tour boats.

“I’ve seen what anchors can do to coral,” Garcia told the Hawaii Tribute Herald. “The reef is the bottom of the food chain. It provides food for the fish and so on, and the fish end up on people’s plates and so on. If you do away with the coral you’re basically trashing the whole economy of the islands, or at least a large percentage of it.”

For the show, Garcia was backed by keyboardist Melvin Seals, bassist John Kahn on bass, drummer David Kemper and vocalists Gloria Jones and Jacklyn LaBranch.

“The eighteen songs the band played in Hilo represent a fairly standard selection from the JGB repertoire,” Dead publicist/biographer Dennis McNally wrote when the show was released as GarciaLive 10. “Even though he sang all the leads, his side bands represented a break from the responsibility of serving the giant dragon that was the Grateful Dead. In some ways, it was a vacation, a busman’s holiday. That meant, for instance, that he focused on playing other people’s songs, so that there are only three originals here (‘They Love Each Other,’ ‘Run for the Roses,’ and ‘Deal’).”

Listen the entire May 20, 1990 show via Spotify here (or embedded below).

Also below, watch a clip chronicling Garcia’s May 1990 trip (including scuba diving and environmental advocacy), check out the official poster and listen to the Earth Day gig’s standout versions of “Evangeline” and “They Love Each Other.”