Pop music is a prism. To understand changing times, listen in to the music of a given era. Most pop acts are fleeting, lasting a couple years, crystalizing the tastes of the moment before fizzling out or self-immolating. The Beatles were only a band for 10 years or so. (The Jonas Brothers only for eight. Nirvana for seven. Wham! were only around for five.) Setting aside the cryogenic/holographic/devil’s-pact mysteries of acts like the Rolling Stones, now celebrating a half century of rocking, pop music and longevity are generally opposed to one another. A rare exception is the case of the Grateful Dead, which existed as a band for 30 years, releasing new material and touring as a top-drawing concert act for practically that whole time. (To call them a “pop” act is a stretch, though they did hit the charts in 1987 with “Touch of Grey.”)
Over those decades, in shifting focus, the Dead’s concerts were seen to represent the hippie counterculture, the holdover legacy of the ‘60s in subsequent years, a likely scene for scuffles with police, a potential danger of poor crowd control and stampedes, the long-term problem of LSD use, and the scene of all kinds of other cultural curiosities.
The Grateful Dead played over 2,300 concerts in their long, strange career, before guitarist, singer and guiding spirit Jerry Garcia died in 1995. The Northeast was a big market for the Dead, and they played Connecticut often, with numerous shows in New Haven, Waterbury and Hartford. They played the Hartford Civic Center 18 times over a 13-year period. Some of that band’s huge, passionate and talmudic fanbase think that the Dead’s 1977 show in Hartford was among one of the group’s best. What are the odds? (Actually, for each of those two-thousand-and-then-some shows, there is probably someone who swears that one was the best — so the odds are probably pretty good.) READ MORE