My favorite band, the Grateful Dead, is in the middle of saying goodbye to its fans with a final five-night "Fare Thee Well" tour that is taking place in Santa Clara, CA and Chicago, IL. I wanted to share my personal story about how the band has affected me over the years as well as provide some information about the tour for anyone interested in attending a show or live streaming the tour.
From what I can remember, I was first introduced to the Grateful Dead in 2000 when my mother gave me the "What A Long Strange Trip It's Been: The Best of the Grateful Dead" compilation. I may have heard some Grateful Dead tunes before receiving that album, but that was the first Dead album that I listened to all the way through, multiple times. Although I enjoyed the album at the time, it wasn't until I went off to university that I really immersed myself in the music and the culture.
According to Deadhead standards, I am a quite a latecomer to the scene—many fans have been going to Dead shows for decades! I went to my first big outdoor venue show in 2008, where Phil Lesh and Friends and Allman Brothers Band put on an amazing performance at Walnut Creek Amphitheatre in Raleigh, NC. I was completely enamored with the music and vibes of the crowd, and ended up seeing many more reincarnations of the Dead over the years—The Dead, Furthur, Bob Weir and Bruce Hornsby featuring Branford Marsalis, Mickey Hart Band, Bill Kreutzmann's Lockstep Allstars, etc. I've also seen some of the Grateful Dead tribute bands like Dark Star Orchestra, Cosmic Charlie, and Keller Williams' Grateful Grass.
There's something indescribable about the music and the people that attend Grateful Dead shows—the Deadheads—but when I first saw Phil Lesh and Friends play live, I knew that I was a Deadhead at heart. When I'm at a show or a festival, I feel like I am at "home" with my closest family and friends. Although I didn't have the opportunity to see Grateful Dead play live with Jerry Garcia, I have cherished the moments when I have seen the remaining members of the band play live.
Over 15 years, more than tie dye t-shirts, meeting hundreds of fellow Deadheads, listening to countless hours, and several unforgettable experiences later, I am still a Deadhead. In fact, I consider myself to be more of a Deadhead every day. It has become such a big part of my life that I still dedicate several hours a week to listening to recordings of old Grateful Dead shows on podcasts like Dead Show of the Month and Deadpod.
The Grateful Dead brought us 50 years of music, thousands of shows and original songs, and a sense of community among the counter-culture. If you are interested in live streaming or attending the "Fare The Well" tour, I encourage you to check out Dead50.net. The Santa Clara shows happened last weekend, and they were both amazing. The final three shows are happening in Chicago this weekend (July 3rd, 4th, and 5th), and I hope you'll join the rest of the worldwide community in checking them out.
I need to end this post with a big "Thank you!" to the members of the Grateful Dead and the fellow Deadheads in the community that have been so kind to me and my friends. Although this tour marks the official end of the band, the music will carry on for a long time to come.
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.
"Truckin'" by the Grateful Dead