I drove up to Hartford this past Sunday night and saw Dead & Company at their only Connecticut appearance. This was my first time being in a crowd of 25,000-30,000 people since the pandemic started. If you haven't been to a big live event since coronavirus restrictions have been put in place, some things have changed and some haven't.

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I purchased my tickets through Live Nation/Ticketmaster and received numerous emails and calls leading up to the concert informing me of the policies for entry. In order to get into the show, you had to show proof of your vaccination or proof that you've tested negative for Covid-19 within the past 48 hours. Xfinity made their policies for entry abundantly clear in signage, and for those like me who purchased their tickets prior the concert date, through e-mails, texts, and phone calls.

As you can imagine, there were a lot of people trying to sneak in. I have to give it up to the Xfinity Theater Hartford staff, they were doing what they were told to do, enforcing the policy. I saw a lot of angry, maskless faces, arguing that they "Had no cell signal, left it in the car, their friend has it," etc. Nope, go get it.

Photo by Large "Wharf Rat" Dave
Photo by Large "Wharf Rat" Dave

This was also the point in the line waiting for entry where social distancing becomes very hard to maintain. The main gate has three checkpoint squeezes: First, they asked for your vax card or test result, then the metal detector, and finally, your ticket check. All single file. I felt a little weird there, among the euphoric masses, walking through clouds of exhaled herb, vape juice, cigarette smoke, and draft beer breath. We made it though the line in about 10-15 minutes and walked into the open courtyard.

Photo by Large "Machete" Dave
Photo by Large "Machete" Dave

We bought an order of mushroom tacos from actor Danny Trejo's Taco stand (they were delicious by the way) and made our way to our seats. We had two in section 500, Row UU. Here's a tip - If one of you has the virtual tickets on your phone, make sure the other person that you're with has an image of it. They still ask for your ticket at each point of entry into the seats, and the process was causing delays.

Photo by Large" Trejo" Dave
Photo by Large" Trejo" Dave

Masks? Some had them on, most didn't. If you were working there, definitely, but I would estimate that 80%-90% of the crowd went without. Venue workers, if they weren't directing the crowd, were wiping down and spraying disinfectant on commonly touched surfaces throughout the night.

Photo by Large "Bertha" Dave
Photo by Large "Bertha" Dave

Dead & Company took the stage around 7:23 PM and launched into Shakedown Street, with Connecticut's own John Mayer deftly trading the signature licks with Bob Weir and the rest of the band. As soon as the lights went down, all you saw was bowls and joints being lit up all around the venue. Thick clouds of weed wafted through the air, mixing with waves of Nag Champa, Patchouli, and Axe body spray. I hadn't lost my taste or smell, that was good. (Today too, I can smell my coffee)

All in all, Dead & Company played a 18 song show over two sets and an encore:

Dead & Company - Sunday - September 5, 2021 - Xfinity Theater - Hartford, CT

  1. Shakedown Street
  2. Samson and Delilah
  3. He's Gone
  4. Big Railroad Blues
  5. Lost Sailor
  6. Saint if Circumstance
  7. Franklin's Tower
  8. China Cat Sunflower
  9. I Know You Rider
  10. St. Stephen
  11. William Tell Bridge
  12. The Eleven
  13. Drums
  14. Space
  15. All Along the Watchtower
  16. Wharf Rat
  17. Playing in the Band
  18. Werewolves of London

I'll leave you with some thoughts: Cannabis/Marijuana is now legal here in CT and my God, it was as abundant as you had probably imagined at a Dead show.

If you're sensitive to that smell, bring your mask. I had Covid-19, and I'm also vaxxed. I don't feel "safe" per se, but, I do feel as if I may have better immunity than most. I still brought my vax card, mask, and hand sanitizer with me, and my common sense. If you've been isolating at home like most of us, it can be overwhelming to see and smell this:

Photo by Large "Weed, Patchouli, Draft Beer" Dave
Photo by Large "Weed, Patchouli, Draft Beer" Dave

Prepare yourself mentally to be around people again, to have someone touch you as they squeeze by, or to have your neighbor excitedly scream "ST. STEPHEN" in your ear. What a long, strange trip it's been, indeed.

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