Trixie Garcia – daughter of Grateful Dead front man and countercultural icon Jerry Garcia – will be in Western Massachusetts Saturday for the East Coast launch of her family’s marijuana brand. The event in the Liberty Easthampton dispensary parking lot is styled in the manner of the sprawling traveling markets that followed the Dead’s tours in their heyday known as Shakedown Street. Garcia spoke with WAMC about how the brand pays homage to her father’s legacy, and her work in the charitable arm of the Grateful Dead organization.
GARCIA: The Garcia Hand Picked brand is basically sharing what hippies and counterculture pot smokers have been doing for the past 50 years. Our fan base has been out there growing some of the best weed in the world. And I grew up with joints, you know, hanging out of everyone's mouth in the scene. And my belief is it's a benevolent plant, and it's generally going to be a benefit to humanity when we can share we know what all the hippies know already with the rest of the world.
WAMC: What do you think Jerry would think about being attached to a legal marijuana business decades after it was seemingly impossible?
It's huge. It's such a big moment for- It's amazing how fast legalization is happening. And I think my father would be so thrilled that we could do this and what they dreamed for so long. People have spent their lives in prison for cannabis, so this is, it's purposeful, and meaningful on so many different levels, you know. He'd be thrilled. He's, I mean, obviously, we hate- It's difficult to brand, a guy like Jerry. We don't want to disrespect him, we don't want to disappoint the fans. So it's always a careful thing that we do, and always just the utmost respect to my dad and his legacy. And we only want to enhance that experience.
How do you negotiate that divide between your father as a cultural icon, as a brand, and as your dad?
It has been a long strange trip. You know, I share the opinion with the rest of the world that if there was something magical going on, you know. He was fun. He was smart. He was obviously an amazing guitar player, although he famously said that on his tombstone he wanted it to say ‘competent guitar player.’ So, you know, he was humble, he, you know, all these things. So, it's always an honor just to be here and be part of such a big scene that continues to grow and be so meaningful to multiple generations now.
You wrote a really poignant article back in 2017 about the struggle to define yourself in the shadow of the massive world of the Grateful Dead. All these years later, as that scene and the influence of your father continues to seemingly grow unabated, where do you see yourself now in relation to that, you know, massive cultural entity?
I mean, the Grateful Dead is, as a movement as a thing, it's still growing, it's still intact, the community is still there. And I see it all as a part of the 1960s counterculture reaction to what was going on in the world. And I've had so much to learn, there's a million experts out there that know, you know, every date that they played ‘Stella Blue,’ and you know, the amount of interest is incredible. So I could never, I could never be the number one historian or, obviously, I'm not a musician, I'm not my father. I just try to open the door and share what I can with as many people as possible, because, my opinion, this music, and this culture is a benefit to humanity in general. So that's my job. I feel like, that's, you know, how I can sleep at night is by having charitable portions of the profits go to the environment, or the Roadie Fund or something like that, because it really is about inclusion and fun and love.
On the topic of charitable giving, I know you're a board member of the Rex Foundation, a group formed by the Grateful Dead to distribute money to various nonprofits and artists and movements and things of that nature. I'd love to hear about your work with the foundation and what's going on in 2021.
Yeah, so the Rex Foundation was founded by the Grateful Dead when they kept getting approached with all these projects. They needed a way to streamline all of the different things, charitable things that the fan base is doing. So here we are 50 years later, however many years later, and yeah, we're still giving out hundreds of hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to in small grassroots amounts, like $5,000 grants to like struggling things run by individuals. And it’s a very small thing. But you know, it ranges from like kinetically powered soccer balls in West Africa to Native American drum ceremonies for kids in juvie in Montana or whatever. So it really is a broad brush there. And this is something that the Grateful Dead community has been doing since day one. They're world travelers, they're out there doing things, solving problems. It's an amazing thing to be a part of, and I'm really proud of the whole culture.
Looking back to the heyday of the band, what are the memories that you hold on to as someone who was part of the inner circle of the Dead at a time when they were playing massive stadium shows and building this cultural juggernaut that is still chugging along today?
For me growing up inside the Grateful Dead scene and backstage, the whole process of the fans coming to the show every night and the pre-show activities in the parking lot, running around, meeting up with your friends. For me, the best part at any Grateful Dead show was out in the hallways while the band was playing, because that's where all the great dancers would be, and, like it was, as a kid, it's like a gauntlet, you know. They’re spinning, they're running they're just doing all this weird ecstatic dance and it's just a magical thing when you really don't see anywhere else. And I've been treated very well, you know, and lots of love from every fan. It's so special.
In that 2017 article, you talk about turning to music like hip hop or other things outside of the Grateful Dead world to nurture your own identity. In 2021, what's on the Trixie Garcia summer playlist?
That's a good question. I love good music too. And, you know, I couldn't jam out the Grateful Dead like everyone else did, because it's just so loaded and especially now that Jerry’s passed. So yeah, I spent a lot of time being my own person and I got into hip hop and you know, the whole story, the Black American movement and music and everything like that is so powerful. I love radio, I absolutely love radio even more than like a playlist because you know, there's something about it and I love analog radio. I have a bucket list thing to maybe have a pirate radio station one day. The power of music is real. And I’ve witnessed it. So you know, I love everything from like Ella Fitzgerald to Fela Kuti to De La Soul and I like the golden age of hip hop was my thing. You know, reggae music is great. Up and coming stuff. Tinariwen. I love global music, everything. I'm open to it.
A lot of people have a lot of iconic images of your father in their mind. When they think of Jerry Garcia, they think of the sunglasses, they think of the mane, the beard- When you have like personal memories of your father offstage or in a home setting, what are the more intimate memories of him not so much as the onstage icon, but as the father or as the friend?
You know, the images that I have of my father are of a smile, you know? Of his big dopey smile, of his fun loving attitude. He was always- you know, it was, there was always some fun new things that he had going on that was a huge, a distraction, not a distraction, but you know, a different way to look at stuff. He was – he was aware of all these serious things, but he never really, he wasn't one guy to talk and bum everyone out with his with his diatribe or whatever. He was uplifting through and through. And he didn't want to be the bad guy, you know, so he was a pretty cool dad to me. He never told me to not do this or not do that, because he didn't want to be a drag. So it's a huge blessing to have had him in my life. And I'm so proud of it.
So you're bringing the big brand unveiling to Easthampton, Massachusetts on April 17th. Can you talk me through what exactly it's going be like? I'm told it's going to be a Shakedown Street-style outside presentation- Obviously, pandemic conditions apply here. So what's it going to be like?
Yeah, so we'll probably have some music playing, we'll have some videos and possibly the, you know, we have an Airstream decorated in the tour style that comes filled with all the merch and stuff like that. Probably a bunch of old family friends. And when I say family friends, I mean, probably people I've never met before, but that went to a Dead show, you know, in 1978, and these are people that come and feel like we're having a family reunion. And it always feels like that, whoever comes with that glow in their eye. So it'll be a wonderful place and don't be turned off by the by the weird looking hippies because the music is really great, the cannabis is really wonderful, and I'm excited to share it with everybody.