Kepler's, once a Grateful Dead hangout, hosts author of book on the band


"Spontaneous midair architecture. That's the essence of what making this kind of music is about," said author and musician David Gans during a recent recording of the "In Deep" radio broadcast with journalist Angie Coiro at Kepler's.

Mr. Gans, an Oakland resident, was speaking about his recent book, "This is all a Dream we Dreamed: An Oral History of the Grateful Dead."

The Grateful Dead had early ties to Menlo Park. According to the Menlo Park Historical Association, Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter lived and practiced music in a house at 2100 Santa Cruz Ave., known as "The Chateau," in the 1960s. The building was demolished around 2008.

The band was called the Warlocks in its early days, and played gigs at Magoo's Pizza Parlor on Santa Cruz Avenue, where Harvest Furniture is now.

The band also was known to spend time at Kepler's (when it was located at 825 El Camino), Applewood Inn and Guitars Unlimited.

David Gans, who worked as a music journalist and followed the Grateful Dead in its heyday, extolled the virtues of psychedelic drugs, which he said helped people "break out of the humdrum of suburban, middle class life."

Over the years, music changed as the substances influencing its composers changed, he said. When the dominant drug of choice for musicians switched from psychedelics to cocaine, he said, people became "less kind to each other," which he said is reflected in the music that followed.

He said the Grateful Dead's music thrived on the improvisational concept of "Yes, and," meaning the members of the group built on each other's contributions, rather than responding in the negative.

Performing was the Grateful Dead's biggest revenue source, which was less common back then, when selling records was the primary purpose of going on tour. Now, said Mr. Gans, going on tour is "the only viable way of doing things."

Becoming a follower of the Grateful Dead was once called the "last great American adventure" by one of the band's publicists.

"You (couldn't) run away with the circus anymore, but you could run away with the Grateful Dead," Mr. Gans said during the June 1 podcast.

Mr. Gans broke out his own guitar during the podcast recording session and played several songs – mostly of the Grateful Dead, but some of his own, too.

As a tribute musician, he said, he makes an effort to not sound like the original. He transposes the song into a key that is easier for him to sing in, for instance, and removes idiosyncrasies that were distinct to the original performer.

"I pick songs that tell my story in some way," he said.

Along with his book, Mr. Gans recently released albums of Grateful Dead songs and his own songs.

Go to Mr. Gans' website for more information.

Live broadcast radio show recording sessions of In Deep with Angie Coiro take place Wednesdays at noon at Kepler's Books.

Go to indeepradio.com for more information.

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