The first time Albie Cullen said goodbye to the Grateful Dead was on August 9, 1995.
Colin, a lawyer for a Boston-area music company, was told by a co-worker that Jerry Garcia, the famous lead guitarist for the Dead, had passed away that day. Colin has attended dozens of shows. I enjoyed Dead Improv, the way no two shows were alike: “When I’ve seen the Stones dozens of times,” he recently explained, “it’s pretty much the same show.”
Despite the news of Garcia, Colin kept his plans to see RatDog, a side project of Garcia’s colleague Bob Weir, play a gig in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, that evening. Garcia — who at 53 suffered a fatal heart attack in a drug rehab facility — “proved that great music can make sad times better,” said Ware, the rhythm guitarist. during appear “There was no dry eye,” said Cullen, 59, of Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.”
“Everyone knew this was the end,” he added.
The Grateful Dead had replaced departing members before, but this was different. With his quintessential beard, Santa’s gray beard and unmistakable pluck, Garcia defined the rambunctious juggernaut and vibrant subculture that became synonymous with the 1960s. The four surviving members of the band agreed that they would never use the name “Grateful Dead” without Garcia.
But the dead did not die. The following year, several of the members went on tour. They maintained side projects that mainly played Dead songs. Various permutations came together—others, like further, as an adjective—without the dead.
Finally, in 2015, the band bid another farewell, playing five shows with Phish’s Trey Anastasio on lead guitar. The mini-tour was called Fare Thee Well: Celebrating the Grateful Dead’s 50th Anniversary.
This friendliness, too, did not take. That fall, original Weir and the Dead drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann put together a new act, Dead & Company, with keyboardist Jeff Chimenti, bassist Oteil Burbridge and lead guitarist John Mayer (yes, that John Mayer).
A funny thing happened when this new band made its way across the US: The Dead became a cultural touchstone once again. Dead & Company attracted a new set of younger fans, as did tribute bands like Joe Russo’s Almost Dead. Last August, The Dead had its biggest week of record sales in 35 years, according to its publisher. In February, she won her first Grammy Award. Between 2012 and 2022, streams of deadbeat songs in the United States increased at nearly twice the rate of the Rolling Stones, according to the tracking service Luminate.
The dead found his moment again.
“This may sound quite cliche, but I don’t care: a community of the dead is a necessary community in a year like 2023,” said Bethany Cosentino, 36, of indie rock band Beast Coast. She became a fan just a few years ago thanks to her “Generation X boyfriend”.
She added, “There’s a real joy in being in a room with a group of people who just connect with the music in their own way but have this collective, collective experience.”
Deadheads noted, Cullen said: “I’m kidding with my friends — they’re bigger now than they’ve ever been.”
Now another farewell. After more than 200 performances, Dead & Company sold out venues across the country with what was called the Final Run. The run concludes this weekend with three performances at Oracle Park in San Francisco, the city where The Grateful Dead formed nearly 60 years ago.
“It’s part of the cycle of life. But it all depends on what you call death. Because there is life after death — in music, anyway.”
The bands led by Weir, original bassist Phil Lesh and Kreutzmann (who was replaced on this tour by Jay Lane) all have concerts scheduled in the next two months. Hart allowed the possibility of a future for Dead & Company, while maintaining that this was his final tour.
“Music is never going anywhere — and one of the great things about music is that there are thousands of concerts we can all get to,” said Andy Cohen, Bravo host and executive producer who has been a Dead fan since high school. . He added, “But the collective feeling of us all being in Citi Field together enjoying a couple of stellar shows, that’s something I don’t imagine we’ll ever get again.”
We, it seems, always say goodbye to the grateful dead. But Weir and Meyer cautioned fans not to expect a eulogy.
“I think everyone has lost enough in their life to go to San Francisco and have it funeral,” Meyer said.
“I’m dead set against that happening,” Weir added. “I’d be fried if I were to let that happen.”
Mayer continued, “If I had my will, it would be for people to say goodbye to Dead & Company without the pain of a goodbye.”
Promoter Peter Shapirowho owns the jam band Doubt Returns at the Brooklyn Bowl and Capitol Theater in Port Chester, New York, and promoted Fare Thee Well shows, noted the real volume of people who would pay to see The Grateful Dead — a band that stopped touring for the year before Ticketmaster sold its first ticket. Her online – wasn’t revealed until 2015, when Dead smash The site’s record of most buyers on the waiting list.
Ticket sales for the five concerts that year—two at Levi’s Stadium near San Francisco and three at Soldier Field in Chicago—brought in $40 million. Approximately 71,000 people attended each show in Chicago; Several theatrical and pay-per-view simulcasts.
Shapiro said, “Fare Thee Well was supposed to be an end, and it was a new beginning.”
Hidden during the Chicago shows, Meyer is already a planned addition. He had met Ware and Hart through Don Was, the producer and executive director. Mayer gushed to them about the music of the dead, which he had come up with after years of formative listening; He compared it in a recent interview to “cilantro, if all you ate were meat and potatoes.”
Hart was only familiar with Mayer’s music, but he knew he was an excellent guitarist. “On our stage, he’s not a pop star or anything like that,” Hart said. “He has a lot of respect for the grateful dead — I respect him a lot for that. He treated music like his own.”
While some purists grumbled about Mayer’s inclusion (as did some about Fare Thee Well shows), former Grateful Dead spokesperson and biographer Dennis McNally said, “They weren’t in love with ‘the band’ — the people — they were into the music, and she was Somewhat a matter of taste as to who was playing it. It’s a genre of its own, almost like jazz or blues.”
While many classic rock artists have produced cover acts, only A.J website Dedicated to the Grateful Dead tribute bands has more than 600 groups in its database, 100 to 150 of which, by owners’ estimates, are active.
Some Dead tribute acts are very straightforward and popular, such as the Dark Star Orchestra, which recreates specific Dead concerts through a set list. Others use dead music as a starting point. There is a jazz band and an afrobeat band. Brown eyed women all females. Tokyo charlatans sing Japanese.
Electronic artist LP Giobbi, the millennial daughter of Deadheads, uses vocal loops and zap over house beats to create what she calls Dead House. “I was blown away by the number of graffiti I’ve met who are also Deadheads,” said the artist, who played at after-parties after many concerts on this Dead & Company tour.
The uniqueness of each Dead performance is critical to the music’s enduring appeal. Al Franken, author, former senator and longtime fan who once opened For the band, he recently caught up with friends who watched Dead & Company outside of St. Louis. I asked what they were playing, and I was bawling. “Did they do ‘China Cat Sunflower’?” This is a big, big group of music. You can go out four nights in a row and not hear the same tune. And they play things differently all the time.”
The Dead’s eclectic songbook comes from rock, folk, blues, country and bluegrass. Its lyrics, written by Robert Hunter and John Perry Barlow, tend to be ambiguous and lively (“Strangers stop strangers just to shake hands”, “Wake up to find you’re the eyes of the world”, “What a long strange trip it’s been”).
“The thing about this music is that it doesn’t happen in the house—nobody’s in the house. People are trying.” Gets Meyer said.
He added, “There’s just something about the fantasy of transience for people who, like me, don’t necessarily have it in their lives.” “The fantasy of the perpetual seeker, the person who carries the backpack and can sleep on couch after couch. Most people who go to MEET parties don’t necessarily live that life, but they do aspire to spiritually have that demonic attitude.”
Trey Pierce, 20, began discovering the Dead in middle school via CD and DVD collections and the Internet Archive, which hosts free progressive recordings of Grateful Dead shows. Now he’s a tough guy and drove hours from St. Lawrence University in upstate New York to watch Phil Lesh and Friends perform in March just outside New York City.
“It’s what’s got me through most of my life,” he said. “Any strange things I went through, challenges I went through, had to do with those words and Jerry” — who died eight years before Pierce was born — “embodied in my spirit.”
in a parking lot a lot Across Citi Field in Queens ahead of the second show of Dead & Company last month, car stereos blasted Live Dead recordings as the subway rumbled over the elevated lines. Vendors sell T-shirts, jewelry, freshly cooked food, and less legitimate fare. Erin Cadigan, who explains that she watched 72 Dead Shows “with Jerry,” did tarot readings on a Grateful Dead-themed licensed tarot deck she created with a partner.
The tour tends to be well-reviewed by fans. “The closest thing to the original I’ve seen,” Cullen wrote in a text message after leaving Boston’s Fenway Park last month. “Ironically, it ends as they seem to have come up with it.”
Maria Napoli, 45, a self-described “second generation” Deadhead, said that on this tour she saw “much more people cry on the last two songs than she usually does”.
She added, “I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I don’t see myself stopping until they are all dead. At that point, it would be time for me to turn around and start getting older.”
Why do we keep saying goodbye to the grateful dead…then welcome them back, and then bring them back again?
“Buddhists believe that knowing every minute you are going to die is what makes life so precious,” said Elena Lester, MD, a New York-based psychiatrist and grief therapist. “If you know you are going to lose something of any kind, you value it more when you have it. If you deny it, you miss that opportunity.”
Dustin Grella, 52, professor of animation at Queens College, has a Dead Dead story that’s more dramatic than most. In the spring and summer of 1995, he was following the Grateful Dead on their final tour. But he missed the last two concerts at Soldier Field after suffering a spinal cord injury when A.J The balcony collapsed At a campground outside a fair near St. Louis.
Grela said of the recovery period: “When you go through that kind of trauma, you just want to go back to normal. For me, that was Deadhead Tour.”
In 2015, he saw Chicago’s Fare Thee Well shows as an opportunity for closure—”my chance,” he said, “to make peace with the dead.”
But that doesn’t mean he’ll miss another chance to say goodbye. For Dead & Company’s latest tour, Grella and a friend bought a used school bus in Kentucky, taped the panels on both sides and covered it with chalkboard paint. Grela, who uses a wheelchair, parked the bus in the parking lot, kicking out chalk and encouraging passers-by to add their own designs. He kicked off the spontaneous artwork by epigraphing a lyric from “Scarlet Begonias”: “Once in a while the light appears / In the strangest of places if you look at it right.”