Valley of the Dead: San Jose

How to connect to the history of the Grateful Dead without a ticket.
Here are the places where history happened.
The City of San Jose recently cemented over a leaky bamboo garden (above) in the aproximate location of the Grateful Dead's first performance. Photograph by Dan Pulcrano

Grateful Dead Debut at San Jose Acid Test

43 S. Fifth St.

After getting a taste for LSD, Ken Kesey felt compelled to spread the psychedelic gospel. He began holding Acid Tests—the first of which was in the unincorporated Soquel area of Santa Cruz. The first documented performance of the Grateful Dead was here at the second-ever Acid Test hosted by Kesey. They would go on to become Kesey's go-to band for future Acid Tests. The location is now a patch of gray cement outside of City Hall, where municipal employees lunch at picnic tables under umbrellas.

The Offstage

970 S. First St.

This folk music venue hosted many an aspiring singer/songwriter. Jerry Garcia played the venue from time to time. The location just south of the highway 280 overpass, is now home to the Vinh Hing Bakery, across from a Wienerschnitzel.

Continental Ballroom

1600 Martin Ave.

A short drive from Levi's Stadium, the former The Continental Ballroom (which was also home to the '80s modern rock club One Step Beyond), was a well-known South Bay rock club in the '60s. The Dead played at this Santa Clara venue in December of 1966 and four times in 1967.

City National Civic Auditorium

135 W. San Carlos St.

Formerly known as the San Jose Civic Auditorium, the City National Civic is still host to many rock & roll and other live music performances. On Aug. 20, 1972, the Grateful Dead played this downtown institution. The Rolling Stones performed at the SJ Civic on Dec. 4, 1965—the date of the San Jose Acid Test. It was rumored that Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts of the Stones came to the party after their show, but multiple sources, including Rolling Stone magazine founder Jann Wenner and Ken Babbs of The Merry Pranksters, tell Metro they saw neither Wyman nor Watts.

Santa Clara County Fairgrounds

344 Tully Road

Although they weren't mentioned in promotional materials, The Dead played the first day of the Northern California Folk Rock Festival on May 18, 1968—sharing the stage with a who's who of the era's greatest artists: The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Country Joe and the Fish, Eric Burdon and The Animals, Janis Joplin and many more.

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