Grateful Dead bassist and son among musicians set to perform at first Sacred Rose festival

By Olivia Cohen and Abra Richardson

Kayla Macedo

Grahame Lesh has been immersed in the music business his whole life, but now, having been in the field full-time for seven years, Lesh is set to perform in the inaugural Sacred Rose festival this weekend.

The festival will be held at SeatGeek Stadium, located at 7000 S. Harlem Ave., in south suburban Bridgeview, and will run from Aug. 26-28.

Sacred Rose is a music festival that will be held less than 20 miles away from Columbia’s campus and is accessible by public transportation. This is the first year the festival will be held, and to kick off the tradition, organizers have lined up musicians from various genres to perform.

Lesh, the son of legendary bassist Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead, is expected to perform in two musical groups, his band Midnight North, and with Phil Lesh and Friends, where he will take the stage with his father.

Grahame Lesh has been performing with Phil Lesh and Friends off-and-on for 10 years, but he said the feeling of performing with his dad never gets old, and he considers himself lucky to be able to join him on stage. Phil Lesh is back in the spotlight at age 82, after staying home for the first 18 months of the pandemic out of caution.

Grahame Lesh said Phil Lesh and Friends will likely perform both Grateful Dead hits and songs from the Chicago-based band Wilco.

“It’s really magical. … It’s what we’ve been doing for our whole lives, but now it’s time we get to do it in front of people,” Lesh said. “This music [has] been around me for definitely my whole life, and so I do know it very well. … It’s pretty magical to be a part of the community, like, the family connection is pretty next level. We’re pretty lucky.”

Lesh said it felt cool to see his name and his bands be a part of Sacred Rose’s inaugural lineup.

“We saw that lineup, and I was just pretty stoked to be on the same bill with all those wonderful artists. … It’s the lineup of the summer for sure,” Lesh said. “Having our names up there with all those great musicians was pretty cool.”

Jesse Miller, bassist for the Philadelphia-based band Lotus, said he also thinks the festival has a “great” lineup and is looking forward to Sacred Rose being more band-focused.

“It’s a great lineup, and as much as we were proponents back in the day of bringing together bands and the electronic scene, sometimes now when I go to festivals, and it’s all bass DJs, like a band, even in a band like Lotus, it incorporates a lot of electronic music,” Miller said. “There [are] definitely fans of both. There’s some crossover, but sometimes it doesn’t feel like it fits that well together. … So I think this is a good focus for this festival in Chicago to make it more band-focused.”

The lineup will feature more than 40 acts, all different music styles spanning many decades. The genres are expected to range from jam bands to soul, funk to bluegrass and psych-rock to Americana tunes.

Michael Berg, the founder of Sacred Rose, said to Rolling Stone in March that he is proud to produce the festival, as it is “the first of its kind” in Chicago.

“In 2018 when we shifted North Coast from a multi-genre festival to a fully electronic music event, we started dreaming up Sacred Rose and what it could mean for fans of Americana, psych-rock, jam, indie, soul, funk and bluegrass,” Berg said in a statement to Rolling Stone. “Sacred Rose is the first festival of its kind in our area, and we’re so proud to deliver a special experience for our fans who have been patiently waiting for a lineup like this for a long time.”

Berg, who also co-founded the North Coast Music Festival, said he calls Sacred Rose a “choose-your-own-adventure” festival, as the event offers three stages of music – The Vega, The Canopy and The Dreamfield – which will house different genres of music each day.

“It’s cool to be able to have something to contribute to this music and this whole community that’s been around for way longer than me and will be around way longer than me too, hopefully,” Lesh said.