My First Dead Experience | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Friday, February 23rd, 2024  

My First Dead Experience

An Indie Fan’s Inaugural Trip

May 04, 2009 By Frank Valish Photography by Frank Valish Web Exclusive
Bookmark and Share


This spring, for the first time since 2004, surviving members of The Grateful Dead, now simply christened The Dead, are hitting the touring circuit. There is no new album or promotional agenda other than the band’s support of things like legacy, nostalgia, and the common musical bond that has united The Dead with its fanbase for more than 40 years. The names are common and household, even without the late Jerry Garcia—guitarist Bob Weir, bassist Phil Lesh, and drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, rounded out by current keyboardist Jeff Chimenti and, last but certainly not least, filling the co-frontman position, Gov’t Mule leader and guitarist extraordinaire Warren Haynes.

In many circles, a Dead tour is still a momentous event. Jobs will be put on hold, old hippies will break out their tie dye, and newbies, your common Phish-heads, will emerge from their smoke-filled dorm rooms to take a hit of the old peace pipe. But as the indie-rock lover that I am, the specter of The Dead looms only in history books, a respected and revered tradition of rock and roll to be sure, but one that I have never personally experienced. So, throwing caution to the wind, I found myself driving to Wilkes-Barre in the middle of April in search of experience, to see what all those old heads were talking about all these years and find out what, if anything, might translate for my own indie mindset. Will it illuminate and transcend, or will the stink of old weed and showerless freedom pervade? Last Wednesday, this indie-rock fan ventured to his first Dead concert to find out.

Wilkes-Barre is set about two hours north of Philadelphia, near the now-famous city of Scranton, PA, and driving there, I was struck by the distinct impression that this was not hippie country. Passing through mountains and past farms, deep in mining country, it was clear that this was more Lynyrd Skynyrd territory than any Pennsylvanian Golden Gate Park. Navigating the windy roads to the Wachovia Arena, a minor league hockey/arena football league venue and the smallest place The Dead will play on this trek at almost 10,000 capacity, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Interestingly enough, the night started with a bang. As I pulled into my parking space, some already half-baked stoner opened his passenger door, slamming into my driver’s side. “Dude, did I hit your car?,” he intoned in slurred drawl. Eh, it was only a light bump, and the least of my concerns was the paint on my ‘95 Cavalier, a car with over 160,000 miles and a rusted-out back end. Rumor had it that The Dead were playing four hour shows on this jaunt, hardly the garden variety 75-minute indie-rock set; there was a long night ahead of me. My new fried friend kindly offered me a large patch with the face of Phish’s Trey Anastasio as consolation. I politely thanked him and pocketed my souvenir, wondering where I’d ever have occasion to use it.

Heading to the arena was like a blast from the past. Flowing dresses, peace signs, and the light haze of smoke pervaded the air, kind of the way I imagine every fun spot in 1968. Eventually arriving to my seat, things were equally surreal. Though my walk found me zigzagging through throngs of bathrobe-wearing, multi-colored beach hat-donning flower children adults, I found that my seat, lower level stage left, was directly next to a 20-something who proudly proclaimed that this too was his first Dead concert. However, contrary to any reasonable expectation, this newfound Dead-head preferred to listen to Tool, Slayer, and Marilyn Manson, subjects on which he was clearly knowledgeable, and proved so in the 30 minutes leading up the show.

As the band took the stage, promptly at the ungodly early hour of 7:45 PM, entering into the Ron “Pigpen” McKernan classic “Mr. Charlie,” the older gentleman behind me, a thinner Jack Nicholson type with jean jacket and sunglasses that never left his face, shouted and patted me on the back with a force that at once suggested ultimate familiarity and slightly unhinged lunacy. It was as if to say, ‘Brother, this is going to be great’ and ‘You better damn well like it.’ And most times throughout what turned out to be a three and a half hour set with one intermission, the concert was great. “Mr. Charlie” segued into Hunter/Garcia’s “Stagger Lee,” then followed by “Liberty,” and “Candyman” from the classic American Beauty. The first set’s eight songs concluded with the Europe ‘72 jam “Tennessee Jed” and Workingman’s Dead‘s “Dire Wolf.”

However, it was clear that, just as much as the music, the evening was about community, and what a strange brew this was. First, I had to learn how to dance. Standing calmly and attentively was clearly the odd behavior in this group. Second were the people. Aside from my nü-metal-loving friend and the Jack Nicholson look-alike, there were younger adults with small, frightened children wading through mobs of people, women too old to be wearing such revealing clothing, and at least one 50-something wearing a flower wreath.

And then there was Steve. Arriving late and proceeding to force me out of my assigned seat because he confused the 6 on his ticket for a 9, Steve took little time before ingratiating himself, explaining that he was a salesman with a wife and kid at home, and that he had been seeing The Dead since the late ‘70s when he was 14. Steve loved Warren Haynes and evidenced this by terribly mimicking every movement and guitar strum with inappropriate vigor and space-encroaching closeness.

After the band’s stellar first hour-long set-and after taking a break from my conversation with Steve about the proper way to photograph your toddler on a merry-go-round-I went to browse some merch. Then, it was on to round two. The band started it off with “The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion),” followed by a stellar version of The Beatles’ “Revolution,” “Weather Report Suite Part 1,” and a rousing, jammy version of “Iko Iko,” which was one of the night’s clear highlights. Then came the extended, experimental guitar work-out that followed Hart and Kreutzmann’s drum-duet “Rhythm Devils” (during which my new friend Steve saw fit to engage me in a long discussion about my day job as an elementary school psychologist—talk about buzz kill, I left work for a reason, Steve).

Anyway, to cut an already long story off before sleep sets in, the band wrapped things up with a sentimental version of the Garcia/Hunter piece “So Many Roads” and an encore performance of the Lesh-sung, American Beauty standard, “Box of Rain.” The crowd screamed for more, wondered aloud that the band had cut its set short (only in this world could 3 ½ hours be termed short), and calmly filed to the exits. It had been an illuminating night, one that was miles away from the indie-rock clubs, but nevertheless a show for the books.

Reflecting on the experience afterward, one which, by the way, was experienced without herbal enhancement of any sort, it seems clear that The Dead, like all music, offers escape. Sure, the night didn’t involve four hours of waiting in a smoke-filled shithole of a club until your new favorite flash-in-the-pan band finally came on at half past 11 PM, but it was escape nonetheless. Escape for the young and the old, the baked and the half-baked, and even for the sober. Mind you, I have no plans to follow The Dead around the country on this trek, vicariously living the lives of my hippie predecessors. But there definitely is a part of me that kinda wants to. And if that puts a stain on my indie-cred, then so be it. Peace, love, happiness. Long live The Dead!



Comments

Submit your comment

Name Required

Email Required, will not be published

URL

Remember my personal information
Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

Scott
May 7th 2009
2:12am

Warren Hayes is amazing!  But I must say at this point that I have never understood the Dead or the fascination with them or bands like the DMB.  Also, in 2009 who really cares about this stuff anymore?

miami limo
June 15th 2009
9:14pm

I was struck by the distinct impression that this was not hippie country. Passing through mountains and past farms, deep in mining country, it was clear that this was more Lynyrd Skynyrd territory than any Pennsylvanian Golden Gate Park.

Don
June 22nd 2009
8:48am

The Senate’s inauguration has best features which I got information by reading this post..great post..Frank

Carports
June 22nd 2009
3:32pm

Nice post! Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

J Sandifer
June 24th 2009
6:27pm

Terrific post and so well written.  Made me want to read more of your work.  I have seen the Grateful Dead numerous time, but have not ventured out to see The Dean…maybe it is time.  Thanks for your attention to detail and open mind!

sinan
July 29th 2009
3:29pm

thank you utr

HGH
August 30th 2009
5:17pm

Thanks for the wonderful information- just wondering if anyone else has had any relevant experiences to share

Daniel
December 3rd 2009
11:43am

I have seen the Grateful Dead numerous time, but have not ventured out to see The Dean…maybe it is time.Car Accident Compensation

layout
December 19th 2009
9:42am

I feel delighted to read such a good post, I would like to thank the Author for this marvelous efforts.this post is good in regards of both knowledge as well as information. Thanks for the post.

Tatuaggi
February 3rd 2010
10:42am

Indie rock is a genre of Alternative rock that most notably exists in the independent underground music scene. It primarily refers to rock musicians that are or were unsigned, or have signed to independent record labels, rather than major record labels.

pest control services
February 15th 2010
11:41am

I have snakes in my yard that sound similar to your description. I have never found them between my doors though. If you could somehow put a tight sealing gasket on the storm door that would help. If you put something in between the two doors that would not prevent them from getting inside, they would just curl up underneath
pest control Philippines

GracexN
February 18th 2010
9:28pm

Various spheres of life utilize a lot of time and efforts, thence why must we expend free time for research essay creating? It would be bright to use some experienced essay writing service to buy the analysis essay from, I guess.

GH29Sophie
February 21st 2010
9:32pm

If students stuck with biography term paper accomplishing, hence I would offer to buy custom essay from some professional comparison essay service under such circumstances.

Teagan
February 22nd 2010
5:57am

Badly need your help. Photographers do this for a living, every single day - they point their lenses toward every single corner of our world and somehow make the mundane mesmerizing through their artistic eye. It’s all a matter of being aware of your surroundings and realizing that there are some really amazing and interesting things to look at, even if it may just be something so simple as a wall being covered up by paint. Help me! There is an urgent need for sites: Uses for flexeril. I found only this - brand name flexeril 90ct. They are differently involved in only lower kids for fm than for muscle, however, flexeril. Flexeril, everyday defense about system in years war told i late have a juice to shape drug about oxygen in opiates effect gone for free. Thank you very much :-). Teagan from Ecuador.

Evening Dresses
May 8th 2010
7:26am

I like Politico and have really enjoyed their online info. Newspaper and print advertising is completely going to the wayside, so it is just natural progression to bring the papers online for all. I wonder what will happen in the future with world online newspapersg rejtrjts

Carport
August 1st 2010
5:10pm

Very cool indeed!

Cho Yung Tea
August 2nd 2010
11:29am

Not always do you come across good writing with relevent information like yours. You are really relevant on the topics you compose which is very useful to many. Carry on the excellent work so we have something to look forward to.

dress
September 10th 2010
7:08am

on best wedding dresses for 2009 and 2010. You can find latest collection of woman’s dresses and casual dresses on this site
Quinceanera Dresses
Best canon Coffee Mugs! Funny, Cute, & Humorous Unique designs. Also find Travel Mugs, Coffee Cups also, or Create Photo Personalized Mugs & Drinkware

lila
September 22nd 2010
9:27am

Hello…..........

      I’m having trouble uploading a photo onto my eBay listing (it does not recognise any photograph I try to put on) so is there any way I can make a webpage with just a photograph and include this URL on the listing somehow? I’ve managed to stick a photo on another listing only a few days ago - please help…
Facebook Layouts

Eliza
October 7th 2010
8:18am

Hi,
My aunt died a week ago because of Cardiac Arrest. Until now, i feel traumatized by the experience. It is my first time to witness a burial, etc. I’m scared of ghosts as well, and i have a pretty wide imagination. My mom claims that she dreamt of my aunt a couple of minutes ago that my aunt was just staring at her, not saying anything. What does this mean? Do the ghost sightings some people experience are really the spirits of their dead occupants? Or are they evil spirits pretending to be them?

dress
November 17th 2010
5:36am

Mobile Phone

PAULETTEKane33
December 25th 2011
5:50pm

The business loans are useful for guys, which want to organize their own company. By the way, that is not hard to get a short term loan.

essay writing service
April 7th 2012
4:40am

I completely agree with you. I have no point to raise in against of what you have said I think you explain the whole situation very well

Thesis Writing Service
April 16th 2012
12:18am

Your photos are very good. I like the content, it keeps your website visitors fastened to your site. I’m a student and i’m right now filled with term papers, where to buy a dissertation research papers, book reports essays papers and other assignments. I absolutely want to produce my very own works nonetheless some support is usually welcome. I intend to work with solidwriters.com for my own final buy dissertation project . I discovered them by google . Will keep you published on the outcomes.

loan
June 28th 2012
12:45pm

I had got a desire to begin my company, however I did not earn enough amount of money to do this. Thank goodness my mate proposed to take the personal loans (goodfinance-blog.com). So I received the term loan and made real my old dream.

personal loans
August 11th 2012
7:25am

The personal loans (goodfinance-blog.com) suppose to be essential for guys, which want to start their career. As a fact, it’s very comfortable to get a auto loan.

HayesHILLARY
October 14th 2012
7:38am

Have no a lot of cash to buy a house? Worry not, just because that’s available to get the personal loans to work out all the problems. Thus take a collateral loan to buy everything you want.

mortgage loans
July 15th 2013
10:04am

Some time ago, I really needed to buy a good house for my organization but I didn’t have enough cash and could not purchase something. Thank goodness my brother proposed to take the mortgage loans at creditors. Thus, I acted so and used to be satisfied with my credit loan.

RossBeryl30
October 21st 2013
9:18pm

Visit this link to get to know more about how to buy custom essay and make the best of our splendid organization when it comes to professional term paper writing services.

GOODWINAllison
October 23rd 2013
9:44pm

Do not think that you are in the middle of nothing with your papers completing. Our writing services are here to assist you and students in the whole world and give a chance to buy custom research papers online.

Roxanna
July 14th 2016
3:46pm

Bihoreau de Bellerente, Moi ! Son D&ra;uoqsnnunzio, son Dictionnaire du snobisme, son livre sur Les styles pas plus tard qu’hier. C’était quelqu’un, ce Philippe Jullian.

Les Vacances De Ducobu
April 2nd 2017
12:00am

The information is excellent and really helpful. Thank you for good post. I like this.

rehanamalik
January 1st 2018
5:38am

I Have Never read this type effective And Unique content! Keep Undated….
Mohabbat ki shadi ke liye Sifli Amal

ninadordev
January 2nd 2018
5:50am

Nice article. Think so new form of features have included in your article. Waiting for your next article. keep posting
Har Qism ki Pareshani dur karne ka Amal

Mansour Thami
March 16th 2018
4:12am

thank you so much my friend seriously I love this topic so much thanks for your sharing bro.

blackmagiccure
October 25th 2018
5:07am

Very effective post
Free Solution Husband Wife Disputes Problems

Jual Obat Aborsi
March 4th 2019
4:38pm

kunjunagi balik dong kak Jual obat aborsi paua jayapura dan di Jual obat aborsi kupang ampuh dan asli cytotec

Godaddy Renewal coupons
March 8th 2019
3:19am

It was exceptionally substantially composed and easy. Not in the slightest degree like further internet journals I actually have perused that square measure really not too nice. I likewise found your posts very fascinating.