“I’M ON ACID!” a man shouted. He was in a tie-dye shirt in a sea of rainbow colors. The man politely sharing his altered state of mind was one of the many colorful, wonderful characters to cross paths with at a recent Dead & Company concert. These summer tours are always unforgettable, both because of the performances on stage and off.
On the second night of Dead & Company’s tour stop at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, the atmosphere of glee was palpable hours before the show began. Old and new fans gathered in and around the stadium early, wasting no time when it came to having a good time. Sure, one or two people maybe partied too hard before the real party began around 6:45, but mostly, everyone was relaxed and ready when the band—including guitarists John Mayer and Bob Weir, keyboardist Jeff Chimenti, bassist Oteil Burbridge, and drummers Mickey Hart and Jay Lane—took the stage and rocked the city of Chicago’s socks off.
The band delivered four hours of relaxation. The show ebbed and flowed with such grace. When Dead & Company hit the stage, they weren’t only playing music; they were telling a story. The band transitions masterfully from one song to the next, tying together a plethora of emotions, themes, and protest, rightfully calling out the Supreme Court for the disastrous decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
The nearly-four hour show zipped along while taking its sweet time. Nobody was constantly looking at their watch and few people were looking through their phones, except maybe to call fellow Deadheads to let them hear the show.
“It was voodoo magic, man!” a man exclaimed.
Speaking of Deadheads, goddamn they are friendly people. As someone relatively new to Dead & Company experiences, some of the kindest music lovers on Earth gather at these shows. In contrast, the previous week, I saw The Rolling Stones play and, good Lord, those fans are no picnic. Only speaking from what I’ve witnessed, there’s none of that poor, entitled behavior at the Dead & Company shows, despite the notable level of intoxication.
I hate to compare bands and fans, as well as artists, but having been to enough shows with questionable etiquette, the audiences at Dead & Company are heavenly. They not only bring drugs for friends, family, and strangers, but they look out for one another, almost always with a smile. If a man goes down, people get that man back up on his feet. People care about not only their experience at a Dead & Company show, but also the fans around them. The crowd alone made me comfortable to sway to the music with ease.
“I think he had a heart attack,” a stranger said. “Maybe.”
Dead & Company shows are the place to let one’s hair down and fly. When you’re surrounded by so many people, especially in a stadium show, it can take time to get comfortable, ditch any insecurities, and dance the night away. It takes hardly any time to at these concerts. Nobody is too cool for school at Dead & Company gigs. However, after the band takes a break in the middle of the show and everyone has loosened up even more, that’s when the party turned up.
Looking around Wrigley Field, especially when the band played “Casey Jones” and “Help on the Way,” the stadium was a massive wave to the eyes. Just constant movement. Everyone was feeling it, together. Even in large stadiums, Dead & Company have this rare, special talent to make these experiences intimate, no matter where one is seated.
The drugs aren’t creating those power sensations, but they sure as hell help. Dead & Company is, no hyperbole, the most beautiful smelling concert. The greatest air freshener in the world is always present: cannabis. It’s everywhere.
Not only that, people are generous with their bud, vapes, and gummies. Shoutout to Dave in section R, row 10, for bringing a brigade of well-rolled joints to unwind the surrounding area. Your parents, your grandparents, and your great grandparents should be proud, Dave.
“I need a miracle!” many fans shouted.
Let’s talk about psychedelics. The man who screamed, “I’m on acid!,” obviously was far from the only person partaking in such activities. Around the two-hour mark, a friend handed me a mushroom. Now, taking a shroom at a Dead & Company concert, is it a cliche? Maybe. Is it fantastic? Abso–certain-lutley. The lighting at these shows encourages the ingestion of psychedelics. Colors were warm and infectious.
The mushrooms kicked in when Lane and Hart took the crowd on a fantastical magical carpet ride with “Drums.” It was 14 or so minutes of overpowering, psychedelic sound accompanied by fitting visuals. It was… intense with the music practically coursing through the veins. It was the exact right and wrong time for the shrooms to reach their full battery power; it was otherworldly and overwhelming. The audience was entranced and had good vibrations all around. A little microdose goes a long way at these concerts.
Although “Drums” almost whisked the crowd into a land of unexplainable fantasy, what’s great about Dead & Company shows is they’re grounding. Sounds hippie dippie, but it’s impossible not to feel present at these concerts, not only for the music but the people. There’s a sense of community at Dead & Company shows. During a breezy night in Chicago and tough times, four-hours of inspiring behavior and music was just what the doctor ordered.