My Deadhead Experience 1993-2011

My First Grateful Dead Show – 6/3/1993 – Giants Stadium

It was a strange cold and rainy day June 5, 1993, on my way to what was supposed to be just another classic rock concert. The funny thing was, on this night I was actually going to see the opening act. Having see The Stones, The Who, and Eric Clapton, and many other Hall Of Fame rockers in the 80’s and early 90’s, but the band I never got to see was The Police. My sister and her friends were going to see The Grateful Dead, it just append to be the opener was Police singer Sting. I had just started listening to the Dead in college and was curious to see what the whole experience was like. Growing up a rock fan in Yonkers, New York besides a few obvious songs played on New York rock station 102.7 WNEW, they never got my attention.  I never knew what was so alluring about this band. I was about to find out.

After sitting in traffic at the Holland Tunnel and on the Jersey Turnpike, we finally got to Giant stadium. What I saw when we entered the parking lot was like nothing I have ever seen before. There was a community of people camped in the parking lot in various types of vehicles. Then what I could only describe as a Hippy Flea market, where everything from clothes, memorabilia, food, and drugs were sold. This area was referred to as Shakedown Street, the area in the parking lot where the vending takes place.  But the thing that was most interesting was just not how friendly everyone one was but how they all seemed connected by the music. Older Deadheads would talk with younger ones and share memories. It didn’t matter what political party or how you dressed everyone one had something in common. That feeling is why in 2011 even after 15 years after Jerry Garcia’s passing, I still always try to catch a Furthur, RatDog, or Phil and friends show when in town. It was actually at RatDog, show in 2008  near Palm Springs where the band had a new and surprising effect on me.

My Introduction to HeadCount

As many of you know who have known me in the last 15 years, I like to speak me mind. I also love to bitch and complain when it comes any kind of issues. I always lived by the saying, “If You Don’t Vote you can’t complain”. In 2003-2004, I wanted to do a voter registration show for Rock The Vote. I had already been working in music management and booked shows at legendary clubs in the Los Angeles area. I had contacted Rock The Vote in Santa Monica, about doing a show at a very popular club we had played a number of times. After talking to the club who would love to do it as long as we pay them guaranteed $. Knowing we needed to save our money for showcases, I knew it was not going to happen.

June 2008, I was at a Bob Weir Rat Dog show near Palm Springs at a Casino. Trying to escape the heat and the casino Gestapo like security guards, I was stopped by a person with a clipboard, who asked me if I was registered to vote. I said I was but was asked to sign a pledge that I would vote in the next election. I was informed that HeadCount (, a grassroots non-partisan, not-for-profit voter registration organization. They register voters at concerts and make civic participation part of the live music experience. network of volunteers across the county, divided into local street teams.  HeadCount is affiliated  with over 80 artists such as Dave Matthews Band, Pearl Jam, Jack Johnson, Kings of Leon, Phish, John Mayer, and more. Not only did I sign the pledge, I ended up becoming a volunteer and a Team Leader in Los Angeles right up until the registration deadline.

HeadCount at the Furthur Shoreline Shoreline Amphitheatre 6/3 & 4/ 2011

After almost 18 years to the day of my first Dead show, I was about to do something I could only have  dreamed of during my Grateful years. I was going to be seeing Furthur featuring Bob Weir and Phil Lesh at their homecoming shows at the historic Shoreline Amphitheatre, near San Francisco. I originally applied for media credentials, but was turned down by Furthur’s publicist. I then thought of volunteering for HeadCount night one night and buying a ticket in the orchestra the second night, so I could get some good pictures and blog about it. Due to the bad weather forecast, I decided to volunteer for both shows with HeadCount.

The weather forecast called for rain for both days. This quickly reminded me of my first Dead show. I started my journey from Marin over the Golden Gate Bridge and into the city to meet up with other HeadCount Volunteers, in the city. As soon as we got into my car one of the Volunteers quickly hooked up his phone to my speakers so he could play the most recent Phish what I use to call bootleg, which now is known as digital download. I’m not Phish hater, but also was a huge fan back in the day. In fact the reason, I’ve been on a personal Phish hiatus since 2004 was because of being open to all kinds of music. I’ve always found some Phish fans are closed minded to all music that isn’t Phish. It’s all they listen to or talk about. Don’t get me wrong it’s a totally cool scene and I had a blast especially from 93-95. But I am and always will be a Deadhead at heart. After sitting in Friday traffic on the 101, we finally got to the venue.

Along with registering people to vote HeadCount Team Leader Jonathan Perri, told us about the “Fan DNA Project,” a poll about music and politics that you’ll see us doing at the concert. We’ll then publish the results, comparing the “Fan DNA” from different festivals and tour. What was great about this show was that we had a Furthur Poster singed by Bob Weir that we were raffling off. The evening and weekend shows were big successes. Personally I felt my whole experience had come full circle. As I walked around Shoreline,  getting polls filled out I kept getting stopped by older fans, who asked me what shows I’d seen. There once again was that connection. Besides this being my 18th anniversary of seeing the Dead a thought occurred to me. I remembered all those pregnant women, I saw at shows. They were now 18 and going to shows with their friends.

The weekend came to a close and all we got was a dusting of rain. It made me feel like Jerry was smiling down upon us from above. Or maybe opening up with The Beatles “Here Comes The Sun ” Friday night helped push the clouds away.  To sum up my experience, I can only borrow a line that the Dead also borrowed, “You Know Our Love Will Not Fade Away!”

I’m honored to announce that I’ll be photographing a special screening of “The Cove”, along with a live performance by the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir. This event benefits Save Japan Dolphins, a project of Earth Island Institute for the California Film Institute. Director Louie Psihoyos and marine mammal specialist Ric O’Barry will present and discuss a screening of their 2010 Academy Award-winning documentary. For tickets and more information on the film and the institute please visit:

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About Jonathanshensa

I'm a Celebrity Event Photographer, producer and Screenwriter. I also worked with promoting bands and spent 5 years in music management. In my younger days, I was also an Actor, News reporter, DJ, and have worked at Talent, and Management companies. I love the mass media but also love to talk about everyday topics. I want to have a positive and creative impact on the entertainment business. Check out my entertainment blog, "The Outsiders Guide to the Inside of Hollywood".
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