An old high school friend passed away recently after attending a concert by Furthur.
His name was Aaron Plunkett, proprietor of a store in Rochester called Aaron’s Alley. The shop carried all kinds of eclectic stuff, including tie-die shirts and retro clothing. One of the last times I visited Aaron, I bought a brick of nag champa incense. It’s something I burn when I am doing a lot of writing or just need to relax.
Of course, my first reaction to the news of Aaron passing away at age 47 was sorrow. The funny thing is that of all the kids I went to high school with, he changed the least in appearance over the years. Our semi-annual conversations in his store were always a great combination of catching up and looking back.
After his death sunk in, I began to reflect on our youth and the crowd we used to hang out with and the music we listened to together. A lot of it was audience recordings of Grateful Dead shows. Some nights we listened to them for hours on end.
What I miss most about that era is that listening to music was communal experience.
Imagine an apartment filled with cigarette smoke, littered with empty pizza boxes and half-filled beer cans and bottles (one never knew when you would mistakenly drink a beer with a cigarette butt in it). The music was in the background but on occasion it would creep to the forefront and give us some talking points.
In the case of the Grateful Dead, there was always discussion revolving around whether the show we were listening to was a good one or a bad one. What’s funny is that, at the time, they all sounded alike to me. It has been only in the last ten years I really have listened to The Grateful Dead with a discerning ear.