New Year's Eve 1978: The Grateful Dead's 8-Hour Concert, With Breakfast After

By | December 21, 2019

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The Grateful Dead perform at Winterland on December 31, 1978 in San Francisco, California. Left to right: Bob Weir, Donna Godchaux, Jerry Garcia, Keith Godchaux, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh and Mickey Hart (hand only). Photo by Ed Perlstein/Redferns/Getty

Saying goodbye to San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom was not an easy task. The venue played host to thousands of memorable shows. It can be seen in music documentaries that span genre and it’s namechecked by some of the greatest artists of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Winterland’s final day of operation was on December 31, 1978, and to close out the year and the venue’s existence the final show was orchestrated by San Francisco’s own Grateful Dead.

Rather than perform a regular set (if such a thing exists for the group) they played an eight hour long concert that went into the New Year and featured drop-ins from the New Riders of the Purple Sage, the Blues Brothers and Ken Kesey. As the sun rose and the band put down their guitars, they fed the audience breakfast before saying goodbye to the Winterland Ballroom for the last time. 

The Winterland Holds A Place In The Hearts Of Every West Coast Music Fan

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source: Michael Zagaris

Built in 1928 as an ice skating rink, the Winterland became a part of rock n roll lore in 1966 when promoter Bill Graham began renting it out to accommodate surging audiences from the Fillmore West. By 1971 he was renting the Winterland full time and running weekly shows for artists like Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Jefferson Airplane and pretty much anyone who could fill the 5,000-plus seats. The venue wasn’t just the home for flower children and rockers singing about their love of psychedelics: Bruce Springsteen recorded plenty of live sets there, and the Ramones packed the Winterland during their infancy. But the band who called the venue home was the Grateful Dead.