The Grateful Dead

I identified myself as a Deadhead pretty early on. I was quick to embrace the whole hippie mentality, the frizzy hair and unrestrained beard, tie-dye shirts, ratty jeans, copious pot smoking, and everything else that went along with the sub-culture. There was only one problem. I didn't listen to Grateful Dead music. While I loved the lifestyle, I had a negative perception of Grateful Dead music. I assumed that it was all like what I would later come to learn as Dark Star, What's Become of the Baby, and Drumz/Space. That is to say I thought it was all free-form, undisciplined, meandering noise.

Finally I actually started hearing some Grateful Dead songs. What I found was totally unexpected. Their music was based mostly on country and folk styles, hyped up to a rock & roll tempo. There were the above-mentioned "experimental" pieces, but the preponderance of the music was based on good old-fashioned melodies. The more I heard it, the more I liked it.

I never actually made it to a concert until after I'd graduated college. Below is the roster of the shows I attended:

July 4, 1986 Rich Stadium Buffalo, NY (the story)
July 2, 1987 Silver Stadium Rochester, NY (the story)
June 30, 1988 Silver Stadium Rochester, NY (the story)
July 4, 1989 Rich Stadium Buffalo, NY (the story)
March 24, 1990 Knickerbocker Arena Albany, NY (the story)
September 19, 1991 Madison Square Garden New York, NY (the story)
March 21, 1992 Copps Colliseum Hamilton, Ontario (the story)

I had mixed feelings about the whole concert-going experience. Hard-core deadheads described a very magical quality to the Dead's live music. I must confess I never really understood what they were talking about, nor experienced the higher plane of existence that they claimed the music transported them into. Having said that, I did enjoy the live music for what it was. The Dead weren't hung up on pristine, perfect note-for-note renditions. They were essentially a bunch of kids goofing off. The only thing was they did it with tens of thousands of friends hanging out with them. They were often criticized for forgetting lyrics and whatnot, but I thought that was cool. I have to confess that I never really understood the whole magical thing that hard-core deadheads described as hearing in the live music.
Links - DeadBase - Setlists and statistics
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