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Cutting to the Core

Summer's the time to think of The Dead

With summer creeping up on us, I've been listening to the Grateful Dead a lot more. I never really thought about it until recently but I don't listen to The Dead that much during the winter or the cooler months. I think my musical tastes slide more towards the punk sound at that time. But summer, that's for The Dead.

I don't know why this is. The Dead should be listened to during all times of the year. They have songs for all occasions. Christmas, Easter, you name it, they've got it. But like I said, for some reason I, a DeadHead, listen to them more in the summer.

It might be because I've only seen The Dead in the summer. Well, the first three times might not have been summer (I don't really remember), but the shows were in Southern California so it was hot and it might as well have been summer even if it wasn't.

Just like the sweet smells of summer bring memories to most people of summers past, those same smells bring memories of past Dead shows to me.

You never knew what you were going to see at a Dead show. I was amazed at my first show. It was like the footage of the 60s I'd seen on TV had come to life. There were the girls in the peasant blouses, the guys with long hair and shaggy, straggly beards that obviously hadn't showered in days. I was blown away. I was home.

These people lived The Dead. They traveled to every show making The Dead the number one touring act for several years. The best I ever did was see The Dead in two consecutive cities. I saw them on a Friday in Seattle and then drove to Portland to see them on Sunday.

I remember this girl in my economics class on Monday asking me incredulously why I would go see the same concert two days straight. I believe the last concert she had attended at the time was Brooks and Dunn. Yeeeeehaaa.

I had to explain to her that Dead shows were like snowflakes. There are no two alike. The Dead was not like most bands, playing the same songs every night in the same order, jumping off the drum riser and high-fiving each other during the same part of the song every night. No, that wasn't The Dead. That's why The Dead had such a huge following. These DeadHeads had to go to every single show, they were all different. What if they missed something?

I wanted to go on tour with The Dead when I was younger but never got around to it. Jerry Garcia died in 1995 so that kind of put a damper on my hopes.

I did get to see six shows though and I've got some fond memories. I remember at one show in Eugene, Ore., watching this rather large, overweight, naked guy run around muttering he wasn't going to die. He was gently being chased by two seasoned DeadHeads who were trying to calm him down.

I remember watching the twirlers. These were a group of girls that just twirled round and round to the sounds of The Dead. They were very spaced out.

I remember veggie burritos and lots of Black Labs running around the camping area. At every Dead show there was an area where all the DeadHeads would camp out. These mini, traveling cities always had a lane more than one person referred to as "Shakedown Street." This area featured everything a person would need to have a good time at a Dead show. One could buy alcohol and other concert attending accessories. All kinds of international food was available for a small price. Clothes, bumper stickers, books and music were also traded or bartered for.

To say the least, it was a good time and when the summer smells hit me, I think about those times. Since I can't go on tour with the Dead, I do the next best thing. I slip in a Dead CD. After that, "there's nothing left to do but smile, smile, smile."

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