Jerryfest XI -- A Guest Blog by Bentz Kirby

What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been ...


Long, long ago in a universe far, far away there were two marching band nerds who lived in Lugoff, SC.  The young girl loved the Beach Boys and harmony singing.  The young man loved movies.  They played in the Lugoff-Elgin High School Marching Band and were friends, but had no idea of the journey they would make together as they grew into adults. Certainly they had no idea of what it would lead to this weekend.  This Saturday, September 29, there will be a celebration of 20 years of Loose Lucy’s which will take place at the eleventh Jerryfest at Utopia Food and Spirits.  So come out to 3830A Rosewood Drive, Columbia, SC to celebrate with Jenn and Don and their friends.

Although Jenn and Don McCallister had been friends in high school, it was after graduation when they both discovered their love for the Grateful Dead and the music of Jerry Garcia.  As is the case with a number of their peers, this led to traveling on the road to see the Grateful Dead at various locations like Greensboro, Chapel Hill, Boston, Philadelphia, and the like.  A visit to Loose Lucy’s (named after a Grateful Dead song) at 709 Saluda Avenue in 5 Points will show you they may not be on the road any more, but they are faithful to the friends and style they learned along the way.  The store is jammed with merchandise with a message.  You can always smell the sweet incense as you approach the store and hear the sounds of the Grateful Dead music playing inside.

Loose Lucy’s was started in Hilton Head and grew out of the vendor culture around the Dead tours.  Don and Jenn did not participate in that part of the origin of Loose Lucy’s. However, they did recognize what the shop meant to the culture and people who understood the music of the Grateful Dead.  They began as customers, moving to employees and to store owners in short order.  It was not what either was looking to do with their life and time, it just seemed to be the thing to do to help carry on the spirit of the larger Grateful Dead family.  When Mickey Hart spoke at Jerry Garcia’s funeral, he said it was up to the individual Dead Heads to carry the spirit back to their communities and keep it alive.  Owning and managing Loose Lucy’s has allowed the McCallisters to keep that spirit alive for twenty years now.

Being small business owners is not an easy life. Although Jenn and Don work hard at keeping the store in business, it also has allowed them the freedom to express their creativity in many ways.  They have at least three envelopes they decorated in the Grateful Dead archives.  (The Dead must be hoarders.)  Don has authored a published novel, Kings Highway and another novel, Fellow Traveler, is slated to be published by Muddy Ford Press this year.  Additionally he has a number of award winning short stories which have been published, including one in a Grateful Dead anthology.  Jenn has written songs with one of her bands, Stillhouse.  She is in another band, Jellyroll and Delicious Dish, with her friends, Bentz and May Kirby, which will be recording an album soon.  In her free time, she is a certified Zumba instructor who helps others keep fit in a fun way.

So, it seems logical that Jenn McCallister would be the driving force behind Jerryfest.  It is a celebration of the life and music of Jerry Garcia.  Jerry was the lead guitarist and one of the song writers for The Grateful Dead but he cast a much wider musical net.  He was a proficient player of both the pedal steel guitar (think Teach Your Children by CSNY) and the banjo.  He covered bluegrass and gospel music styles with the Jerry Garcia Band and Old and In the Way.  He also was, despite his denials, the spiritual leader of the Grateful Dead.  Jerryfest is a time for local musicians to pay tribute to Jerry’s music and influence, and Jenn certainly is the flame keeper of Jerryfest.  The origins of Jerryfest in Columbia go back to Kevin and Kelly Webb.  They formerly owned a bar in 5 Points named Minglewood (also named for a tune the Dead played).  In 2002, when the bar was only four months old, they realized that August 1, 2002 would have been Jerry’s 60th birthday.  They decided to invite a few bands in to celebrate, printed up some posters and took them to Loose Lucy’s and Jerryfest was born.  This phase of Jerryfest lasted for three years.  Then it was obvious to them Jerryfest had outgrown Minglewood.  The Webbs sold the business in 2005 and passed the torch on to Jenn.

Since then it has been held at Headliners, the old Utopia, and The Art Bar. This year the celebration returns to Utopia.  The event is from 4:00 P.M. til 11:30 P.M. on Saturday, September 29th.  There is no cover charge.  The music begins at 5:00 with 5 Star playing a bluegrass tribute to Jerry.  They are followed at 6:30 by Jackaroe Acoustic.  Next up is Alien Carnival at 8:00.  Finally, the evening is topped off at 9:30 when Stillhouse with Bitteroot sends another Jerryfest down the road.  On the “no” list are pets and coolers.  Do not bring either of these.

Come on out everyone and celebrate twenty years of Loose Lucy’s and Jerryfest XI.  The spirit is alive and so are you.  The trip continues so get on the bus!

--Bentz Kirby

(Bentz Kirby is an older child who practices law and loves to play music.  He has the most wonderful wife and family and is in general a lucky man. Reach Bentz at