From the outside, the Furthur Festival that played Camden's Waterfront Entertainment Centre two weekends ago looked like a Dead show, sounded like a Dead show, and, as lighters flickered and lit joints bobbed, smelled like a Dead show, too.
But it wasn't. And it will never be again.
Almost a year after Garcia's death on Aug. 9 and a half-year after the surviving Dead members announced the band would be no more, fans of the tunes, and the life that went with it, are facing the music. For years - for decades - ``tour'' has been a way of life, a rite of passage, an electric Kool-Aid Christmas, and a trip to a psychedelic Disneyland all rolled into one. Tour was the hook that 'Heads hung their faith on, the rock-solid certainty they built their summers and, in some cases, their lives around.
What happens when, for the first time in more than a generation, there's no more tour, no more parking-lot groove-in, no more shows?
What happens to Deadheads when there's no more Grateful Dead?
``They go on with their lives,'' said Dennis McNally, the Dead's longtime publicist, now traveling with the Furthur caravan. ``That question contains an inaccurate premise: that all Deadheads are the people in the parking lot whose lives were the Grateful Dead.
``The vast, vast, vast majority always were people with lives, for whom the shows were enriching, and lovely, good fellowship, and a learning experience that exposed them to all kinds of music. When Jerry Garcia died and the Dead were no more, that was painful and sad. But it wasn't the end of anyone's life.
``You take the lessons you learned - to always question authority, to always look for joy - and you go on,'' McNally continued. ``You go, if you'll forgive the plug, further.''
Surviving band members have gone on. Guitarist Bob Weir and his band Ratdog are at Furthur, which will play 31 shows this month and next. So is percussionist Mickey Hart with his Mystery Box, a world-beat roots act fronted by five female singers known as the Mint Juleps. Hart also composed music heard at the Olympics' opening ceremony. Keyboardist Vince Welnick's formed a band, Missing Man Formation, and is composing songs. And bass player Phil Lesh is working on a symphony that will incorporate ``Terrapin'' and other Dead tunes.
But a Dead reunion looks unlikely. Last month, the former Dead members were guest performers with the San Francisco Symphony. Tie-dyed fans made pilgrimages to the concert, hoping for one more rendition of ``Eyes of the World,'' but heard only the avant-garde, decidedly non-Dead strains of composer John Cage.
``I think for some people, it [was] a sad reminder that the band is really over,'' Deadhead Pete Lavezzoli, who traveled from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said at the time.
And now there's Furthur, which has lots of similarities in crowd and conduct and music and mood, but isn't a Dead show by any means. Dead shows sold out almost instantaneously. At Camden, a casual concertgoer was able to stroll to the box office and buy a ticket at 5 p.m., midway through Hot Tuna's opening set.
The Furthur tour, said McNally, is averaging audiences of 10,000 on weeknights, 20,000 on weekends. Not sell-outs, but respectable enough to ensure that the fest could go on again next summer.
``None of the promoters lost money,'' McNally said. ``They're not Grateful Dead-level crowds . . . but there's a bumper sticker I like: `Same Experience, Different Tour.' ''
Philadelphia-area fans - many of whom hadn't seen each other since last summer - certainly seemed to think so.
``It's the same crowd, the same feeling,'' said Grace Pipkins, 27, of Coventry, chasing her 3-year-old son Greg around a patch of grass outside the Camden amphitheater. ``For me, and I'm sure for other people, it wasn't just about Jerry, it was about being a family.''
As intrinsic as Garcia was to the band's sound and mythology, say some Deadheads, his death won't end Deadhead-dom. Neither will the band's decision in December not to carry on.
``This is an entire culture, with its own music, its own language and its own values,'' said Seth Glass, who works, with Gladys ``Mom'' Glass, at the Woodstock Trading Co. in Cherry Hill, one of the 'Head hubs in the Philadelphia area. ``I think the death of Garcia has forced some people to grow up a little bit. . . . There's a silver lining. I think there are people who've had to get lives. . . . There are people with addresses and phone numbers [for the first time] now.''
The frantic calls Mom received at Woodstock Trading and the thousands of sympathy cards sent to Grateful Dead headquarters in Novato, Calif., have tapered off now that Jerry's dead and gone, thoroughly eulogized in magazines from Newsweek to High Times. The lost souls who dwelled on the fringe of Deadhead-dom - showing up at the shows but often without the means, or desire, to actually see the show; bumming rides from city to city and making a tenuous living selling food, T-shirts, or other in-demand substances - have gone back to parents or whatever real life they left behind. A few, said Gladys Glass, ``are still wandering, still searching.''
Some have attached themselves to another scene. They've turned their musical attention, and concert dollars, toward jam-happy ``baby Dead'' bands such as Phish, God Street Wine, the Dave Matthews Band, and Blues Traveler. Others have used their new-found time to plan the summer's many Dead tributes, drum circles, spoken-word events, and Garcia memorials (including one in Camden's Wiggins Park next Sunday).
David Andrews, 32, from New Hampshire, said Garcia's death made him feel ``a little older, and sort of mortal.'' He found fulfillment at a Phish show.
``It's like a new generation, but the feeling is the same,'' said Andrews, who keeps in touch with his Dead friends via the Internet. ``With the Dead, the crowd was as much a part of the scene as the band, and I see the same thing with Phish.''
Other fans have gotten their fix through Dead records, and memorabilia that has proliferated in malls throughout the land. For about 10 weeks after Garcia's death, Grateful Dead Merchandising, which normally sells in the neighborhood of $10 million a year, handled 20 times its normal volume of orders.
But for many fans, if it's not the Dead, it's not worth it.
David Shenk, 30, a veteran of ``60 or 70 shows,'' is the co-author of a book about the Dead. Skeleton Key gives a working definition of all things Dead, from ``reformed Deadheads'' to ``rail rats.'' With a stack of tapes stretching to his ceiling, the New York resident is a Dead devotee. But when Weir and Hart came to town in Furthur, he passed.
``Why didn't I go? The short answer is, I'm busy on another book. The long answer?'' Shenk thought it over. ``Well, if it had been a Dead show I probably would have made more of an effort to be there. But I have a life. We all have normal lives with all sorts of other priorities and other interests.
``Part of being a Deadhead is that you're enthusiastic about all sorts of other things - other music, and other experiences. There are all sorts of magical things in life besides the Grateful Dead.''
There are also the tapes. Unlike most acts, the Dead encouraged fans to record their shows, which means there is aural documentation of practically every Dead concert, from the '70s right on up. And for some, playing tapes, trading set lists, and going on-line to talk to other fans is all the fix they'll ever need.
``You have to understand that right now there's probably a Dead concert going on in someone's living room,'' Shenk said.
``As long as we have the tapes,'' echoed Seth Glass, ``we can go on.''
That's good news for fans, bad news for people who make their money on concert dollars. Without the Dead, consistently among the top-grossing acts on the road, overall concert industry revenue is substantially down this year, says the trade journal Pollstar. That suggests that for every Deadhead who spends his or her bucks on another act, there are others who just say no, and spend their time doing ``magical things'' that won't end up lining Ticketmaster's pockets.
What happens to Deadheads when there's no more Grateful Dead? They wind up with more money and more time.
Steven Saltzman, 33, a journalist from New York, says his life changed when the Dead disbanded: ``September from 1977 on meant going to see the Dead up and down the East Coast, and that's not there anymore.
``I'd much prefer that Garcia was around, but in some ways, my life's changed for the better. It used to occupy a lot of time - getting the tickets, getting to the stadium.''
``There is definitely a silver lining,'' said Seth Glass. ``I know there are a lot of people who now have lives. There are people whose lives may have been saved because Jerry lost his. They have to rely on themselves because they can't rely on him anymore. It's sad, but I know that it's true.''
IF YOU GO * The Dancing Bear Festival in honor of Jerry Garcia will be held from 2 to 11 p.m. next Sunday at Camden's Wiggins Park Riverstage, Mickle Boulevard and the Delaware River, next to the New Jersey State Aquarium. Among the 12 bands performing will be Splintered Sunlight, Brother Thump and EDO. Tickets: $15 at the Middle East, 126 Chestnut St. (215-922-3278); Ticketmaster (215-336-2000 or 609-338-9000), and at the gate. Information: 215-922-3278.