• February 23, 2011
    https://www.dead.net/features/blairs-golden-road-blog/dead-er-thou
    Dead-er Than Thou

    There’s a debate that flares up every so often in Deadland (most recently in the discussion on the promo page for the 1988 Road Trips) in which older Heads castigate folks who came to like the Dead during the late ’80s “Touch of Grey”/In the Dark era, the implication being that those fans weren’t hip and cool enough to have gotten into the band earlier, and only embraced the Dead once they had become commercially successful. The worst and most cynical of the arguments — and I’ve actually heard this several times through the years — is that to have climbed on board during the late ’80s (or early ’90s) was to actually contribute to Jerry’s death! The tortured logic of this is that because of the band’s increased popularity, their touring machine became ever-larger, which put more pressure on the group to play big shows and to stay on the road, thus preventing Jerry from getting a break from touring he once offhandedly mentioned in an interview he wanted, and contributing to his downward health spiral and eventual death. Whew! Now, there’s a load of BS.

    Unfortunately, there’s always been a “Dead-er Than Thou” attitude among some Dead Heads — as if when you started liking the Grateful Dead, how many shows you attended, who you knew in the inner circle and what privileged access you had to information or tapes (or both!) were the measure of your knowledge of or devotion to the band. I can’t honestly say I’ve been completely immune to this affliction myself, but I learned pretty early on that there were always going to be Heads who had been following the band longer, seen more shows, owned more tapes, plus had that prized laminate hanging around their necks I so coveted. So if it truly was a competition, I was never going to “win.”

    Of course it’s not a competition. How and when you got into the Dead could be a function of million different factors — your age, whether you had friends who were into the band, whether the Dead’s tours came to your city/region, if you had a good experience at your first show, if they came onto your radar at all… the list goes on and on. Maybe your first exposure was being trapped on a long car ride with some crazed Dead Head who insisted on playing a really badly recorded audience bootleg that featured terrible, off-key singing and what seemed like pointless jams. Then, three years later, someone dragged you to a show and you suddenly “got it.” Or maybe you had a boyfriend or girlfriend who hated the Dead and, even though you were kind of curious about ’em and wanted to go to a show, forbade you from going! (Wow, harsh!)

    Whatever happened, happened, and you should feel no guilt about and make no apologies for when you got on The Bus. Heard “Touch of Grey” on the radio, loved it, and wanted to hear more? Fantastic! Welcome aboard! The fact of the matter is, the mid- to late ’80s and the early ’90s was the Dead’s greatest period of fan growth ever, and thousands upon thousands of people who got into the group then became loyal and devoted fans who were every bit as enthusiastic, hardcore and knowledgeable as the grizzled veterans who lorded their longevity over them like some royal talisman. We all have legitimate regrets about what we might have missed in previous eras, but I can honestly say that whenever you succumbed to the Dead’s ineffable magic — that was the right time for you.

    Since my biography of Jerry — Garcia: An American Life — came out more than a decade ago, I’ve gotten dozens of letters and emails from people who never had the opportunity to see Jerry or the Dead at all. Many were almost sheepish about it, as if it reflected some character flaw in them that they’d “missed” Jerry, yet in the months or years since his passing, they’d gotten into recordings of the band, the (love)light went off in their heads, and now they were obsessed, too. There’s no Grateful Dead to see, so they’ve gotten their live kicks seeing Phish or DSO or Furthur or whoever lit that light for them in concert. And perhaps they’re just starting to understand the charms of ’76 Dead or ’88 Dead and catching up on the history and what the scene was (is!) all about. Again, I say, welcome aboard! There’s an unlimited amount of room on this Bus; the more the merrier!

    Do you have a story about getting on (or missing) The Bus?

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There’s a debate that flares up every so often in Deadland (most recently in the discussion on the promo page for the 1988 Road Trips) in which older Heads castigate folks who came to like the Dead during the late ’80s “Touch of Grey”/In the Dark era, the implication being that those fans weren’t hip and cool enough to have gotten into the band earlier, and only embraced the Dead once they had become commercially successful. The worst and most cynical of the arguments — and I’ve actually heard this several times through the years — is that to have climbed on board during the late ’80s (or early ’90s) was to actually contribute to Jerry’s death! The tortured logic of this is that because of the band’s increased popularity, their touring machine became ever-larger, which put more pressure on the group to play big shows and to stay on the road, thus preventing Jerry from getting a break from touring he once offhandedly mentioned in an interview he wanted, and contributing to his downward health spiral and eventual death. Whew! Now, there’s a load of BS.

Unfortunately, there’s always been a “Dead-er Than Thou” attitude among some Dead Heads — as if when you started liking the Grateful Dead, how many shows you attended, who you knew in the inner circle and what privileged access you had to information or tapes (or both!) were the measure of your knowledge of or devotion to the band. I can’t honestly say I’ve been completely immune to this affliction myself, but I learned pretty early on that there were always going to be Heads who had been following the band longer, seen more shows, owned more tapes, plus had that prized laminate hanging around their necks I so coveted. So if it truly was a competition, I was never going to “win.”

Of course it’s not a competition. How and when you got into the Dead could be a function of million different factors — your age, whether you had friends who were into the band, whether the Dead’s tours came to your city/region, if you had a good experience at your first show, if they came onto your radar at all… the list goes on and on. Maybe your first exposure was being trapped on a long car ride with some crazed Dead Head who insisted on playing a really badly recorded audience bootleg that featured terrible, off-key singing and what seemed like pointless jams. Then, three years later, someone dragged you to a show and you suddenly “got it.” Or maybe you had a boyfriend or girlfriend who hated the Dead and, even though you were kind of curious about ’em and wanted to go to a show, forbade you from going! (Wow, harsh!)

Whatever happened, happened, and you should feel no guilt about and make no apologies for when you got on The Bus. Heard “Touch of Grey” on the radio, loved it, and wanted to hear more? Fantastic! Welcome aboard! The fact of the matter is, the mid- to late ’80s and the early ’90s was the Dead’s greatest period of fan growth ever, and thousands upon thousands of people who got into the group then became loyal and devoted fans who were every bit as enthusiastic, hardcore and knowledgeable as the grizzled veterans who lorded their longevity over them like some royal talisman. We all have legitimate regrets about what we might have missed in previous eras, but I can honestly say that whenever you succumbed to the Dead’s ineffable magic — that was the right time for you.

Since my biography of Jerry — Garcia: An American Life — came out more than a decade ago, I’ve gotten dozens of letters and emails from people who never had the opportunity to see Jerry or the Dead at all. Many were almost sheepish about it, as if it reflected some character flaw in them that they’d “missed” Jerry, yet in the months or years since his passing, they’d gotten into recordings of the band, the (love)light went off in their heads, and now they were obsessed, too. There’s no Grateful Dead to see, so they’ve gotten their live kicks seeing Phish or DSO or Furthur or whoever lit that light for them in concert. And perhaps they’re just starting to understand the charms of ’76 Dead or ’88 Dead and catching up on the history and what the scene was (is!) all about. Again, I say, welcome aboard! There’s an unlimited amount of room on this Bus; the more the merrier!

Do you have a story about getting on (or missing) The Bus?

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There’s a debate that flares up every so often in Deadland (most recently in the discussion on the promo page for the 1988 Road Trips) in which older Heads castigate folks who came to like the Dead during the late ’80s “Touch of Grey”/In the Dark era, the implication being that those fans weren’t hip and cool enough to have gotten into the band earlier, and only embraced the Dead once they had become commercially successful. The worst and most cynical of the arguments — and I’ve actually heard this several times through the years — is that to have climbed on board during the late ’80s (or early ’90s) was to actually contribute to Jerry’s death!

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I think I heard Touch of Grey a few times and liked it, but I am not a rock and roller so I never really explored the band until the summer of 1989 when I happen to camp in northern Wisconsin next to a couple guys who had a boom box and nothing but "Grateful Dead" tapes. It I was asking if good buy any of the tapes :). I was poor, and 3 hours away from the closest place the Dead played, and I had only been two one rock show in my life, so I didn't really think of seeing them live. But I move to Chicago in 1991, when to the World, and in 1992 I was planning my vacations around seeing the Grateful Dead, Now days I plan around Railroad Earth, but the bus stereo has lot of Dead coming out of it on the way to next Railroad Earth show. So yea, I was part of the mass they came into being in the late 80's and early 90's but I got there not due the pop hit, but the old fashion ways: Tapes.
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I moved from Southern NY state to Southern Cali in '80. About a year later, my best High School friend visited me from back east. He was attending Davis & Elkins College in West VA and had gotten into the Dead. I was hooked on my first listen to "He's Gone" and Jerry's "Reflections". I proceded to collect everything I could by the band and finally saw my first Dead related show in '82 - Bobby And The Midnites at the now defunct Country Club in Reseda (fun fact - the Country Club building was the club where the Boogie Nights people hung out in the movie of the same name). My first proper Dead show was at the Ventura County Fairgrounds in '82. I saw a solo show by Jon Anderson of Yes on Friday night, and left for Ventura afterwards with a 12 pack of Heinekin and NO MONEY! What was I thinking? I was so unprepared for the utopia of the parking lot scene! What a blast! The next day I got in the interminably long line to get in, and as luck would have it some folks passed by who were behind me in line at the Midnites show, and they let me line up with them as they had special passes, in the front of the line. Amazing shows! This was the weekend when a huge locomotive barreled through behind the band as Jerry sang "wish I was a headlight, on a north bound train". By Sunday morning I was STARVING! Unfamiliar with cool sharing nature of Dead Heads, I refused my friends offer of breakfast as I didn't want to appear a mooch. During the break between sets on Sunday, a couple sat down behind me, produced and commenced to eat two of the biggest, tastiest sanwiches I have ever seen! The image was so strongly fixed that I ate nothing but sandwiches for a week after that. Don't go to shows much anymore mostly for financial reasons, but I still have the friends and memories and especially the music to carry me through.
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My conversion came in 1981 at a place called Laury's Records in Niles, Illinois. "Dead Set" had just came in and they opened 1 copy to play in the store. Needle hit vinyl, Jerry's guitar came over the speakers, and one Side 1 later I was hooked! I went to my first concert on the day after X-Mas of that year with my Deadhead friends Ray and Vicky at the Rosemont Horizon (was anyone else there?). The following summer had two great concerts: Bobby and the Midnights at the Park West (I sat at the table RIGHT AT BOB'S FEET HOW COOL IS THAT?), and Jerry with John Kahn doing an all acoustic set at the Auditorium Theatre. Finally that year the Dead came back in August for a weekend at Alpine Valley (I went Saturday).I don't know where this puts me in the food chain but as far as I am concerned Dead Fandom is the greatest family on Earth and there is ALWAYS room on the bus for more deadheads!
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I saw 380 shows. I was there pre-coma and post-coma (which makes me smile even though it's so wrong) and I saw shows every which way you could see them I suppose.. from the front row of very small forums, to the very back row of giant stadiums, from behind the fence to behind the soundboard (gotta love eating chocolate cake on the couch). I saw some with a backstage pass but no ticket and some with a ticket but without hope of a pass, be it soft, hard or otherwise. I saw them in the North, South, East, West and between, though I never did get overseas to see them, which has always been my "loss" in the Dead-er Than Thou race.. but my theory is, if you hear a Dead song, any old Dead song, whether it's a studio version or one that's badly recorded, and you get goosebumps.. then you are Dead Head no matter how many shows have passed through your head.
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My first show was Cinci '89. I was privileged to see 10 shows that year including 6 of the 11 amazing Summer Tour shows. I came from a small group of Ottawa Canada Dead Heads and we were so supportive of everyone wanting to see some shows that it never dawned on us to judge people when they starting touring or how many shows you saw. We just knew that we watching a very special band and that the scene was about love and sharing, not judging each other.So I was a Touch-Head, and very glad to have seen the band in '89. Should I have seen more shows or started going earlier? Who cares. Peace.
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i have been on the bus since i was floating around 20,000 leagues under the sea. both my parents have followed the dead since the 70s and actually met at a show in 1990 right before my older sister was born my first time going to see them was at only 3 moths old and have not stopped going. i remember being three years old and actually crying when jerry passed and i learned how to play guitar and bass by listening to my collection of dead constantly. i don't think that the younger crowd should be judged we actually should be respected because we're carrying on the love and traditions that come with being a "deadhead" and to me there is no such thing as "deader than thou" since i have followed since before birth and will follow them to my dying days
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Jerry died as a result of the abuse of tobacco etc. Period. We could all learn a lesson from that. It was at the Keystone Berkeley in 1971, up from L.A. visiting my cousin in Berkeley., that I first brushed shoulders with Jerry (literally brushed shoulders, as the band had to walk through the audience from the backstage area at the back of the club to get to the stage). They let me in at age 17 (a couple of years later, you had to be 21), but a special hand stamp denoted that I couldn't buy beer! I was hooked, but didn't get to see a Grateful Dead concert until the following year. That was at the Hollywood Bowl in June, 1972, the day after I graduated high school. I went to nearly every concert on the west coast, between Canada and Mexico, for the next six years, and then tapered off. I was always aware of some sort of weird hierarchy among the deadheads, as Blair wrote about, but the love and pot smoke that was in the air always seemed to equalize everybody, including the band itself! Last fall, at a Furthur concert at L.A.'s Greek Theater, I was lucky enough to be seated next to a great young couple who were relatively new to the scene. Their wonder and excitement really brought me back, and I was able to share a bit about my history and experiences. It was a beautiful thing, and there is absolutely no logical reason for us "grizzled veterans" to lord it over newcomers to the bus. We all share a common love.
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Fun topic Blair! Of course we all know "it doesn't really matter anyway"...But for the record, I first started in listening to Live Dead, Workingman's Dead and American Beauty, and remember when Europe '72 came out. Musta been 72. I was turned on by my best friend, whose older brother was into the Dead and the Allmans. My friend had been to one of the shows in Portchester in 71 at age 14, and I always envied the fact that he got to see Pigpen... But I really got on the bus at the Syracuse War Memorial 9/28/76. So one of Dick's Picks was my first show!!! It's too bad that the live recording doesn't start a few minutes before the band launched into Cold Rain and Snow, because there were a fun few minutes prior to that. The house lights went out, two orange spotlights focused on either side of the stage, two flagpoles emerged and dropped American Flags, and then the National Anthem was played over the PA system. And THEN the curtain rose and the Dead launched into that incredible show!! And that's when I REEEEALLY understood what it was all about! Over the years I had the good fortune to be at many great shows. I remember Cornell 5/877, camping out in front of Barton Hall all day just getting high and waiting in great anticipation. A close friend who had been on tour was telling me every hour "just you wait til they play Scarlet Begonias!" I had no idea how he knew, as shows prior to 77 were a lot more random (you couldn't count on any particular song showing up on any particular night - which made every night so special!), but MAN was he right! Aside from my first Scarlet>Fire, and an overall incredible performance, I VIVIDLY remember walking out that night in May and it was snowing! I remember looking up into the bright street lights and seeing all these white crystals coming down. It was the perfect ending to a truly cosmic night. I won't weigh in on whether or not this was the best show ever (I don't think such a thing exists), but I will say that I'm incredibly thankful to the heads who made those tapes and circulated them so widely. I also have to comment on the day in 79 when a guy showed up at our apartment with dozens of free tickets to an unadvertised show up in Billerica, MA (5/11/79). What a blast!!! It took me YEARS to find a recording of that show, and although the one I have is scratchy and the sound sucks, it's still a blast to listen to because you can tell the boys were having so much fun, as was the audience. Then there was my first introduction to Brent at the Cape Cod Coliseum on 10/27/79, another night when they were on fire! Just listen to Franklin's Tower that night, and you'll get it. In 79 I also roomed with a dude who claimed to be a friend of Dan Healy. Well who really knows, but the dude had a suitcase full of soundboard cassettes, which opened a whole new chapter in my life with the Dead. I've been addicted to live recordings ever since.... So many good memories.... Thanks everyone for indulging me. Peace
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Got on the bus in '67 at a show in SF, by the late 80's I was off the bus. Never was into concert countings but still listen today.
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I worked in a record store for years starting in the mid 70's. I owned "Skull and Roses", "Wake of the Flood", "Blues For Allah", and "Terrapin Station", but I really didn't get what they were all about, and actually kind of lost interest other than "S&R". That would change. In the early 80's, I had a friend who was in law school with a another guy who was the biggest Dead fan I'd known up to that time, and it rekindled my interest-he was the first person I'd really known who had actually seen the band. By '84 or '85, I'd met 2 guys in medical school who were tapers, and they had taped quite a few shows starting in about 1981, and they really were the lynchpin. They shared loads of tapes with me, and social gatherings for the rest of our time in school together often featured excellent tapes from their personal collections going back to the 60's. It was one of those times that I heard 3-18-67, and the history of the group really hit me, and I was on board. I was able to get into some really good tape trading networks by the end of the 80's, and met 2 other guys in North Dakota (where I've lived for 20 years), who had hundreds of shows, and I spent months copying from them- I bought 2 duplicating decks strictly for this purpose. These trading networks morphed into internet groups, and it just exploded from there. I got up to about 1200 shows before the online postings of shows (gdlive.com, deadlegs.com, etc), and then with the opening of archive.org) made all of this wonderful music very accessible. My town had a massive flood in 1997- fortunately, my entire Dead tape collection was on the SECOND floor of my house!!!! 2 oddities about my Dead "career"-1) I lived in San Francisco as a child from '66-'67, and my parents used to like to drive through the Haight, and 2), I never saw Jerry, which is unforgivable considering how the sharing of tapes benefited me so greatly. Went through a lot of bad personal stuff that didn't help me in the ability to actually get out and see the genius that was Jerry, but I still can't believe I didn't get it done. I've been lucky enough to see the band in the "Dead" and "Furthur" incarnations, and I am truly blessed to have seen these bands. My current wife, who knew nothing about them prior to our meeting, still describes the 5-5-09 show in Chicago as one of the most fun concerts she's ever seen, and my 22 year old daughter (who has Down Syndrome) is a big fan- that is truly special. Eric J
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You know, I once heard that there comes a time when a blind man takes your hand and says, don’t you see? That is the attitude I look for when I meet other dead fans. It's always a loaded question when someone asks me when I got on the bus. I think of the Pranksters. I got on that bus in 1978. I didn’t go to my first GD show until 1987 at Shoreline. WTF? It is what it is. Then I saw them a few more times, my last show was the memorial for Bill Graham in GG Park. I guess I feel guilt, like deep guilt, obtrusive aching guilt, the kind that moves the sand at the bottom of the ocean. I want to be hugged when I go to a show; at least, I want to shake the hand of a stranger.I have to say thanks to Blair for allowing us to heal in this way. I just know we all have something in common: we miss Jerry.
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Great topic...funny, like "aboltuch" above, my first show was at the Hollywood Bowl in 1972, which was also Pig's last live performance. I was with a bunch of friends from high school using one of the kid's parents' season box at the Bowl. There were about 6-10 of us and while i don't recall details, i remember having a great time and seeing Jerry with the New Riders opening. I was on board after that show. I only saw the Grateful Dead 57 times but i was lucky enough to see a few 'key' shows: Wall of Sound at UCSB soccer stadium, debut of Terrapin at the San Bernardino Swing Auditorium, both Days on the Green with the Who in Oakland, Ventura Co. Fairgrounds show with Fire on the Mountain...with a real "fire on the mountain" in the distant hills. My favorite venue was Ventura Co. Fairgrounds although i saw some great shows at the Forum. Least favorite venue was Irvine Meadows...am still on the bus and enjoy seeing Furthur, Ratdog, and Phil and Friends when they appear in Southern California.
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I never understood the idea of deadheadness competition. man, whenever i think of when i got on the bus...I think the bus comes to you. I heard of the Grateful Dead...thought the name was weird. I must have heard them dozens of times on the radio. One day a friend gave me Europe "72. I listened to one side and that was all it took! And it's been the soundtrack of my life. The music never stops...where did I hear that before?
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I saw one show - 07/06/86 RFK. Yes the one before the coma. I had a friend give me a tape he mashed together in '85 in my high school accounting class. I was hooked. Some of the older music I heard, late '60s early '70s, was fantastic. I really enjoyed the jams. I was already enjoying country, blues and rock. The Dead seemed to infuse all of that. I saw Ratdog open for Jerry Garcia in the late '80s - early '90s. I took my girlfriend (future wife) and she just didn't get it at the time. She has come around a little bit. I keep chiselling away at her. Just recently saw Furthur and loved it. One thing that listening to the Dead did for me was opened up my joy of bluegrass. Jerry's voice just has this great deep soulful emotion that I can't escape. (Going to find Black Peter now) Still listening and still loving it!
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The humongous outpouring of support from the Deadhead community for the KPFA GD marathon last Saturday is ample evidence that this music is immortal. I hear from young fans all the time, people who were tykes when Jerry passed but have made up for lost time and become quite knowledgeable about the music and the culture. I suppose the "Deader than thou" phenomenon will always be with us, like mosquito bites and Fox News, but we'll have us a good time and take good care of each other through it all, as we have always done. Gans/GD Hour blog
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Nice post Blair, and a lot of truth to what you say. But like most things, it's a little more complicated. I got on the bus in 1980 -- knew quite a few people who told me I had missed the boat then, and yes, I have a distinct memory of being introduced to a "seasoned vet" who kindly offered to make me a tape or two, and the said something along the lines of "here's the really good stuff, but you can't have it". That struck me as rather odd and, even at my newbie stage, struck me as being at odds with what I thought "the scene" was all about. So, I always carried that with me and tried to be mindful of avoiding that same attitude as the years rolled on. However, 1987 surely was a turning point, and in many respects, there simply was not enough room on the bus after a while. I don't begrudge anyone for being a Deadhead based upon how, why or when they were turned on. But, as a pretty devoted tour rat in the 80's, things changed rather dramatically for me. First and foremost, the whole experience became much less pleasant: think about s hanging at Red Rocks and camping at Chief Hosa for 3 days compared to one-off at McNichols stadium surrounded by asphalt, to be followed by one, one night stand after another. Second, with the commercial success also came the predictable influx of people trying to cash in. I'm not talking about the 3 brothers who must have sold a zillion falafel sandwiches on one tour after another, but to the professional shirt manufacturers. As a result, GD productions started -- for the first time at shows -- to crack down on the sale of copyrighted merchandise, which made it difficult to be able to tour as a financial matter. Third, there is no question that after 1987, you were much more likely to encounter people and situations that didn't exactly reflect the best of the community. I'm sure there always was such an element, but I'm also sure it became more pronounced. All of which is to say, all is not (or was not) sunshine and light. I would never point the finger at anyone and blame them for what became of the scene (let alone for Jerry's death). And I never try to lord my experience over other, younger heads. The various post-GD acts play here in Colorado all the time. I've been to several shows over the years. I'm generally bored and unimpressed with the music, and at the same time gratified to see so many people getting off. Rather than looking down at them, I'm mostly jealous that I can't share the enthusiasm.
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I first saw a JGB show at a little club in San Francisco on Battery Street in 1979. I don't know if it is still there? The ceiling was so low, that on the stage riser, Jerry's head almost touched the ceiling. He played "Mission in the rain" and I was hooked. Caught over 100 shows since that one... Last shows were the 1995 Vegas set. Peace ...one man gathers what another man spills.
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My first exposure to the music of the Grateful dead was when I was roughly around 15 years old and, as mentioned above Skeletons From The Closet was aquired by one of my classmates in highschool. As a kid whose primary musical influences at that point consisted of a variety of blues, rock and fusion artists, so naturally, some aspects from that album appealed to me more than others. While I gravitated mmore towards songs from that album like Truckin, St. Stephen, Turn on Your Love Light and One More Saturday Night, I was a little less than enthusiastic towards the more folky and countryish leanings of songs like Uncle John's Band, Mexicali Blues, Friend of the Devil.Enter my older brother who offered to take me and two of my friends to see our first Dead show in '84 at Pine Knob. I won't go into detail about that whole trip, which in itself was quite an adventure, but suffice it to say, though I didn't recognise most of the songs, I was thoroughly entertained by the fans, the scene and the music. The show itself was quite well performed with a lot of their rockier songs in the setlist. The one song that stuck with me for some reason was Tennessee Jed because of it's funky groove. Shortly after the show, I decided to delve a little deeper into the Dead by getting Live Dead and Anthem Of The Sun. This is where the floodgates really opened up, and still to this day are among my favorite original album releases. Two years passed and My same friends who went to that Pine Knob show and I made the decision to go to Alpine Valley for the weekend. This time around, we had a few other people with us. This was '86. This was before the massive influx of new fans due to the Deads sudden popularity. It was at this run where I discovered that there was an actual scene as overnight camping was permitted onsight. The setlists at these shows featured a lot more of the extended open-ended improvisations than our first outing in '84 so naturally, the freeform aspects brought me in even deeper, thanks to Anthem and Live/Dead. By our next outing, which also happened to be Alpine Valley in '87, which happened to fall a week or two before In The Dark arrived on store shelves. By now, our entourage had grown from me and a couple of friends to 3 carloads of people. By this time, we were repeatedly listening to Dead Set, in which many of the songs from that album were actually performed during the 3 day weekend. The scene outside of the venue still had camping, and quite a bit of vending, but was the calm before the storm. I could go in depth about my experiences from this weekend in the valley, but suffice it to say, I was hooked. By the time I saw my next show in '88, at Buckeye Lake, which unfortunately was the only one that year, I was turned onto bootleg recordings. The scene at that show was massive. A complete turnaround from my previous experiences. From Spring '89 on, I started doing multiple runs of shows/tours, though I wasn't really a dedicated tourhead. '90 and '92 were years that I show the highest numbers of shows, being 7 from the former and 10 from the latter. The most shows I saw on a single tour were 5 of the last 7 the Dead, with Jerry that is, ever played in '95, including Auburn Hills, Deer Creek (f***ing gate crashers) and Soldier Field. During this time, I was a big fan of the Grateful Dead, but never really considered myself a Deadhead. I didn't wear birkenstocks, dreadlocks or patcholie, wasn't an avid dancer, never actually camped out at a show, except for being blocked in by an 8 car deep parking job at Buckeye '88, as directed by the attendants right smack dab in the middle of the Shakedown Street main fareway, which was fun. It became an allnighter. Though I had my fair share of tie dyed shrts and what not, I wasn't even into the whole cosmic, Rainbow tribe traveling gypsy lifestyle. It was always about the music for me. It took a few tries to catch on, then when I finally did get it, was able to accept the musical diversity of the Dead. As far as late-comer fans, my only real gripe was with those who only showed up for either the parking lot scene, for the miracle ticket or at worst, the gate crashers who caused the cancelation of the second night of Deer Creek '95, bastards. Whether the fans, or Heads for the matter, were veterans who were there from the begining, the '70s fans, or second generation heads, those who came on board in the '80s, but before In The Dark (as myself), the TouchHeads, or the post Brent arrivals, I could always tell who were real fans of the music, and/or the positive parts of the scene from those who never cared so much about the music just there for the party, and those who were parasites wanting freebies who would demolish a perfectly good venue because they either couldn't get a ticket or felt entitlment to the point of disrespect. Even if you never got a chance to see the Dead live, but find enjoyment with the music, you are no more or less of a Deadhead than the person who saw 692 shows. Incidently, I only went to one show without a ticket, and that was Buckeye Lake in '88 where, despite the massive crowd that arrived in the 102 degree heat, they could still be purchased at the box office.
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Born 1977. Heard "One From The Vault" about a year after it came out when my buddy spent the night then forgot it the next day. I didn't give up that copy til I had gone down to the music store and got my own. "Two From The Vault" dropped shortly thereafter. I was officially on the bus after that. Managed to see 5 shows with Jerry. I feel lucky to say that. I never had a Dead-er than thou attitude, but I'm definitely funkier than y'all=}
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I started buying their vinyl in 1974. American Beauty – loved it. Live Dead soon followed and I didn’t get it - couldn't believe it was the same band. I had 18 of their albums by 1981 and then bought CDs until 1992. I saw them at Alpine Valley in 1981 and 1987. I enjoyed the shows, but things didn't finally click until I got The Closing of Winterland around 2006. I finally was a passenger on the bus. What turned me on was having spent a half dozen prior years digging 50s-60s jazz artists. Miles, Count Basie, Coltrane, Oscar Peterson, etc. I realized the improvisation I appreciated in jazz was in the Dead’s live recordings. Without a Deadhead for a friend, it took a long time find that out, even though I'd ofter heard they were different live than their records. I will never get a chance to see those jazz greats or even say I fully appreciated the two shows I saw, but as Rafiki in the Lion King says “What does it matter, it’s in the past.” I’m sure looking forward to that Europe ’72 box set. That’s what matters. I’m too old to care about Dead-er Than Thou attitudes. Now if only the Fillmore ’69 box set would be re-issued. I missed that one, hint, hint, nudge, nudge...
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There are two main paradigmatic themes that provide a template for most philosophies or religions, but are buried so deep in the ritual styles, or tomes of dogma, that most people don't detect them until they are pointed out. This is true whether or not you are talking about Star Trek conventions, Kierkegaard philosophy clubs, or Vendanta meditation ashrams. There is no wrong or right about them, both can be useful or fun or useless and obnoxious, if taken to extremes or done without love or empathy. The Deadhead community is no different. The structure is either a perfectly equal set of points from which anyone can see the whole and the whole is reflected back, Jewel of Indra style, where no one can be inferior or superior to anyone else, as everyone is unique but not above or below anyone else. The alternative structure is a pyramid, with a very tip top point, where you place the highest good, sometimes God, or Enlightenment, or Sartori, or being behind the scenes on the set of Star Wars working alongside George Lucas on the first drawings of the X wing fighter, whatever. Everyone from that vantage point is placed below on different points on the pyramid, from those closest to the top to those who are ignorant that the top even exists on the base. It is considered more "enlightened" in some circles, as this blog would advocate to use a Jewel of Indra structure to organize Dead heads. This is fine so we can do away with phony feelings of superiority, excessive bragging on behalf of older Deadheads, and feelings of inferiority on behalf of those newer to the scene. However, taken to extremes this view takes away a lot of innocent fun. Let's face it, there is something cool about someone like Owsley, or Neal Cassidy, or Ken Kesey or Betty (of the Betty boards), being so deep in the Grateful Dead organization as to have known Jerry as a buddy. It is equally cool to comtemplate how many shows people may have seen who started seeing the Dead as the Warlocks and never stopped. Why not admire them? Why not give them a place to show off their first hand knowledge. On the other hand, if, as this blog suggests, that structure is imposed too strictly, then that stifles the enthusiasm of new fans just getting on the bus. And if the bus is as perfect a metaphor as Kesey intended, then it stands for much more than just joining a particular Dead tour by a certain expiration date. And if Jerry and the boys did it right on any particular night or on any particular record, then that appeal is universal and infinite and incapable of limitation. 1000 years from now, some new kid will come across a holographic microscopic music data subatomic particle, place it into his latest 459th Generation iPod rapture machine and be transported right back to May 8, 1977 and listen to the the segue between Scarlet and Fire and go "Hwacko Jazgo, that's awwwwwesome". Not allowing that, or making him feel less than someone who jumped on during the actual Barton Hall shows, would be like telling someone who discovers Mozart today that he's less of a fan for not being alive when Mozart conducted his music live. It is a matter of balancing the two, and allowing for both structures to co exist and inform each other, without allowing the worse of either to infect the joy of the discovery of joy within the Grateful Dead panoply of musical delight.
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im kinda wondering why any head old or just reborn dead yesterday is not of the same caliber as one who was going to warlock shows,or drinking electric kool-aid at the hog farm?we should embrace each other and not hang out our show stubs to win a pissing contest. im very proud to be an 80's deadhead logging my first trip to alpine valley wis. at the ripe old age of thirteen.it was one of the best experiences ive ever had.this was my first show but was not the last.we as heads are part of a family that needs to stick together.go out and recruit as many young and willing deadheads as possible,and remember just because we are older,and more experienced we are by no means any better than any other head.so keep on trucking and maybe ill see ya "further"on going down the road feeling bad.
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At age 12, I pulled Skeletons from my brothers record collection and listened. Much different from the rock music on the radio. Did not get it. At age 13, I heard Skull and Roses. Got it. Had to wait until I was 16 to see my first show in Philly. Remember Jack Straw opener, that is about it. By then, quite a little crowd in high school trading tapes. Even now and then I hear a tape that reminds of one of those special moments during a show in my early years when the world is right. Can't describe the sound, but I know it when I hear it and I love it that way.
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I'm not 'deader than thou' any time soon ;) I mean yeah I would have loved to catch the GD in 1970 but that is hard to do when you are in a baby stroller! If your parents weren't into them then the next shot at exposure is high school maybe jr high and that's when I got on the bus - mid 80's starting listening along with Floyd, Zeppelin, Hendrix, Doors etc etc. Went to RR in 87 and finally got into my first show in Shoreline 89 (which was college years). I figure hell 25 years of following anything makes you a rabid freak of a fan no matter what it is you are following. I agree with the post that we need to enlighten our children and youth and whomever else about the music. Long live the magic! "It's got no signs or dividing line and very few rules to guide"
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I grew up with all of my friends older brothers and sisters being deadheads. When I was 14-15, I entered a contest on WBCN in Boston i twas 1983, and won 2 tix to a JGB show at the Orpheum Theater. I had to basically run away to go to the show. Me and my buddy hitch hicked into Boston and tried to by some acid in the Boston Commons. Of course we got fucked, and bought some paper that did nothing for us, oh well. We got to the show, and were brought up to the 3rd row, right in front, radio station tix! I was soon passed a bowl from an 'old guy' sittng next to me, and was totally blown away by the show. I remember most of all, they did "Harder They Come' and the amplifiers had something spinning inside them, for real. It changed my life, to be part of that crowd. After the show we were stuck, and had to call my buddies dad to come pick us up in the city, which wasn't at all the way to end the evening, but led to many a great time at many shows after that. Looking back, I am glad I saw them all the times I did in the mid to late 80's, but now, I just cant listen to any Dead unless its pre-78. Thats how I'm Deader than Thou now...
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I am 16 years old and DSO got me hooked when i was 10 or 11 and since then i've seen every Dead, Furthur, and Tribute show i could get too. NONE of my friends are into it, or even fathom what could make someone want to collect over 400 SBDs (guilty) before they can even drive but as difficult as being a "freak" has made high school, it has helped my soul ten times more. Your last paragraph alone makes this the best blog i've ever read. Thanks Blair!
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The first time I heard the Grateful Dead was one hot summer long long ago. I had a neighbor that was paying me to water his lawns. I had my Panasonic AM blueball radio, and heard Truckin. That was truly music to my ears, but never followed up. I got on the Bus in 1976, when myself and a couple of high school buddies drove to San Francisco to see The Grateful Dead and The Who at Oakland Coliseum. After that I went to shows in the Los Angeles area and went to see JGB whenever he was in town. This continued through the string of Las Vegas shows right up until Jerry's passing. Since Jerry died, I have not been to a show.
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I never saw them with Jerry, I would have been 12 years old and my only heroes at that time were basketball players. I'm 27 now and they are my favorite band. I would consider myself a very open person when it comes to listening to music and when I was a freshman in college I figured I would download some and give them a chance. I listened to Workingman's Dead and American Beauty. I didn't really appreciate it the first few times I listened, but I dug the Wake of the Flood album and decided to actually purchase a CD. After going to Best Buy I found the Dicks Picks Volume 14, with the four discs from Boston in 1973. I was blown away. The jams with the jazziness did it for me. I discovered more and more and more and eventually saw 'The Dead' play Lakewood in Atlanta in 2004. Now I listen to them at least 25 hours a week at work. I love all periods of Dead, but my favorite is 72 - 74. When I was at work, I often go on archive.org and listen to shows from the current month and day. I listen to whole tours, years, and venues. I am not a typical deadhead. I am a Republican, don't believe in a lot of the things that Deadhead's stand for and I can't stand the parking lot scene. Went to the Furthur show in Atlanta and was disgusted by the majority of the people that were there. I also was dissapointed in the show and have decided that I will no longer see the other members projects because they seem so disapointing every time I go. Now a lot of people give me crap because my ideals are different than most deadheads, but I love the music as much as any fan out there and I completely agree with Blair. I just sometimes hear things about not being a real fan because I'm not into the scene and I have a job that I won't miss to go see a band. I just want everyone to know that it's about the love of music for me, nothing more and nothing less.
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Either you're on the bus or your off. You can be a Bolo or you can be a Bozo, but either way you're still on the bus. For me, even though I heard American Beauty before, I really heard it one winter night in 1973. Left an indelible mark that's still there. It had me pay homage to the Haight in the very late 70's. It still resonates in my head every day. And I wonder has it really been that long or is this a dream I'll wake from tomorrow morning.
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Caught the bus junior year of high school and it took me to the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester NY. for a couple of nights with the Dead and the New Riders in November of 71. Been fortunate to be able to still ride. Janet Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest places if you look at it right
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I knew about the Dead and "Deadheads" from an early age because I had older siblings who owned some albums (AB, WD, E'72) and played 'em to death. They were part of my musical heritage and so I always liked the band without knowing or caring much about them. I didn't really "get into" the Dead until long after I'd been through the mind-expansion mill and Jerry was long gone. I stumbled onto a Dick's Picks in a Borders in Albuquerque and flipped over it (DP 16 if you really want to know). H.R. Sauertieg All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare. -- Spinoza
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I first got into the band when I was introduced to their music back in 1967 by Owsley Stanley. I've been a fan ever since. How many shows have I been to? The same as any other real fan, not enough. It doesn't matter when you came to appreciate their talent and genius, just that you have.
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I'll admit I went to my first Grateful Dead show in 1992 to chase a girl. She then told me she was going to see them in Vegas. My response? "Why? They'll be back." Ha!!! To be young. I went to Vegas and have been a huge fan ever since. I went to a Ratdog show at the Fillmore and this guy kept asking me "Seriously... Why are you here? Are you a cop?" I listen to shows or watch DVDs while I jog. I'm a professional and wear a tie to work. Anyone can be "deader" than me if they want to. That won't stop me from enjoying this music, and I continue to find new areas to explore. Like my name suggests (giant nerd) being cool is not a priority. Liberty is!!!
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Thanks for saying that Blair. An important message that was well said. a reminder for all of us: there will always be someone richer than/smarter than/better looking than/more successful than/deader than thou. If you are more concerned with keeping score, than with enjoying the game, you will be a loser, no matter what the outcome. This, whatever it is, is no competition, it is something all of us can enjoy. My first exposure was summer of 67, with the first album. Intrigued me, but not in a blow your socks off way. My first show was Yasgur's farm, but truth be told, I don't remember any of their set. Workingman's and American Reality, on the other hand, resonated with my soul, but I never really got fully on the bus until my first real show - the War Memorial in Syracuse, October of 71. I never racked up that many shows by count, but each one was an epiphany for my soul. And managed to get to some of the legendary - Barton Hall, Englishtown, Watkins Glen. Somehow, for inexplicable reasons, there was always something magical about reconnecting with old friends -- inevitably leading up to a show a whole bunch of cosmic events serendipitously fell together, and lo and behold, these events culminated in a show for us to share. It matters not how many, or how early, but whether or not you made that connection. A connection that all of us are still enjoying. My favorite dead experience? Many years later, having worked in the corporate world for many years. I went out to the parking lot at the end of a long boring day. And found on my car a sticker: "we are everywhere" no doubt prompted by the Steal Your Face on my bumper, a kindred soul had reached out. That sums it up for me.
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...Rochester June 30 1988. That is how I personalized my Europe 72 box. I am proud of it. My younger brother was the Deadhead of my family. He was into them way before I was and I always said I hated them. Shakedown Street, however, intrigued me. When In the Dark came out, I was hooked. Yes. I am one of those "Touch Heads". I don't really care what anyone thinks about that because I don't care when you got on the bus. As Blair said, welcome aboard. Reading these posts, I am glad to see so many young people are touched by the music. You see, it is not about when or how long you have been there, but that you are there at all Over the years I have shared my tapes and cdswith so many people who never got the chance to see the band. Through this I learned that seeing the Dead was a privledge and not some sort of stature. I was 20 at my first show. Wish I could have seen them earlier but it didn't work out that way. Privledged to see Brent, Branford, Dark Star, etc. You get it. I currently follow Widespread Panic and the same sort of BS goes on there. I gues it is just the way it is. I am glad that I have found another band that gives me joy as the Dead used to. In the end though, it will always be the Grateful Dead.
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They fed me a steady diet of Europe 72 and Live Dead. They took me to see Kingfish and The Jerry Garcia band. It was all good. Then one day they took me Golden Gate park, because there was supposed to be a free show. My on my, that was one fine day to get on the bus. From then until I started reading comments on dead.net, I never had a whif of dead-er than thou. A concept that I do not understand. This is the most open club world; if you say you belong, you belong.
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I boarded the bus on 12/07/68, as a high school senior, at Bellarmine College (now University) here in Louisville. Had their albums, knew of the band's special vibe from reading about them at the time, but I wasn't "grabbed" until that concert. MANY years later I got a CDR of this one. Still don't know why the whole performance doesn't circulate, but the roughly hour&1/2 that does make the rounds affirmed for me that I had, indeed, been privy to magic. Next time as a college freshman @ Tulane, opening to the Warehouse, night after "Busted on Bourbon St" (I was flying back to school from winter break and missed opening night) and the following afternoon's "Bread for the Dead" legal fee fundraiser. 10/71, 06/74, once a year 76-80, missed 81-83, averaged 2-3 a year 84-95. For me personally, the band's first fifteen years were far more exciting than the last fifteen. Once around '90 I was approached by a deader-than-thou young woman who took issue w/ my Hawaiian shirt. I told her I didn't need a uniform (GD &/or tie-dye). With a closet of GD & tie dye shirts, I would wear them anywhere BUT a GD concert. Wore a Miles Davis shirt one time. I told friends who asked in the final decade of the GD that I thought the band was playing more consistently but with less sense of adventure. Again, for me personally, the 1st 1/2 of the band's existence, I went to concerts hoping (and sometimes getting) a night of being blown away. In the final stretch, I had to content myself with "moments" rather than "concerts." None of this is to show any lack of respect for those who either came on board later, or just preferred later shows than earlier ones. I just know what did then, and what still does now, bring a &^%$-eating grin to my face and what doesn't. And we bid you goodnight . . .
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Was tripping at a yankees game and my friend asked me if I wanted to go see the grateful dead movie at the ziegfield theater in NYC. Had no clue what I was getting into but what a wonderful surprise. Next day we bought tickets for Englishtown which is in my hometown and what an amazing first show. All roads were closed and had to walk for miles. Left home on friday and got home on sunday. Best halfstep ever without a doubt. People always ask what the dead was like and I always say you had to be on the bus to understand. Like we say we are everywhere.
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Soldier Field June 22, 1991. I was 19 and it was hook line sinker for me. I remember seeing a Summer Solstice Pay-Per-View event a couple years prior and was curious ever since, not so much due to anything related to Touch of Grey (although it may be why they showed up on my radar to begin with). My friends older brother had an extra ticket and thats all she wrote. (Thanks John Gazda if your'e out there). Anyway, I still have such vivid memories of that first show, I could honestly say it changed my life, and no not because of any chemicals or organics(those came later). The whole experience was just so eye opening, the music, the community, the raw positive energy that you could just feel all around you. It just blew me away. I caught 50+ shows after that one and I'll admit that I suffered from envy of those who had been around for much longer and/or seen more shows, and as I added a ticket stub to my collection or a new tape my own chest grew a bit larger. I only catch 1 show/yr nowadays (kids, house, job, etc.), although that itch for more is always there, and I'm still guilty of bragging from time to time:) Thanks for the entry Blair!!! I'll be looking to see my brothers and my sister (new and old) on 3/10 in Times Square.
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Hey Now,I think we all probably know the likes of the "Bleedin' Deacon" that Mr. Jackson described...and I really can't blame them for trying to own the music a little more...being a Deadhead is a very personal experience...a very special experience to me...through good times and not so good times...I choose to share my love for the Dead and not steal it away. Whenever I can I try to extend my knowledge and experience, because that's what it's all about, to me. The first music I ever bought was "Go to Heaven" in '80 from a kid in 6th grade. Little did I know that 30 years later I would be still be "searching for the sound". My first show was '87 in Providence w/ many to follow. I was/am blessed to have a passion in my life that involves music, community, friendship and purpose. I can't thank The Grateful Dead family enough for making my like that much better for being there. Peace
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...with a Dead-er Than Thou individual was in college in fall of 1988 semister. A friend had some friends come to visit and one was wearing a jean jacket with the dancing bears on the back. We struck up a conversation about the band and all was going well until i declared myself a Deadhead. He then asked me if I truly felt like i was worthy of the title. I didn't know how to react so I said I wasn't. I can't believe I was ashamed because i was a new fan and thus not worthy enough to be included.
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Mountians of the Moon has to be one of the finest pieces for me... It's one of those tunes that gives me goosebumps as a reminder that THIS was one of the first songs that got me on the bus when i first heard it in 77... 7th grade :-) ..and then into Dark Star?????? :-)) ~~~~~~~~~~~ ! Blairj... in answer to your question... Yes, I believe my affinity for this period makes me feel "Dead'er than Thou" as compared to the 90's Stadium Frat-House Boys singing Ramble On Rose at the top of their lungs while I'm trying to listen to the Boys Jam... Sorry... that's just where we differ on this one... Having 4 older brothers, I was wedged inbetween 3 of them on long car rides to Montauk and Candelwood Lake while Dylan played on a type recorder in 1971... Jerry & the boys were soon to follow once brother #2 got his tape recorder going ... iGrateful Nothin' left to do but :-) :-) :-)
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Saw the dead twice in Seattle in 81/82. Didn't translate well for me at the time. Think I fell asleep during Stella Blue, and then Phil was in the grouchiest mood, yelling at people setting off fireworks, and threatening to not play Seattle any more. Went once more and saw an Oakland show around 1985/6. I remember Tower of Power was on the bill (and possibly even Santana). Anyways, I wasn't converted. However, I did have a very special bootleg (1971) on tape that i absolutely loved and I bought a couple of studio albums that I enjoyed. But the drugs and the scene were overwhelming to me. Not even the music could keep me coming back; none of the show I saw were what I would consider "on." So at the ripe old age of 49 I saw an ad for Going to Terrapin, Hartford 1977 on the NPR website. And I decided I had to continue the search for the magic that I had on that now lost old cassette. And it delivered; that cd hooked me and I now budget for a show or two every month or so. My most recent purchase was from the download series NY 4/30/77 which is just a sublime show. Donna's on key and everything! And while Phil was a real grouch on stage back in '82, he's the guy who hooked me. Those melodious, sophisticated base line, keep me coming back. I just love the music now, but couldn't really reconcile myself to "the scene." And lucky me we have all these wonderful recordings. Purrfect. Coincidentally, my partner hates the Dead; won't let me play "it" in the house: says the melodies stay in her head and bounce around her dreams. I mainly get my hit on the road with my sweet sound system, or with my iPod when i walk the dogs. But the door does shut sweetly when she leaves sometimes..... Wondering if others have a "situation" like this?
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Always find this subject of Self-Entitlement rift with interest and disgust. I like to be free of comparison within. I suppose that is why I never had a "bad" show, certainly a few challenging times. "Only 1 in 10,00 come for the show." Sure wish I had the opportunity to see the boys in the late seventies or even the early. Late 60's would have been fine. Mid- eighties were good, I even really liked the late eighties when Jerry and Brent were grooving. Sometimes when Jerry forgot the lyrics there was a feeling in the air of hope. And even if he had forgotten the plot, we hadn't, at least most of us some of the time. Sure is a funny thing to feel better about one's self standing on an other. What's the point? Every show was a good one at this point. Furthur is really good! If you show up to life every day, having thanked that greater than yourself, ready to serve your brother and sister, yer good; have another good show, have another good day. Saw Jerry in Long Island. Then the Dead in Worcester '84, Jerry tearing it up at the end of, "I Just Wanna Make Love to You," bought and sold. Even Soldiers Field was a good tour closer, the last show I got to see, came early - stayed late, like most of my best shows. Never couldn't find what I needed, more and less than what I brought. Sure could have done without the nitrous mafia. Perspective. Nice article Blair.
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Gotta get in on this subject. I could write a few chapters, or a short story, about how I got into the Dead. That "Skeletons From The Closet" album was one of my mainstays starting around mid to late 1986, and then a roommate at school had some bootleg tapes that really grabbed me. I remember in early 1987 reading a Rolling Stone that had an article about Jerry's coma and how Deadheads had nothing to do when he was off the road, and I made my mind as soon as I got the chance I had to see them. I was only 15 and didn't really have any immediate prospects or ability to see the band, and in fact I wouldn't actually make it to my first show until 7/30/88, Laguna Seca Raceway. They didn't disappoint at all, just whetted my appetite for more. It was just really tough to see them in those days as an underage teenager with no driver's license and not much money. I actually made it to 2 Dead shows and a JGB show in 1988 which was quite an accomplishment for a kid in my situation. Didn't make it back until 6/16/90 at Shoreline, the first time I drove myself to a show. I really got into the band, though. Practically taught myself how to play guitar and bass just playing along to them, and driving my girlfriend crazy in the process! I listened to a lot of Grateful Dead Hour back in those days, I used to record it and listen to the tapes all the time. I listened to and recorded the entire New Year's Eve 1990 show, it was almost like being there. I introduced my brother to the band and he ended up going on his own with his friends. I made it to 2 more shows at Shoreline in May '91, and then went to another show that August without a ticket and ended up having a really weird, trippy experience just hanging out in the lot the whole night. Everyone should have that experience at least once. Unfortunately, I kind of drifted away from the band after that. I was trying to be a serious musician and got really into jazz and classical music, and while I never stopped listening to the Dead completely, they were kind of on the back burner. I was also working, trying to go to school, and help raise my 2 daughters (who also made it to a couple shows as babies), so overall it was just hard to make it to shows in those days. I have a couple of regrets: I was living in San Diego in 1993, and I totally wasn't paying attention when Jerry came to town, and then when the Dead came to the Sports Arena in December to play what would turn out to be their last shows in San Diego, I was going to go with a buddy but when he backed out I decided to stay home. I really regret that move since it was my last, best chance to see them and I came very close to going, but didn't. I had moved back to Northern California in 1995 and I seem to remember picking up the San Francisco Chronicle and reading about the Dead doing a 3 night run at Shoreline in June and I think I considered going for a minute, but didn't really think about it very long. A couple months later, I was at work and this guy came in and said Jerry had died, and it really hit me then like a ton of bricks: it was over. I think that's when I realized I should have kept going to shows, like I had originally promised myself I would back when I was 15. Since then, I've seen PLAF twice and the revitalized Dead a total of 4 times, so I've tried to make up for my earlier mistakes. I've been back living in San Diego for a few years now and I'm wondering why they don't come here more often. Phil hasn't played here since I last saw him in 2002 and the Dead didn't come back on their last reunion tour in 2009. They played a total of 1 concert in Southern California at the L.A. Forum (which I went to) as though that were enough! I mean, c'mon guys. The only one who plays San Diego on any kind of regular basis is Bob, although I haven't made it out to see him. I have seen DSO a couple times, and enjoyed it quite a bit. I highly recommend DSO to anyone who wants a trip down memory lane, they do an excellent replication. As for being a "Touch-Head," I guess I'm guilty, by virtue of when I got on the proverbial bus, but that's a bigtime oversimplification. I mean, I liked Touch of Grey, it's a great song, but I definitely listened more to Live/Dead, Anthem of the Sun, Workingman's Dead, Europe '72, and all those early albums and any other bootleg recording or Grateful Dead Hour I could find back in the early days. I don't even remember if I had In The Dark at all, in fact I'm pretty sure I didn't. I remember thinking what a novelty it was that they had a hit song on the radio at the time, and they played it a couple of the shows that I saw and there was great energy when they did, it was like "oh hey, they're playing their Top 10 hit!" I remember thinking how I had really missed the boat, not seeing the Keith and Donna era - not to mention Pigpen - but then Brent died and the Bruce and Vince era arrived, and all of a sudden it was like, "wow, I actually saw them with Brent." So we all have nostalgia for what we missed until the moment passes and then we have nostalgia for that, too. Since I made it to all my shows prior to age 20 I guess in retrospect what I pulled off was pretty good. I definitely look back with great fondness on the shows that I saw, and try not to dwell on what might have been. That's the best advice I can give anybody here.
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Wow! What a grate addition to yer blog. I like how it brings us closer. Thank you Blair
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Summer 1995. I started dating this girl in May and had been working in a lab at Stony Brook University. She was a huge Head, and my boss, a PhD also happened to be a head. She made me some mix tapes and it had some American Beauty on it, and I fell in love (with the music). I hadn't realized it up to that point but my boss had dead posters all over his office. It was really cool. I only wish I had found them earlier. I'm hoping to get tickets to see Further this St. Patricks Day at GMU. All the Best.
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Hello,hey got turned on to the Dead and Kerouac at the same time ,'73-'74 ,by a gal I was seeing (thanks forever Sarah), 1976 show at Boston got to catch the magic, got it ,part of that big diamond,words and music shining,it made sense, no deader than though or what,just glad to tap into the magic,and share with others,and share in with others,rolled on the road/bus ever sense, find the magic/light reflect outwards and upwards,Peace
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I got on the bus in September 2009. I was a freshman at Lehigh University in PA, and a childhood friend was attending pharmacy school in Philly. She had gotten into the Dead in high school, and when she heard they were coming to play at my campus, she said, “Get tickets, I’m coming!” I think the tickets were $8. I was hooked that night, and I’ve been on the bus ever since. No one makes music like the Grateful Dead makes music, and no music makes me feel like the Dead’s music makes me feel. I didn’t get to attend hundreds of shows. Maybe 20 between 1981 and 1995; I’m not sure – I didn’t count. I didn’t memorize set lists and I don’t recall exact dates. Some might say that means I’m not a true Deadhead, but to me, it’s all about genuine appreciation for the music, and even beyond that, the incredible musicianship. You have to listen – really listen – to get it. The complexity, the creative interplay, the unexpected surprises, the perfection in the imperfection. The issue with the so-called Touchheads is that many of them weren’t there because of the music. Radio play drew attention to the mystique that was the Dead, and they were lured by the scene, or the drugs, or just because they wanted to say they had been there. And they occasionally tarnished the experience for the rest of us by introducing the wrong energy into our happy little world. But those particular “fans” eventually fell away. Anyone who got on the bus at that time and is still around 25 years later – because of the MUSIC – is just as much a Deadhead as someone who was at the first Warlocks show. In 2007, I met a guy 10 years younger than me, who despite being a huge music fan and a drummer, had never listened to the Grateful Dead. A week after we met, we were on a road trip to Key West, and I took the opportunity to immerse him in my favorite Dead tunes. He listened intently as we rode, and I knew I had met a kindred soul when he asked me to rewind “Ripple” so he could listen to the lyrics again. I told him that day he was a “Deadhead waiting to happen.” I knew it was true the day he discovered “Dark Star” while listening to Sirius and said it was his new favorite Dead tune. I had never explained to him the significance of that song; he just got it, all on his own. In May 2009, we were lucky enough to sit in the third row for the Dead show at the Spectrum. He was mesmerized by the musicianship, and says it’s by far the best concert he has ever attended. He got on the bus in 2007, he doesn’t know a lot of the lyrics, he never attended a Jerry show, but to me, he is the most genuine of Deadheads. This past December, we were married. The last song played at our wedding was “Ripple,” of course. Dancing with me were my new husband… and my childhood friend, the one who took me to my first Dead show. What a perfect moment that was for me. “Let there be songs to fill the air.”
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That was September 1981! hahah
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  • milton
    2 years 4 months ago
    A little late to the bus stop
    I guess I'm a little late getting on the bus, but I'm sure glad I found it! When Jerry died in 95 I was going into my junior year in high school. At that time in my life I was in full on Pink Floyd mode. If it wasn't Floyd I didn't want to know anything about it. I was so immersed it was like I had blinders on. Not that Floyd is a bad band to get into, but it can make things get a little weird when your life at 16 revolves around Floyd, pot, and acid. Ahh good times. Thankfully I had a friend, whom I'm still great friends with, who was a Floyd fan too, but he slowly got me into bands like Zeppelin, Dylan, Neil Young etc. Fast forward to about 2003-04 and we went to go see Dylan and the Dead. At this point I still didn't "get it", but went to the show and I had a blast. Even after that maybe 2009ish, we went to go see the Dead when Warren Haynes was with them. I enjoyed it, but still didn't fully "get it". Then about 4 years ago I just started listening to the Dead with a real passion like I never had before. Life was changing, my dad died, shit got heavy. But I was able to see the light with the Dead like nothing else. I always wondered what it would've been like to see Jerry. I feel a real connection with him and not only the way he plays (I play guitar too), but the way he thinks. Also being from Buffalo, I feel a special connection with the Dead. It seems like they always had a blast when they played here and the region in general. Example: 7/04/89 at Rich Stadium. That place is less than 10 miles from where I grew up. I can relate. I was only 10 yrs old at the time, but just to think Jerry and the boys were just down the road having so much fun. I'd like to think if I was just a little older I would've been there with them. But my time to get on the bus was much later. It actually happened at a time when I really needed them. I'm excited to go see Dead & Co this summer at the same venue I first saw Dylan and the Dead, except this time I will for sure have "gotten it"!
  • sisterearth
    4 years 4 months ago
    Nothing left to do
    This is funny stuff. Reminds me of a girl who was turned onto the Dead before me and acted as if it elevated her somehow. Cracks me up and is so...Ungrateful. I don't care when I got on the bus....I am just happy that it came by and I jumped on for the ride. ★peace
  • iceninedawg
    4 years 4 months ago
    DEAD-ER THAN THOU phenomenon
    All:My first show was May, 1968 @ the National Guard Armory in St. Louis, Mo. as a junior in high school. Right then and there, I knew I had to move out to where these guys lived so I could experience them more which I did in 1969 (the earliest I could get there based on circumstances). My final three shows were in March of 1995 at the Omni in Atlanta. Early on, in the Bay Area, I could always buy tickets to the shows @ Pacific Stereo just by walking in when they opened on the first day of ticket sales. Later on, this changed and I moved out of the Bay Area soon after. Since I moved, I then started using GDTS and, later, GDTSTOO otherwise known as mail order. I was always, clear up until the end, able to get good and decent tickets/seats thru mail order. All I know about the Dead-er Than Thou phenomenon is that it seemed like to me, all of a sudden there were tons more people at the shows and they were way younger. I never really experienced the Dead-er Than Thou phenomenon because in conversations with other DeadHeads we were just curious about each other's first shows and it was always non-judgmental. This may have been since I gravitated towards DeadHeads my own age. Now, I have heard anecdotally about this phenomenon but I have been unscathed by it personally. Thanks be to you, Blair for writing about this phenomenon in such a calm, reasoned and kind way. As I told David Gans earlier this week on the Well, I have always treasured and valued your writings. Please keep keepin' on.