The surviving core members of the Grateful Dead played the first show of their Fare Thee Well tour on Saturday night in Santa Clara, CA, and a rainbow appeared over Levi’s Stadium during an extensive rendition of “Viola Lee Blues” at the end of their opening set. While many fans likely believed that the rainbow was conjured by God (God being the late, great Jerry Garcia), skeptics quickly jumped on the idea that the rainbow was orchestrated by the tour’s production designers. A Billboard review of the show initiated the debate by citing an unnamed insider’s claims which have since been amended:
The set ended with a 17-minute “Viola Lee Blues” that segued into a deep jam accentuated by a glorious rainbow encircling the venue in the sky. Said one longtime head: “This is the band that jams with God.” Whether it was Mother Nature stepping in became an instant debate, intensified by Billboard’s own report citing an insider who claims the production sprang for the effect, at a cost of $50,000.
The $50,000 effect references a “man-made rainbow machine” that was written about in Gizmodo back in 2010. Local news outlets jumped on the story…
— SFGate (@SFGate) June 29, 2015
…and Redditors started speculating. Most believed that the rainbow was natural, but one user pointed out the following:
Who’s to say they made it, silicon valley is full of dead heads with more money than they know what to do with could have been done for the show. The clouds were low in an otherwise clear sky, not to mention the drought California is experiencing. The best conspiracies are the ones you can’t prove.
Billboard then crushed the rumors early this afternoon by interviewing the Fare Thee Well tour producer Peter Shapiro:
One final word on “rainbowgate,” the ongoing discussion as to whether the rainbow that graced Levi’s Stadium as the band neared the end of its first set on Night 1 was a production element or a natural occurrence: “It was man-made,” says Shapiro of the rainbow, before adding, “and the man that made it was Jerry Garcia.”
Now that “rainbowgate” has entered your vocabulary, keep your eyes peeled for updates on whether or not any appear during the upcoming Chicago shows. Judging by how much money people paid for tickets, it’d better be a double rainbow.