Trixie Garcia is in a bit of a daze when she answers the phone. This is understandable since she’s just gotten back from Chicago where she finished off a run of concerts marking the final (supposedly) performances featuring the surviving members of the Grateful Dead. By all accounts, the shows were a massive success, and it seems that nearly every fan of the Dead has been left with a glow. Nonetheless, the daughter of the band’s late guitarist is happy to reflect on the shows and talk about one of the band’s best-known charitable ventures: the Rex Foundation. Since 1984 the Rex Foundation has provided grants of more than $8.9 million to numerous recipients, all of which fall in line with its mission to support positive causes relating to arts, culture, education, and the environment. While the Dead may have bid us goodnight (for now), the Rex Foundation has plenty of exciting events coming up.
How are you doing? Are you recovered from the past two weekends?
No, are you? [laughs]
What’s the comedown process been like for you and everyone else involved?
I’m still just trying to savor the moment and enjoy the show.
What was your feeling like right when the shows ended on that Sunday night?
I felt like everyone did a great job. Nothing caught on fire or exploded or collapsed, so we’re all very happy.
So, talking about the Rex Foundation, what role do you personally play?
The Rex Foundation has a large board of directors, of which I am one of them. That means I’m involved in spending the money that the Foundation is awarded. We select the grantees; we go out and find different charities that are small enough to be positively affected by the size of the grants that we give. I participate in other ways, like I go to the events and I meet and greet people before shows.
How do you choose what organizations you give to?
We aren’t being solicited with grants. We go out and find them. Some of the guidelines are that their budget be under a million dollars – that $10,000 would make a difference – and something that needs to be done and not something that would be unaligned with the philosophies of the Grateful Dead community. We’re participating in the scene by creating spaces for the community and ways for the community to be philanthropically active.
Is that a challenge, and do you think now that a lot of Deadheads are older and have better sources of income it’s easier to throw events and actually get support?
I don’t think there’s ever been a problem getting support for the events. We are coming into a new reality of estate planning and things like that, for Deadheads who are basically baby boomers. We try to not be too rude, but remind people that they can leave money for the Rex Foundation in their wills. That’s the hard part about being a non-profit is having to ask for the money, but that’s what it’s all about. But we have a lot of really successful hippies. I’ve met some CEOs and extremely successful Deadheads over the past couple weeks.
I know it was for Headcount, but what were your thoughts when that guy bid half a million dollars for Bob Weir’s guitar? Did you think maybe he was a little nuts?
I haven’t heard that story yet. People are nuts, but it’s charity. You get a one of a kind thing from this concert and it’s tax deductible. The whole thing was a little crazy, just to see 70,000 people in the stadium at once, but it doesn’t surprise me too much because I know what kinds of fans are out there.
Based on the last few weeks and the whole 50th anniversary, it seems like the Dead are more popular than ever now, which is kind of crazy. Do you think that visibility gives something like the Rex Foundation more longevity?
Of course it does. It broadens our whole reach for sure, and it’s a real treat to see a lot of people who were born since Jerry died at the shows and totally geeking out about the Grateful Dead. Another thing that was great about the shows was the whole multi-generational thing that was happening, you know, people coming with their grandkids or their mom.
What’s it like for you when a 15-year-old Deadhead comes up to you now?
It’s the same for all of us, which is like wow, because I know it’s not an easy band to get into. It’s not obviously like catchy tunes or anything. I respect Deadheads because they’ve been touched so deeply by the music that it’s impacted their lifestyle. That’s a beautiful thing. Sixteen or seventy, whatever!
I noticed they’re selling the Let Trey Sing shirts and donating profits to the Rex Foundation. Did you have any part in that idea?
No, that was a complete surprise and I love Bob’s sense of humor. I had no part in that. I wanted him to shave off his beard for charity but that got lost.
How likely would that have been?
I don’t know, 75%?
You said in an interview before the Chicago shows that you hoped Trey would be a little pushier. Do you think he pulled that off?
He totally did. He had so many great moments. He did achieve that absolutely.
For all the shows, what was your highlight?
The rainbow – that was just proof to everybody. How long the crowd sang “Not Fade Away” was really sweet. Hearing the beginning of “Iko Iko” was really a memorable feeling for me, just in general over my whole life, that sound of when “Iko Iko” comes on. All of it was great. Yeah, I’m not recovered.
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Were there any songs you wanted to hear but didn’t make it on the setlist?
“I Am The Walrus” [laughs]!
Did Trey ever come and talk to you before the shows and ask for your thoughts on things and about your dad?
He wanted us to pick out an outfit for him. No he didn’t [laughs]. We’ve been around in this landscape for a while. He knows that he’s not trying to be Jerry, so the less weirdness the better. We spent some time together though. I had a very powerful moment with Trey and his daughters and me and my sister, and us kind of realizing that Trey’s daughters are about the age I was when Jerry died. We just had a really nice tender moment of appreciation for the father-daughter bond. It’s all good positive stuff.
Given all the momentum, do you see anything happening in the future for more Dead-related stuff?
The Rex Foundation has its annual Tie Dye Ball in December, and we have Jerry Day coming up. That’s not a Rex thing but it goes to benefit the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater that they did here in San Francisco. But there will be more events. There’s no one looking at all of those 70,000 people and thinking it’s not going to happen again. In some shape or form obviously – with that exact lineup I highly doubt – but we’ll see. There’s definitely going to be more large events.
You’re talking about shows with different members of the band?
Right, there’s going to be much more.
Is there a feeling in the Grateful Dead camp that you’d like to see more of that?
Yeah, there’s a feeling that our fanbase wouldn’t be served if there were no more events. I think it’s pretty obvious to everybody. Everybody wants to go to more shows.
For more info on the Rex Foundation, including upcoming events and how to get involved, check out rexfoundation.org!