The Wharf Rats are a group of concert-goers who have chosen to live drug and alcohol free. Our primary purpose at the shows is to make ourselves available to anyone who feels we may have something they want. We offer support, strength, fellowship and hope. Look for the yellow balloons, signs and the Wharf Rats information table.



Here is a little HISTORY OF THE WHARF RATS for some of you new comers. I wrote these words fourteen years ago….(Now many, many years ago…), they stand true today. YOU ARE A WHARF RAT IF YOU SAY YOU ARE-NO JUDGEMENT-NO REQUIREMENT! The Wharf Rats were founded by primarily clean and sober recovering addicts and alcoholics. What you find in the shows and generally throughout the wharf rat scene in no way resembles what the Wharf Rat scene started out as. The Wharf Rats have evolved and maturated if you will.

Wharf Rats started out as a group of people in recovery on tour. It began as friendships by Deadheads bonded by Grateful Dead music and mutual recovery from Drug and Alcohol addiction. Some of us feared disclosing our status as Deadheads at our AA and NA meetings. We also had to be extremely vigilant at Dead shows. Some of us realized that Unity is one of the greatest healing powers that we have in recovery. We knew that there were other clean and sober Deadheads around but where were they and how could we get them together? The catalyst for the Wharf Rat Group was the overwhelming since of isolation that addicts and alcoholics were subjected to in Dead shows when we had to go it alone. This was an extreme environment swirling with temptation. Many people fell through the cracks and got wasted.

The Grateful Dead created a home for Deadheads that could not be duplicated. The music and scene was much too fun to let it go of just because we sobered up and could no longer indulge our addictions. People blessed with recovery still went to shows. We danced and twirled but somehow a desire for those special bonds that we experienced in the rooms extended to tour. ” TOO MUCH OF EVERYTHING IS JUST ENOUGH” is one verse in the song ” I NEED A MIRACLE”. Our Twelve Steps tell us to ” practice these principles in all of our affairs”. It only seemed natural that we should gather together, hang out and have fun on tour. We typically would all descend on some local AA or NA meeting during our off days where we would continue to support each other. We began to organize, tour together and find strength in our connections to one another as Deadheads in Recovery. Those early days were much different than the way things are now. We gathered initially to party together drug free. No Table, No meetings and no real purpose other than to get together, have fun and stay clean.

Initially, We called the group “The Wharf Rat Group of Alcoholics Anonymous. ” That didn’t last long. AA General Service Office would have nothing to do with us which was a blessing in disguise. We met out in the open at Grateful Dead shows during the set breaks. Nothing Anonymous about that! We did not meet the criteria of holding an established regular meeting or singularity of purpose that the General Service office wanted. I think the fact that we met at only at Dead shows really freaked them out. We dropped our affiliations and just called ourselves Wharf Rats.

Early on a very different problem emerged which helped to define what we became. There were many Deadheads who saw our presence and spirit and wanted to be Wharf Rats some of whom had no problem with drugs or alcohol. Some had never used anything. Others were addicted to food , sex, gambling and the like but had no problem with chemicals. Still others were our family and friends who loved and supported us. This led to our very inclusive membership qualification “You are a Wharf Rat if you say you are”. Many ,many people would be very surprised if they really understood how well integrated the Wharf Rats are into the whole Grateful Dead scene, helping out in all sorts of circumstances and striking a unique source of Concert going magic for a myriad of Deadheads.
Several well-intentioned attempts to fashion the group in the mold of a traditional AA or NA 12 step group fell by the wayside. We really could not replace AA or NA in a meaningful way for most people nor should we. People need more than they can get on tour and at shows. Our niche became an entry point for Deadheads in crisis or a sort of safe zone for recovering Heads to support and love each other. Deadheads in recovery who had felt misunderstood in both Recovery meetings and by drug using folks at shows finally had a place of their own where we belonged. Some of us were such Big Addicts and such Big Deadheads that those infamous words in “TENNESSEE JED” became our Mantra! “THERE AIN’T NO PLACE I’D RATHER BE”. We became Wharf Rats to the core.
Who could of known that the synergy between recovery from addiction and The Grateful Dead Mojo would have so much power and meaning? So many of the lyrics we sang and danced to at shows became fixed in our minds as symbolic of another aspect of the new life with which we had been SO blessed to receive. Great old music took on entirely new dimensions. The beautiful music of the GRATEFUL DEAD with its’ multi-faceted authenticity rocked us into happy destiny as it soothed our souls. The musical truth blanketed our minds in light of the twelve steps for living. “I NEED A MIRACLE” ,”WHARF RAT”, “SCARLET BEGONIAS”, “THE WHEEL” and “”BLACK PETER” became Wharf Rat Anthems synonymous with various spiritual axioms of recovery. Deep lifelong friendships formed within the group. We became a Fellowship within a Fellowship. Yes, We began to enjoy the music even more than ever and we began to have more fun than we ever dreamed humanly possible all without the thought of using anything except our God, our Love, The Grateful Dead and Ourselves. What could be better? It really is “all about the music”. Don Bryant