Last year, the remaining members of the Grateful Dead announced they would play their last concerts together, it was called the The Fair Thee Well Tour. It was to celebrate the band’s 50th anniversary. There were three shows in Chicago over the Fourth of July Weekend and two in Northern California where the 49ers play their games. All of the shows were sold out. The band chose a lottery system, instead of buying your tickets online you needed to write in and request your tickets. I think they were limited to two tickets per winner. The lucky few who chose to be creative on their envelopes were chosen in another contest, it ensued to who was the most creative as well as lucky. I didn’t attempt to write in since I was never a real fan of the dead. Not to suggest I would not go to see them, but spending a pretty hearty sum for a pair of tickets, round trip flights, and hotel room and food and of course the weed smoking luxuries which are part of the experience of the typical Grateful Dead show…it was not something I was willing or afford to attempt. These were shows for true Dead Heads. The diehards who travelled across the grand country, I mean all of the states following the band when everyone was younger, the Dead Heads sold peanut butter sandwiches to defray the costs of living modestly on the road. It was a common site to see a Dead Head holding a sign that said, “I need a Miracle,” when they were looking for a ticket. There was and still is a strong contingent of Dead fans. I salute their devotion. I respect their allegiance and commitment to a band who essentially has been null and void since August 9th 1995 when the Grateful Dead’s supreme leader Jerry Garcia passed away. The lights were shut off and the Deadheads were lost, perplexed that Jerry was truly dead. Some Dead Heads have found their new calling, following up with bands like Phish and off shoots of the Grateful Dead like the Lost Ones, Rat Dog, Further, The Dead, and now The Dead & Company, let us not forget Phil Lesh and Friends, Rhythm Devils, Missing Man Formation, and other acts. All of these incarnations have most deadheads satisfied since they can go to these events and be surrounded with folk who are wishing and searching for something they lost back in 1995. But the Fair Thee Well concerts was a nice send off and I am happy to say, a good friend of mine, Frank was able to secure tickets and made the trip to Chicago.
What are DeadHeads thinking when revered Bob Weir hits the stage? I was watching Dead & Company on YouTube. Bob’s voice is weaker. He looks like an old cowboy with a beer belly and a face full of thick grey beard. He was the kid in The Grateful Dead...decades ago. What is surprising is the new kid in the center of the stage; John Mayer. A few years ago he listened to a few Dead songs and was hooked. I can understand his admiration for the Dead.
I’ve been to one Grateful Dead show and this is a story I want to share at the end of this essay since it is an embarrassing story for a couple of parts. I planned to have a good evening with my buddy Frank and my girlfriend at that time who told me – clearly - she was not into the band or hanging out with my pot smoking long haired Dead Head buddy. But I knew this was a band I wanted to experience; so in say twenty five years I could write about it here for you. Frank was and is a true Dead-Head - he's been to 80 plus shows across the nation. At the concert, we shared some smoke and we had some beers as my girlfriend looked on in shock and disgust. The concert was at the Meadowlands. We found our seats and the lights shut off and here were The Grateful Dead jamming while their fans danced and sang along. It was a jovial event in New Jersey, but the mood shifted once the band started a song called Space. I was done. I was not tripping and space sounded like a bad tune up session. By that time, I knew my girlfriend was also finished. She held her head in her hands and looked bored. We told Frank we’d meet him outside at the car. We had better things to do than listen to that…shit. And we were outside. Gusts of wind spun newspapers and thin sheets of paper around our legs. Embers were glowing in spots were a fire had simmered between parked vans. We found the car. She was not in the mood since my breath smelled like smoke and I had…beer. Eventually our boredom was cut when the crowd came out to the parking lot and we waited. We waited. The crowd was diminishing and we waited for Frank. I don’t know where he is. This was before the luxury of cell phones and we waited a very long time (it’s true and I want to stress it since Frank may read this) and soon burly security guards were yelling at the sedated and passive Dead Heads to Get The Fuck OuTTa Here! I was not feeling the peace. A crisp knock on the window, but it wasn’t Frank it was a guard waving to us to the exit. We should leave, she said. Give him a few more minutes. I imagined Frank sharing a beer or passing a joint to a group a ladies and I waited till the guard came back. “If you don’t leave, I’ll have the cops over here. You are now trespassing on private property. Do you understand?” I nodded. He nodded. “Now, get the fuck out of my parking lot you fucking hippie.” I didn’t have the balls to tell him I was not a hippie since I liked the Bad Brains a hell of a lot more than The Grateful Dead. I was there for the experience, you know? He was not the type who would listen or care. This Saturday, tickets go on sale for the Dead & Company who will play at Citi Field in New York and up in Boston at Fenway. Frank and I may be going to at least Citi Field. Thank God for cell phones.
I bought my ticket….
Thank you for reading this.