Friday, May 8, 2009

Dead In Denver

No need to worry! I'm very much alive and kicking. I just couldn't resist that blog title after arriving in Denver yesterday to discover that The Dead (nee, The Grateful Dead) were in town for a concert. I'm not a huge, huge fan of the band's music, favoring alt and Brit pop over the trippy sound that the Dead puts out. But they're an American institution (even without dearly departed Dead frontman Jerry Garcia) and catching their act beat dragging myself down to the hotel bar for a nightcap before bed, which is my normal ritual the 100 some-odd nights a year baseball takes me on the road.

And, yes, as J.G. mentioned, I got to hemming and hawing about jet lag and whether I'd be able to keep my eyes open for the entire show. But she gave me a little nudge and the next thing I knew I was standing outside the arena shopping around for a ticket. By some miracle, I got my hands on a second row floor seat for $70. That's more money than I would normally think of spending on a concert (I'd prefer to sink it into a book). But, as I would soon discover, it turned out to be a major score. The folks seated around me had paid anywhere from $250 to $1,000 per seat! One guy said he traded two nights at his condo in Vail -- a $600 value -- for his ticket. They were almost sick to their stomachs when I said what mine cost. I even got to feeling a little guilty about it, since they were so into the band and I'm not. I felt undeserving, if you know what I mean.

And let me tell you, they're one diverse mix of diehards or, as they prefer to call themselves, Deadheads. The person to my right was a doctor. The guy behind me was an investment banker. There were a lot of hippies, young and old, in tie-dyed shirts. But the guy to my left was the person I chatted up the most, and not because he matter-of-factly mentioned that he was on his way to Oregon, where he planned to start a farm growing marijuana for medicinal purposes. In fact, lo and behold, he just happened to have the product with him at the concert and asked if I would like to try some. I politely refused, saying I had given it up years ago and, anyway, I wasn't feeling unwell and in need of any "medicine" right at that moment. Here's Scott, my concert buddy. He's a good ol' boy from North Carolina and the next future farmer of America:

Scott knew everything about the band, and he took me under his wing, telling me all I needed to know to better appreciate and understand the show. Take our seats, for example. We were second row, as I mentioned. But we were second row "stage left" -- an important distinction, he noted, because it afforded the best view of guitarist Warren Haynes and was the area where all his groupies sat. If you were seated on the opposite end of our row, you were stuck looking at the less popular keyboardist's back most of the night. Who knew I could be so lucky? Anyway, Haynes was not more than 20 feet in front of us:

Scott clued me in on another important insider's tip. "If you yell out your name between songs," he said, "you might be able to hear it on the recording." One can download the recordings to every Dead concert by going to their website (, and Scott informed me that he owned every concert download from the current tour. Again, I'm not that into the band, and I remained silent so that others could yell out their names between songs in hopes of hearing them later.

When one of the dummers donned a sailor's cap, Scott noticed it instantly, elbowed me, and remarked: "You watch, they'll play "Lost Sailor." And, sure enough, he was right. Another time, as the roadies were re-arranging the stage during intermission, Scott spotted a change in instruments. "They're going to do their acoustic set!," he said, breathlessly. "They've only done it three or four times on the tour!" As usual, Scott was right on target. Acoustics it was after the break. Every time the band played a song Scott really liked, which was pretty much every single one of them, he would turn to me and, in a dreamy voice, say "Sweet."

Following the four-song acoustic arrangement, the stage lights were dimmed to near darkness as the band broke into its 15-minute "Drum and Space" segment. It was more space than drums, and Scott said he had read where the special-effect sound was actual space "noise" captured by NASA from one of Jupiter's moons. That part didn't quite add up to me, because why then was Saturn's illuminated image dangling from the rafters? But I didn't pursue the discrepancy and allowed Scott his peace as he wallowed in the sound of his mind's own universe. And, anyway, all of us snapped to attention when Haynes segued into "Happy Birthday," as it was drummer Bill Kreutzmann's 63rd.

All of the members appeared to be at least that old, and Scott made it clear he didn't care for Bob Weir's very gray mustache when he said to no one in particular: "Get rid of the castaway look, Bob." Not that we were close enough for Weir to consider the suggestion.

After the lengthy (3 1/2 hour concert) was over, we said our goodbyes. Scott, on his way to Oregon, said he intended to get on the highway that instant and drive a couple of hours before finding a motel. I wished him luck with his marijuana farm. Perhaps feeling as if he had landed a new recruit to the club of Deadheads, he shook my hand and said "You're on the bus."

To which I replied, mostly to show my appreciation: "Sweet."


  1. ROFL! Glad you didn't turn out to be so "middle-aged!" ;) But you know, at $600 a pop for the tix, or whatever that dude paid, I don't think he'll be a successful farmer even if weed goes for a pretty penny, which I doubt anyway.

  2. Sounds like a sweet evening...never a shortage of adventures are there. Did you like the music?

  3. I have to question the sanity of anyone who spends that kind of money on a ticket, Red. As for the music, Oreneta, it's not exactly my cup of tea. But the experience was worth every penny.


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