The spirit of Phil Lesh’s Terrapin Crossroads lives on at his sons’ Sunday Daydream festivals

It was a sad day for the Marin County music scene when Terrapin Crossroads, the San Rafael restaurant, bar and music venue founded by former Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh, closed in 2021. The shutdown ended a nearly 10-year run for Terrapin as a joyful gathering place for a devoted community of musicians and live music fans, particularly those in the Grateful Dead universe. Or did it?

In announcing the closing, Lesh left the door open for Terrapin to return, at least in spirit, “in some form, somewhere down the road.”

RELATED: At 84, Phil Lesh reflects on Terrapin, aging and playing at his sons’ Daydream festivals

That road has led to McNears Beach Park in San Rafael, where Terrapin Crossroads returns in the form of a pair of outdoor festivals this summer. Called Sunday Daydream Volumes 3 and 4, the shows, set for July and August, are headlined by Phil Lesh and Friends, an ever-changing ensemble built around the venerable bassist and featuring a revolving cast of top local and national musicians, including jazz guitarist Stanley Jordan, multi-instrumentalist Jason Crosby and Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith of the L.A. folk-rock band Dawes.

The prime movers behind the daylong festivals are Lesh’s sons, Grahame, 37, and Brian, 34.

“Last year, Grahame and I were kicking around ideas about how to bring the Terrapin community back together and do something fun,” Brian Lesh says.

Inspired by the outdoor shows that Terrapin staged during the pandemic in Beach Park, a city-owned space on the San Rafael Canal adjacent to the restaurant, they tried out the festival concept with two Sunday Daydream gatherings last summer, the first at McNears and the second at Stafford Lake in Novato.

Grahame Lesh’s wife, Claire, came up with the idea to call the daylong events Sunday Daydream, a take on the Grateful Dead song “Sunshine Daydream.” The aim was to recreate the family-friendly feeling of the Terrapin concerts, where parents could enjoy the music while their kids were entertained at a designated “Kid Zone.”

“To me, the first two Sunday Daydreams really felt like how Terrapin felt,” Grahame Lesh says. “We sold 300 or 400 kids tickets last year, so there were a lot more young families than you’d find at a typical Grateful Dead or Phil and Friends concert. They’re related, but it’s different vibe.”

The festivals were so well received, with both selling out the maximum 2,500 tickets that the county parks allow, that the brothers decided to produce two more this summer, settling on McNears as their permanent home.

Sunday Daydream festivals return to Marin this summer. (Photo by Alan Sheckter) 

“Every time we got the community back together, people said, ‘Oh, this feels like Terrapin. This is amazing. Let’s do this more often,’” Grahame Lesh says. “So here we are, doing it more often.”

After graduating from Stanford University with a master’s degree in music, Grahame Lesh, a guitarist, singer and songwriter, formed his own band, Midnight North, and has performed with the Terrapin Family Band and with his father in various Phil and Friends aggregations. He’ll be on stage with his dad at both shows this summer with many of the same musicians who used to play in informal groups in the bar at Terrapin.

“There was this whole community of musicians who would play in these thrown-together bands at Terrapin,” Brian Lesh says. “It’s been really fun to bring those folks back together as well.”

A 2012 graduate of Princeton University, Brian Lesh also plays guitar and sings and has performed with his dad and brother in the past. But with a wife and a 10-year-old son, Levon (named after the Band’s Levon Helm), he prefers staying closer to home than being out on the road with a band, grinding it out from city to city.

“I’m more on the business side of the music nowadays,” he says. “We make a good team. Grahame plays and I do the rest.”

But he can be pressed into service in an emergency. Last fall, when one of the musicians in Grahame Lesh’s band was injured and couldn’t play, Brian filled in for the rest of the tour.

“We do drag Brian on stage every now and then,” Grahame Lesh says with a smile. “But at these festivals, he’s going to be running around with a walkie-talkie, putting out fires, hopefully not literally.”

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When Jerry Garcia, the pater familias of the Grateful Dead, died in 1995 and the band dissolved, the Lesh brothers were just kids. Grahame was 8 and Brian was 5, so most of their memories are of the offshoot bands that the surviving members formed over the past three decades, groups like the Other Ones, the Dead, RatDog, Phil and Friends and Dead & Co.

But their strongest influence is the decade at Terrapin Crossroads and the community of musicians and music fans that developed around its famous free bar shows as well as the larger concerts in Terrapin’s Grate Room.

In recreating the bar show tradition, the festivals have added a “Keep it Weird Acoustic Bar Stage” for musicians to play during set breaks on the main stage.

“There’s a thousand different Grateful Dead offshoots, and this is our part of that,” Brian Lesh says. “For us, it does come more from Terrapin, which grew from the larger thing (the Grateful Dead) as well. It’s cool to keep that going. And this is our way of keeping that going.”

Details: Sunday Daydream Vol. 3 is from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. July 21 and Sunday Daydream Vol. 4 is from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 18 at McNears Beach Park at 201 Cantera Way in San Rafael. Admission is $29 for kids ages 2 to 12; $99 for general admission; and $149 for VIP, which includes early admission to the festival, a VIP viewing area and more. For more information and to get tickets, go to

Contact Paul Liberatore at

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