TRAILERS: Don’t Miss the New Dead Documentary, Long Strange Trip

by Peter Wendel
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LongStrangeTripDocuArtBy all accounts, the feverishly anticipated documentary, Long Strange Trip: The Untold Story of the Grateful Dead, lives up to its name. Despite the multitude of books and films devoted to the iconic band, Long Strange Trip is a tale that hasn’t been told until now – at least not with the kind of brutal honesty that director Amir Bar-Lev brings to the fore.

Sure, the hefty four-hour film features plenty of vintage feel-good footage, music and interviews from the band’s heyday, but it also takes a long (rather dark), insider’s look at the Dead’s slow, painful unravelling – an inevitable collapse brought on by the relentlessness of the band’s touring schedule and hastened by the self-destructive tendencies of Jerry Garcia.

Long Strange Trip is as tragic as it is triumphant. The rose-colored hues have been wiped away, leaving behind an unvarnished take on the cultural phenomenon known as the Grateful Dead. This film, more than any other of its kind, takes note of Garcia’s deepening physical and spiritual isolation as the never-ending tour wound down in the early-’90s.

From Owen Gleiberman’s article “Film Review: ‘Long Strange Trip’” for Variety magazine:

The story of Jerry Garcia’s downfall has been amply chronicled, and though “Long Strange Trip” doesn’t delve as much as it might have into his relentless appetites, notably his on-and-off heroin addiction, it culminates in a haunting portrait of Garcia the rock star who became a rock messiah until it ate him alive. The grind of the tour with no end wore him down, yet he refused to give it up… (Even on the rare occasions when they did stop for a breather, Jerry just went right out on tour with his own band.) “Long Strange Trip” captures one of the most potent and eccentric sagas in the history of rock & roll, but in the end it’s the story of a lone artist-addict – the man who, more than any other, symbolized the communality of rock yet wound up as spiritually isolated as Elvis. 

At the Sundance Film Festival 2017, Amir Bar-Lev talks about Long Strange Trip and the vitalness of the Grateful Dead:

From Noel Murray’s article for the A.V. Club, “The magnificent Long Strange Trip captures the splendor and folly of the Grateful Dead”:

Taken as a whole – or viewed from a distance – the tale Long Strange Trip tells could be seen as a pop tragedy. But despite how it ended, and despite how many special people were damaged or lost along the way, the journey itself included moments so singularly remarkable that they mostly mitigate the mistakes. The brilliance of Long Strange Trip is that Bar-Lev allows for multiple interpretations. Yes, this is a movie about the slow corruption of a noble ideal. But it never lets viewers forget that in the epic four-decade song that was the Grateful Dead, so many of the solos were stunning – and could be heard from the front of the stage to the parking lot.

Long Strange Trip will debut in New York and Los Angeles this weekend and will be available to stream on June 2nd through Amazon Prime. Don’t miss it.

Peter Wendel is a journalist and PR consultant. He's attended hundreds of concerts and festivals, including the Peach, Mountain Jam, the All Good and Lockn'. He's ridden legendary Grateful Dead runs from Ventura County Fairgrounds to Irvine Meadows (CA) from the Nassau Coliseum (NY) to the Boston Garden (MA). Peter is a former U.S. Marine who – after running into trouble with every last one of his commanding officers – received an honorable discharge and a direct order never to return. Born in California and raised in New Jersey, Peter lived in Boston and Joshua Tree (CA) before settling in the nation's capital. Find him on tour at PWendel@SongMango.com.

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