Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Fare Thee Well Grateful Dead Shows!!

Prelude to Trip 

It's my first time writing in the blogosphere in two years. I have returned to share with you all my adventure to Chicago July 3rd to 6th for the three Fare the Well: 50 Years of the Grateful Dead shows! For the past year and half, the remaining Dead members have hinted towards something big for the 50th anniversary and in January the three Chicago shows were announced. Minutes after the announcement, which happened to be when I was in India, I messaged my concert partner-in-crime Neil that we were going and there was no refraining. The day after I returned to the U.S, I went to post office to send in our mail order for us, Neil's girlfriend Becky and a buddy we met at Peach Festival last year. Throughout February, we were stressed playing the waiting game. Every day I'd go home after work to check the mail, and message the crew that we were safe another day without a rejection letter. A month later, disaster struck as we saw the dreaded rejection letter. However, we got a true miracle when Becky got us tickets on Ticketmaster Day, February 28th. The stress wasn't over however, as hotel prices were through the roof. However, we luckily found a reasonably priced AirBNB near Wicker Park a few weeks later.

Dead Heads Takeover Chicago

After a two-night visit to a Brandeis friend's place in Indianapolis July 1-3, I was all set to go to Chicago.
Store in Fountain Square, Indianapolis 

At my friend Wei's Place before headed to the bus to Chicago!

I was planning on getting some sleep on the bus, but for better or worse, that was not meant to be! I ended up meeting two awesome Dead Heads on the bus and talking to them the majority of a time. When a non- Dead Head asked us what one of the most popular Dead songs, new buddy Greg disagreed with me that Casey Jones was one of the songs he would most likely know. 

As we arrived, us Dead Heads excitedly fist bumped and exchanged contact information. Dead Heads truly took over Chicago that weekend; you could not walk two blocks anywhere in the city without seeing at least one tie-die shirt. Many of the hotels, bars and restaurants displayed Grateful Dead pictures and special menus. I met several Dead Heads on the buses and trains around the city. 

Night 1: July 3rd 

Without further ado,  it's on to the music, as it has never stopped! After hanging out in the lot for a few hours, we went to our seats to see the show open with "Box of Rain". Trey Anastasio later lead vocals on "Bertha". It was  nice to see him highlighted in contrast to the Santa Clara shows where he didn't solo or sing nearly as much.  Bruce Hornsby than killed the vocals on Fire on the Mountain. Him being one of the only two out of six I've never seen live beforehand (along with Mickey Hart), I was impressed. With his piano playing and charismatic voice, he reminded me a lot of Steve Winwood. Bob Weir took out his acoustic guitar, one of two times the whole run, for the "Ripple" encore. The band did not repeat any songs from the Santa Clara shows. 

With my roommates Neil and Becky in the lot! 

Star-Spangled Show on July 4th 

The band did not waste and time to arouse excitement with a "Shakedown Street" opener. The first repeat of the Fare Thee Well run, happened when we got " Cumberland Blues". I started to wonder if they'd start repeating a lot of songs, but the rest of the songs for the night have not been played. The longest, most exciting jam of the first set was during Jerry's "Deal". As most people expected, they played " One More Saturday Night" as a final song and " U.S Blues" for an encore. As the Midnight hour struck, we got fire works to end the 4th and lead into my 25th birthday on the 5th. 

With Greg and his buddy Scoot(with Braves Hat) before the 1st set

Birthday Show on July 5th 

I  heard the first three songs China Cat Sunflower- I Know You Rider- Estimated Prophet outside as I waiting for two girls I met the previous night to get miracle tickets. After a while, I made a tough decision and left them for my friends inside and got in the stadium in time for "Built to Last" (Luckily I found out later, they did ultimately get in!:)). We stood in a camera man's section and had plenty of space to dance! During "Samson and Delilah", it was great hearing 69,999 other Dead Heads chanting " If I had my way, I would tear this whole  building down!" Before the second set, we got a surprise series of fireworks. Well, it wasn't 100% a surprise for my friends and I as the camera man told us it would happen a few minutes prior but OK. The second set then began with the only other repeat of the whole run, "Truckn"!

What a long, strange trip it really has been! Two other songs that stood out were "Cassidy" and "Althea". Trey's solos during "Althea" were more heavy than the ones John Mayer did when he played "Althea" with Weir during the Tonight Show earlier this year. The biggest highlight of the run came during the "Not Fade Away" encore. 30 minutes after the second "Attics of My Life" encore, the fans continued doing the typical clap and singing " Love is Real, Not Fade Away", as we walked out of Soldier Field.

With my new friends waiting for them to get miracles!  

Fireworks before the second set!

The aftermath- crowds after the final "Attics of My Life" encore!

I literally could not have had a better 25th birthday weekend than being in Chicago for these three shows. I also got to explore Chicago a bit, seeing a sample of the chess scene, the beach, sculptures, parks and the highly recommended Architecture Tour. 

Agora- a bunch of headless sculptures near Soldiers Field!

Look into My Dreams, Awilda" by Jaume Plens in Millennium Park

The Beam! Look closely you can see your loyal blogger with his phone!

Thanks to Dr. Daaim Shabazz, of The Chess Drum, I knew to visit Starbucks on North Ave for the chess scene! 

My new Dead Head friend Jaimie on the Architecture Boat Cruise: I took an educated guess that she was part of the Grateful Family on line to buy a ticket and I was correct:) 
The Willis Tower and Franklin (AT&T) Tower- an example of modern and post-modern architecture side-by-side! 
However, It was a bittersweet that this would at least on paper be the last hurrah for the Grateful Dead. That said, I am looking forward to seeing Bob Weir and Billy The Kids ( along with Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers) next month at the Peach Festival. I had similar feelings about the final Allman Brothers Beacon run last October, but the Road does truly go on forever. (I'll also be 6/7 Allman Brothers at Peach!)

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