On Tuesday, June 11, Wisconsin’s Walworth County Highway Committee denied Clear Channel Entertainment’s* license request for “Terrapin Station – A Grateful Dead Family Reunion.” You see, Walworth County contains Alpine Valley Music Theatre, a hilly outdoor venue that’s one of the major sheds in the region. It seats approximately 35,000. But Walworth County balked when confronted with bigger, scarier numbers. 200,000 long-haired, hippy freaks descending on bucolic East Troy, WI? That just wouldn’t do. The county’s tiny sheriff’s department would be weeding out the outside agitators for weeks afterwards.

Uproar ensued. Grateful Dead fans who’d been eager to catch the first reunion of Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh and Bob Weir since Jerry Garcia’s 1995 death were boiling over at the county’s attempt to bogart their summer fun. So this week, under pressure from fans and the band, the board gave in. A followup hearing has been scheduled for June 27 to reconsider the Terrapin license. Upon hearing the news, 200,000 dead fans exhaled blue smoke.


“You can imagine the amount of humanity that’s going to converge on little old East Troy in Walworth County,” highway committee chairman Odell R. Gigante told the AP. “We only have 80-some sheriff deputies. Short of bringing in the National Guard, we just couldn’t handle it.” What the hey? All this hubbub over a band that in whole or part has been known as Old And In The Way? Nevertheless, Gigante and his fellow board members are undoubtedly picturing the Terrapin Station show as a gathering of filthy carpetbagging hippies, with no cash and too many drugs. This reinforces the underlying tone of their decision: time stopped In Walworth County 1967. Paranoia strikes really deep, and long-nosed suspicion of lousy longhairs never went out of style.

Evidently, no one has ever shipped pricey Jerry Garcia silk neckties to Walworth County.

See, I’m not a Grateful Expert, but I don’t think the county has much to worry about from the fans of Terrapin Station. As the collective members of the Grateful Dead themselves have aged, so has the core fanbase. And with age comes haircuts. For example, blathering basketball analyst Bill Walton is still trading on his tie-dyed, Workingman’s Dead past, even as he sits on the sideline in silk suits snipping at Steve “Snapper” Jones. Is Walton or some similarly successful baby boomer really going to get his microbus out of storage, don a daishiki and dance to the Dead like HR Puffenstuff? Will Alpine Valley be overrun by raging braless jezebels and the smelly burnouts that love them? Not bloody likely. If anything, the straights up in Walworth should be more worried about other summer concerts that they have given the green light to. Ozzfest rolls into town August 11th. I wonder if Rob Zombie’s constituency will tread lightly on the green?


The living members of the dead will likely get to have their concert. And there won’t be any problems beyond the occasional dope who’s got something to prove. But he’s at every show, not just Terrapin Station or Ozzfest. What’s odd about this entire situation is that the cowards of the county took their stand now. Alpine Valley has been a major music venue for over thirty years. In all of those summers, hasn’t there been anything scarier than the thought of thousands of aging ex-hippies in SUVs and Orvis gear descending on East Troy, Wisconsin for a weekend of good-natured white boy freejamming?

Oh well, a touch of grey.


*Like thousands of other venues across the country, Alpine Valley Music Theatre is the property of Clear Channel Entertainment. This is very irritating.


  1. This ageing braless hippy thinks the Troy guys are right. While the core Dead fans have aged and mellowed there is still an element of dirty, noisy, theiving, dopers under 50 that would keep their tiny police force busy night and day. Not to mention the ageing boomers themselves. That 6’2″ old guy that always shoves his way in front of me at shows and tells me to fuck off when i ask him for air isn’t really polite driving his SUV eithor.When i compare Deadheads to say Neil Young fans..hell Neil fans don’t even stand up.

  2. I’m putting the Dead on top of my “should have died in a plane crash” list. That plane should also have on it every single one of their ‘fans’.I wouldn’t want them in my town either.

  3. What I know is where in the hell are they getting this “200,000” number? I’ve been to a lot of concerts (Dead, Phish & many others), and this haphazard guess at how many will show up just seems awfully high.Besides, Alpine is in the middle of nowhere! As long as the promoter (Clear Channel/SFX) does their job at providing enough security/water/facilities/food/ice, etc., the impact can’t be much worse than previous concerts held there. They certainly have the $$$$!But I will admit Clear Channel/SFX really, really screwed up with their practice of raking in ticket money before even getting basic permits! What an incredibly greedy organization that is also singlehandly responsible for gigantic jumps in ticket prices over the last few years. I wish the Dead organization didn’t have to work with them, but they have no choice — Clear Channel has bought up most of the bigger venues (as well as radio stations). Sad.

  4. Rosebud,But don’t you think the Dead are one of the very few who could work WITHOUT Clear Channel? If a couple of nimrods could put Woodstock together in a farm field certainly an experienced touring outfit like the Dead could stage their own show somewhere. No?

  5. Radiohead’s 2001 summer tour is a good example of a successful act using its skillsand clout to book and promote a strong, non-Clear Channel tour. They booked theirshow into alternate venues that actually worked, like Butler Field in Chicago. Theybrought a top-notch sound system, and – at least at the Chicago show – there wereno problems with crowd control, heatstroke, etc. that I’ve seen happen at eventsoccuring within traditional concert venues (Alpine Valley included). The point is that the Dead could certainly pull off a tour like Radiohead’s. Theyhave incredible clout, and the kind of fanbase (like Radiohead) that would appreciatethe group choosing venues and tour styles around what matters, which is the music. Say what you want about Pearl Jam, but they’ve made a respectable effort to operateoutside of Clear Channel, et al’s fiefdom. I bet the Dead and its environs could do it, too.

  6. Of course, the Dead sued a bankrupt guitar maker over guitars the latter made and was bequeathed by Gerry Garcia, so maybe it’s not just about the music?

  7. Two things:1) The Dead are very interested in money. I don’t think it’s a quesiton of prostituting the music so much as realizing that there’s a large, core audience that will spend money on their “product” and to that end, the Dead deliver all the goods they can.2) This is not, I believe, the first post-Jerry reunion of the Dead. I believe the remaining band members – augmented by additional musicians – played the Further Festival as The Other Ones. I could be wrong about Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart being there. I’m sure at least one of them was, and perhaps both. This was a few years ago, not too long after Jerry’s death actually. They played the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California.And you’re right… 200,000 seems a bit off the mark, and I’d be much more worried about the testosterone and meth-driven fans of Ozzfest than I would the bucolic, aging fans of the Dead.

  8. i kinda remember them playing together than too. i might have even been there….Of course it’s about the money. the peace loving, hippy, tie dye myth hung on with the fans long after it’s death with the band. In a way they all became trapped in it but Jerry most of all. It is weird. i saw Bonnie Raitt the other night and i thought. What does it mean when someone wears the same clothes, keeps the same hair style for 30 years? Why couldn’t Jerry just sit down? Do they think their fans won’t reconize them? Is it possible that they don’t know it’s about the music?Oh and believe me the ‘woodstock guys didn’t pull it off. They were really, really luckey. BG set the model for control of the music industry through control of the venues, ticketing and exclusive contracts. He was brutal. The thing that separated him from what we have now was his care of us the fans. good business sense.

  9. I’ve only been to Alpine Valley once, for the opening performance of Guns N Roses first headlining tour, 6 months before Use Your Illusion came out. It was raining, and there was more mayhem there than at any show I’ve ever been to. The mud in the parking lot was about a foot deep and almost everyone who was not driving some sort of truck-like vehicle (i.e the thousands who came in Camaros and Mustangs) was stuck. And pissed off. And drunk. That crowd was a lot scarier than the Dead crowd when I saw them around the same time at Pine Knob near Detroit.This situation follows the same line of thinking as the societal view of alcohol vs. marijuana: Drunks are a problem, but since they’re not doing something “illegal” they’re free to ravage society. Stoners are to be feared though, even if they rarely do anything beyond stealing microwave burritos and dancing naked in public.

  10. First of all, Scotty 5000, your comments of wishing death upon anyone is ignorant and sheds a lot of light on your mentality, or lack there of.Alpine could deal with the crowd (200,000 seems a little exorbitant)in a lot of different ways–How about only letting ticket-holders in?!Further Fest did contain all the original members, except for Jerry. They all played with Bruce Hornsby and several other musicians, as well as their own individual bands.This whole thing just seems to be the result of a long-standing grudge that Wisconsin has had against the Dead since the late 80’s.Do they not realize the revenue an event like this can bring to the area? Every hotel will be filled and restaurants and stores will be frequented$$$$.

  11. Sorry, Erika, with a “k”. But the Dead haven’t made a single decent record since before I was born (I’m 31 yrs old). They’re no different in that sense than the Stones or the Who. When they failed to be relevant they just kept right on going. Where they are different from bands like the Stones is that they were never earth shateringly good to begin with. All they were for the last 30 years was an excuse for hippie college kids and pot-heads to get f’d up, trade tie-died t-shirts and grow body hair.As for the above mentioned comments about stoners and shows for bands like GnR, that’s right on. I’ve never felt more unsafe than at some of the old Metal shows I went to. Whether some of that crap goes on today I don’t know. When MTV’s last Woodstock production when up in flames I kept thinking “what the fu? This stuff has been going on at concerts for 4 decades. Why does this surprise anybody?”

  12. Scotty,I have to respectfully disagree with you on the Grateful Dead being irrelavent. Regardless of whether you like the crowd, the Grateful Dead did an enormous service by exposing rock-type people to old-time American music, which is debatably one of the greatest, but almost disappeared, American traditions. Johnny Cash has done the same exact thing. Both of them are/were heavily influenced by huge and almost ignored body of 19th and early 20th century musicians. I would guess that most of their fans, however, would not know that “Wind and the Rain” or “Jackaroo” aren’t actually Grateful Dead songs. The same could be said about “Cocaine Blues”. The question then becomes why would I give a crap if a whole bunch of people get exposed to a whole genre of music (who otherwise wouldn’t). I shouldn’t. I am not forming an army.

  13. Paul,You should form an army. I would sign up and we could conquer many lands and establish ourselves as supreme rulers…I’ll email you more details later.But I have to agree. I put off even listening to the Dead for years for the same old Rock and Roll excuses. I finally set aside my own prejudices and was suprised to not only hear the old timey influences Paul writes about but also a fair amount of my beloved garage rock in the earliest Dead recordings. Add to the mix Garcia’s seemingly un-ending reinvention of guitar playing and the band’s sprinkling of country flavor and I have become a fan. Not a huge fan who has any interest in seeing the remaining members of the band cash in on nostalgic MasterCard Hippies, but a fan of their finer work. I’ll say it here and now, I like several Grateful Dead songs and am not ashamed to say it…anymore.

  14. Their ‘finer’ work. Meaning when they were actually relevant? Like back in 1970? I honestly like their 60’s stuff. But they’ve been cashing in on that reputation for three decades. Come on, Jerry G. ties at Bloomingdales? What the Fu?They may very well have exposed a lot of people to several genres of american music, but so have Phish. So has Wilco. So has Skynard. Etc. etc. etc. I would argue that over the last 25+ years all they did was rehash what they’d already done. Had they called it quits when they actually meant something they wouldn’t have been any more or less of an influence on american rock n roll. Mix that with my utter distain and lack of respect for hippies and this is what you get. Never ever date a chic who doesn’t shave under her arms.

  15. Their recordings may not have been relevant to the popular music scene over the last 30 years, but as a touring act they delivered to folks who cared. I’m no apologist for the Dead but they carved out a nearly psychotic fanbase DESPITE not releasing any relevant particularly relevant material. How? By delivering exactly what their fans wanted time and time again. Ask the fans what it was they were getting though as I’ve never seen the Dead live and can’t comment on what went on.

  16. “Mix that with my utter distain and lack of respect for hippies and this is what you get. Never ever date a chic who doesn’t shave under her arms.”Right on Scotty! I couldn’t agree with you more…ha!ha!…the Grateful Dead is also at the top of my “should have gone down in a plane” list, along with Phish and any Dead/hippie rip-off…however, taken out of the whole of the whole hippie kids getting stoned with their parents’ credit cards context, there are a few really good Dead songs…like Touch of Grey and the “driving my train high on cocaine” song (can’t remember the name)…I think what bothers me most is this fake hippie generation of kids, who like I said use their parents credit cards to go buy a bunch of ugly clothes and hemp jewelery, and don’t bath or wear make-up and have no idea what the original hippie movement was about…I got dragged to some horrible environmental hippie fest at Northwestern recently, and the only reason I didn’t shoot myself was that I felt very good about the fact that I was wearing a leather jacket and was totally out of place…

  17. I am not a DeadHead (just to clear that up). But if you ask any of the members of the Grateful Dead or their fans, they will probably agree that their studio recorded albums were not very good. They didn’t sell well either. At the same time I don’t think they were about making studio recordings and didn’t fare financially well from them. Which, considering how much of today’s music is produced, is ironically refreshing.

  18. well i am a deadhead have been for most of my adult life. One thing about their music was it’s variation. seems to me 400 plus songs is plenty if you never play one the same way. The interaction between instruments changes continually but it does require that you listen. Their albums were always too static for me. The whole parking lot thing was a different reality. deadheads were sitting in line so they could position their ears in their paricular sweet spot once inside. everything else was something else.

  19. How can you people make completely uneducated ramblings like this. 200,000+ I find that on the conservative side. Bonnaroo music festival this weekend sold 90,000 tickets almost instantly. This show featured only phil and bobby. (A whole bunch of other bands also of course) I would estimate 150,000 people were there total. I think 200,000+ is not a bad guess. As to the lack of studio music, thats not what the dead was about. The dead is a jam band, play live. There are hundreds of thousands of bootlegs circling this country,because these truly capture the sound of the dead like the studio never could. Might I also add that the dead not only didn’t care about the bootlegs, they endorsed them. Letting fans plug right into the board during shows to get a good recording. That sounds pretty darn greedy doesn’t it. *sarcasm*

  20. The Dead’s stance on taping and trading is one of their best influences on the music scene. May even more bands be as open as the Dead were!

  21. “American Beauty” and “Workingman’s Dead” are fine albums by any standard, so that’s what I think of your “no good studio stuff” attitude. One of my least favorite Dead albums is the live “Dead Set.” Clearly, not every show was a homerun.

  22. I agree that those two albums are really good studio albums. American Beauty in particular is a great album. Not all of us here at GLONO hate the Dead (see above confessions of a rock snob).

  23. I don’t think ANY of us here at GLONO hate the Dead, do we? I don’t. “Ripple” is one of the best songs ever written.

  24. I want to make it clear that nowhere in my article did I ever state a dislike for a criticism of the Grateful Dead. I don’t think anyone has accused me as such, but just to clarify, since this string seems to be going the way of saying that we at GLONO are Grateful Dead-haters. We arent!I agree with many on this string that have mentioned the Dead’s ongoing tribute to American roots music. Long before “O Brother!”, the Dead were out there playing Willie Dixon, Buell Kazee, and Bascam Lamar Lunsford to the people.

  25. Alright, I’ll admit that I’m a local of Alpine valley, and I’m also employed part time at alpine. To be specific, I work in the parking lots. I remember a show several years ago where Phish was the headliner. Now, Phish fans are much the same as dead fans, but not quite as numerous. That day, for every person with a ticket, at least one more showed up without tickets. This presents a serious problem, for we can only park so many people in the lots. As a result of too many people converging, we had to “stadium park”, which basically entails parking cars bumper to bumper to bumper. We ended up having nearly 30 cars deep of this situation. I dont care how “mellow” or “chill” you claim Deadhead type fans are, but it sure seemed like when they got parked in due to too many people converging. Now, double the number of people coming, and thats what this show would likely have been like. I dont like getting yelled at by old and young, for over 16 hours in a day. I can say that I’m glad that the concert isn’t taking place, as of this moment, because I really wouldnt want to work it.

  26. Rob, by that rationale you’d have to ban every concert by a ridiculously popular band. People without tickets always show up. There’s got to be a better way of dealing with it than simply saying “no shows by these bands.” I don’t know what that better way would be. Check with Scritti Politti. They had a better way. (How’s that for an obscure 80’s reference?)

  27. Doh! I sit corrected and red-faced. I’m now going to force myself to listen to the entire Scritti Politti back catalog as penance. No more 80’s allusions for me. I obviously took too many drugs back then.

  28. Scotty and Hellen:I feel that you have no right to voice your opinion on the Dead unless you have something of substance to back it up. I hate people that go about life judging people and never looking past the obvious before opening their uninformed mouth. So what, you see Grateful Dead as some long-haired hippies that write music about getting their fix? Well Scotty, I feel that maybe you should take a minute or two of your life to appreciate good music, and listen to the Dead. I’m not talking about putting on The Best of Skeletons from the Closet while shuffling through your old photo albums–sit down and LISTEN to the words and try to rack your ignorant brain for the real meaning of the songs. Try to appreciate music for what it is, rather than what it is not. Music was put on this Earth for the enjoyment of all man kind, not the unconstructive criticism of you. Also, if there is anyone that could be considered the one and only it would be those encompassing exceptional musical talents–Grateful Dead–not you! Oh, I almost forgot, no one deserves to die in a plane crash or to have that willed upon them–not even you!

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