• 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 always loathed people who said "Newbies" were harmful to the scene or the band. If we could change (Or enlighten) one persons mind and show them that things like recycling, or helping a stranger on the road, were good karmically speaking, it was worth it. If hundreds or perhaps thousands came and only one of them saw the good of Deadheads and the peaceful way that I know Jerry and the rest wanted for the world, that was OK with me. I heard Touch of Grey on the radio in a Whole Foods the other day. I didn't recognize it right away since I rarely listen to that particular song. A smile came over my face, and I realized that once in a while you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right.
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Tripped my brains out. Nuthin but fun. There was no bus. Just the Dead out on the stage at Raceway Park and a hot 70's chick in cut-offs and a halter top dancing on a cooler right in front of us for must of the show. Doesn't get much better than that, I guess. 'Cept for the NEXT show... now THAT'S a story!
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Blair, I look forward to that blog as I am interested in what others on the bus feel about those other buses we have seen around. I have riddin on a few with mixed results. I will hold the rest of my thoughts.........
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First Blair thanks, I am relatively a newbian, i got on the bus in 92 i believe, i was listening for about a year and a half before that but my first show was at McNichols (Big Mac) in Denver in 92. i remember i ate this awesome acid, i had tripped a ton (like 50 times) before so i was experienced but i was so into the scene, by the time i got into the show i saw this cop standing in a corner with his arms crossed and a very serious look on his face. I felt bad for the guy and new he was just a human that had a job to do so i went up to him to give him a hug to let him know everything was okay and he didn't have to be so serious about everything (realize im 6'2" and built like a foot ball player) so he picks me up and shakes me vigerously asking what and the hell am i doing, my facial expression must have answered everything like "sorry man i just thought you needed a hug" that he let me moon walk out and disappear into the crowd. my friends didnt know what to think. the show happened, and they I clearly remember terrapin, at this point i was out in the area outside (like the circle around indoor arenas that take you from one are to the other) and all of these spinners were gettin it, and i was weaving through them so elegantly i felt like i was a thought in this big brain....it was really awesome, i have not been off of the bus ever since, i was at soldiers 95 and miss Jerry, but the fact is it doesnt matter when you get shown the light, its just do you get shown the light and really get it. I never got to see pig pen but that doesnt mean i cant love what he did, i especially like the janis/pig lovelight, but had a really big pig phase when i was younger. My now fiance knew that i loved the boys and she knew the songs because apparently it is all i play, but i thought i was more diverse...whatever. Anyway she picked up the songs and we flew to Chicago for the Rosemont "the Dead" warren who tour. if you haven't been to that venue wow it is a great venue it is now the all state, anyway, we split some mushies and anyone who was at that show will understand the audience and the band were talking...so about 2 or 3 songs pass and she looks up at me with an ear to ear smile is like, I GET IT, these guys are freakin cool. She has been on the bus ever since. She never got to see Jerry but is no lesser a fan, don't get me wrong i really really wish she could have experienced that but , she loves the boys and loves the music and the people, and as for previous dead she is able to live it vicariously through the recordings, she is in a big Brent phase right now which is super right on, anyway we are both late bloomers but are really proud and happy to be on this trip so thanks. "Well, I aint always right but ive never been wrong". "seldom turns out like it does in this song"
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Well, maybe not. Glad you didn't end up in the slammer...
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Born 89 and missed the bus....but have seen DSO numerous times as well as catching Furthur and Phish for the first time in 2009 and 2010 respectively. I had a buddy named Charlie growing up, and all of his brothers loved the music.... What really turned me on was when I saw DSO perform in Chicago at Park West in 2008.... Played a show from 92, and gotta say the Playin' in the second set spun me so hard...... and THAT was when I got it!!! I realized.... and have been digging for it ever since... Definitely had many run-ins with heads that had to step on what I had to say, (due to the fact of me being a neophyte) but there were many other older heads that really helped me out in generous and amazing ways.... Sometimes the songs that we hear, are just songs of our own
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Hey Blair very cool blog! I was indeed introduced to the dead in '89 I was 18 just out of high school. I was one of the kids trying to sell you a veggie burrito! Anyway my first show was at Cal Expo '89, it was a very magical event, so much that it hooked me for life. You know, I miss Jerry (like all of us) a ton. I thought the magic died with him but I realize that the magic that happens at these shows is bigger then one person, way bigger!! I have been so lucky to see Furthur a bunch on the west and east coast runs and I got to say, I have been running into a lot of heads in there 20's. It has been so fun to experience Furthur with these younger people. Furthur is not the Grateful Dead, Bobby and Phil are much older now, but still have a ton of great shows in them. I keep hearing people mention that they "missed the bus" but they haven't, the bus is loaded with gas and rolling. I encourage anybody that thinks they have missed it to jump on! Phil is almost 71 and we are soooo lucky to still see shows with him. Jump on the bus you will be glad you did!!! And 100,000 tons of steel, made to roll. The brakes don't work and this grade's too steep, her engine's sure to blow. And 100,000 tons of steel, out of control, She's more a rollercoaster than the train I used to know.
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Phil Lesh has more energy than any other musician I can think of. He is an absolute marvel and should be an inspiration to all of us! I truly love ALL the former members and have supported all of their various ventures (which is not say I have liked each venture equally) , but I think it's fair to say that Phil has really led the way in showing how vital the Grateful Dead repertoire can be in the 21st century. He set the bar very, very high, and he continues the kick the asses of the musicians he works with and the crowd that comes to see him, every single night.
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My personal favorite post Jerry Dead related venture was the line-up of Phil Lesh and Friends that featured the talents of Jimmy Herring, Warren Haynes, Rob Barraco and John Molo. The songs on There And Back have some of my favorite Robert Hunter collaborations since the late '70s Hunter/Garcia works. I would fully support a reunion of that particular line-up.
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But definitely bus-related. I just started reading "The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test" for the first time since probably 1974. While reading it, part of my 55 yr old self has been transported back to my 18 yr old self, re-experiencing what I was thinking and feeling the first time that I read the book...I'm loving that. And part of my 55 yr old self is thinking, "How quaint and...naive? all this seems today." But that's me. What I really have is a question. In reading the acknowledgments, I noticed that one of the names that Wolfe drops is Paul Hawken. Does anyone know if this is the same environmenatlist, "Smith and Hawken" founder, "The Ecology of Commerce" and "Natural Capitalism" author named Paul Hawken? He's certainly the right age, and from the right place. Anyone?
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My wife were fortunate enough to see Phil & Friends in the line-up that included Jackie Greene and Larry Campbell at the House of Blues at North Myrtle Beach a couple summers back. We were about 8 feet from the stage and it was a great show. We met some folks from Charlotte and Rock Hill and had a terrific time. Phil was driving the jams as he usually does and Jackie was doing some shredding on the lead solos. Small hall-big fun. That night it was raining and thundering and lightning like hell when we got out at the end of the show and Highway 17 was flooded.
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I enjoyed this Blair! My freshman year of college was in Georgia in 1995 and that was the first time I had ever heard the Grateful Dead. Right away...Jerry died. I have never been to a Grateful Dead concert...Not One! (I did see The Dead in VA in 2009!) But I am a dead head and I collect tapes and CD's and listen to everything I can find on the internet. This site is my favorite site! Grateful Dead fans will spring from existence for the next 500 years. And those will never see the Dead live or even meet anyone who had seen the Dead live.
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I can't find confirmation that the Paul Hawken in Wolfe's book is the same as the Smith & Hawken founder, but I'd be willing to bet it is. He has at times traveled in the same circles as Stewart Brand (of Trips Fest and Whole Earth Catalog fame) and that trippy futurist Marin bunch... Makes sense it would be him...
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What a great piece! I, like some of the others almost feel like there is something missing becasue I failed to see the boys live. I'd always been into music growing up, and admit my first experience was loving "Touch of Grey" when I saw the video as a Freshman in high school. Although going on and buying "In the Dark" was the extent of my Grateful Dead experience at that time. Years passed and suttle Grateful Dead influences seemed to make their way in and out of my life. I remember sitting in the basement of a HS girlfriend's house and hearing somewhat meandering music coming from the stereo, and asking her what it was. Her response was "Oh that's my brother's Grateful Dead". As I went off to college in the early to mid 1990s I found myself falling in with a large group of Dead Head Soccer players at the University of Rio Grande in Ohio. Although the Dead influence was heavy amoungst that group, I still never actually jumped completely on the bus. There was something about what I perceived as "blind faith" in some of the kids who were getting into the Dead that I was skeptical about. The day I actually feel like I "got it" was when I had experienced a sort of physical confrontation with a guy at a party. He basically punched me in the face for being kind. As I sat there and the room cleared out, I turned on a stereo in the room and the sweet, comforting sounds of the Phil's "Box of Rain" came pouring out of the speakers. I never actually got to a show, but after many opportunities, I finally got on the bus! Better late than never.
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Let's separate the Deader than thou from the merely Dead: What was Garcia's nickname in "Old and in the Way" ? 5 points. No need to phrase in a question form. Second Question; Who in the Dead was thrown down the stairs, by whom and why? 10 points. Same rule.
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Spud boy. Phil was tripping the light fantastic during a show and stopped playing for a short while. To he and Jerry it seemed like an eternity but it was like 30 seconds. Jerry thought Phil ruined the show and told Phil "You f#@#ing play!!!" and threw him down the stairs. He later apologized and admitted the tapes of that show were pretty good!!!
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15 points to "giantnerd" Do you have the next question?
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Thanks. Yeah, I found that connection to Stewart Brand as well...seems too coincidental for it NOT to be the same guy. Hawken was working a few years ago as a "green" consultant to the company I work for, so I met him a few times. Definitely seems the sort to have some kind of bus connection...wish I'd known then, because I definitely would have peppered him with some questions.
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On what very famous Crosby, Stills and Nash song does Jerry play? What does he play? Where did he buy this instument? What is the nickname of Bob Weir's 70's Ibanez guitar? Jerry has played many guitars, but one amp has been his mainstay. What is it? Who is Bird Song about? (Points are on the honor system. Take as many as you need!!!)
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"Teach your Children", pedal steel guitar, I don' know, Janis Joplin. Any one out there who knows or think he or she knows the others?
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Jerry bought his pedal steel in Boulder, CO. Bob's guitar is the Cowboy Fancy. Jerry has been partial to the Fender Twin Reverb amp. All this stuff is in Blair Jackson's books "Grateful Dead Gear" and "Jerry Garcia: An American Life." Good stuff!!! Sorry for the geek-out everybody!!!
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Jerry told me, "I will get by, I will survive." 23 years since that first show still gettin' by, still survivin'. Thanks boys Nothing to tell now, let the words be yours I am done with mine...
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Chef FreeWhen I was 14 I discovered going to rock concerts. I was so disapointed to find out that the Dead "quit" touring before I had the chance to see them, so when Jerry Garcia and Friends played a benefit for SF schools I jumped at the chance. I went with some "serious musician" friends. The Dead were the openers, they played Blues For Allah for about a half hour then about 15 min. of Johnny B. Goode! My friends said stuff like "Are they still playing the same song?" but I kinda liked it. Saw them again the next year with the Who and started to see the whole "family" thing. But.. when I saw them just back from Egypt (10-21-78) I was totally hooked! Always saw them when they played the Bay Area ever after.
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I got on the bus around '68 and saw my first how in '71. Live/Dead was an early favorite and seminal influence. Saw the Dead many time throughout the '70's and then lost interest. Too many other distractions, too many other commitments. I thought the tapers were a bit too obsessive, though I lived with a great one in the seventies. When I saw the Dick's Picks in the stores I grinned but didn't buy. I felt embarrassed when the Dead had a hit. My old favorite band should not become popular, especially not now, after I had moved on! Long story short, I checked back in about 2000 and was dumbfounded by how much I had missed and how good the band could be. I have since caught up by buying a lot of the Dick's Picks, Vault releases and Road Trips. I have read up on the band (thank you Blair, I paid much more for my copies of Golden Road on eBay than I would have as a subscriber). It's amazing how the internet has changed how we we interact with the music we love. I eagerly wait for my E72 set. Europe '72 is a favorite to this day. The lesson here is that the Dead have been so good for so long that I was able to get on the bus, fall off and get back on. No other band in history has the legacy and the recorded legacy to permit that to happen.The king is Dead, long live the king!
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Despite growing up in the Bay Area, I had not heard too much of the Dead when I went to see them at Winterland on New Year's Eve in 1972. I was 15 (I have no idea why my parents let me go) and while we waited outside in line, a wild looking guy came up to us and opened a silver jewelry case lined with black velvet. A little sign inside said "Courtesy Of The Grateful Dead" and there will little pieces of blotted paper, which he gave us and we soon ingested. Between the paper pieces, the light show and an incredible performance by the band my friends and I had an other-worldy experience that definitely shaped the rest of our lives. The sense of community and to finally "fitting-in" somewhere was equally game changing. After the third set, about six in the morning we were on the way home on the freeway when we got pulled over. The cop asked the driver if he had any idea how fast he was going. "I wasn't speeding!" he replied. "No", said the cop, "You were going eight miles an hour." Fortunately the patrolman was soon distracted by a drunk driver sideswiping an overpass and we were able to make a slow escape. I don't think it matters if you never saw them play or saw them a thousand times so long as the beauty and imagination of the music and the people who gathered to hear it ignites something inside you. Everyone's experience of the band and the scene is personal and unique and cannot be measured or judged upon by others. That said, I showed my teen-age daughter a scene from The Grateful Dead Movie in which I was part of the audience, thinking it might make me seem hip or something. When she quit laughing she said "Dad, you looked ridiculous."
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Excellent article Blair, I certainly can relate. I didn't see them live until 1993, and felt I missed so much- Just as people who never saw them feel they missed something. The truth is, there was nothing like a Grateful Dead concert, and never will be. It was a house of magic and inspiration, and quite simply, beyond description. But the magic is the music, and this art is built to last, and will as long as we can imagine. The Grateful Dead is like the sun- Their light shines on each of us differently, and we all feel the warmth.
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My younger brother gave me two Grateful Dead tapes when I was 16. I liked Scarlet Begonias. I listenend to the closing of Winterland concert with my best girl friends from high school. When I was 17 I would stand in line for several hours outside of the Berkeley Keystone to see the Jerry Garcia Band play. There was no back stage, so the band walked through the crowd to get onstage. Sometimes they played until 3 am. Then Jerry and John would carry their instruments and walk to their Ford Pinto station wagon. I also saw Donna and Keith play there as The Ghosts during this time. I saw Bobby and the Midnites play a few times in SF. I saw the Jerry Garcia Band several times at The Stone in SF and once at The Stone in Palo Alto. I finally saw the Grateful Dead play at Spartan Stadium in San Jose in 1980. I made it to the front row at sunset as they were singing Estimated Prophet. I have heard that this was Brent's first show with the band. I was able to go backstage for three New Years 82-83 shows at the Oakland Auditorium. My favorite story was how my girlfriend and I took three buses to get to San Mateo High School Auditorium to see The Grateful Dead in 1982. I stood in front of Jerry all night. Joan Baez and Bob Weir sang "Bobby McGee". We had no idea how we were getting home. In the parking lot after the show, my brother walks up to us from out of nowhere, says "we have a van and are heading back to Berkeley, do you need a ride?" I have saved every one of my ticket stubs to every show, including many New Years tickets, which are works of art. I saw the Dead at least 80 times. I am lucky that I could walk home from shows at the Greek Theater and the Oakland Auditorium. I worked for Bill Graham security for a couple of shows at Frost Amphitheater in 1985. I was able to be at the sound board. I have seen Dark Star Orchestra once. I was able to take my brother to see the Grateful Dead at Shoreline Amphitheater in May, 2009. Then I took my best friend to see Further on 12/30/2010. It felt like being at a New Years show again, 15 years later, something that I thought was gone forever.
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Blair said. Spot on. That the Dead are STILL gathering devotees long after Jerry's death demonstrates that it matters not how/who/what/where/when/how often. All that matters is that people dig the music and all that it brings with it. As someone said - the best surfer is the one having the best time on the waves.
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Excellent post, Blair. My dad took me to Dead shows when I was just a baby. Considering I am only 21 years old now, it was an honor to see Jerry, even though I don't remember it. I was only 5 years old when he passed.I think that argument that some people use, "you got into them in x year, therefore you are not really a fan, blah, blah, blah," is used too frequently and is very flawed. Hey, I absolutely love the Dead, with a passion. Even though they are not around anymore, I can still get to see and take my friends to see Furthur, Phil and Friends, Ratdog, DSO, etc. Does that make me less of a "head" sense I only got to see Jerry when I was a toddler, I don't think so...
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Cape Cod 10-27-79 was certainly a worthy first show. Phil's ripping Other One intro made mince meat of many a young and old mind that night. Catching Jerry's late show in Feb 1980 with an After Midnight / Eleanor Rigby / After Midnight sandwich was even sweeter. Come Boston 5-12-80, it was full speed ahead! Bringing my parents to a show in '85 at Providence was a treat. They had a terrific time, and though they didn't know the songs they could say which ones had that special touch. My father even braved a trip to the taper's pit during the break. Once he got a cd player in his car, he loved "American Beauty" and the Stones "Some Girls" and "Exile on Main Street" - talk about a long, strange trip from Frank Sinatra land. While I'm heading to more Furthur shows at the Orpheum next weekend with a bounce in my step, and have savored the many versions of Phil & Friends, especially with Larry and JC, nothing has hit the spot like the the good old Grateful Dead, but then my Mom says the same thing about Frank. Whether Feel Like A Stranger is the new Strangers in the Night is a topic for a different day - maybe the day we talk about Bobby and Midnights when Bobby would croon Book of Rules and slink about the stage like Frank with a bum knee.
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Yeah, I'm a Touchhead, but sue me that I wasn't born a decade earlier. I came into this world in '71 (on a night when the GD played a Black Panther benefit--cool!) and my first shows were Brent's last (Tinley Park '90 summer tour). I didn't crash any gates or come to the scene only to party. I was genuinely liberated, tripping hard in the rain and dancing so hard I swore I could fly. I regret that I only saw 7 shows with Jerry, but I remain on the bus and take what Dead experiences I can get. Going to see Furthur at the Orpheum in Boston next weekend for my 40th birthday! Jeff VanderVeen "May the 4 winds blow you safely home."
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10 years 5 months
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I jumped on the bus around age 13 when my buddy had the Workingman's Dead and American beauty albums. I picked up the Live/Dead album shortly there after along with all the others which only were 6 in total. When Skull and Roses came out they were heard on the radio a lot in New England and us young Dead Heads were pleading with our parents to allow us to go to the shows. My first break was the Dillon show in Hartford in 72 which was an eye opener. The Ace album had been released and also Garcia's solo album was ever so popular. Looking back at the setlist from the 72 Dillon show half of the tunes were unknown from this show but our wishes would come true when Europe 72 was released. Later in 72 with Europe 72 hitting the top 10 the Dead swept through NE again and we were able to see them and enjoy the newly released tunes. I found the 72 through 74 shows the best. I also saw most of the late 70's shows around NE but noticed in 78 a slight change. I quit going to shows in the 80's due to family and being a little disappointed in the bands direction. I still bought the records and CD's. Looking back the 80's with the period of Jerry's hoarse vocals were probably better than most of the 90's shows. This I experienced during my annual listen-thru of DP's 1-36 which shows a huge contrast from release to release from great to mediocre; DP24 (74) DP25 (78) DP26 (69) DP27 (92). DP28 (73). However I take this in stride and consider this an evolution and enjoy them anyway. My request is for more of the late 72 and 73 shows which seem to be best. At this point I also appreciate some of the better cherry picked shows. The RT V4 N2 isn't bad for a 88 show.
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If you're "on the bus" you're one of the fortunate ones. It really doesn't matter when it happened, just that it happened. I'm equally thrilled to meet a brand-new Head as much as a veteran.
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11 years 8 months
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Had the first album (and still have it) on mono- first live show 1972 Kansas CIty Kansas -- it was an okay show - next live show was in Omaha my freshman year of college at Kansas at it was stellar. I certainly felt that this era and into the early 80's were better that the early 90's varieties where things seemed more canned, the set list was fixed and energy was low - but will say Dead show in Chicago a year and a half ago was tremendous and a 2010 Further Show in Chicago was one of the finest concerts I have ever seen. The last two shows have been personally memorable because they have been with my 20+ year old son who once said to me in the car "but they don't really jam" --now he's firmly on the bus. I only wish he could have seen Jerry too.
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Everybody always sat down at The Avalon. Except for when these guys played. Same as the other time, everyone in the place was on their feet and jumping all around. Instead of being a polite recital of songs accompanied by guitars it was lively chaos and excitement. Everybody looked happy. I decided to start reading the handbills at Kepler's looking for Grateful Dead because I sure wanted to be around that energy again. I happened to be in the right place/time to stumble into the bus way back when. It matters not when a person got on, it only matters that they are on. If someone says they are on then they are. Jerry his-own-self said there were lots of bands channeling the energy GDead tapped into. There are bands playing now tapping into that energy. We can still Get IT even in this new century. You can be someplace else later Be here now
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My best friend and I waited for a long time for that bus to come by, but living in a more "rural" spot, it didn't travel our way often. He used to walk around with an old, beaten copy of the Electric Koolaid Acid Test in his back pocket as though it were the manuscript to our salvation, and now I know that it was. We traveled 2000 miles by train to see the Dead in Ventura because we knew that bus wasn't stopping in our town soon enough. How as a teenager, I managed to talk my mother into that is still beyond me to this day, but I guess she saw the whole experience as a coming out party or some sort of rite of passage. Nonetheless, I remember standing in line at the payphone to give her the daily, hey I'm all right phone call, and so is "he who shall not be mentioned" [that friend]. Her motherliness often spilled over into the hearts of my friends, and so we were both on the radar screen for worry. I think the "BETTER THAN THOU" thing is just a judgment call by those who need to feel some self-worth in their identity as a Deadhead. I love Mozart, too and I never saw him in concert. I do feel frustrated sometimes when I see a trashed parking lot or just some atypical actions, and I've been working real hard to not be so judgmental, but I think for me I can say that I left a small, midwestern town with hardly any experiences beyond a farmland mentality. I landed on the shore of California, not knowing where to go or what to do, and I relied on the kindness of strangers, and I was taken care of. Some people we camped next to figured out we were green as green could be, and they lent a hand....my mother's wish was powerful enough to conjure up someone to watch out for us, and so it was, by some older hippies would had probably seen a thousand shows. I remember years later selling stuff in parking lots to the 'white hats' we called them....another judgment. I used to make buttons, colorful pin-ons, then went to baking pies and making hot cider. PEACE THROUGH MUSIC was the most popular button I sold...a lot of people like the sign I had them posted to....those were the days. Today I love bringing my oldest son to shows when I can, and sharing my memories and creating new ones. I'd like to think some of those new ones can still be filled with the same sharing and love and connectedness I experienced way back when I needed some guidance. I love to love people, and now that I'm old (not so old, middle old) I hope I can share that part of my heart with some young people, make them feel happier and safe, happy family-ish...that's what I go for, and the dancing. The dancing all the whole night long...not too old for dancing.
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13 years 3 months
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... blackbearmama: supportive real family...the kindness of strangers... hope for the next generation... nice thoughts for a Sunday...
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I love reading all of these comments from Dead Heads past and present! I didn't get the Dead until I turned 17, that was in 1992. I finally get to see them in the Summer of 1993 and 40 shows later Jerry passed away. It was interesting how I came to the Dead, I had this disgust for them as a kid in junior high. All of these kids would rant and rave about Skeletons from the Closet, but it seemed like they had no idea why they liked the Dead, it just seemed cool. This was back in 1989. In the summer of 89 I had a chance to go to the Deer Creek show with some long time neighbors of mine, my mom wouldn't let me go because I was only 14. I didn't care much. One day, I was "hanging out" at a friends house, pulling three footers and started looking through his bootleg collection. As I was browsing the set lists I started to see names of songs that I loved as a kid...El Paso, Johnny B. Goode, Bobby McGee, Wake Up Little Susie, Hard to Handle (being popular with the Balck Crowes at the time), and I perked up. Then I noticed these little arrows going from song to song and I asked my friend Will what they meant. I also found it intriguing that the set lists varied from show to show. He told me that it meant that there was a transition between songs, and I though "COOL". I didn't bother to listen to anything that day, but realized that there was more to the band than Uncle John's Band, Truckin' and Sugar Magnolia. Then the lightening bolt hit me! I was working at my dad's sporting goods store and there was this cassette tape with a cool cover left behind by a good friend, and co-worker. Since I didn't have anything else to listen to, I popped this cassette into the tape deck and on came a song called Me and My Uncle followed by a host of other amazing tunes. The show was 4/7/71 at the Boston Music Hall. By the time the St.Stephen>NFA>GDTRFB>Johnny B Goode came on I was hooked, and the rest is history. That tape is long gone, but I have so many fond memories of following the band from state to state and miss those days when I was young and chasing the next hot analogue tape. So as I sit here listening to one of the best shows I ever attended, 2/21/95 Salt Lake City, I am so glad that I hopped on the bus and wouldn't trade it for a thing.
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While I agree with Blair in general terms, for there is never a reason to be nasty to others, or "holier than thou" about one's committment to the Dead, the amount of time one spent on the bus does yield differential knowledge, that often does manifest itself in discussion, even here. For, as we all know, the scene did change with time, how could it not, and it is only by experiencing it that you can really know what it was like. (For is that not the mantra of heads of all ilks--you had to be there?) When a head of, say, the post Touch of Grey era generalizes their experience to cover the whole multi-faceted tapestry of Dead-dom, well, that is both problematic and false history.) It can also have aesthetic ramifications. Many of the older heads share the view, expressed in varied ways, and to varying degrees, that there was a decline in the quality of the music, and the scene, over time. Now, this is a debate one can legitimately take either side of, but unless you were there throughout the time span being considered, it is impossible to be fully informed on the subject. Sure your peak Dead musical experience might have been that great China-Rider and late dark Star at the Garden, but can you really imagine what it would have been like to witness the Cleveland show 17 years earlier? It does not matter when you got on the bus for judging the quality of one's soul, one's commitment to the music, or aspects of one's knowledge of it, but surely it CAN matter if you are interested in the life-cycle, so to speak, of the band and the scene. Thank god this is true, because it is a product of the every-changing nature of the band and its music. If it were not true, well, we would be faced with a band whose music was static, always the same, never evolving, and quite frankly, noone would be having this debate! Moral, enjoy the band in whatever way gives you pleasure, be polite to all, but listen to your elders, since they may hip you in to something you did not experience, but sure would have enjoyed if you did. That old geezer sitting in the corner, well remember, once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places.....
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13 years
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"We can still Get IT even in this new century". Right on roserunner! IT will be in my thoughts today - thank you Cheers B
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13 years 3 months
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...I generally agree, but I would also add that because there is so much Dead music available out there from every era, someone who's coming along now can certainly immerse themselves enough in that range of music to talk about it intelligently, even though they might not have "been there," just as, as some have noted, we can intelligently discuss the evolution of Beethoven's writing or John Coltrane's style over time without having been there. As for one person claiming a '92 China Cat is better than this '74 one, well that's always going to happen; music will always be subjective. I'm always surprised when I run across people who think '69 Dead all sounds the same; but it's certainly not "wrong" to feel that way.
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12 years 1 month
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I have the opposite issue. I have no use for GD music that is later than say 1974, with very few exceptions. And zero exceptions past 1979. I will listen to shows from 1969-1973 (sans Donna) all day long, and count many such shows as some of my favorite things in life.
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for your comments (and for so much else!). I think we are in agreement. For music that is highly performative, like the Dead, and certainly Coltrane, and, dare I say it, Beethoven, who was a great improviser, being there does mean something. Many who never saw Coltrane (like, alas, myself) or, of course, Beethoven (now that would have been a show!) can, as you say, analyze the music, and even the culture surrounding it, in thoughtful and interesting ways. But if someone says something like, "Seeing David Murray now, or Charles Gayle is just like having seen Coltrane," well, someone who saw both is in a better position to say, actually you are wrong (or right, as the case may be!). Now this might not matter for much unless you are making comparative claims, writing a history, etc and so forth. Listening to the recordings gives us access to much that we otherwise could not access, but not everything. How often have you put on a tape of a favorite show for someone, and been transported back to that place, and it leaves the person who is just hearing it if not cold, rather indifferent. The Dead experience, as you have done so much to help us understand, is more than just the sounds. For me the bus got rickety by, say, 1980, and I like to think that those who think otherwise might, with time and listening, at least be able to understand why I and others think so. In the end we might disagree about issues aesthetic, but subjectivity is not the same as "I think this for no reason at all," our reasons my not convince others, but they are real, and worth considering if one wants to play the "analyze the Dead" game. I gotta play that game, it pays the rent!
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....who won't listen to anything post-Keith & Donna now, even though they went to dozens and dozens of shows in the Brent era and beyond, and had a great time at most of them. Personally, I'll listen to any era, though I go in and out of "period" phases, and I won't hesitate to skip over a track I don't want to hear for whatever reason. During this period I was working on the liner notes for the E72 box, I've listened to almost nothing else... it was a pretty good place to hang out for a few weeks...
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13 years 3 months
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I agree completely with you about those points...
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You had to be there to "get it". Even the superb audience/board mixes that really make those who were there salivate for the good old days will do for others almost less than nothing. So, the experience of the energy was vital for any particular show. Hanging out on Shakedown for some, Participating in an orgy is some hotel room with everything available under the sun to get your freak on -- or, whatever you did built the energy up to that point where you made sure you had your ticket and went in. Then a whole new context opened up and you got comfortable with friends in a place and all the time the energy was building. Then the lights went down -- the show -- the aftermath. Going to heaven or hell & back as the music played and you tripped. What went down can't be found with the best tapes, sorry. You had to be there. Bliss to all. If you came late or missed altogether it was your karma. Don't bum about it, Instead rejoice it happened... (Did it really???) ...some afternoon and evening not so long ago. I'm sure there are battle-worthy veterans of the "Rave" scene also. But alas, a different scene.
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... lamagonzo! I think the testimony of many who have written here and thousands elsewhere show that it certainly is possible to "get it" without having been there. Is it the same? No. But it's not inauthentic...

I would also humbly suggest that karma has nothing to do with it...

 

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my first show was the Human Be-In, January 67 GG Park. As a 14-year-old teenybopper I went to worship the Airplane, but the bus came by and I got on as soon as GD swung into the double-time part of "Viola Lee." Missed a few bus stops in the 70s but got back on in the 80s.
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After a spell in SoCal around Newport moved to Bay Area and got a place in Belmont.A working stiff in early Mag tape biz. Heard that Commander Cody was in town playing and managed to find my way out to the Family Dog 2/27/69. Second song by this scuffy bunch of guys was Mama Tried and my Ft Worth Texas heart was pierced. Turned out there were a few Tejanos in the bar and the owner was from Ft Worth too. Those guys kept popping up everywhere around when I got connected to the Menlo Park, Palo Alto, La Honda and Portola Valley, Boulder Creek geography. Lots of coastal shows diuring those days and the bar bands were the best. Late 70's and 80's in midwest. When the Bus came into range I was there. Was there last Jerry show at SF Chicago. Still follow the Further/Rat dog shows in the area. Last show I went to met guys like me with their grandkids in tow. Don't tell me they're TOO LATE. They get it. Wonderful stuff. Every time that wheel turn round Bound to cover just a little more ground It MUST have been the Roses Bear xiv
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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.