The Dead: A follow-up |

The Dead: A follow-up

Bradley Hilton
Middle Park High School senior
Grand County, Colorado

It was a beautiful spring day, a perfect day to do something epic. As you may know, The Dead came through Colorado, playing a show at the Pepsi Center on May 7, that gorgeous day. I pulled into the lot with ample time to get comfortable before gates opened. Every person had a smile on his or her face, and a communal feeling of anticipation filled the air. Every shape and size of VW Bus scattered the scene, several containing a Jerry Garcia shrine on the dashboard.

As I approached the front entrance, I swam through large groups of Deadheads holding one finger in the air. I presented my ticket and was soon joining in the screaming and hollering of fans riding up the escalator, an indicator of an awesome show to come. After purchasing the grooviest t-shirt ever, I found my lower level seat, and gasped in awe at the huge structure me and 20,000 other people would spend our night in.

Minutes later, the lights shut off, and my face was stolen by The Dead’s expansive lighting rig, complete with a colossal Dead-style lightning bolt towering above. The Dead busted out with Feel Like a Stranger. Next was Casey Jones, which satisfied those less familiar with the never-ending Grateful Dead library. Several smooth transitions later, the first set wrapped up with Lost Sailor into Saint of Circumstance.

The second set started and it hit me, with a four-song acoustic rendition including Deep Elem Blues, Me And My Uncle, Whiskey In The Jar, and The Weight. Just a small beam of light illuminated the band onstage in this huge arena, and they made it feel like we were all in a living room.

Next are Drums and Space, an in-between period of ‘out there’ sounds and the beating of drums, which is just my bag. Drummers Bill Kreutzmann (who turned 63 that day) and Mickey Hart are true pioneers of these sounds, and they captured my complete attention, combining a pulsating lightning bolt in the sky with their rhythm devil aura.

The second set finishes up with Not Fade Away, and the crowd roars with love and approval. Phil Lesh appears and informs us that we are the ones who bring the real magic, they just bounce it back, and that we should all become organ donors. The Encore is Ripple, and the show ends.

Denver was The Dead’s only stop from Chicago to Los Angeles. Thank you! I was immersed in a culture that is the root of so many of the things I appreciate today. There was a sense of family, belonging, and contentment. I understood how it could have been so fulfilling to follow the Grateful Dead from town to town; it’s such a comfortable and accepting atmosphere. I am beyond appreciative and honored to have witnessed this beautiful event, and I will cherish the experience forever.