When the Parking Lot Is Its Own Strange Trip

Outside Dead & Company shows, a tradition started by the Grateful Dead lives on, vivid uniforms and all.

Manny Taboada in the lot at Hershey Park, in Hershey, Pa. “The Grateful Dead has taught me that love, kindness and acceptance are the key to the world.”Credit…OK McCausland for The New York Times

When the Parking Lot Is Its Own Strange Trip

Outside Dead & Company shows, a tradition started by the Grateful Dead lives on, vivid uniforms and all.

Manny Taboada in the lot at Hershey Park, in Hershey, Pa. “The Grateful Dead has taught me that love, kindness and acceptance are the key to the world.”Credit…OK McCausland for The New York Times

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Parking lots outside Grateful Dead shows were the stuff of lore, and that tradition has continued with Dead & Company, the post-Jerry Garcia incarnation of the band featuring John Mayer.

This summer, as the band tours the United States, the party outside the show is alive and well, though depending on location, each has a unique flavor. In New York City, when you’re exiting the subway at Citi Field, you can see Shakedown Street — as the legendary lot scene is known (named after a 1978 album by the Grateful Dead) — across from the stadium.

For a show in Boulder, Colo., you’re on a college campus. In Saratoga Springs, N.Y., at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, you’re in a state park on grass in the woods by cornfields.

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Keith Wilson and Zulma Gonzalez peek inside their bus in the parking lot of Hershey Park.Credit…OK McCausland for The New York Times

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Elwood Broad watches the crowd head to the stadium in Hershey Park. “Time to get on the bus! When you go to a Dead show, it’s called ‘time to get on the bus’. Long live Jerry!”Credit…OK McCausland for The New York Times

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Making grilled cheese after the show at SPAC.Credit…OK McCausland for The New York Times

On Aug. 27 and Aug. 28, the photographer OK McCausland captured the culture outside two shows: in Saratoga Springs and at Hershey Park in Hershey, Pa.

When I see these pictures, I like to close my eyes and imagine I’m walking from my old Volvo station wagon to a huge open field, with row after row of colorful VW vans, R.V.s and buses. People young and old, sitting atop or just next to their vehicles, as if the lot is their front lawn. Some play music, others play games or barbecue or do anything else one can imagine while tailgating to see their favorite band.

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A man playing guitar outside SPAC.Credit…OK McCausland for The New York Times

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Friends decked in tie-dye at SPAC.Credit…OK McCausland for The New York Times

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A man shows off his back tattoo while walking around the lot at SPAC.Credit…OK McCausland for The New York Times

Strangers stop strangers just to say hello when a smile is exchanged. It’s electric and contagious. The lot is like the greatest outdoor flea market in the world, with vendors all selling your favorite stuff, whatever that may be. Often the stuff finds you — things you didn’t even know you were looking for.

Everyone seems to know each other, and no one looks out of place. It’s not about what they wear; it’s how they wear it. The style is captivating.

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A woman parades a rainbow umbrella through the lot at Hershey Park.Credit…OK McCausland for The New York Times

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Hanging out before the Hershey Park show.Credit…OK McCausland for The New York Times

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A customized traveling bus at SPAC.Credit…OK McCausland for The New York Times

I’m drawn to people that have been wearing a T-shirt that’s seen hundreds of shows. I call it “worn in,” not worn out. Maybe it has holes from a joint or just from wear, and fits the body like a second skin.

One of the most beautiful things about Dead style to me is that it oozes authenticity. Fans may be wearing their favorite shirts, but they don’t appear dressed up in costume. They are in uniform. A group of people who wear the clothes rather than the other way around. Everyone looks so comfortable and familiar to one another, like family. (There is a lot of biological family, too: grandparents, parents and children.) Young and old, they bring style.

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A young woman selling Grateful Dead T-shirts and blankets in the parking lot of Hershey Park.Credit…OK McCausland for The New York Times

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The late Jerry Garcia’s hand dyed into the back of a fan’s head at SPAC. Mr. Garcia lost part of his middle finger in an accident as a child.Credit…OK McCausland for The New York Times

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Galen, who’s been touring with the Grateful Dead since the 1980s, sits in the SPAC lot. “I tour for the people- watching. Always people to see.”Credit…OK McCausland for The New York Times

Until a few years ago, you’d have to be there or have a friend bring you back a T-shirt or sticker, but thanks to Instagram the lot has grown.

As you’re outside the show, whether in person or online, you may be looking at a vendor who’s been traveling in the scene for 50 years or a 15-year-old wearing his father’s old T-shirt; sometimes it’s hard to tell the new from the old. And inside the venue, the band plays on.

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In Hershey Park, what a long, long night it’s been.Credit…OK McCausland for The New York Times

Mordechai Rubinstein is the author of “Dead Style: A Long Strange Trip Into the Magical World of Tie-Dye.” OK McCausland is a photographer in New York City.

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