I never saw the Grateful Dead. I was a casual fan in high school, certainly not a Deadhead (which I claim you have to have seen the actual Dead to be an actual Deadhead), but a friend’s sister had an extra ticket to what turned out to be the final show in Chicago (I’m from Illinois). I asked my mom if I could go. She said “no” because I wasn’t responsible enough to handle the atmosphere – she was right (in fact, I don’t think I’m mature enough now some 20 years later) – and that I could go next time they were in town. How’d that turn out, mom? Well, during the period of self-discovery (and debauchery) that is college I became quite a fan of the Dead’s music. Over the years, I saw the remaining members in various formations as well as numerous cover bands seeking to channel their inner Dead. I listened to a lot of “live” shows of the Grateful Dead; I really was a fan.
Over the recent years, I haven’t listened to anywhere near as much of their music as I used to. I still enjoy it, and I still recognize their place in my life’s development, not to mention all the bands I like that they influenced. But I just don’t blast shows from 1977 like I used to. Then my mom – of all people – told me early last January that the remaining members were getting together for one last hurrah, celebrating their 50th anniversary. The shows were to be in Chicago at Soldier Field, the place where the “real” Dead took their final stand before Jerry Garcia passed away far too soon. At that moment I kind of knew I had to try and go.
The thing is that I knew tickets would be very hard to come by, especially if they were only to do 3 shows. All of the true Deadheads that are still alive, all the people that want to capitalize on the experience of the once-in-a-lifetime weekend and all of the hipster tools that are on board because it’ll be the place to be, well, that makes for a hard ticket to get – unless you’re willing to pay outrageously inflated prices from scalpers (seriously the worst part about free-market capitalism). I didn’t even try mail order because I didn’t want to tie up $1,000 that I knew would just be held in limbo sans interest. I did try public sale through that horrible ticketing company that more or less has a monopoly on sports and concert events, but I sat there for 45 minutes while the system “processed” my order only to check out because I knew nothing would come of it.
Fortunately I had an ace up my sleeve: a friend of a friend works for a major music management company and has always been helpful in getting me tickets to sold out shows when I ask (which is few and far between because I don’t want to abuse his kindness). So back in January I put in my request for six tickets over three nights (2 per night). The thing is you never know if you’ll get them till a few weeks out; of the four times I’ve asked in the past though, I’ve been successful three times, so there were good odds.
Since that decision back in January I’ve lost a lot of interest in going though. It’s going to be a circus, and an expensive one at that. They’re aren’t exactly digging up Jerry’s bones so it isn’t going to be the Dead I cut my teeth on in my defining years. Most of my friends got shut out so that lessened my interest too. I had a fairly well-off friend get a box for the show on the 4th; $500 a pop (food and drink included), too rich for my blood. So I had started to hope that my request would get denied. If I did get them, I had to go.
Well, guess what? I got the tickets. Guess what again? Now I wanted to go (again). But guess what (final time I say that) now? I didn’t think I could. I’d be out of the state for some research in the weeks before, and then arriving back in Colorado the days before the shows. It’s not exactly cheap to fly on a holiday weekend, and I wasn’t interested in putting another 1,000 miles on the road after I would have just driven 2,500 roundtrip from Oregon and back. Add to that the fact that I’m trying to be less indulgent in my spending habits, and this wasn’t shaping up to be something that should happen. Boy, what a pickle.
The day I got the notification that the tickets had been secured, I made a call to a friend who was a tried-and-true Deadhead. She is in her early 60s and I knew she was going to Chicago for the festivities, but had not yet secured entry into the hootenanny. She was elated that I’d offer her these prized possessions (the tickets were in the “pit” just in front of the stage and fetching north of a $1,000 a piece online), and she knew the spirit of the Dead would come through for her in the end. This isn’t just some old hippie; she is in fact one of the first academics to write about the Dead and their fans in a scholarly manner. She needed to be there. She had been with the band from the early 80s on and it was only fitting that she be there for the last hurrah.
I know this is something that I’ll likely regret missing, but I can rest easily knowing that I let my friend (and one of her good buddies) get my tickets. For those not familiar with the subculture and ethos of the jamband circuit, this was as close to a “miracle” ticket (a freebie for a sold-out show) as you’ll come for this run of shows. I’ve always believed in karma (even though I believe in little else) and I’d like to think this will come back to me in some way. Although I’ve probably amounted a significant load of bad karma through my reckless ramblings in life, hopefully I can at least reset to zero with this one.
I told another friend that I was selling the tickets at face value; he was appalled. He told me I could make about $5,000 off my $1,300 investment. Yea, well, maybe. Probably. But that is against the spirit of this band for sure, and frankly, that is against the spirit of music in general. I understand supply and demand just fine; I try to invest wisely. I know what my education and experience should fetch me on the job market (that’s a whole other column. Geez….). But I just don’t believe in selling a ticket for more than I paid for it. What I do believe in is the power of music to bring people together, to help maintain and reinforce identity, and to shape a positive future. My dreams for this show may be Dead, but my spirit is still Truckin’ and my freak flag still flying. Peace, hippies.
Sausage King of Chicago (What movie is that from? Hmm?)