It was great while it lasted: Dead and Company has concluded final tour in California
ADRIAN FLORIDO, HOST:
The Grateful Dead's offshoot band, Dead and Company, played its final shows in San Francisco over the weekend. It's the end of an era for fans like Colorado Public Radio's Vic Vela, who have been following the Dead's music for decades. It's also a big change for vendors and merchants who travel with the band and thrived on a scene called Shakedown.
VIC VELA, BYLINE: When the pandemic shutdowns were lifted and live concerts returned, Tony Seigh did something downright crazy. He left a career at Tesla to sell Grateful Dead bumper stickers in parking lots. But if you're a Deadhead, you totally get it.
TONY SEIGH: It almost was like for, like, two years, when you're thinking, like, oh my gosh; it's the end of the world; we're all going to die - like, we better go on tour with the Grateful Dead before it's over, you know?
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UNCLE JOHN'S BAND")
DEAD AND COMPANY: (Singing) Well, the first days are the hardest days. Don't you worry anymore.
VELA: Dead and Company has been the most successful Grateful Dead spinoff since Jerry Garcia died almost three decades ago. Now that the band is calling it quits, a lot of folks whose livelihoods literally depend on Dead shows are wondering what's going to happen to a place called Shakedown.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SHAKEDOWN STREET")
GRATEFUL DEAD: (Singing) Nothing shaking on Shakedown Street.
VELA: Named after the Grateful Dead song "Shakedown Street," the epic traveling emporium of merchandise, music and madness is simply known as the Shakedown lot.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: I got marigolds.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
VELA: It's a little bit farmers market, a little bit county fair, a little bit "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest." It's where a fan can buy a Grateful Dead hoodie, a grilled cheese sandwich and, yes, even LSD. With this band's demise, vendors on Shakedown have some anxiety over what's next for the music they love and their own bank accounts. Seigh says a significant chunk of his income is from selling merchandise on Dead tours.
SEIGH: I don't know - maybe, like, half.
VELA: That's a lot.
SEIGH: Oh yeah, yeah. Oh no, it's a total gamble. But, you know, it takes a lot to win, but even more to lose.
VELA: Coleus Langer of Los Angeles sells clothing on Shakedown. He says losing that customer base is going to hurt.
COLEUS LANGER: It definitely makes me very sad because there's no other place like a Grateful Dead Shakedown lot. You know, as far as vending and just meeting people and networking and hanging, you know, there's just - it's such a special place.
VELA: Nowadays, a lot of vendors sell their goods online, so their incomes aren't totally dependent on Dead shows. But for many, there's nothing like that personal connection with other Deadheads. Stephen McMennamy is the owner of Grateful Fred, a company named after his dog. He sells metal stickers with Dead imagery.
STEPHEN MCMENNAMY: It's very different when you're standing across from somebody and they have tears in their eyes talking about how much this thing meant to them because it was the name of a pet or a loved one or a grandmother or something like that.
VELA: Some vendors say they'll continue to sell outside Phish shows or other jam bands where there's a lot of crossover appeal. And here's the thing. A lot of folks on Shakedown firmly believe there'll be a new Grateful Dead offshoot to follow post-Dead and Company. After all, there's been several versions of the Dead over the last couple decades. So the hope is that the music of Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir will continue to thrive alongside fresh faces, or in the words of the Grateful Dead, the music never stops. For NPR News, I'm Vic Vela in San Francisco.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.