In true Deadhead spirit, rain, hail and thunder seemed only to bring crowds together as they huddled in the concourse at University of Colorado Boulder’s Folsom Field to ride out the storm at the opening night of the annual Dead & Company concerts.

Just after 7 p.m., the two-night concert kicked off as the band ripped into “Not Fade Away,” riding the roar of an adoring crowd into a rousing version that steamed past the 10-minute mark. But fade away they did, at least temporarily, when lightning in the area forced Dead & Company to abandon the stage and event officials to clear Folsom’s stands at 7:20 p.m. Boulder was under a severe thunderstorm warning until 8:15 p.m.

Rain was falling steadily before that tune was over and only the band knows whether they already planned it, but the next number was in tune with the elements — at least somewhat: “Cold Rain and Snow.” The weather phased quickly into bad trip territory by 7:30 p.m. when the rain converted suddenly to hail that drove down in sheets, nearly obscuring from sight CU buildings just a couple of yards away.

Jeremy Papasso/Staff Photographer

John Mayer, left, and Bob Weir perform with Dead & Company Friday at Folsom Field at the University of Colorado campus in Boulder.

Steve Zlotnick , who splits his time between Laguna Beach, Calif., and Snowmass, was one of those trapped shoulder to shoulder on the concourse during the delay. Zlotnick remembered seeing his first Grateful Dead concert in 1970. Just last month, he saw Dead & Company at the Hollywood Bowl.

“Everybody together, dealing with the rain, pretty much just like Woodstock,” he joked. “Nothing has changed too much over the years, except that now Bobby looks like Jerry,” he said, alluding, of course, to guitarist Bob Weir and his departed iconic partner in crime, Jerry Garcia.

Dead & Company consists of former Grateful Dead members Bob Weir, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, along with John Mayer, Oteil Burbridge and Jeff Chimenti. Friday night’s concerts stoked many memories and passions for the band’s music.

Throughout the crowd gathered outside the gates of Folsom Field, psychedelic prints, dreadlocks and flower crowns abounded, consistent with a laid-back atmosphere that also smelled laden of marijuana. There were 24,000 tickets sold for Friday’s show and 31,000 for Saturday night. Many sought to score last-minute tickets and could be seen waving cash or asking around for tickets.

Before rain would drive the crowds to take shelter, many waited in the sunshine to enter the stadium. Robert Dancer , 51, of Ann Arbor, Mich., and his daughter, Casey Dancer, 24 , of Boulder, and Jessica Christofferson , 26, of North Dakota were among the crowd.

“This is more than just a concert — it’s an event,” Robert Dancer said. “It’s an event that all are welcome, no matter what you look like or who you are and the music is what brings everybody together. In a way, it’s church.”

Robert Dancer said seeing the band perform in Boulder has been a tradition for the past four years.

A number of others described listening to the band as a religious experience.

“I will listen to John Mayer sing Grateful Dead songs to me all day,” said Jenny Mueller , 36, of Seattle.

Nick Waterhouse , 32, of Denver, said his dad used to make him Grateful Dead mix tapes. He said he expected many in the crowd also were introduced to the band through their parents.

“We are here because it is a beautiful continuation of a tradition,” Waterhouse said. “John Mayer has added so much fun to it.”

With people pouring in from across the country to see the show, many hotel rooms were booked long before this week. One Boulder hotel, Millennium Harvest House, was overbooked by 100 rooms. Many who used third-party booking services only had a few days’ notice that they didn’t have a room waiting for them as planned.

Jeremy Papasso/Staff Photographer

Penny Lane carries two decorated umbrellas while walking around before the Dead & Company concert Friday at Folsom Field on Friday at the University of Colorado campus in Boulder.

Diana Day, 34, of Austin, said she was renting an Airbnb with friends.

Day, who is originally from Philadelphia, said something she most enjoys about the band’s music is how it connects people. She said no matter where she is, she can usually always find a fellow Deadhead to whom she can relate.

“(The band) means kindness and hopefulness,” she said. “It brings us together to get positive energy out, which some of us believes may actually make a difference.”

Cindy Bosch, 43, of Colorado Springs, managed to get a room at Millennium Harvest House. She attended the concert with her daughter, MacKenzie Bosch, 17.

Clad in a tie-dye tank top, Cindy Bosch said there was one song she hoped to hear most.

“I love ‘nothing left to do but smile, smile smile,’ it’s my favorite line,” she said of the song, “He’s Gone.”

Dead & Company will take the stage again at Folsom Field starting at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. For information on tickets, go to

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