All The Years Combine, They Melt Into A Dream: Reflections as a Deadhead

The Deadhead community is a few short weeks removed from the yearly jam monolith Lockn. This year’s Lockn festival featured the return of legendary jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis who stepped on stage at Nassau Coliseum 3/29/1990 to collectively blow Deadheads minds of both past and present into infinity with Jerry and the boys.

Speaking as a 22-year-old head who was born a year after Jerry’s departure from our planet the return of Branford Marsalis to Deadheadland (Marsalis also sat in with Furthur a couple times, too) represents a break in chronological time for the collective memory of Deadheads.

At the core of Dead-freakiness, I have frequently found myself finding spiritual relief in every observable sense in the world of the Grateful Dead. Long story short, I think we all ache for those days where whiffs of patchouli, pot, and garlic grilled cheese linger through the air alongside blistering psychedelic Mixolydian guitar runs and bluegrass get downs. Alongside these familiar treats of the senses, familiar musicians, like Marsalis, and of course the actual Dead, remind us of Grateful Dead past and connect our memories to memories we may have never had. The bridge between Shakedown Streets of yesteryear and today blur when the band gets on stage.

Case in point, once upon a seventeen-year-old me stumbled upon a local Cleveland Grateful Dead tribute, “Dead Ahead Ohio”. The guys played a mind-bending, “Dark Star”, that night. At that point in time, I had only listened to studio Dead best hits. From that point onward my life shifted onto a beautiful tie-dyed highway of love, friendship, and endless memories. A couple days later I listened to the famous Veneta Oregon 1972 “Sunshine Daydream” show. We all know the legendary, “Dark Star”, that occurred that hot day in Oregon.

As I listened to the legendary Veneta “Dark Star” I was not only taken on a journey across the Grateful Dead timewave to Oregon but I was also transported to my first time dancing to Dead Ahead Ohio.

This past summer Dead and Company dropped a legendary show at their stop in Eugene. When the boys launched, “Dark Star > El Paso > Dark Star”, a few short miles from original Veneta show, I was thrusted once again into the blur of chronological Deadhead time. Through both geographic proximity and groovin’, I felt as though if I closed my eyes and let the music take me I would be transported to that fateful evening in 1972 where the Grateful Dead saved Kesey’s dairy farm. I thought about it all. And I thought about my first-night grooving in the Beachland Ballroom to Dead tunes that would go on to define my youth.

I’m glad to call George Walker, Merry Prankster and cinematographer behind the Further bus trip, a friend. We’ve done a couple history projects together for my classes at Cleveland State University. Before the Dead and Company show that evening in Oregon I saw George walking around Autzen Stadium as elated and joyful as ever. Adjourned with red stripes just as his friend Kesey would it brought a huge smile to my face to see George walk towards the pit.

I thought to myself how surreal it was that I had a friend three times my age who felt just as strongly about the tie-dyed tapestry of culture before us. Alongside Kesey, George and the Merry Pranksters sent a wave of intent and art that permeated all the way through to 2018. And here I was standing at Autzen Stadium with the same intent of art and transformation as George and his friends did. Here I was experiencing my first Oregon, “Dark Star”, but it wasn’t George’s first. He was there for it all at Veneta and nowhere at Autzen. I didn’t know George when I first saw Dead Ahead Ohio many years ago, and I didn’t know him when I first turned on Veneta 1972. Nonetheless, the “Dark Stars” that inspired my heart and soul connected us as friends in a world where circumstance separates people of different backgrounds, ages, color, and skin too easily.

This isn’t just my story; perhaps this is yours too. I think anyone who calls themselves a Deadhead can all say we’ve met someone we know we wouldn’t have if it weren’t for the music of Jerry Garcia. The music breaks the weight of time and makes the illusion of geographical distance disappear.

With this break in timewave in mind, I now point and look towards the future. Some folks say we have a framed reality of time/space but the Grateful Dead taught me otherwise.

Not fade away,

Erich & the @SMRTraveled family


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