Building Community

“What show?      Image

At the pump behind me at the gas station is a 30-something guy of obvious Latino descent.

“Huh?” I say.  And then, after a moment of realization, “Oh….uh, I don’t know.  And you’d think I would, right?”  What he’s hearing is my MP3 player blaring “They Love Each Other” as I pump my gas.  I thought about it for a quick second, and decided that no, I still don’t know what Grateful Dead show this song comes from.

For you non-Deadheads, I should explain that every live show the Grateful Dead ever performed has been recorded, and in most cases, by many people.  This is not bootlegging, mind you.  The Dead actually encouraged their fans to record the shows, which in turn, built them a tremendous following, and amongst their fans, an unparalleled sense of community.

“What, is it on the radio?” the guy says to me.  “No, it’s my MP3 player, and I’m ashamed that I don’t know what show it is.”   However, a quick check of my Rio’s display panel reminds me that the recording is from Barton Hall, Cornell University, 5-8-77.  Many Dead devotees consider the Barton Hall show to be the best the band ever played.  And that’s saying a lot, because over the course of 30 years the Grateful Dead performed live 2,318 times.

“Hey, I got it!” I tell him.  “It’s Barton Hall, 5-8-77.  The show of all shows, ya know?”
He gives me a smile and a nod.

ImageThe weird part of all this is that this guy, based on his age and ethnicity (and driving an import tuner, I might add) is perhaps the last person you’d imagine to be a Deadhead.  He totally defies the stereotype.  And yet as soon as he got out of his car to pump his gas and heard the grooves coming out of my vehicle, he asked me “What show?”

This is the community that Jerry, Bobby, Phil, and the gang built through their very special creative talents.  And as I think of it now, I feel that community is actually a primary goal of the creative process.  Or if not a goal, it’s certainly the outcome of most successful creative endeavors.

I want to build things.  I want to create in such a way that community forms around the center of what I do.   This is how I will measure the success of all of my own creative pursuits from now on.

“They Love Each Other.”  Do you think Jesus would have been digging on this song if he’d heard it in his day?  I’d like to think so…


About Todd Jennings

I am a runner, a father, a philosopher, and a writer. I am also a seeker. Among the things that I seek are beauty and truth. From an external perspective, I've found both of those things when I run in the woods or on the quiet trails of the mountain tops . With each new run, more truth and beauty reveals itself to me. And so I keep running....
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5 Responses to Building Community

  1. Richard D'Ambrosio says:

    I think Jesus definitely would have grooved to this. Especially all those times he was alone in the desert.

  2. Bob says:

    … I still love the atmosphere that surrounds a “Dead” show, whether it is a Ratdog performance or Phil Lesh and friends or ‘The Dead”, they encompass the same feel. I still try to attend at least one show a year. It is like a craving for something you just need to satisfy. Every so often the feeling returns and I begin my search for my craving. It usually starts when my thoughts return to the wonderful events of the past and before I know it I have actually purchased a ticket, well some things do change I guess.
    “You know it’s gonna get stranger, so let’s get on with the show”.
    The “vibe” at today’s shows is similar, many of the same people attend, and new faces do as well. Just as I went to my first show, and a generation had gone before me young people today still find themselves identifying themselves with the music and culture of “the Dead”.
    The music and spirit still lives on and I suspect it always will. The memories are fun to recount, the stories others tell still interesting and meaningful. So perhaps it is more than the music, it is a special feeling of spirit that makes up Deadheads all over the world. It is the power and feeling of the unspoken word, communicating through spirit, understanding others common values and enhanced by the music we identify with.
    The next time the opportunity comes around, feel free to experience it, we are all family and welcome everyone who embraces peaceful being and community, even the “unhip” hippie deadhead that has purchased his ticket in advance “Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on me; Other times, I can barely see. Lately it occurs to me …What a long, strange trip it’s been.”
    – R.S.Harris

  3. Trail Todd says:

    Perfectly put, Bob. I was listening to ‘The Wheel’ the other day and thinking about how much I miss Jerry. In a couple of weeks it will be 17 years since he passed. It hardly seems possible. And yet, the community he helped build lives on, and as you said, I, too, suspect it always will.

    “Strangers stoppin strangers just to shake their hand. Everybodys playing in the heart of gold band, heart of gold band.”

  4. gold account says:

    Reviewer: stilldead57 – – April 10, 2007 Subject: cold snow what no one mentions is that, on may 8, upon exiting barton hall, we were met with a huge snow storm that lasted the next day. and may 77 sure got hotter from there. check out DP29 for the best of that (best) month i also remember seeing steve mayzner there, so this one is special.

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