People walking in and out of the Dead Images tent at the Allgood Festival left with many emotions.
All encountered a complex and bittersweet combination of joy and sadness. And what, you may ask, was going down at the Dead Images booth? An historical and musical account of a band that was the springboard for hundreds of bands and even the festival circuit as we now know it…the good ole Grateful Dead. And at the helm of this “eyes of the world” that brought out all these feelings and memories is the photographic genius of Robbi Cohn.
Robbi, who saw her first Dead show in 1970,
has been a fixture in the Grateful Dead world since the 1980’s, when she started to photograph the band, show after show. Her pictures began to pop up in the parking lot, and then made their way onto Grateful Dead calendars. Then, almost magically, her pics were everywhere… in Toni Brown’s Relix Magazine, in Deadbase, on J. Garcia hang tags and on officially licensed postage stamps from Mongolia and Montserrat, just to cite a few. Many of these images are iconic…practically everyone from Grateful Dead tour has seen them. The picture of Bobby whispering into Jerry’s ear while Jerry cups his ear to better hear, has been seen all over the lots of Grateful Dead shows. Or, who can forget the incredible picture that evokes “sense and color” of Jerry’s blue hair blowing in the wind as he sang “Birdsong”. The list goes on.
After a 7 year personal hiatus, Robbi is back, with literally hundreds of pictures, many new, to share with old and new generations. The pictures have the date/venue, and many have the song being sung at the time of the click of her 35 mm camera. (Yes, these are NOT digital, all are done in a darkroom by Robbi.) I personally was overwhelmed by the conversations in the tent at AllGood. So many already owned some of her pictures they purchased years ago, and these framed masterpieces are now in their homes and offices. And it appears that many images will be finding their way into others homes, offices and hearts.
Robbi asked me to come on board with her that weekend and our goal is to get Robbi to start shooting the numerous bands that are now playing festivals and shows all year round. The images she captures share the emotion expressed by the members of the Grateful Dead. And her shots include the numerous guests of the band while they jammed onstage. Upon looking at these pictures, one can easily see the unspoken communication between each musician as they became one in the “group mind” aspect that is familiar territory to jamband fans and musicians.
What really made an impression on me were the memories that we all shared of the band that whole weekend at AllGood. Countless stories of shows, setlists, and personal adventures were freely talked about and all the while I could see the smile spreading on Robbi’s face. She’s back home.
We’ll be at Sunshine Daydream Graeful Garcia B-day Bash this month and several other festivals and shows all this year and next. PLEASE come by and say hello, see the history, relieve your dreams, and help us all to smile, smile, smile!!
— Rusty Kiley
(Robbi’s photo’s come matted or framed. You can view these at her website, www.deadimages.com You will be amazed when you see them up close and personal.)