The mu­sic never stops in San Rafael

The Grate­ful Dead left their im­print, and shops and restau­rants rock on

San Francisco Chronicle - - TRAVEL - — Lisa Amand; travel@sfchron­i­

Mu­sic is se­ri­ous busi­ness in Marin. And in San Rafael, the heart of the scene is pos­i­tively Fourth Street. This is Grate­ful Dead coun­try, and for those who want to fol­low in their foot­steps, there’s much to ab­sorb.

Want­ing to learn more about the band’s con­nec­tion to San Rafael, I stopped at Friends Books (friends of the San Rafael Public Li­brary and now mine), where a kind woman pulled up a chair for me in the mu­sic sec­tion. I pored over his­to­ries of Ca­role King, Joni Mitchell, Mick Jag­ger, a slen­der, psy­che­delic book by Jerry Gar­cia and Clive Davis’ me­moir. Davis wrote about his first meeting with the Grate­ful Dead, in­tro­duc­ing them to pro­ducer Keith Olsen and the mak­ing of the 1977 al­bum “Ter­rapin Sta­tion.” I walked out the door with Patti Smith’s “Com­plete” cat­a­log lyrics and a burn­ing de­sire to visit Phil Lesh’s Ter­rapin Cross­roads, a mu­sic and restau­rant venue in the Canal Dis­trict owned by the renowned bass gui­tarist.

“The Grate­ful Dead was es­sen­tially a San Rafael band,” ac­cord­ing to Ter­rapin’s web­site, which gives im­por­tant nearby ad­dresses like 20 Front St., once the Dead’s record­ing stu­dio Club Front. Un­der the Litch­field’s sign on the north­east side of High­way 101 was the mu­sic hall Eu­pho­ria Ball­room, also known as Pep­per­land.

It’s grat­i­fy­ing to ex­plore Marin’s county seat and rest as­sured the spirit of the ’60s and ’70s is go­ing strong.


Sol Food’s beat is Latin, and the menu is Puerto Ri­can. Cafe Rico is a sweet mix of espresso and con­densed milk; eggs range from ar­roz con huevos to scram­bled re­voltillo. The restau­rant has a fa­cade painted lime green, wel­com­ing com­mu­nal ta­bles and counter seats, an ad­ja­cent bodega and ro­tis­serie, and a pa­tio a few doors down (as you walk to­ward Fourth Street). Red Devil Records is the des­ti­na­tion for con­tem­po­rary and vintage vinyl and some rare LPs. Owner Barry Lazarus ex­plains why cer­tain al­bums are valu­able (record and cover con­di­tion is a factor) and shows off sought-after ones by the Grate­ful Dead, Vel­vet Un­der­ground and Bob Dy­lan. Ba­nanas at Large is a fullser­vice em­po­rium for mu­sic les­sons, ukulele meet-ups, car­ry­ing cases for drum­sticks, Gib­sons and Fen­ders. At Alan Rosen’s big cor­ner store, you could get lucky and run into a fa­mous mu­si­cian (word is that Lesh, Bob Weir and Car­los San­tana have all been seen here). Dead­heads should check out the Vic­to­rian house at 1016 Lin­coln Ave. (at Fifth Street), the band’s of­fice in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. For ac­ces­sories suited to Sum­mer of Love fes­tiv­i­ties, head over to Na­maste, where Nepalese owner Deepiz Shrestha will help you choose among tie-dye sarongs, hand-em­broi­dered tu­nics, glit­tery scarves and starchy white In­dian shirts.


Break for lunch at the State Room, where the menu in­cludes Prather Ranch beef burg­ers, pou­tine, BLTs, kale and veg­gie com­bos, and the brew­ery’s $10 flights (four 5-ounce glasses). Happy hour (3 to 5 p.m. Tues­dayFri­day) means dol­lar oys­ters, $6 sal­ads, $7 baos and $8 char­cu­terie boards. The out­side area is a friendly hang­out for both pups and peo­ple.


If the sun’s out, you might find Lesh per­form­ing week­ends in the Back­yard at Ter­rapin Cross­roads. Some ap­pear­ances are spon­ta­neous, oth­ers on the cal­en­dar. You can’t put to­gether a more re­laxed af­ter­noon than groov­ing to cool bands on the banks of the canal as small boats and pad­dle­board­ers drift by. Lesh, a found­ing mem­ber of the Grate­ful Dead, is ap­proach­able and in fine form after two hours of the Satur­day con­cert he calls “Songs to Phil the Air.” Sun­day af­ter­noon is story time when Lesh, him­self a grand­fa­ther, reads and sings to chil­dren. Fancy and ca­sual food, along with plenty of draft beers, is avail­able in the restau­rant. Back­yard au­di­ences dine on sal­ads and pizza at ta­bles or on the grass while tod­dlers climb the jun­gle gym and run next to bocce ball courts. The con­certs are free, and the con­vivial crowd is whipped into a (po­lite) frenzy when they hear Lesh and oth­ers belt out “Un­cle John’s Band.” Sons Gra­hame Lesh and Brian Lesh play there when they’re not on the road. Lesh wanted to cre­ate a multi­gen­er­a­tional space for fam­ily and friends to per­form, em­u­lat­ing the late Levon Helm’s jam ses­sions in Helm’s Wood­stock, N.Y., barn. Check the web­site for groups ap­pear­ing in the bar, beach park or more se­ri­ous Grate Room (Marin band San Geron­imo per­forms Pink Floyd’s 1973 al­bum “Dark Side of the Moon” May 26).


All ages en­joy the Down­town Farm­ers Mar­ket 6 to 9 p.m. Thurs­days. Ven­dors sell straw­ber­ries, cher­ries, or­anges, greens, gra­nola and flow­ers. Live mu­sic (reg­gae, folk, rock) is per­formed on three Fourth Street stages (be­tween Lootens Place and B Street), with the big­gest, loud­est group at City Plaza. For din­ner, there is regional Mex­i­can food and home­made tor­tillas from La Meme­las de Luna and steak sand­wiches from Tri-Tip Trol­ley. For a vis­ual piece of rock ’n’ roll his­tory, the Smith Rafael Film Cen­ter screens new, clas­sic and artis­tic movies. Com­ing up: the 2017 documentar­y “Long Strange Trip” (four hours of Grate­ful Dead footage and in­ter­views) on Thurs­day, May 25; “Alice Cooper: Wel­come to My Night­mare” on June 1; a trib­ute to Leonard Cohen June 10; and a 50th-an­niver­sary restora­tion of “Mon­terey Pop” on June 18. Film­mak­ers and ac­tors of­ten ap­pear at events at the el­e­gant, mu­ral­rich Art Deco theater, home of the Cal­i­for­nia Film In­sti­tute and a venue for the Mill Valley Film Fes­ti­val.

Above: Phil Lesh of the Grate­ful Dead per­forms at the ca­sual Canal Dis­trict venue he owns, Ter­rapin Cross­roads, while the au­di­ence lounges in the sun.

Left: Reg­u­lar cus­tomer Jes­sica As­cen­cio, a lo­cal, looks for clas­sic rock records at Red Devil Records in San Rafael.

Miles Rud­senske, 8, of San Rafael sam­ples Rodrigues Farms straw­ber­ries at the Sun­day Marin Farm­ers Mar­ket.

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