Growing up with the Grateful Dead

I was first exposed to the Grateful Dead music when I was 14 years old by my older brother. I fell in love with their harmonies on the “Working Man’s Dead” album. Although the band had been playing together since 1965, I did not get to first see them until their Shakedown Street tour in 1979, as a 15 year old.

Going to my first Dead show was a life-changing experience. Of course, the band, which is known for its improvisation and extended jams, was certainly on point, I realized I didn’t know more than half the songs they played. What really amazed me were all the “Deadheads” dancing and twirling to the music. The whole scene was something you can only experience first-hand, as if someone told me what I was witnessing, I probably would not have believed it. The communal vibe and the genuine humanity of people interacting with peace and love was overwhelming. I actually became a twirler and started dancing with everyone else, where the music became the catalyst for the dancing.

Over the next 16 years, I saw the Grateful Dead over 100 times, often going to the shows without a ticket to scalp. In 1995, Jerry Garcia died and I’ll never forget the day it happened, as I was living in the British Virgin Islands and I had one of my best friends and multiple Grateful Dead concert companion, and still lifelong friend, Shawn Dagon, visiting me. We came back from the beach that day and I had over a dozen messages on my answering machine informing me that Jerry Garcia had died. Shawn and I broke into a bottle of 150-year old Grand Marnier, put on a Dead album and talked about all that the band had inspired in us over the years. Back when Shawn and I graduated high school, we lived in a van together, following the Grateful Dead and here we were in 1995, 13 years after we sold the van, and had both done well for ourselves in our careers- yet still lived by the ideals of peace, love and community that the Grateful Dead always sang about.

Since then, I have seen over 100 shows of the various iterations of the Grateful Dead including Further, Rat Dog, Phil Lesh and Friends, The Dead. I remember seeing The Dead at the Nokia Theater in NYC four years ago. I went two nights in a row and didn’t have tickets, and my business partners couldn’t believe that I would

  1. Go to a show that I didn’t have tickets
  2. Go my myself
  3. Go multiple nights in a row

I tried to explain to them that no two shows were ever alike, that they never repeated any songs from night to night and that its as much about the vibe and scene as it is about the band. Sadly, they didn’t get it until, on the second night, I convinced one of my partners to come with me. Needless to say, he is now a Deadhead.

I just saw Dead & Company at MGM Grand both nights last weekend and I’m happy to say that I’m certainly not the oldest hippie at the show, but I’m definitely not the youngest anymore. Good old Grateful Dead.

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