“We can share the women, we can share the wine. We can share what we got of yours ’cause we done shared all of mine. Keep on rollin’, just a mile to go; Keep on rollin’ my old buddy, you’re movin’ much too slow.” – The Grateful Dead, Jack Straw
I am a Grateful Dead fan. The Dead were in fact the first concert I ever attended when I was 13 years old in 1974. But the last time I saw the Dead play live was in 1983, 34 years ago.
Saturday my family and I saw the Dead & Company play in Boulder, Co. For my wife and kids who have been forced to listen to Dead tapes and CD’s over the last 30 years but have never experienced the music live with 25,000 Deadhead’s swaying back and forth in a haze of marijuana smoke it was, in a word, spectacular.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Dead & Company the band is composed of former Grateful Dead members Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, and Bill Kreutzmann. The “Company” part is Oteil Burbridge, Jeff Chimenti and the phenomenal John Mayer. Certainly, Jerry Garcia and Phil Lesh, to true Deadhead’s, are irreplaceable but John Mayer and Oteil Burbridge take you about as close to Dead heaven as you can get.
In a crowd of die-hard, follow the band anywhere and everywhere Deadhead’s I look like a banker or insurance salesman. The band has been around since 1965 so some kid that was 18 then would be 70 today and that is what I expected to see Saturday night, a bunch of 50 to 70-year-old burned-out hippies. But to my surprise what I saw were kids, hippie kids, Deadhead kids, tyedied kids with dreadlocks, that smelled, smelled like real hippies.
A Grateful Dead concert was always an event. A smorgasbord of sights, sounds and odors like no other that I have ever experienced and the show Saturday night didn’t disappoint me. It transported me back to 1983 when the only concerns I had were passing college courses and finding enough change to buy a six-pack of beer and maybe a joint. Life was simple and the Dead played uncomplicated music, loud and long. Music that made you sway. Music that made you smile.
What I experienced Saturday night were peaceful people. People helping other people. People that shared not only what they had but the music, the moment, and the space. I watched the movement on the field in front of the stage from my cheap seats. A thousand souls sharing the ground below them, moving in unison. It was a beautiful sight.
Jerry Garcia died in 1995 and honestly I thought the throngs of Deadhead’s would die with him. At the very least I certainly didn’t believe there would be a new crop of kids, kids my children’s age, that would fill in the gaps of hippies that have long since faded away. But here they were sitting with me and around me. Offering me a toke (I passed), a sip (passed on that too) and asking the old guy that looks like their Dad about shows that I have been too before they were even a twinkle in their Mom and Dad’s eyes. What it was like to see the Dead at the Fox Theater or listen to Garcia tune-up for what seemed like hours at a time.
I wonder what these new Deadhead’s will do when Weir, Hart and Kreutzmann call it quits for good. These guys are getting old (69 to 73 years old). They don’t need the money, they have enough money for several generations of Weirs, Harts and Kreutzmanns. I like to think these guys still play because we are still here listening, the old like me and the young. They understand what they are doing brings joy, creates memories and moments. I had a moment Saturday night. A moment when I saw Weir walk on the stage and heard the opening refrain of Truckin’. I felt a chill, the hair on my arms stood-up and a smile crept across my face.
I suspect that will be the last time I see Weir on stage again. But when I left the concert I thanked him and Hart and Kreutzmann for being there. For being them. For taking care of themselves and for sharing the love and the moments with me for the last 43 years.
“Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on me, Other times I can barely see. Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it’s been.” – The Grateful Dead, Truckin’