Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Music News, Concert Reviews

Looking Back: Deadheads keep on truckin' with Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead in St. Petersburg (October 14, 1988)

On October 14, 1988, 1,000+ "Deadheads" converged on St. Petersburg's Bayfront Center to camp out, party hard and commune with Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead one more time.

This story appeared in the pages of the St. Petersburg Times on October 14, 1988. What follows is the text of the original story, interspersed with photos of the event taken by Times staff photographer Jonathan Wiggs.

For 'dead' fans, life is series of concerts

By Sue Landry

Times staff writer

ST. PETERSBURG - Keith Strachan used to be addicted to heavy metal music. But that was before he first heard the Grateful Dead three years ago. Since then, he has spent most of his time hitchhiking around the country following "the Dead," catching odd jobs here and there.

On Thursday he was one of the first "Deadheads" to arrive for Saturday and Sunday night concerts at the Bayfront Center. By concert time, more than 1,000 Deadheads are expected to congregate here.

TIMES | Jonathan Wiggs

Sitting on a piece of cardboard outside his tent at a temporary campsite the city has prepared for the crowd, Strachan explained that being a Deadhead is more than just liking the band.

"It's not just the music. It's the whole experience," he said. "The Grateful Dead is just a part of it. It's the center of it. But it's so much more."

TIMES | Jonathan Wiggs

Strachan, 20, guesses there will be many more than 1,000 out-of-town Deadheads coming to St. Petersburg, many of them arriving after Friday night's concert in Miami. "Wait until you see it. You won't believe it," he said. "Every hotel will be booked around here.

Every campground will be all cars. It's great."

TIMES | Jonathan Wiggs

TIMES | Jonathan Wiggs

In addition to people holding tickets, hundreds of fans will meet outside the Bayfront Center, according to Strachan. They will be hoping for a last-minute ticket, but if all else fails, they will join in the celebrations outside the concert.

With three years and 43 concerts behind him, Strachan is a relative newcomer to the Deadhead scene. Since the Dead formed in 1965 and made a reputation playing psychedelic rock at marathon concerts, die-hard fans have been forsaking all else to follow the band on tour.

TIMES | Jonathan Wiggs

TIMES | Jonathan Wiggs

TIMES | Jonathan Wiggs

Strachan hitchhiked here from Virginia after a visit with his family there. Before that he was in New York City for a Dead concert, and came before that from California where he has been living recently.

He's traveling with a group of Deadheads he met along the way.

TIMES | Jonathan Wiggs

TIMES | Jonathan Wiggs

That's part of the joys of the experience, he says. You meet so many people, lose touch with them for awhile, then meet up with them again on the road.

And Deadheads, he said, are always instant friends.

"You can go up to anybody and talk to them. They've never seen you before and they're your best friend," he said. 'It's great. If everybody would just think like that, this world would be so great.

That's what it's all about."

TIMES | Jonathan Wiggs

Problems at recent concerts have aroused some nervousness among local officials. But Deadheads say those problems are caused by new fans who don't understand the Deads "laid-back style."

Strachan says "real Deadheads" are a harmless bunch who just want to have a good time and be on their way.

"I've never seen a fight at a Grateful Dead concert," he said.

TIMES | Jonathan Wiggs

TIMES | Jonathan Wiggs

TIMES | Jonathan Wiggs

To order reprints or download any Times image from this gallery, please visit the Times image archive.

Jeremy King

Twitter: @TBTimesArchive

e-mail: [email protected]

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