The Grateful Dead and its Deadheads: A Movement Of Music and Love
So, you keep bumping into your ditsy, older neighbor who never seems to run out of tie-dye T-shirts. The smell of patchouli invades your nostrils as she mumbles something, “Steal Your Face.” Was that a threat?
Don’t fret, your neighbor isn’t high on bath salts and planning violent attacks. She’s just a Deadhead.
The Grateful Dead sparked a nationwide movement of Deadheads, or their die-hard fans, who promoted peace, love and a sense of community at their concerts. This unstoppable force reigned in the American music industry for 30 years, and their successful, unique sound is unparalleled.
However, the Grateful Dead was more than just a band with cool tunes- they created a new way to enjoy music. Their combination of avant-garde, visual and literary traditions helped them tell a story with their songs, and their popularity skyrocketed.
Sadly, the band died-out in 1995 when their lead singer, Jerry Garcia, passed away. However, the overwhelming void that stemmed from their dismemberment eventually lead to their reboot in 2015 as Dead and Company with John Mayer as their new member.
Now, new generations can experience the Deadhead community and indulge in their traditional concert festivities.
The Grateful Dead’s Legendary Parking Lots
Not only were the Grateful Dead’s concerts legendary, but so were their parking lots. They were like miniature villages, and vendors would come from far and wide to sell burritos, tie-dyed clothes and various drugs to the Deadhead community.
“It was one giant community,” said Renee, who followed the Dead on a motorcycle in the late 80s. “People’s energy would follow you, and when you met someone at a show, it was very likely you’d see them again at the next.”
The famous parking lots at the Dead shows were full of energy and kind people. Everyone would gather before and after the shows to converse and share stories, and there was never a dull moment. After the shows, fans were encouraged to camp in the lots and continue the festivities. Some of which included huffing on nitrous balloons.
“It was very safe, and I always enjoyed camping [in the lots],” said Renee. “Besides being able to still hear the band, the [nitrous] balloons were the best thing about the lots.”
However, if you really wanted to get into the show, you could always walk through the lots and search for a free ticket, or a ‘miracle.’ The Grateful Dead’s concerts became a breeding ground for miracle tickets, where die-hard fans had to rely on the good grace of others to get into the shows.
Additionally, these acts of kindness connect with the folk tale that the band based their name on which depicts a hero whose good deeds eventually bring him good karma. So, the name represents the band and their wonderful, caring fans perfectly.
The Lots in the 21st Century
In 2015, the Dead announced that they will continue to tour and play music with the addition of John Mayer. This was excellent news to die-hard Deadhead fans, and tickets quickly sold out.
However, fans quickly realized that things were a little different now. The 21st century changed things up, and now the lots are not as lively. There are no vendors, no camping and now everything is closely monitored. I couldn’t even smoke a joint in the car without feeling like a parking attendant was going to sneak up behind me.
“It’s a lot different now at the lots,” said Renee. “Going to the concerts makes me feel like I’ve gone through a time machine, and nothing has changed there. However, the parking lots are a lot calmer and more regulated than they were 35 years ago.”
Nonetheless, the people were still amazing and kind, and we even handed out a few miracle tickets at various shows. And thankfully, the 21st century couldn’t kill the nitrous balloons, and they were still floating around after the shows.
The Bottom Line
The Grateful Dead revolutionized the way we listen to music. Their famous, colorful artworks danced on large screens positioned behind the band as they played, and this brought their songs to life. Dead and Company continued this tradition, and it makes you feel like you’re in your own little world.
In my opinion, everyone should experience either a Grateful Dead concert, a Dead and Company concert, or both. While the lots may be a little different nowadays, the concerts continue to be a snapshot in time. You’ll dance with strangers, laugh all night long, and create memories that will last a lifetime.