Concerts have always been my guilty– or not so guilty– pleasure.

There’s just something about being in communion with thousands of other people with one focus. From the time you walk through the doors of the venue, or get out of your car in the case of a Dead show, you’re THERE. Everyone is, with few exceptions, in a heightened awareness of life. All senses are tuned.

It's All About the Music-Dead & Co Gorge Amphitheater, 2017

Music just digs into the soul like nothing else can except maybe for God, and for many those are one in the same. It makes me wonder how anyone can NOT love music. The small party band house shows I first saw in 8th and 9th grades down in SLO county just sparked my love of live music, pulling me toward anything played where I could experience it.

We would crowd around to watch long-haired, post-adolescent guys, drink from those red cups filled with beer that we probably didn’t even have to pay for, and hope one of those band dudes would talk to us or toss a pick. Why are teenagers so dumb?

But the music was a far bigger draw than hormones. Music trumped more things than I can count. It brings to mind something which I had completely forgotten until recently. I had a patient at work (I work on a medical unit in a large hospital), an elderly man with a severe case of chicken pox. This sparked discussion among the nursing staff about when we’d had it and how bad.

Flashback to June 1990.

I was 18 and I’d been married for a short three weeks. I was working the closing shift at Baywood Video in Los Osos, and I was tired and feeling like a popsicle. I was absolutely freezing. I cranked the heat up in the back room and huddled back there except when customers came in. People remarked how hot it was, but they did their renting and left. I closed quickly and went home to discover what I thought were fever blisters on my shoulders. I had the chills and the thermometer read 105.8 — but that couldn’t be right!

My next door neighbor is the one who diagnosed my chicken pox and started pushing fluids on me. She confirmed my fever with her thermometer as well. She made me take a cool bath to help bring the fever down. I couldn’t be sick! We had tickets to a show the next night and I would NOT be missing it. My husband and I left when he got home from work that evening and drove all the way up to my parent’s house in Concord. By the time we got there around 2 am, I was fully broken out with chicken pox from head to foot.


The show was Sunday night at Cal Expo in Sacramento. I was determined to go, so I took Tylenol and stayed on it enough to keep my fever down, we brought calamine lotion for the itchy spots, and stuck out our thumbs. Let’s just say thank God for deadheads, because they will give anyone a chance. We were picked up by a VW busload of hippies who gladly drove us all the way to Cal Expo. A couple of them looked concerned about my condition but most didn’t care.

We located some recreational supplements, dropped those and off we went. It was an awesome show! We had rented a motel room walking distance from the venue, so afterward the only thing we had to do was find it again. HA-HA! After several hours at the Shakedown Street area, we did manage to locate our sleeping quarters and eventually went to sleep. The music and the colors and everything… well, you know what I mean. 😉

We hitchhiked back down to Concord around noon, catching a ride with a paramedic who had been a medic at the show. He asked me, “Hey, do you know you’ve got chicken pox?” with a big grin. Yep, I know, man. It’s bad.

About a month later, our deadhead roommate Jenni returned from a couple week run of shows somewhere, reporting that a whole bunch of people had come down with chicken pox, all of whom had been at the show on June 10th. Oops.

I hope no one ended up REALLY sick from it. If I’d known then what I know now I probably wouldn’t have gone. And if you got chicken pox about three weeks after attending that show on June 10, 1990, you have my sincere apologies.

It was all about the music.