Panel at the Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association (PAMLA) Conference Las Vegas: “City of God, City of Destruction”

Presiding Officer: Richard Hishmeh (Palomar College) 

This panel focuses on any topic related to the Grateful Dead and Las Vegas. Cultural Studies approaches, personal recollections, and other relevant methodologies welcome.

Itinerant deadheads who followed the Grateful Dead on their never-ending tour were always seen in sharp contrast to the people and places amongst which they found themselves. Nowhere, perhaps, was this contrast more keenly felt than when the Grateful Dead played Vegas. Tye-dye clad, long haired deadheads caravanned across the desert and found themselves rubbing elbows with tuxedoed high rollers, international tourists, and the rest of the jet set, amidst the neon lit glitz and glamour of the Strip’s casino palaces. The Grateful Dead first played Las Vegas in 1969, at the Ice Palace, an ice-skating rink. They didn’t return to Sin City until 1981, when they played, to the surprise of many, the Aladdin Theater. The Aladdin Theater was an indoor casino theater accustomed to Vegas shows. At the time it was the home of Wayne Newton’s Vegas residency. They returned to the Aladdin in 1983 and 1984, before taking another hiatus from the city. When they came back to Vegas in 1991, they found themselves booked, more fittingly, at the outskirts of town, at the Sam Boyd Silver Bowl. From 1991 to 1995, when the band disbanded after Jerry Garcia’s death, their regular shows at the Sam Boyd Silver Bowl became some of their most storied and notorious gatherings. Coupled with the band's numerous songs themed on gambling and card playing, The Grateful Dead’s relationship to Sin City is ripe for inquiry and analysis.