The first time I saw the Grateful Dead I was 8 years old about to turn 9 at a Human Be In in El Camino Park in Palo Alto. It was the beginning of the "Summer of Love". My nickname was Pig Pen as I was a messy kid and when Jerry turned around on the flat bed and called to Pig Pen, I thought he was talking to me. He wasn't, not that time. Then came Maples Pavilion at Stanford six years later. No Pig Pen lots of new material and a bouncing floor. The next biggie was the Cow Palace and the wall of sound. Seeing that mountain of speakers was awesome and they worked it that night. Memorable was the closing of Winterland watching Belushi do back flips across the stage and an end to the SF Dark Star drought. (1195 days since last SF Dark Star) I think it was a June show of '77 at Winterland where the top of the building disappeared and we all went hurtling through the cosmos that I made the decision I would ride this to the end. There was no other thing on the planet that could do this thing and I liked it a lot. It made having a day job a pain in the ass so by the early 80's I figured out many ways to make it work. It was the field trip in '82 where I made the leap. I was now deep in the pudding and surrounded by Grateful Dead family and friends. It became a Grateful Dead world where I would spend years taking care of my fellow Deadheads. Then came the "In The Dark" explosion of '87. Who are all these people?
Spinners and twirlers and dirt surfers, gate crashers tweakers, freakers and DEA. Our little villages of happy campers became cities overnight. There were lots of tears and joy over the years as the dark background grew darker to make the stars shine brighter. Death, birth and more death punctuated this journey and cemented us together. At Foxborogh in '89 I met my wife and we have two kids now. Several dozen shows later I would find myself backstage with a hand full of friends who shared the same birthdays and the assembled crowd sang us happy birthday; among the singers was Jerry Garcia. That was the last time I would ever see the Grateful Dead. Those friends who shared this journey are still my best friends in the world. Today our numbers are shrinking. Someday the last Deadhead to ever see a show will perish from this earth. Summer flies and August dies and the world grows dark and mean...
My second show, 3/15/90 in Landover, MD, was where I got on the bus and had my life irrevocably changed. The whole show had a polish and sheen to it that seemed so "just exactly perfect" that I felt more in the moment than I ever had before. When Jerry sang "I wish I was a headlight," I could SEE that northbound train shining its light through the rain, whistle screamin' as it passed Terrapin Station and roared through a fantastic jam before drums...and I was completely sober the whole night, which was maybe unusual for me (but maybe not, Mr./Ms. Attorney General).
By the time Not Fade Away rolled around, I was already completely hooked, but as the boys absolutely cooked through Buddy Holly's time-honored tribute to love, I turned around to view the joyous throngs surrounding me and saw a couple of beautiful blonde girls dancing topless a few rows up. I turned back around nonchalantly and thought "Yep, this is for me." Not that, *ahem*, that really had anything to do with it, because I'm much too cultured and refined to be affected by something like simple nudity, but, hey, I was a 19-year old, red-blooded American boy, you know?
After "Revolution" ended and it was time to go, I knew that I was going to go to as many more Grateful Dead concerts as I possibly could, and I'm really glad I did.
After these shows I was never the same. Looking back, I'm glad it all happened.
I proposed to my wife of 17 years ( so far ) at these shows.
Shortly after we decided to get married, we decided we would move from Illinois to Oregon.
Since then, we've had 3 incredible kids and more laughs than I can remember.
Has to be Wembley Arena 1972. You see, we unfortunate Europeans only got to see the Dead on their few forays outside of the USA. That show at Wembley ( I queued for tickets at two different venues in different parts of London, each one cancelled as the necessity for a larger space became apparent) was my first experience of the band. I'd seen just about every major band of the late 60's and 70's, but nothing prepared me for this. The wall of sound in full flow was a sonic experience like nothing else. I became a lifelong deadhead, and judge most music by the standards set that night. I last saw the band - again at Wembley - on Halloween 1990 and they were simply awesome. There is / was nothing like a Grateful Dead concert.
How about a European tour for The Dead? There is a world beyond the USA.
that really was quite a show.
Though what really broke me at that one up was Neil Young's Long May You Run, which always gets me anyway, but in that context was an utter sobfest.
The Boys at Golden Gate during the Bill Graham memorial. Walked from our house on Haight & Divisidero, smiled all the way and baby sat my mentor as he melted and sparked his mind. I rubbed my free B&J cherry garcia in his hair as he hid in the bushes from the blue meanies.
Although history will not look kindly on the performance, there were moments that remind me, almost daily, that the strong connections that are made throughout a lifetime can maintain their ties for decades. Jerry was on, at best, cruise control, the crowds were as disconnected from the Grateful Dead's communal mind-frame that is the core of their the band's greatness, and the entire scene had turned from Human Be-In to mini-Altamonts. And yet, through all the ugliness of the last tour, all of the missed lyrics, half-hearted performances and tragedies, there was still a light of optimism. Beautiful people, beautiful thoughts and the most beautiful thing of all, HOPE - these are the sights, sounds and feelings that I recall from that show. Phil Lesh roaring into Box of Rain after the melencholy beauty of Black Muddy River was a triumph of spirit that, to me, epitomizes the Grateful Dead energy that I went to shows looking for. That is what bouys my mood whenever I may feel loss. It reminds me that if my brother/sister/friend is struggling, I have the power to pick them up. WHEN THERE IS NO SONG OF YOURS, I'LL SING TO YOU!
Ive sadly never been to a dead show but probably one of the greater experiences of my life was the first time that I saw the Yonder Mountain String Band in
Columbia Missouri in the winter of 06. I cant even begin to describe the Uporia that I felt during and after the show. For a few hours I just loved everything and everyone. Ive been to every Missouri show since.
"You know the one thing we need is a left handed monkey wrench....."
From my first show, Landover 3-14-1990, I always got a wild vibe once I entered the venue for the GD. . . it was a sense of having returned to a place that I just could not remember what it was like until I arrived. I can write of it now, but I have not had the same feeling since from any other experience(s) that I got at pretty much every Dead show.
". . . Music is the best!" (fz)