Originally Published on April 23, 2015

The Grateful Dead is preparing for their own funeral. After 50 years of performing, the legendary band is calling it quits for good. After the death of lead guitarist and vocalist Jerry Garcia, the band essentially disbanded, only reuniting for a handful of shows. Over the years, Grateful Dead has seen numerous members leave and join the band. In July, the remaining members will host its “ Fare Thee Well” shows, a three-day concert at Chicago’s Soldier Field. The event is sold out, but many Deadheads look back to a time when the band was a whole.
Birmingham was one of the last cities to see the late Jerry Garcia before he passed on August 9, 1995. One attendee, who will be called “ Emma Rose” to protect her identity, was at that show.
Emma Rose had seen several Grateful Dead shows in her time, but it was its 1995 concert in Birmingham that she remembers the most. It was because on April 5, 1995 Rose witnessed a legend raised from the dead.
On the evening of the show, Rose and her friends pulled into the parking lot of the Birmingham- Jefferson Civic Center.
“Okay, nobody do any drugs tonight,” one friend said to Rose and company.
Most of the group behaved, but not too long after her friend’s lecture, Rose encountered a man she described as a hippie who had an offer that she could not refuse: acid.
“He came up to me and said, ‘I will sell you five tabs for five dollars,’ and I was like that seems like a pretty good deal,” Rose said.
One tab of LSD in, she had already lost her friends and proceeded to enter the concert hall. As a novice with drugs, she wasn’t sure how she should feel. But once the lights began to flicker, signaling the beginning of the concert, she popped the rest of the tabs in her mouth. While the friends she had lost were nowhere to be found, she ran into an acquaintance named John before the show started.
Then she saw him.
Jimi Hendrix took the stage. He stood inches away from lead singer Jerry Garcia, doing what he did best: playing guitar. As Rose recalls it, “the audience went wild.” But Rose herself could not utter a sound; instead, she stood silent, taking in the guitar player’s performance. It was the most amazing thing she’d ever seen.
But the next day around noon, when Rose finally started to get her wits, she remembered something.
“I was like ‘Jimi Hendrix is dead.’” Rose said. “I had hallucinated the whole thing.”
But for Rose, the experience felt real somehow. It was as real as Jerry Garcia being on stage.
“That’s the image I have of him and light shining down on him,” Rose said. “I knew the whole experience was different. Everything was colorful and bright and felt like there were spirits all around.”
Rose never found her friends that night. Instead she stayed with John, the friend she had run into earlier. The rest is a haze.
“It’s funny that I remember anything about it,” Rose said. “But it was because of the Jimi Hendrix thing and that was so clear.”
Today, the now-mother does not consider herself much of the Deadhead she used to be. Her friends from the concert have since moved on, but they occasionally connect on Facebook. While a few songs might be on her playlist, she doesn’t have any plans to attend the Grateful Dead’s farewell concert in Chicago. Though her days as a traveling Deadhead may be over, she said she would always remember the Birmingham concert. It is because memories are all she has. No ticket stubs. No band memorabilia from her younger and more vulnerable years.
“Just memories,” Rose said. “They are a little hazy, but good.”

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