One of the my favorite things from when I was in college was going to Grateful Dead shows. I was fortunate to go to college during the end of their touring days, when they sold out stadiums in the early to mid 90’s. I was even in Chicago for that last show on 7/9/95 when Jerry sang So Many Roads for the last time. It was exactly one month after that show that Jerry died. But jumping up to 1995 is really jumping too far ahead in my story. But I did want to dedicate an entire post to one of the biggest things that I think changed my life: My days as a Deadhead.
Over the course of 5 years, from the first show at Rich Stadium in 1990 until the last show in Chicago in 1995, I attended about 40 Dead shows.
For anyone who never had the privilege of seeing the Dead, this is what the “scene” looked like: The Scene is the parking lot outside the show. It was a big carnival that set up outside of every show. There was always drums circles and “spinners” (people who twirled in a circle to music) and balloons filled with “hippie crack” (NO2), ‘shrooms, “doses,” weed and all kinds of veggie burritos and unique PB & J sandwiches, beers, hair wrapping, jewelry, clothes and a lot of fun.
There was always the “ticketless hoard” looking for a “miracle” (free tickets).
Whatever you wanted or needed you could find at the Scene.
And then there was the music. It was magical. Jerry’s guitar would transport me to another world. I loved songs like Loser, Wharf Rat and Black Peter where Jerry would let his guitar sing. Drums into Space always highlighted the enormous skill of Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann.
I was fortunate to see Brent sing “I Will Take You Home” before his overdose and that song still gives me chills. I always liked most of Bobby’s songs – Masterpiece, Sugar Mags, Promised Land and Minglewood were some of my favorites. And who could forget a great One More Saturday Night? Everyone always loved when Phil sang Box and Vince’s “Long Way” was one of my favorites too.
It was a place where I could be a “rainbow” – a place where “color didn’t matter” and people would say stuff like “they don’t see color.” Which is great, except when you are proud of the fact that you are Black. But tension of my racial identity that came much later. So for now, I was content to hide out in my “colorblind” world. And it wasn’t addressing my issues, it truly was hiding out and avoiding.
Although, I wonder how colorblind it really was? People would touch my skin and tell me it was “so beautiful – all golden and stuff” and tell me that they wish they had my color. It was totally different from what I had been used to growing up, when people hated my skin and often would seem to be afraid to touch me – like my Blackness would rub off on them. And I enjoyed this time. Except it was not reality. It was a fantasy utopia land where peace and love ruled the day. Ironically, a lot of the “hippies” I knew from back then are judgmental, racist pricks now. So I wonder how deep the “peace and love” really was.
But in the meantime, I was floating on my cloud – as Jimi Hendrix sang, I was “walking through the clouds…butterflies and zebras and fairy tales… that’s all she ever thinks about”
And I traveled all over the Southeast US to see this band and to hang out at this scene. I went to Chapel Hill, North Carolina and Louisville, Kentucky. I saw them numerous times at Madison Square Garden, Rich Stadium in Buffalo, Soldier Field in Chicago, and Giants Stadium. I went to places like Charlotte, NC and Richfield, OH, Hamilton Ontario, Nassau Coliseum on Long Island and Atlanta, Georgia.
It was a lot of fun to travel to new cities and hang out. We’d always go to a museum or botanical garden or something cool to see in each city.
But nothing was like going to the shows and hanging out at the Scene.
My years of going to Dead Shows actually taught me a level of acceptance for myself, but it also taught me to be accepting of my fellow man. Deadheads alway said that they were about peace and love and I took that ideology and applied it fully to my life, even now I know that I am the person I am today because of my times at the Dead Shows.
The Scene in Atlanta, Georgia.
Once inside, there was always a lot of fun to be had – and of course the music. These pictures were from when Jon and I went to Shoreline Ampitheather in California.
We met up with my friend Sue and her husband John. We had met at UB and they now lived in Southern California, but drove up North to see the shows with us.
This was when we were at Rich Stadium in 1994. Our friend Jim passed out from too much nitrous and crushed the cooler. We also picked our friend Mike from Ohio – who was also a taper.
Hey – it’s Haight!!! No self respecting Deadhead makes it all the way to San Francisco and doesn’t visit the Haight! And of course 710 Ashbury is a must!
This was a show in Birmingham Alabama, where we met up with our friend Steve, who is now a Federal Prosecutor! The irony of that is so funny. But Steve was always a straight lace kinda guy, he didn’t immerse himself in the Dead, he just liked the music.
And there they are at Shoreline.
And my Jerry Bear.