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When 210,000 tickets to the Grateful Dead’s three-night Fare Thee Well run at Chicago’s Soldier Field sold out in a snap, millions of hapless heads were up in arms. Billed as the final Dead shows, and featuring the original “core four” members with Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio, Bruce Hornsby and Jeff Chimenti alternating guest turns, the July 4-6 destination concerts were criticized for their cost and location even while being celebrated. And it turns out, the band was listening.
In a letter read on Sirius XM’s Grateful Dead channel on the afternoon of April 10, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann announced two additional shows in Santa Clara, Calif. to precede Fare Thee Well.
As previously reported by Billboard, the additional shows will take place June 27 and 28 at Levi’s stadium. The venue caps out at 65,000 seats per night, and the band wants those tickets to end up in the hands of fans, not secondary sellers.
“When you’re shut out of tickets and your only option is inflated prices on secondary ticketing websites … That would piss us off too,” writes the core four. Referencing the elaborate letter-decorating initiative of the typical mail order campaign run by Grateful Dead Ticket Sales (GDTS), the band adds, “We were crushed to see how many of your beautifully designed envelopes did not get tickets.”
Given the nature of Grateful Dead performances and the vast amount of material at the band’s disposal, adding the Santa Clara shows will serve up fans a richer buffet of music, or “something a little more chunky,” as Shapiro puts it. “Five shows by this band is a lot of music. These will probably be pretty long shows, and hopefully will provide a lot of great musical moments that people will be talking about for a long time. It was just the right thing to do to add these shows.”
For the Santa Clara shows, an online lottery has been employed to fend off the scalpers, and the band does not tread lightly in taking those secondary sellers to task.
A West Coast play may take some of the bloom off the rose for Deadheads who bought into the concept that the Chicago shows, which take place 25 years after Garcia played his final show with the band in that same venue, were an exclusive event. But a return to California’s Bay Area does provide a certain closure for a band that will be forever connected to that area.
Demand for those Chicago shows, set for Soldier Field where the Grateful Dead played their final shows 25 years ago, was off the charts, selling out in minutes at 210,000 with ticket requests in the millions. In confirming the Santa Clara shows, Shapiro says expanding the Fare Thee Well concept is an attempt to satisfy demand that far exceeded capacity. “After Chicago blew up, the band got to see first hand, and heard from friends and family, how many people were shut out from getting tickets for the Soldier Field shows,” Shapiro says. “And it made sense that, if we’re going to add a couple more, to go back to where it first began. The stadium is only 12 miles from where [The Grateful Dead] first met in Palo Alto 50 years ago [at DanaMorgan’s Music Store]. So this final run by the Dead will begin where they first met, and end where they played their final show.”
Read the letter in full below:
Although none of us knew it when we walked off the stage at Soldier Field on July 9, 1995, the Grateful Dead’s long strange trip ended in Chicago that night. As you are aware, twenty years later, we’re returning to Chicago to properly say Fare Thee Well.
But every good ending must start with a beginning. For us, it all began fifty years ago when we grabbed a bunch of instruments off the walls of a music store in Palo Alto California and began banging away on them in the back room, at night after the store had closed for the day.
Since we made the decision to go back to Chicago to say our final goodbye, it has become clear to us that we first need to return to our beginnings, where we first said hello — to each other and to all of you.
And so it is that we have decided to plug in for two additional shows on June 27 and 28 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California — just a dozen miles south of where Dana Morgan’s Music Store once stood. At Levi’s — as at Soldier Field — we will have the pleasure of being joined by Trey Anastasio, Bruce Hornsby and Jeff Chimenti.
Ours wasn’t just a long, strange trip — it was a VERY long, VERY strange trip. We weren’t sure what it was going to be like to put a punctuation mark on the end of it. None of us anticipated the overwhelming outpouring of love and interest following our initial announcement of the shows at Soldier Field, and we were blown away by the response.
We have tried to do the right thing wherever we could for the Chicago shows by honoring the roots of where we came from, while dealing with the realities of the current times. But that’s hardly comforting when you’re shut out of tickets and your only option is inflated prices on secondary ticketing websites. That would piss us off too.
From the moment these shows were first talked about, we have been thinking about what we can do to honor the roots of our Deadhead experience, even in the face of changing technologies. (Remember: Ticketmaster didn’t even go online until we got out of the game.) These shows were always intended as an expression of our gratitude, to both the music and the fans, so it’s important that we get things as right as we can.
We have always been proud of our in-house mail order ticketing process, and the phenomenal way our fans have built a tradition out of turning a standard envelope into a frame-worthy piece of art. Some 60,000 mail order tickets were issued for the Soldier Field shows by the good folks at Grateful Dead Ticket Sales — yet we were still crushed to see how many of your beautifully designed envelopes did not get tickets.
For shows of this magnitude, it’s impossible to eliminate every scalper. However, we offer you this: Working with our partners, we are using an online ticketing platform for the Levi’s shows that will help ensure that the tickets for these shows will get into the right hands, the hands of our true fans. We believe that this process is the best way to give each of you an equal opportunity to obtain tickets at the most affordable possible prices. We are are proud to announce that 65,000 tickets per night will be available via the “online mail order” for the Levi’s shows. For the nuts and bolts, go to Dead50.net.
We will not be adding any more Fare Thee Well shows. The three Chicago shows will still be our final stand. We decided to add these two Santa Clara shows to enable more of our fans to celebrate with us one more time. But this is it.
We love you guys more than words can tell, and hope to see you in the Bay Area or Chicago. If you can’t make it to the shows, we are working on ways for you to still experience our Fare Thee Well, from wherever you might be. Stay tuned for those details.
Billy, Bobby, Mickey & Phil
This article first appeared on Billboard.com.
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