It's impossible to pinpoint an individual life-changing show (there were too many) because both your life experience intertwined with the Dead experience continue to evolve.
It's a lot easier to single out life-changing shows when you introduced someone, particularly a skeptical nonbeliever, to the Dead and saw their life change forever. Decades later they still can't stop talking about it and thanking you for converting them. It goes without saying that, no matter what their previous concert experience or musical preference was, they had never been to anything like that Grateful Dead show. Even today, I clearly recall seeing newborn deadheads' eyes light up the first time they saw the Dead burst into a memorable improvisational jam. You just knew they were transformed when they walked out of the venue in silence and could hardly speak for an hour or so after the concert.
Cape Cod Col, October 28, 1979 ... a day that turned my head around! Somewhere in mid-to-late first set I decided I needed to be closer to the stage. As intermission broke I made my way forward into a wall of people. Not a path opened and I shuffled the edge of the mass until I walked right into a Hell's Angel. "Where the hell are you going?" he demanded. With a huge grin on my face I blurted out the most nonsensical thing that came to my head and he broke into laughter. Now grinning ear-to-ear, he waved me through and a magical path opened up right ot the front of the stage!
I was pressed elbow to elbow and thought I was suffocating from the heat. I closed my eyes and heard, very distinctly, "come on up here where it's cool!"
Suddenly I was OBE in a sort of 3 dimensional darkness, surrounded (I felt) by many loving, happy, laughing people. I knew inside that at that moment I could ask anything at all and get an answer. Did I ask about life, universe, and everything? Well, sort of. I asked a wholly nonsensical question that made perfect sense to me at the time and wise heads pondered. I got my answer ... And suddenly I realized I'd squandered my opportunity!
Instantly I was back in Cape Cod Col and the band was playing Ship of Fools, and oh my did I ever feel the fool!
I spent a lot of time trying to find that magical space again until I realized I'd never left it. But something happened to me that night, something special, and it took a long time to piece it together.
Went back all those many years later to see The Dead on their first Summer Getaway. Only then did I realize that on that night in Cape Cod did I become a member of the tribe, and had always been since that night. It was me who forgot in those fallow years after 1995; but I was then and am still as dead as I can be. And loving it!
1981 Landover MD. that's when i first understood what it was all about... :)
Laguna Seca, Ca. 1988. My first show, I was hooked. Almost 20 years ago and I am still a die hard fan. Following the Dead were some of the best times of my life, they shaped who I am today.
and cool grandpa too!
9/18/1993, Madison Square Garden...
I was a sophmore at URI and wanting desperately to take my then girlfriend to her first show. I called my late Grandfather who had some connections, asked him if he could do what he could to get me 2 tickets, good seats. He said OK I will try. Well he came through for us and told me to pick them up at the MSG Box Office. I asked how the seats were, and he said I told the guy this is for my Grandson, don't f*&k this up!
We show up at the Box Office and pick them up... and I nearly began to cry. We walked into the arena and our seats were FIRST ROW on the floor, DIRECTLY underneath Jerry's microphone. I nearly cried at this point, but I actually did shed a tear when they came out and he started singing 1/2 step standing right above me. I screamed my head off after the first track and he looked right down at my girlfriend and I and was grinning from ear to ear.
I have seen DOZENS and DOZENS of concerts since this time... but yet whenever anyone asks what my all time best show was there is no hesitation from me... it's 9/18/1993 all the way.
I was just 15 at the time and didnt know the Grateful Dead's music......I lived in nearby Fontana and attended all the concerts at the Swing I could....I dont remember much about the music but I do remember being totally blown away by the crowd!!
I did see a couple of Brent shows, and Brent has and will be my favorite Dead keyboardist.
I actually saw his last 2 in Chicago.
However, the most life changing one for me was in Richfield, OH, 9-8-1990.
I had been in college for a couple of weeks, and just saw the 2 in Chicago a couple of months prior. Couldn't pass it up.
The Second Set was brilliant!
All Along the Watchtower
I have listened to this show, probably more than my 77s.
The crowd was awesome.
The power cut out for an instant in the beginning of Eyes. (17 1/2 minutes!)
Bobby tears it up vocally on Estimated, rushing the edge of the stage. (14 1/2 minutes)
The Terrapin blew the roof off of the place.
46 minutes, 3 songs, enough said.
Def Hampton Show when the DEAD billed as the Warlocks.........seeing the Police and their completely FREAKED OUT look when they realized the DEAD was back...and all the LOVELY FANS...try as they may stop the train from rolling in your town and we will survive...I realized then all things are possible and no one tells us where we can and cant dance...THIS IS AMERICA HOME OF THE FREE..Be Brave Be Kind BE DEAD...I handed out 3 miracles that day....as i was passing one of the GOLDEN tickets to a stranger this cop said you cant sell tickets this close to the coliseum...I GRINNED FULL FROM THE CREEPING CID...no worries good man this ticket has no price..you see its PRICELESS...cannot be bought or sold only shared with nothing expected in return but a SMILE..."DAMN DEADHEADS HE SNORTED" thas us the the damned the dregs of society practicing random acts of kindness and picking up our trash when we leave....sorry to clutter your space with my chaos....HAVE A NICE EVENING OFFICER...true power and grace flows when you know you heart is pure.......MAY THE 4 WINDS BLOW YOU SAFELY HOME.......tony
.... But it was my first show! Of course!