Vendors’ Party Over at Dead’s Concerts


So, like, last summer Ed Duffy was raking the kind buck at Grateful Dead shows selling Central American clothing. Last winter he was pushing his product in a shopping mall, the victim of a ban on vending at concerts.

One of rock music’s longest-lasting acts imposed the ban last fall, ending a virtual 25-year party at which fans and vendors set up tent cities before shows and entrepreneurial neo-hippies hawked everything from Thai jewelry to vegetable burritos.

The Grateful Dead opened its spring tour at the Capital Centre in Landover, Md. Some vendors who tried to sell their goods were handled in strict fashion by security guards, Duffy said.

The ban may have signaled the end of a subculture that had grown to include its own language, food and dress. “The party was over, they admitted that. No more circus,” Duffy said. “Now, it’s like going to see the Knicks. . . . I was into the scene.”


One of the clearest examples of the Dead subculture is its peculiar jargon. Kind is the biggest Grateful Dead buzzword, meaning good or healthy. The term comes from the song “Uncle John’s Band,” in which lead singer Jerry Garcia asks, “Are you kind?” Dude is used quite frequently, and like is well, like, you know, used almost as punctuation.

“A lot of the scene goes beyond music,” said Eric Rittenhouse, who supported himself for two years by traveling to Central America and Asia buying jewelry to sell at shows.

So, dude, like what it all means is that the kind Dead vendors who were styling when they were raking at shows are now scamming another way to keep eating.

Rittenhouse, 32, took a job in commercial property management last winter in Los Angeles.

Duffy, 28, spent the winter with his brother, Tim, 25, selling Guatemalan, Peruvian and Ecuadorean clothing and accessories at shopping malls and flea markets in Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York.

Sherri Greif, 28, has managed to keep running her business, FractalVision, selling psychedelic computer-generated posters, stickers and videos. The ban, however, has had an impact.

“A Dead show is a concentration of people who are really into the kind of art we do. So it’s not really the same,” Greif said.

Deadheads say that in addition to putting an end to vending, the ban has ended a way of life. Gone are the super-kind veggie burrito and organic fried rice and the Dead’s eccentric entourage. They’ve been replaced by fast food and department stores.