There’s a moment in Festival Express, the great documentary about the doomed Trans-Canada Festival, that explains why Garcia will be forgiven his sins.
Sha Na Na is playing and they’re great: this was the early band and they were ugly as sin, fat as fuck, balding, acne-scarred, openly oozing pus from several locations, one of the guys used to shit himself onstage–it was a bad-looking group and what they would do is dress some of the guys in gold lame, dress the rest in wife-beaters, then scream ROCK AND ROLL at you in three-part harmony until you either cheered or shit yourself in solidarity.
Sha Na Na was, in its own way, far weirder than the Dead. There was no nostalgia industry back then: there hadn’t been enough stuff made for there to be ironic takes on it, plus the 50’s were the first period anyone could be nostalgic for. No one missed the 40’s. Later on would be Bowzer and TV shows with corny jokes, but in 1970, they were a far more aggressive goof.
Still a goof, though: the best part of the performance is watching the other musicians react to it. They cut to Garcia and he’s having a grand old time, and they stay on him as the song ends.
“Sha Na Na has to catch a plane! Wave ‘goodbye’ to Sha Na Na, Calgary!” the announcer says.
And Garcia waves goodbye to Sha Na Na.