The day I saw the Dead...

The day I saw the Dead...
Authored By John Nicholson

The day I saw the Grateful Dead in September 1981 was a juxtaposition of cultures like no other. I had been a fan for 4 years at this point in my musical development and I thought I was pretty radical. But I had seen nothing like this at the Playhouse in Edinburgh. We’d travelled up from Newcastle. The gig was sold out and this was the biggest capacity in the country.

Outside of the venue were hoards of people. I quickly worked out that these were the Dead Heads. Mostly ticketless Americans, they followed the band wherever in the world they were.

It's 1981, being a stoner hippy is deeply unfashionable, but that was irrelevant to these people. This was a lifestyle thing for them.

As we got close, we were approached by a woman who was probably called Sunshine, dressed in full hippy regalia, she spoke with a deep drawl. 'Hi guys, are you getting high tonight?' she said.

We said no but were going to have a few beers which was too straight an answer, I think. We picked our way into the Playhouse, stepping over human hippy detritus. We were in the balcony miles from the stage. As soon as the band came on, the stalls were a big hippy dance off with people freaking out, no doubt coming up on acid. I recall feeling a bit out of my depth and none of us, though battle hardened at gigs for 5 years, could let go of our 'up tightness'. I remember feeling that I didn’t fit in at all and the whole thing inside and outside the building was some distance from life as I knew it.

Had I been older than 20, I’d probably have enjoyed it, but I was too young and inexperienced. I didn’t really even enjoy the gig. It was the only time I felt like this and the only time I went to a gig and LSD was freely available.

The recording of the show is online, but they were not on top form and were not yet the legend they’d become 10 years later.

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