'Deadheads' pack into Oracle Park for Dead and Company's final tour

Thousands of "deadheads" rolled into San Francisco to catch the final shows of Dead and Company's farewell tour.

The Grateful Dead spinoff band kicked off the concert Friday night at Oracle Park. It's the first of three to take place this weekend and for many "deadheads" it was a night to remember. 

Fans said the music spoke to them in a special way that brings them together. It's the ‘summer of love 2023’ for 40,000 deadheads who packed into the ballpark.

"I was 18 the first time I saw them and I haven't stopped since," said Oceania Castellini, a fan who arrived from Maui. "I see as many shows as possible."

Castellini planned to attend all three shows at Oracle. She said deadheads are a community.

"We're all connected in some way. We get to share the music and the sound together," Castellini said. "We create this frequency and vibration you get to share with the earth and the world."

The Haight-Ashbury was present at the ballpark parking lot as vendors peddled tie-dye shirts and other symbols of the Bay Area counterculture. The vibe of the 60s was unmistakable.

"You can meet a total stranger and become very close friends in a very fast way," said Tony Jenkins of San Francisco.

Eric Bergeson, a fan and musician, said he writes and performs music he wrote that is inspired by the Grateful Dead. The 27-year-old said the group's appeal is multi-generational and transcends age.  

"Their music is just alive. It just keeps on living," said Bergeson. "Every time they come on stage, it's brand new. It's growing and changing and evolving."   

"This is their first album. That's San Francisco 1967 baby," said Joel Selvin as he pulled out his collection of the Grateful Dead's music. 

Selvin is a former San Francisco Chronicle pop music critic. He said this final tour will not be the last time fans will see members of this group.  

"It's a party that won't stop and people keep wanting to go to," said Selvin. "The Grateful Dead was the center of the San Francisco musical revolution of the Haight-Ashbury era."  

Jerry Garcia the grateful dead's leader died in 1995 at the age of 53. But fans' interest in his music never dimmed.

"The storytelling written into the fabric of the lyrics of the songs and the musicianship combined is really extraordinary," said Jenkins.  

"The band is really, really incredible at reading the audience and playing off of their energy more so than any band I've seen," said Bergeson. 

All three shows were sold out. 

While dead and company said this is their final tour, fans said their music will live on.

Amber Lee is a reporter with KTVU. Email Amber at Amber.Lee@Fox.com or text/leave message at 510-599-3922. Follow her on Facebook @AmberKTVU,  Instagram @AmberKTVU  or Twitter @AmberKTVU.