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No Sleep ‘Til Wetlands: Concert Joe on His Record-Setting Year of Over a Thousand Concerts

Concert Joe Sarkis | February 23, 2018
concert joe relix grateful dead


Concert Joe has been a regular presence on the New York music circuit for over 40 years. He continues to track the live-music scene on his “concert hotline” at concertjoe.com, and connect with both fans and industry professionals through his newsletter. 

I started going to concerts in 1971. In 1972, I bought a ticket for every show at Central Park that summer. That was what really started it for me. I then met and learned from the greatest two concert-goers of all time, Ticket-Stub Stuey and Everynight Charley.

In 1989, I began petitioning The Guinness Book of World Records in London to create a category for “Most Concerts Attended in a Single Year.” I had seen over 500 concerts that year. They said that no one was interested, yet they had categories for “Loudest Pig Call” and for those who could throw a cow turd the farthest. My friends and I were seeing more shows and knew the NYC concert scene better than anyone [Legendary New York concert promoter] Ron Delsener would sometimes call me into his office and ask about up-and-coming bands and what I thought of his multiple lineups.

In 1991, the Grateful Dead played Madison Square Garden for nine nights. After the first show, I went to Wo Hop in Chinatown to eat. Mickey Hart and his friend were sitting at the table next to ours, and we spoke to him.

Then, for the next eight nights, I accomplished a feat never achieved before or since by any Deadhead. After seeing the Dead, I attended three full concerts in a single night. I did this for eight nights in a row, including four other shows per night on the Dead’s two off  nights in between the shows.

Ticket-Stub Stuey, who taught me everything, came up with an idea one night in line outside the Beacon Theatre. It was the middle of December 1991, and he said, “There’s still two weeks left in the year and you’ve already seen 750 concerts. Are you going to try for 1,000 next year?”

I was never attempting to achieve anything except for trying to see as many shows as possible. So I said, “I’ll never make that many shows.” Then, Stuey said, “Sure you can, I’ll help you,” and the rest is history.