I started going to gospel concerts at Oakland Auditorium, which became Henry J. Kaiser. Every year, they would have all the best gospel groups in the country: the Mighty Clouds of Joy, the Swan Silvertones, the Soul Stirrers, the James Cleveland Choir.
You'd go into the auditorium, and there would be all black people in their Sunday finest, bright colors, and hundreds of ushers in white gloves. You'd wonder what that was about - and then you'd see people get the spirit, and go into epileptic seizures. These ushers would pick them up, carry them out into the hall, fan them, and carry them back in, when they came back to their bodies. I saw this one guy run from the back of the auditorium straight down the center aisle, and dive headfirst into the stage. I said, "That's what music is supposed to do - move you." Gospel music did it.
Music became my life. Then when I was in my fifth year of college, about to graduate, wondering what I was doing, I went to my first Dead show, the Trips Festival in January of '66, and I knew that that's where I was supposed to be. Thereafter, more music started happening, and I thought, "Finally, white people can play!"
Not sure where I want to go with that just yet -- lots to think about regarding race, performance, response to music as an experience, and more. For all I know, some Dead scholar may have plowed this field already, and I haven't bothered to look yet -- but I'm always interested at thinking about the Dead as an "American phenomenon" specifically in terms of race, and I might as well use this blog as a journal of my thinking about this.