BOULDER, Colo. — For The Final Tour of Dead & Company, an offshoot of the Grateful Dead that includes original members of the band, three concerts were scheduled in Boulder at Folsom Field. Based on the history of the Grateful Dead, it was no coincidence that Colorado received such a farewell.
Colorado Music Experience, a non-profit organization, detailed the history of the Grateful Dead in Colorado. The group collected images from a free show played in Denver's City Park to the packed shows at Red Rocks Amphitheater.
Don Strasburg, the co-president of AEG Presents in the Rocky Mountains, saw his first Grateful Dead shows in the early 1980s.
“Honestly, that first show in 1983 was a blur. It was confusing," Strasburg recalled. “Then I came back in 1984, and then it was like, I knew at that point, and I was in my happy space.”
Strasburg has seen more than 100 Grateful Dead concerts in his life.
"They're the greatest American rock band ever to walk the earth," Strasburg said. "Going to see a Grateful Dead show is not like going to Broadway theater. You're not going to see the same show every night.”
Strasburg said another reason fans followed the band and saw so many shows was they all realized this was a special, unique moment in time. That moment in time was extended through different iterations of the Grateful Dead, like Dead & Company.
“This music transcends generations, because the songs are timeless," Strasburg said. “Why do people still listen to Beethoven? Why do people listen to Mozart? Why do people listen to The Beatles? There's certain music that just is that important, and is that perfect. The Grateful Dead is that perfect.”
The Final Tour of Dead & Company does not mean the music is gone, or won't be played by future different iterations of the original band, but it does mark the end of an era to a certain degree.
"This rolling caravan of the Grateful Dead community going from show to show every night, with all of the pomp and circumstance to some degree of the Grateful Dead, this forum is going to be over," Strasburg said. “This is it, and we're lucky enough to have this iteration of Dead & Company at Folsom Field for three nights."
Tribute bands reproduce the Grateful Dead's music as closely as possible. Shakedown Street has been doing so since 1987.
“We certainly see people that we know were on tour when we were. But we see a lot of kids that are 20 years old and 22, 23 years old, and they love the music," Peter Czolowski, a member of the band, said. “There's always going to be a need for it. And I think 'The Dead' has left their mark to the point where people are always going to want to hear this music."
So why does Colorado seem to be one of the state's with the greatest love for the Grateful Dead? Strasburg said it's part of the culture of Coloradans.
"You think about our relationship to mountains. For us, they're the most serious. We're seriously into our beer. We're seriously into our cannabis. We're seriously into our skiing or snowboarding. We're serious. This is a serious community, and we take our music seriously. And I think that's why the Grateful Dead and The Grateful Dead's music resonate so much here," Strasburg said.
Furthermore, the economic impact of the three-night run in the City of Boulder is tremendous.
"We look at ticket sales, we look at the average daily rate in a hotel room. We have a limited capacity in Boulder for hotel rooms- we have about 3,000 hotel rooms, but still we're full," Charlene Hoffman, the CEO of Visit Boulder, said.
Restaurants were ready for the crowds by bringing in more staff, Hoffman said, and the city anticipated higher retail sales as well. For all three nights, an anticipated 120,000 people were expected to walk through the doors of Folsom Field. The city expected between $35 to $50 million in economic impact as a result of the three shows.
“This is money spent in the city from out-of-towners. So, the people that we expect to come to the show are probably 50% out-of-towners and 50% residents. So, we're looking at the economic impact of people that are coming from outside the community. That's new spending in Boulder," Hoffman explained.
Even though Dead & Company is finishing The Final Tour this month, the music cannot be stopped here in Colorado.
"It's critical that we as a community recognize how important our culture is and not take it for granted. We live in it every day, and we sometimes forget how special it is," Strasburg said. "You don't say goodbye [to the Grateful Dead]. Every moment that passes is essentially a goodbye. So, you just look toward the future.”