I’m 48, so I’m old enough to know all about the Grateful Dead, and although I’ve liked them well enough for many years, I can’t count myself as a real fan, hence my question.
What was it about them that made the hippies/potheads/insert label such devoted fans that they (many/some) saw hundreds of their shows per year? There are other bands that inspire loyalty, with fans who travel hours and hundreds of miles to see multiple concerts, but few in such an almost mythic dose (Phish seems to come closest since the Dead). What separated them from the pack along this particular point?
Their songs (so far as I know) didn’t explicity pander to the drug set (in terms of lyrics, at least not any more than other bands – they weren’t the folk-rock version of Cheech and Chong, in other words), and although they were a jam style band, they weren’t the only ones. A lot of jazz consists of jamming (as well as rock during the 60s and 70s), and while it can be argued the jazz musicians were notorious drug users, you never hear about Birdheads (in reference to Charlie Parker-I know he died in the mid-50s, but he’s just an example).
So was it mainly a relaxed, intimate style, a festival with "5 or 30,000 of our closest friends, a jam session sort of atmosphere at their concerts? A kind of, “hey man, chill out, smoke a doobie, and get into the music and let it flow” sort of thing? I know they allowed (encouraged?) fans to record their concerts, but was there a particular reason they inspired an almost fanatical devotion (no “almost” about it, but otherwise, the reference wouldn’t work)?
Please dopers, fight my ignorance. 'Preciate it.