The Grateful Dead
It seems that the Grateful Dead and I are both celebrating our 50th birthdays this year. When I first heard about the 3 final shows the Grateful Dead would reunite for, I readied myself at the computer and clicked away being repeatedly rejected as the 3 nights quickly sold out. I soon gave up hope of participating at this final event on July 4th weekend. Then in April my good friend Brian offered me a Sunday night ticket to the last Dead show ever in Chicago (or anywhere else for that matter) as a birthday gift. Thanks B.
July 4th weekend came around and it was time to get to Chicago. Many of my friends were headed there from various places. Some of them were flying in, some rented a car then would fly home, but no one was road tripping in both directions between NYC and Chicago. So I hopped on Bonnie and headed west.
I hadn’t time to plan or pack properly. I tried to pack as if I were going on an extended journey. I tried. Immediately I began to realize I had left things behind for a long trip. Whatever, I was going to Chicago regardless. Nothing was stopping me. Then POP! My rear inner tube blew! I’ve always wondered what happens in such a situation. In this case, it turns out it wasn’t that bad. I heard a muffled poof and felt a jiggle. Then it felt like bumps in the road. But when I pulled over I saw my rear flat tire. I called AMA for help. They are a reliable service. But while the operator put me on hold to check for places in the area, this guy from the Indiana Toll Road Service showed up. His name was Dennis and he was super helpful. Before the AMA operator returned to the call, Dennis had already dispatched a tow and called his wife to check the size of an old tire he had in the garage. He said I could have the tire and his wife would bring it to the place where I was being towed to. Thank you sir!
It turns out my tire was fine and I just needed a new tube. The tow truck came in a short while and the bike shop was in the nearby town.
Tragedy averted. The truck brought me to North End Cycle, a fully equipped bike shop and showroom.
My inner tube had completely exploded! They had my size in stock and I would be on my way toward Chicago in a little over an hour.
Besides a large showroom of new and used bikes, North End Cycle had this classic police trike in the back.
Back on the road. Another 200 miles and I rolled in to Chicago!
Because of the blow out I arrived in Chicago much later than planned. At this point all my friends had gone to the show already. I found the hotel where I would be staying this night, dropped off my bags, parked the bike, hopped on the subway and headed to Soldier Field.
I had no ticket for this night and I had a lot of company in that respect.
Folks all over the surrounding area of the stadium walked around with their fingers raised hoping for a ticket into the sold out show.
People everywhere were looking for tickets.
That dude on the left is holding up a wad of cash instead of a finger.
I figured there was no way I was getting into the show this night.
Then as I approached one of the tunnels into the stadium I heard someone offering someone a ticket for $250. Then he quickly went down to $200. The guy rejected the offer. I walked up and said that I just rode in from NYC and would love to see the show. He said “New York City! Do you know AJ?” Uh, no. Then he offered me the ticket for face value! YES! I was in!
Amazing! I met up with my friend Gral and more than 70,000 happy people to see the end of an era.
There was some question about Jerry Garcia’s replacement. Those huge shoes were filled by Trey Anastasio from the band Phish. Trey took on the task with the enthusiasm of a kid in a candy store and did an exceptional job.
JULY 3, 2015, SOLDIER FIELD, CHICAGO
- “Box Of Rain” (Phil Lesh lead vocals)
- “Jack Straw” (Bob Weir and Phil Lesh lead vocals)
- “Bertha” (Trey Anastasio lead vocals)
- “Passenger” (Bob Weir and Bruce Hornsby lead vocals)
- “The Wheel” (Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Trey Anastasio, Bruce Hornsby vocals)
- “Crazy Fingers” (Trey Anastasio lead vocals)
- “The Music Never Stopped” (Bob Weir lead vocals
- “Mason’s Children”
- “Scarlet Begonias” (Trey Anastasio lead vocals)
- “Fire On The Mountain” (Bruce Hornsby lead vocals)
- “New Potato Caboose” (Phil Lesh lead vocals)
- “Playing In The Band” (Bob Weir lead vocals)
- “Let It Grow” (Bob Weir lead vocals)
- “Help On The Way” (Trey Anastasio lead vocals)
- “Franklin’s Tower” (Phil Lesh lead vocals)
- “Ripple” (encore, Bob Weir and Phil Lesh vocals)
I bumped into Rob, a guy I hadn’t seen in over a decade. And coincidentally he had sold my other friends extra tickets for Saturday’s show! Woo Hoo! I was good for all three nights!
The next day I moved to my friend Jake’s Hotel at the Langham. This joint was first class! Thanks Jake!
Happy 4th of July!
On Saturday we left early and headed toward the stadium.
Grant Park is between the hotel and Soldier Field. The Art Institute of Chicago is within the park much like the MET in NYC.
Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate is aside the museum. Commonly known as The Bean, it reflects the city and all who approach it.
Also in the park is the beautiful pavillion designed by Frank Gehry.
We brought a nerf football. B Fox nabs a long toss from Elks.
Today there was time to do the whole scene. On the south side of the stadium is the parking lot where the Deadhead equivalent of a tailgate party is taking place. This is what is missing at any other event that has taken place in Dead reconfigurations or solo acts in the past twenty years. This scene is strictly Grateful Dead.
Chicago was truly welcoming to the Grateful Dead fans. Security was present but unnoticeable and people freaked freely!
This motley medly of friendly folk surrounded the stadium.
This dude was super proud to have ridden his bike down from Saskatchewan, Canada!
These ladies were offering ecrutrements as a little extra flashy accessory.
I’m Uncle Sam. That’s who I am!
The parking lot grill offering yummy kabobs!
I bumped into this girl who had done a cross country trip of her own which she proudly displays as a colorful tattoo on her arm.
People of all ages prepared for the big July 4th show.
Of course people drove their old buses to the show.
This camper was hooked up.
They offered me a seat and a bottle opener as I passed.
You will see your share of cool old cars too.
And the vanity tags which say, “Please pull me over!”
It would not be a Dead show without a Hare Krishna pass by.
The files of people calmly flowed closer and closer to the stadium.
On this night, I didn’t need my ticket. I had one, I just didn’t need it. As I approached the stadium someone threw the door open at gate 5 and started waving people in. So I entered Soldier Field unimpeded. Between the Doric columns from the original 1924 facade and the 2003 renovation The flocks flowed for a second night of good times!
JULY 4, 2015, SOLDIER FIELD, CHICAGO
- “Shakedown Street” (Bob Weir lead vocals)
- “Liberty” (Bob Weir lead vocals)
- “Standing On The Moon” (Trey Anastasio lead vocals)
- “Me & My Uncle” (John Phillips cover, Bob Weir lead vocals)
- “Tennessee Jed” (Bob Weir, Trey Anastasio, Bruce Hornsby lead vocals)
- “Cumberland Blues” (Trey Anastasio, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Bruce Hornsby vocals)
- “Little Red Rooster” (Willie Dixon cover, Bob Weir lead vocals)
- “Friend Of The Devil” (Phil Lesh lead vocals)
- “Deal” (Trey Anastasio and Bruce Hornsby lead vocals)
- “Bird Song” (Phil Lesh lead vocals)
- “The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)” (Trey Anastasio and Bruce Hornsby lead vocals)
- “Lost Sailor” (Bob Weir lead vocals)
- “Saint Of Circumstance” (Bob Weir lead vocals)
- “West L.A Fadeaway” (Bruce Hornsby lead vocals)
- “Foolish Heart” (Trey Anastasio lead vocals)
- “Stella Blue” (Bob Weir lead vocals)
- “One More Saturday Night” (Bob Weir lead vocals)
- “U.S. Blues” (encore, Bob Weir lead vocals)
This dude climbed the lamp post like a monkey and swiped a few of the Steal Your Face banners hanging along the road.
I lost everybody I was with at this show, so I took the long walk back on my own and snapped some night shots.
This is it! The last show ever. But it’s more than that. It is the end of this scene that only happens at this event. An era in a place where even the grumpiest folks wear a smile.
JULY 5, 2015, SOLDIER FIELD, CHICAGO
- “China Cat Sunflower” (Trey Anastasio and Bruce Hornsby lead vocals)
- “I Know You Rider” (Tossi Aaron cover; Trey Anastasio, Bruce Hornsby, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir vocals)
- “Estimated Prophet” (Bob Weir lead vocals)
- “Built To Last” (Bruce Hornsby lead vocals)
- “Samson and Delilah” (traditional, Bob Weir lead vocals)
- “Mountains Of The Moon” (Phil Lesh lead vocals)
- “Throwing Stones” (Bob Weir lead vocals)
- “Truckin'” (Bob Weir lead vocals)
- “Cassidy” (Bob Weir lead vocals)
- “Althea” (Trey Anastasio lead vocals)
- “Terrapin Station” (Phil Lesh and Bob Weir lead vocals)
- “Unbroken Chain” (Phi Lesh lead vocals)
- “Days Between” (Bob Weir lead vocals)
- “Not Fade Away” (The Crickets cover; Trey Anastasio, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Bruce Hornsby vocals)
- “Touch of Grey” (encore 1, Trey Anastasio, Bob Weir, Bruce Hornsby vocals)
- “Attics of My Life” (encore 2, Trey Anastasio, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Bruce Hornsby vocals)
The fireworks on this night were phenomenal!
We were sitting high, so the explosions were right before us!
So much fun was packed into a solid weekend with 3 fantastic shows and great friends!
Instead of flooding out with the masses we watched the 70,000 people slowly filter away corralled by the gentle touch of the hired security.
And then it was over. At least for most of us. We all packed up and headed to or respective homes. Most of my friends flew home. I packed up Bonnie and did a solid two days of riding back to NYC. My boy Gral however went to Gibson’s Steakhouse and had one last GD experience. Nice one Gral!
The ticket stubs to my first show March 7, 1981 and my last show July 5, 2015! In the middle is the first night of the weekend. The mail order tickets were printed from designs of envelopes people had sent in, (a Grateful Dead tradition).