At the beginning of the year, the surviving members of the Grateful Dead— Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzman, Phil Lesh, and Bob Weir — announced a massive 50th anniversary celebration at the site of their final show, 20 years ago, Soldier Field in Chicago, IL. Supported by Bruce Hornsby, Phish guitarist and vocalist Trey Anastasio, and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti, the “Core Four”, as the surviving members are known, will play three final shows together over 4th of July weekend. Deadheads at Ben & Jerry’s rejoiced. With months to go before the curtain rises and falls for the very last time, here are five things we are supremely excited for:
1. Tickets Please?
When news broke about these last three shows, it broke in a big way. It surprised many of us how much interest there was. CNN reported on it. Fox News covered it. There was frenzy about every minute detail across social media, and then came the rush for tickets. Grateful Dead Ticket Sales received an estimated 350,000 ticket requests through their mail order lottery. Guitarist Bob Weir has had people calling him from as far away as Asia, hoping to score a pair. As it becomes increasingly likely that this will be one of the toughest tickets ever, we’re just excited at the prospect of getting in the door. That leads us to a question: Who’s got an extra?
2. Stadium Dead
We’re fired up for the sights, spectacle and scale of production only found at a stadium show. If you’re a Deadhead, it may have been a long time since you’ve seen a show with 60,000 of your best friends packed into a football stadium. There are very few artists that can do it nowadays. Some can make the very valid claim that the intimacy of a club or theatre is best for live music, but there was something about those massive stadium shows in the late 80s and early 90s that made the hairs on the back of our necks stand up. Will the Grateful Dead’s famed lighting designer Candace Brightman stand at the helm for this one? Will Phish lighting designer Chris Kuroda pitch in? Details are sparse, but promoter Peter Shapiro promises Rolling Stone magazine, “We can put on a show that takes the spirit of the Grateful Dead, what they were doing production-wise, and push it to the highest level."
Bruce Hornsby, people! Somehow less discussed in the media frenzy surrounding Fare Thee Well is the very exciting opportunity to watch the masterful Bruce Hornsby at work. The virtuoso piano player has had his own estimable career, but Deadheads will always revere him for filling the void after the passing of longtime keyboardist Brent Mydland in 1990. Bruce did more than stand in, he pushed and inspired Jerry by his very presence on stage. If you watched the interactions between the two, you saw the electric connection of deeply committed musicians riffing off of each other’s ideas. With Bruce on board for Fare Thee Well, you can be sure the band will be just as precise as a Swiss watch by showtime.
4. Vermont’s Own Trey Anastasio Filling Some Very Big Shoes
If you’re of a certain age, Phish may have been your second love after Grateful Dead. If you’re a bit younger maybe Phish is where it all started for you. The choice of Trey Anastasio to play lead guitar and handle some of vocals was an inspired and welcome choice to us. For the guys in the band, recruiting Trey was a no-brainer. Bob Weir spoke to CNBC about the choice of Trey Anastasio: "It's really pretty evident to anyone who doesn't have a serious axe to grind who we should be dancing with here."
We can’t think of a time when anyone has ever had to step into a similar situation with a spotlight burning so bright. We are convinced that Trey is going to bring passion, emotion and guitar fireworks to these shows. It’s going to be brilliant.
Sometime, around 8:00pm on July 3rd, 2015, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzman will take the stage for the first of their final three performances together. Whether we’re there or watching at home, the crowd will roar, and we’ll hear the drummers roll their sticks across their various toms and cymbals. Bob Weir will fiddle with a bunch of knobs on his amps. Phil will run through a quick scale on his bass. They’ll all turn to each other and then...