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If you happened to visit Olompali State Historic Park near Novato last November, you might have come upon an arresting sight: a camera crew encircling Grateful Dead rhythm guitarist Bob Weir under an old oak tree.

The seven-person crew was part of a team making an authorized documentary, helmed by executive producer Martin Scorsese, about the Grateful Dead over the course of the band’s 50-year career.

Olompali, where the Dead lived in 1966, is just one of the North Bay locales featured in the film, said co-producer Justin Kreutzmann. The documentary isn’t quite finished and may not be released this year.

“It will come out when it’s ready,” said Kreutzmann, 45, the son of Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann. “It would be nice to hit the 50th anniversary, but making a better film is more important than trying to capitalize on the hype around that. We’re still editing. There’s so much great material, as you can imagine, to go through.”

Five concerts will be performed in Chicago and Santa Clara this summer to commemorate the band’s formation in 1965.

Co-producer Eric Eisner, CEO of Double E Pictures, said, “Our film is not a celebration of the band’s 50th anniversary. It’s a celebration of the band as a whole. We hope our movie exists for many years as a legacy piece, so we have no problem waiting until all the festivities of the 50th have passed somewhat.”

The film will come out first in theaters, Eisner said, and long-term, may play at midnight on weekends “in the ‘Rocky Horror’ slot. We want … future generations to know what the band was all about.”

The film remains untitled, Kreutzmann said. “Do you just call it ‘Grateful Dead’? Do you call it ‘Long Strange Trip’?”

Grateful Dead archivist David Lemieux is music supervisor for the film, which will be directed by Amir Bar-Lev (“The Pat Tillman Story”). Both declined interview requests, saying they would prefer to talk when the film is complete.

It’s unclear what will make the final cut, but Kreutzmann said the North Bay is an essential part of the band’s story.

“The band’s studio was in San Rafael. ‘Touch of Gray’ was recorded in San Rafael, and everybody (the Dead and their extended family) lived in Marin at that time (1980s),” Kreutzmann said. “The crew all lived in Petaluma.”

Bassist Phil Lesh was filmed at Terrapin Crossroads, his restaurant and music space in San Rafael, and drummer Mickey Hart was interviewed at his home near Sebastopol.

Scorsese has a long history of making rock music documentaries, starting as an assistant director on “Woodstock” (1970) and including 1978’s “The Last Waltz” about The Band’s farewell show, 2005’s “No Direction Home” a look into the life of Bob Dylan, and 2011’s “George Harrison: Living in the Material World.”

“Millions of stories have been told about the Grateful Dead over the years,” said the Dead’s surviving members — Weir, Lesh, Hart and Kreutzmann — in a statement last fall. “With our 50th anniversary coming up, we thought it might just be time to tell one ourselves, and Amir is the perfect guy to help us do it.”

Beyond the band members, interviewees include lyricist Robert Hunter, Trixie Garcia (Jerry’s daughter), band manager Dennis McNally and Sen. Al Franken, a longtime fan.

Where to see the Wildflowers

Wildflower or Wildfire Hikes at Sonoma Regional Parks in April 2018

For directions and registration information, go to: parks.sonomacounty.ca.gov/Play/Calendar

April 8, 2018 from 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM
Spring Wildflower Walks: North Sonoma Mountain Regional Park: Explore the park’s spring wildflowers and the rich biodiversity. Search for blooms beneath the majestic redwoods, along Matanzas creek, amidst beautiful oaks and throughout open meadows as we climb the north slope of Sonoma Mountain. Enjoy lunch and breathtaking views from the Bennett Valley Overlook on this 5-mile hike.

April 14, 2018 from 9:00 AM – 2:00 PM
Wildfire Ecology Hikes - Hood Mountain Regional Park: How are the parks recovering from the Sonoma County wildfires? Join a Regional Parks naturalist on 7-mile hike in Hood Mountain Regional Park.

April 14, 2018 from 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Spring Wildflower Walks - Taylor Mountain Regional Park - Petaluma Hill Road Entrance: Enjoy surprising stories and fascinating facts about nature’s blooming treasures as we search along the trail for spring wildflowers and spectacular scenery.

April 14, 2018 from 2:00 – 4:00 PM
Spring Wildflower Walks: Creekside Wildflower Walk -Crane Creek Regional Park: Explore edible, medicinal, useful and wondrous wildflowers. Spot remarkable blooms and discover their stories on this fun and informative 3-mile walk with a knowledgeable naturalist.

April 21, 2018 from 9:00 AM – 2:00 PM
Spring Wildflower Walks: Serpentine Secrets - Tolay Lake Regional Park: Join Regional Parks and the Sonoma Land Trust to experience spring’s riches at Tolay Lake Regional Park and discover rare, diverse and abundant displays of native wildflowers. Learn about California’s serpentine soils and their important and unique relationship with native wildflower species. Enjoy amazing views of San Pablo Bay and beyond on this 6-mile, semi-strenuous hike through open, rolling grasslands. Bring a hat, sunscreen, plenty of water and a picnic lunch.

April 28, 2018 from 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Wildfire Ecology Hike - Sonoma Valley Regional Park: How are the parks recovering from the Sonoma County wildfires? Join a Regional Parks naturalist on an easy to moderate-level 3-mile hike in Sonoma Valley Regional Park in Glen Ellen.

April 29, 2018 from 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Spring Wildflower Walks: From Wildfire to Wildflower - Sonoma Valley Regional Park: Explore this unique botanical hotspot, observe splendid spring blooms, and discover the fascinating relationship between wildfire and wildflowers. This park was profoundly affected by the October 2017 Nuns Fire. Expect to see the park respond with an abundant and diverse display of wildflowers this spring — a beautiful reminder and charming celebration of nature’s resilience.

Wildflower and Wildfire Hikes at State Parks in Sonoma County in April 2018

Sugarloaf Ridge State Park

For directions and registration information go to: sonomaecologycenter.org/events

April 8, 2018 from 9:30 AM – 1:30 PM
Join botanist Ann Howald of California Native Plant Society‘s Milo Baker chapter to tour areas of the park that burned in the October wildfires. The walk’s emphasis is on recovery of trees and shrubs that burned, and to look for wildflowers–possibly ones that follow fires and have not been seen for decades.

April 22, 2018 from 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Join Botanist, Peter Warner, in this Earth Day Sugarloaf exploration! Fire is a powerful, rejuvenating force in California plant ecology. On this leisurely walk, with some elevation gains and losses, well observe and discuss the various effects of fire and its chemical by-products on the flora (and fauna) across several different habitat types, including grassland, oak woodland, and chaparral.

April 14, 15 and 28, 2018 from 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Join park naturalists and/or Sonoma Ecology Center staff to learn how to interpret fire landscapes at Sugarloaf that burned in the recent wildfires. Come see the land recover. We will be assessing burned trees, learning how to interpret fire-affected landscapes, and watching for special “fire follower” wildflowers. Discussion questions include: Why did this happen? What does it mean? How do we prepare for it happening again?

Jack London State Park

For directions and registration information for Jack London hikes, go to: jacklondonpark.com/jack-london-future-events.html

April 7, 2018 from 10:00 AM to 3:30 PM
Wildflowers on the East Slope Trail: It’s been a three years since the Eliot Loop Trail opened with the help of the Bay Area Ridge Trail and the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation & Open Space District. Join us as we discover an array of wildflowers that bloom along the trail while enjoying the fantastic views! We will expect to see carpets of California Poppies and Lupines at the top and a variety of wildflowers along the Sonoma Ridge trail. Join Park naturalist John Lynch as we take a moderately paced 12 mile nature hike to explore the wildflowers and anything else we find along the way.

Earth Day Wildflower Walk and Hike
April 21, 2018 from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM (walk) and April 22, 2018 from 10:00 AM to 1:30 (hike)
This Earth Day weekend revel in the beauty of spring with either a wildflower walk or hike. These outdoor adventures will be led by naturalist John Lynch and focus on the interconnected web of nature at the Park. Saturday discover the wildflowers along the Wolf House trail on an easy short walk or on Sunday, take an intermediate 4 to 8 mile hike, we’ll go where the wildflowers are best, on back country trails to discover a wider variety of wildflowers. With both you can expect to see Canyon Delphinium, Chinese Houses, Golden Fairy Lantern, Lupine, Popcorn Flower, Mules Ears (2 varieties) as well as the birds, reptiles and other plants that make up the eco-system of the Park. Our hikes are slow-paced so allow plenty of time, bring cameras, binoculars, poles, plenty of water, snacks and wear sturdy shoes. Be prepared for uneven ground.


Read all of the PD's fire coverage here

The Dead considered making a film while recording the album “Workingman’s Dead” (1970), so some rare archival footage exists from that period, Kreutzmann said. “When I saw this footage I thought, Wow, you can do a whole film just on this.”

The Dead and the film’s co-producers are thrilled to have Scorsese on board, he said. Director Bar-Lev will present a rough cut to Scorsese, and he’ll respond with notes and suggestions, bringing “fresh perspective” to the film.

“You know, he’s Martin Scorsese,” Kreutzmann said. “So we will listen.”

During Weir’s day at Olompali last fall, state archaeologist Breck Parkman showed the 67-year-old guitarist around his old stomping grounds.

Weir, Parkman and the film crew spent about four hours at the park with Bar-Lev, finding the old oak tree under which they were photographed for an album cover, checking out the ruins of the Burdell Mansion where the band lived and examining the cement platform that was once the foundation for a commercial bread-baking oven. It became the stage on which the Dead and their cohorts had impromptu jams.

As cameras rolled, Weir’s tour concluded at Olompali’s visitor center, which houses remnants from the Dead’s time there such as old record albums that melted in a fire.

Said Parkman: “Bob seemed to enjoy the thought of being archaeological.”

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