Shotopop Heralds the Return of The Grateful Dead
Fifty years after The Grateful Dead formed in Palo Alto, California, they’re set to embark on a series of “Fare Well” concerts to put their performances to rest. Over the past 50 years, the band has seen nearly 15 members who came and went, most famously Jerry Garcia whose passing in 1995 created what many consider an unhealable wound in the band’s history. To bring proper reverence to The Dead’s history, these anniversary shows required artwork that would be in line with the band’s history, and Shotopop was brought on board to make it happen for The Wall Street Journal.
“We don’t often get to work with crazy famous band like this, and especially none that have been away for 20 years,” explains Casper Franken of Shotopop. “It’s been fun because it’s really designing something and revisiting old culture and illustrating for a band that was around before the world started changing. It’s before Internet and cellphones.” This particular shift has actually caused some headaches for the band and their promoters. The traditional process of reserving and buying tickets to Grateful Dead concerts was a carefully regulated system of mail in orders that just wasn’t going to work in 2015. The 210,000 tickets for the three Chicago shows were made available via TicketMaster who saw 500,000 requests: a record for the ticket agent. All those fans missing out were further incensed by steep resale prices, forcing the brand to create the Californian dates, but all of this is a reminder of the passion and culture around a brand who has become the shorthand for an entire American era.
This representation was not lost on Shotopop. They shifted their work in order to respect the tradition that The Grateful Dead created, keeping the final product in line with what the fans will expect and being honest to the band’s legacy. “We hand drew everything that we did here, as a kind of homage to the way that they used to do things. And it suits well with our style as well,” explains Casper. “It’s quite psychedelic and funky. We did a few color versions and they went for the most garish color version which I think suits the illustration very well. It’s not often that garish colors work well but I think in this case it’s the exact right thing.” The colors and style come together to honor this band with a half century of history, and untold passion by their millions of fans.
When it comes to being Dead fans, Shotopop are relatively new to the music. Obviously everyone knows about the band, but very little music had been played around the Shotopop studio until they had to dive into the culture. “I’ve always known about the Grateful Dead but I’d never listened to it intently until we got the job,” says Casper. “It’s not what I thought it would be. I saw visuals before I listened to the music, and I had heard the stuff a while ago, but listening to it again the visuals of the time were very telling of what the music is. The music is tye-dye.” Don’t blame Casper if you think that sounds a little funny. Remember: he’s under the influence of the Dead.