This map shows the location of people who bought tickets to this weekend's Dead & Company shows in Boulder (Created by Karen Antonacci)
1. a fan and follower of the rock group the Grateful Dead.
"the Deadhead hard core shadows the band, selling tie-dyes and beads"
Hold tight, Boulder: The Deadheads have arrived.
Thousands of rabid Grateful Dead fans — from Nederland to Tokyo — are converging upon Boulder's Bubble this weekend on the tails of Dead & Company, which will be playing two rare shows at the University of Colorado's Folsom Field.
The Grateful Dead-descendent band — comprised of founding members Bob Weir and drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart along with longtime Dead collaborator Jeff Chimenti on keyboard and newbies John Mayer and ex-Allman Brothers bassist Oteil Burbridge — formed last year after the surviving four members (joined by Phish's Trey Anastasio) performed a handful of successful "Fare Thee Well" 50th anniversary shows.
The counterculture of the Grateful Dead movement has carved a big place in musical history. Deadheads have been loyally following various iterations of the band for nearly 50 years. And they still are. A ZIP code report obtained from promoter AEG Live reveals that the vast majority of fans are traveling to Boulder from out of state.
David McQuaid, 52, and his wife Kelly McQuaid, 49, called from the road while truckin' it to Boulder from Dallas, Texas, with daughters Avery McQuaid, 22 (a senior at CU), and Cassidy McQuaid, 21, (with their boyfriends in tow) and son Dylan McQuaid, 16, along with a buddy of his.
David, who is in the real estate business, said he started following the Grateful Dead after April 1, 1990, the day he attended his first show.
"That was it for me," he said, laughing. "Now there's no going back."
From left to right: Neely Rose, Cassidy McQuaid, Avery McQuaid, Dylan McQuaid, William Spencer, David McQuaid and Kelly McQuaid pose outside of their hippie bus, Sugaree.
Kelly, on the other hand, said she "became a Deadhead out of necessity to spend time with my husband."
But this is no regular road ride. This will "definitely be one long strange trip," David said.
Ever since he was a teenager, David said he had aspirations to convert an old bus into a hippie haven. So last year when the Dead announced its final "Fare Thee Well" tour, "I said to my family, 'we can either rent a kick-ass RV or we can buy and old hippie bus and hit the road.'"
The McQuaid clan was on board to hippie-fy an old school bus. So came the birth of Sugaree.
Sugaree (named after the song composed by Jerry Garcia in 1972) was transformed into a luxury hippie abode with the help of Kelly's design skills ("I had to have a purple chandelier in the bedroom"). They turned the old beater into a masterpiece with faux stone, tie-dyed couch coverings, colorful guitars and a whole ton of Jerry. Sugaree houses a master bedroom, a bathroom, a bunk room that sleeps three, a separate seating area that accommodates two more beds and a kitchenette. (And, of course, a multi-colored paint job that would have Garcia smiling.)
For the McQuaid children, this isn't a forced trip with mom and dad. David said the kids have all become "total" Deadheads. Last year's Chicago trip was a family affair and Dylan jams out Dead tunes on guitar for the family while on the road.
Gas mileage is not one of Sugaree's strengths, David said (she gets eight miles to the gallon), "but we call her our ambassador of joy because she brings joy to everyone who sees her."
David said it's "very cool" that they'll be part of this event that will bring live music back to Folsom after 15 years. The Grateful Dead originally played at CU's football stadium in 1972 and again in 1980.
Dead & Company perform on Nov. 24, 2015, at the 1stBank Center in Broomfield.
Grateful Dead poster show
What: Meet and greet with famed Grateful Dead artist Richard Biffle
When: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday
Where: PosterScene, 1505 Pearl St., #101, Boulder
• Through Tuesday, PosterScene will display its large collection of Grateful Dead poster art, photography and memorabilia spanning 30 years. Artwork will be for sale and ranges from original '60s and '70s psychedelic posters to modern screen prints.
• Biffle began his career by selling art out of his van while following the band around the country. For the past 27 years, he has created works for various bands, including The Grateful Dead, Carlos Santana, The Black Crowes, Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, Rat Dog and Gov't Mule, among others.
Burbridge, who played bass for decades with the Allman Brothers and Aquarium Rescue Unit, took over the strings for founding member Phil Lesh. Burbridge said that in the beginning he and John Mayer, the newbies, felt some fan pressure to honor the legacy of the band.
"You can't please everybody. I can't bring Jerry back from the dead," Burbridge said, laughing, in a phone interview last week. "I can't make everyone go back in time to 1969. I don't have those kind of powers."
He said during his recent process of learning and mastering decades of Grateful Dead material to play on the road, it has become quite a balancing act.
"You learn the song and you basically try to play how the song makes you feel, while trying to connect that with what you think the intention of the song is."
Burbridge, a classically trained multi-instrumentalist, said his style derives from an African rhythmic groove — and, whatever the genre, he tends to "dig into the rhythm."
"Phil has such a different style from me. We're very kind of yin/yang in a way, " Burbridge said. "My whole thing comes from funk and R&B and I think where we meet is probably jazz and classical."
"Phil's thing, I think, is more like completely intentionally doing the opposite of everything that the traditional bass role was supposed to do," he continued. "And he successfully did — and still does that."
Burbridge said that although it was a daunting task to fill an iconic role in the band, "the vast majority of fans are really loving it," and are getting into his grooves: "I think I've won people's butts over before their ears."
There's no doubt he adds a funky vibe.
"I can't help that," he said, laughing. But he said the decades of the Grateful Dead catalogue has "a lot of funky stuff in there," noting the "deep, deep groove" in the 1971 single, "Not Fade Away."
"That song was the one that made me realize that I should dig heavily into the groove of songs when it's there," he said. "And it's there a lot more than I realized."
And, as per usual, this mix of musicians will get into the band's signature, extended instrumental jams that the fans know and love. It's those jams that go on, and on, and on ...
"There's literally times when I'm like, 'What song was this?'" Burbridge said, laughing. "And then right when I remember and get back into it, Bob (Weir) decides to do another song and immediately segue into that. But that's how it goes."
'The coolest cult'
Along with the Deadhead brand of music fan usually comes jam connoisseurs, a smattering of tie-dye, various psychedelic accoutrement, some dreads and happy vibes.
"Those cats are ready for anything. It's crazy," said Burbridge. "I guess I could say everything is a cult. Every religion is a cult. Every denomination of every religion is a cult. There's some that are dark, but this is like the coolest cult I've ever seen. It's built on a lack of rules — other than be kind. You're free to do your own thing."
He said being a part of a band that puts on "more than just a concert" is quite an experience.
"Part of it is like a religion and part is a rebellion," Burbridge said. "I've never seen anything like it, I really haven't. It's really quite unique. And I love it. I love it."