The Grateful Dead’s 1972 Europe tour is the stuff of legends and often gets all the notoriety, but it wasn’t their first trip across the pond. In the summer of 1971, the Dead were scheduled to play at a free festival in France. Unfortunately the festival was rained out, but fortunately the Dead weren’t going to let a little rain stop them from playing their first gig in Europe.
Here is the story of what happened as told by Jerry Garcia to Dead historian Blair Jackson,
“The group’s most exotic gig in 1971 was a one-shot in France. “We went over there to do a big festival, a free festival they were gonna have,” Garcia said. “We went over [at the promoter’s expense], but the festival was rained out; it flooded. We stayed at this little chateau [Chateau d’Herouville] which is owned by a film score composer who has a 16-track recording studio built into the chateau, and this is a chateau that Chopin once lived in; really old, just delightful, out in the country near the town of Auvers, which is where Vincent Van Gogh is buried. …
“We were there with nothing to do: France, a 16-track recording studio upstairs, all our gear, ready to play, and nothing to do. So, we decided to play at the chateau itself, out in the back, in the grass, with a swimming pool, just play into the hills. We didn’t even play to hippies, we played to a handful of townspeople in Auvers. … We played and the people came — the chief of police, the fire department, just everybody. It was an event and everybody just had a hell of a time — got drunk, fell in the pool. It was great.”
Thanks to YouTube Christopher Hazard for the remastered footage!