The Posters of the Grateful Dead Archive

The Fillmore, the Avalon, and the Birth of the Psychedelic Poster

The Acid Tests also mapped the ways that an artistic event could be a transformative but contemporary community ritual, a multimedia alembic that could help define the nature of the community itself by making everyone involved an artist of the experience. The audience became participants, participants became cocreators, and everyone was transformed. It made the events themselves a kind of art, and re-creating that spirit was the goal of the first dance-concerts hosted by the Family Dog and Bill Graham.

Bill Graham Presents Quicksilver Messenger Service, Grateful Dead, The Mothers, June 3-4 [1966].

Artist Alton Kelley was part of the group of friends who called themselves the Family Dog, the sponsors of the first rock dance at San Francisco’s Longshoremen’s Hall on October 16, 1965. A few days later, San Francisco Mime Troupe business manager Bill Graham hosted an equally successful concert to help raise funds for the Troupe, and realized there was an interested audience for the young bands in the City. In February, the Jefferson Airplane headlined at the Fillmore, booked by Graham with his Family Dog partner Chet Helms. The partnership was short-lived, and that spring, both men set up shop in rival ballrooms, Graham in the Fillmore and Helms in the Avalon. Between them they would sponsor an extraordinary outpouring of poster art.

Family Dog Presents King Kong Memorial Dance, The Great! Society, The Grass Roots, Big Brother & the Holding Co., Quick Silver Messenger Service, Saturday, February 26 [1966].