The wind in the willows playing Tea for Two
The sky was yellow and the sun was blue
Strangers stopping strangers just to shake their hand
Everybody is playing in the heart of gold band
Heart of gold band
Scarlet Begonias (Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia)
The February 3, 1959 plane crash killing rock and roll pioneers Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, is widely regarded as “The Day the Music Died.” To millions of dedicated Grateful Dead fans worldwide the correct date to marry to that phrase is August 9, 1995…the day Jerry Garcia passed away and the Dead lineup as we knew it for 30 years formally stopped touring.
Grateful Dead shows were an experience and I am happy to say that I enjoyed eight of them. That makes me a relative “noob” as many fans can claim seeing well over a hundred shows of the greatest touring band in rock history. Here are 12 things we miss most about Grateful Dead shows.
1. Road Trips
Who doesn’t like a good road trip? The Dead played at venues all over the world and we traveled to see them. My favorite road trip to see the band was from Seattle, Washington to Eugene, Oregon for a Noon show at the University of Oregon’s Autzen Stadium. No traffic citations and a sunny day. Good times!!!
The legion of Dead fans is known as the Deadheads. It sounds like the name of a rough biker gang but these people are the kindest and most dedicated group of fans from all walks of life one could ever meet. Being a Deadhead is the great social equalizer. Deadheads are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.
3. Veggie Burritos
At a buck a pop these burritos sold by some of the most dedicated deadheads tasted great, were organic, healthy and helped fund someone’s ticket for the next show. The guys selling these snacks were also some very interesting and engaging people.
4. Tie Dye
A truly beautiful art form in my opinion is the Tie Dye and is best known for the designs on shirts worn by Deadheads. A fun fact is that you can tie dye anything cotton. At shows the crowd was a fantastic sea of color.
5. Cream Puff Wars
This term comes from the title of a Dead song and refers to pre-show stadium wide marshmallow fights. That is correct…30,000 plus people throwing marshmallows at each other. It was a blast! I always felt sorry for the light crew who dared climb to their post while a Cream Puff War was in progress. Needless to say they were immediately targeted by everyone.
One of my favorite things about a Dead show was the parking lot scene. Deadheads following the band would set up shop to sell their crafts, food and wares to earn funds for the next road trip and show. Night shows were especially fun as the parking lots were lit up with colorful lights which added to the ambiance.
7. Peaceful Vibe
Every show I ever attended had a peaceful relaxing vibe. It is probably safe to say that there was never a fight at a Dead show.
The Dead allowed people to record their shows which created a massive bootleg market. If you saw a show any time in their 30 year history chances are good you can track down an audio recording of that show. The neat thing is it won’t cost you an arm and a leg to acquire a copy as Deadheads like to trade them for another bootleg or may be happy to just give you a copy.
Walking outside of every show were Deadheads asking for a simple favor…a “Miracle.” No they were not asking for drugs. They were looking for that “Miracle Ticket” to see the Dead. We actually starting buying an extra ticket or two just to take along and help someone find their Miracle. It felt good!
10. Mail Order Tickets
Tickets to a Dead show could be purchased through traditional channels like Ticketmaster but how boring was that? The Dead were not only one of the first bands to set up a fan database but they also established the Grateful Dead Ticket Service (GDTS) to reduce the role of middlemen and to engage directly with fans. The tickets you received in the mail were absolutely beautiful. Decorated with artwork, shiny glitter and various colors these tickets were prized keepsakes of loyal fans. I still have mine. Congratulations to those who ever opened their envelope to see the words “FLOOR” staring at them
11. The Music
I am surprised how many people claim to dislike the Dead’s music. I have come to the opinion that they have probably never heard more than a few bars of Casey Jones or Truckin’ and may even be judging the band on their name alone. The depth and diversity of the bands music was second to none.
12. The Band
Saving the best for last what we miss most about Dead shows is the band. These gentlemen kept playing because they loved the music and loved their fans. We felt the music and felt their love. It was a family and they were the patriarchs for thirty years.
All I know is something like a bird within her sang
All I know she sang a little while and then flew on
Tell me all that you know, I’ll show you snow and rain
If you hear that same sweet song again will you know why?
Anyone who sings a tune so sweet is passing by
Laugh in the sunshine sing, cry in the dark, fly through the night
Don’t cry now, don’t you cry , don’t you cry anymore…la la la da
Sleep in the stars, don’t you cry, dry your eyes on the wind…la la la la la
Bird Song (Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia)
Featured image courtesy of Elemental Imaging licensed via creative commons.