Like a Virgin, Dead (and Company) for the Very First Time on Shakedown Street

Dead & Company Tour Series Edition - Part 1 - Bristow, VA

Dead and Company at Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, VA on 6/3/2023. Photo credit: Dave Pearson

Bristow, VA – I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Sure, I have done a lot of shows in my time, but never one of such an iconic band with volumes of fan folklore than could fill the Library of Congress several times over. They say you always remember your first… and the evening of June 3, 2023 at Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, VA would be that special night. 

The fun started before I even left the parking lot. The virginal fish out of water must have stuck out like a sore thumb as one up and coming Deadhead approached me and asked what I wanted to know. It was obvious that I was wearing my virtue as a badge of honor but was just as excited to give it up. He took it from the top, explaining the need for me to spend a little time on Shakedown Street. Pointing me in the right direction, he gave a friendly wave and said, “Enjoy the trip”. The fans were all so friendly!

Out of the blue, Shakedown Street Bristow was founded early in the morning on 6/3. Several of the venue staff told me that when they arrived there were already fans in line, parking, and setting up. To hear them explain it, it sounded like an Old West gold rush boom town, instantly appearing when the flock arrived only to disappear as quickly when the gold had left town. 

I am not going to pretend I know the history of the ritual, but for those who are not familiar with the Dead experience, Shakedown Street is an area set up in the parking lot of most Dead shows. Named after the 1976 Grateful Dead album of the same name, it has been a tradition since sometime in the 80s, giving the concert venue parking lot a festival feel.

Happy fans close to Shakedown Street. Jiffy Lube Live 6/3/2023. Credit: Dave Pearson

The first thing I noticed as I turned into Shakedown Street was that there were many very large balloons. It was a carnival feel because everyone was so happy. I knew this was going to be a fun night. Vendors were set up selling all sorts of things from crystals, t-shirts, and even Jerry Garcia clothes hangers… oh yeah, lots of balloons too.

There were also several food vendors, selling everything from grilled cheese to Philly sandwiches. I was not sure what spices were being used, so I avoided it, but I have to admit, it did smell very good. There were a few selling beer, other drinks, lighters, and much more. I talked to some of the vendors and they were there for various reasons, ranging from “It’s Shakedown Street, man” to making enough money to travel to the next Dead stop. The quest for fan travel funds was most obvious with the street musicians throughout the Shakedown neighborhood, most of which had signs saying they were raising money to go to the next venue.

Before leaving the midway and going on to the funhouse, one more thing caught my eye. Many in the area were walking around with fingers in the air (“I’m number 1”?). I will not go into what my initial thought was, but, as all the real Deadheads know, they were simply looking for a “miracle ticket” (typically a free ticket). I did not see a large number of miracles on the midway, but then again, it felt like I was the only (Dead) virgin in the midst and my name is not Mary, so I was unable to help. 

Once inside I ran into a friend who had been on the road with the band since Atlanta. For this show he had also brought his brother who had traveled (not in a VW microbus) all the way from Appleton, WI. I asked why they would go to so many shows and was told that every show was different, both in terms of the music but in terms of the fans. As they told the story, thus far the Bristow crowd had been the most laid back and maybe even the least psychedelic, claiming that in his experience Raleigh was the winner in the seeing, tasting, hearing, and smelling colors category. 

When I got to my seat I initially thought there was no purpose to having assigned seating. I do not think a fan in the place was seated as they all wanted to experience the show that was about to take place. The seats did come in handy as the show would last about four hours, so while few were seated at any one time, the chairs were very welcome as the show went on. 

I am not going to go into great detail on the show. I am not familiar enough with the nuances of their performance to do that portion any justice. As I watched the crowd react to different songs, and as I learned from my part-time Deadhead tour groupie friend, every show is different and often people just tour with the band for the opportunity to hear the one song they have never heard performed live. 

Dead and Company at Jiffy Lube Live on 6/3/2023. Credit: Dave Pearson

Dead and Company is a partial reincarnation of the Grateful Dead and consists of Dead members Bob Weir (guitar and vocals), Mickey Hart (drums), and Bill Kreutzmann (drums) The non-Grateful Dead members are John Mayer (guitar and vocals), Oteil Burbridge (bass, percussion, and vocals), and Jeff Chimenti (keyboards). One part of Dead folklore I am going to try to preserve is the art of the bootleg. In most articles where I link videos to the songs I use official videos. In this case, to maintain the fan appeal, if possible I will use good old fashion bootleg / live fan videos. 

As they took the stage, the sold out crowd of 22,000, already on their feet, roared when they kicked off with “Here Comes the Sunshine“. If I am not mistaken, it was the first time on the tour they had started the first set with that song. Standing out were Mayer, with his now signature headphones, and Burbridge donning his traditional tribal makeup. 

I was later asked whether they were using the video backdrop this tour. At least in Bristow, they were. As they weaved a path through “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo“, “Mr. Charlie, and “He’s Gone” the screen changed from live view to a montage of somewhat psychedelic backdrops. 

Dead and Company at Jiffy Lube Live on 6/3/2023. Credit: Dave Pearson

The already lively crowd turned it up to 11 with “Dear Prudence“. As it turned out, it was the very first time it had been played this tour and the fans knew!! 

Now there is this thing about time. As a concert vet, I look at a typical setlist and try to guess the length of the show. I learned that this is not possible with the Dead, as things happen that defy all sense of time… and to a degree, reality. A typical setlist of 18 songs is ballpark 90 minutes to no more than two hours. Using Dead time, it is four hours (now the need for seats was apparent!). My new friends with the balloons told me that the four hour show was the best 8 hours of their lives… alas, if we could really slow down time. That is by no means a dig, on the contrary, the time was wonderful as we got to witness the Dead showcasing their showmanship and backing it up with the notes to go with it. 

After about a 30 minute break (45 minutes in balloon time) they came back for Set 2. Opening with “Deal” a singalong broke out with “Scarlet Begonias“. Honestly, I would have thought that energy would wane as the night went on. I could not have been more wrong. The piano solo in “Cumberland Blues” had the whole place on the feet and cheering. 

Dancing with Dead and Company at Jiffy Lube Live on 6/3/2023. Credit: Dave Pearson

Other songs in Set 2 included the likes of “Space” (many could relate), “Milestones“, “Throwing Stones“, finishing up with “One More Saturday Night“. After a standing O, they continued with one more to leave the Bristow fans, who were not moving on with the band to their next final tour stops, one last Dead memory… “Ripple” (this video is from that night, listen to the crowd). And then it was done, the Dead would be no more in Bristow, but their music and this night would live on. 

I expect the hardcore Dead fans to say I missed so many things and they already knew these things (and yes, I am sure I got some things wrong). This was, in a way, a cultural experience and a story through the eyes of one who had never experienced anything like it. I went in unsure of what I would experience and thanks to so many wonderful and sharing fans, losing my Dead virginity was a lot of fun… with no pain. Maybe in the next reincarnation, when some of the Dead rise again, I will have the opportunity to take in part of the tour experience. 

Stay tuned to Digital Beat Magazine for Part 2 of this Tour Series, through the eyes of one with more Dead experience than I. 

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Dead and Company Setlist Bristow

Set 1
Here Comes Sunshine
Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo
Mr. Charlie
He’s Gone
Brown-Eyed Women
Dear Prudence
Turn On Your Love Light

Set 2
Scarlet Begonias
Playing in the Band
Cumberland Blues
Uncle John’s Band
Days Between
Throwing Stones
One More Saturday Night


Show Date: June 3, 2023