Time to get happy: legendary American rock band the Grateful Dead reunites this weekend for the start of their “Fare Thee Well: Celebrating 50 Years of Grateful Dead” concert series, the most buzzed-about reunion in music this year, and likely this decade. Phil, Bobby, Mickey, and Bill will be joined by Phish frontman Trey Anastasio, who is stepping in to fill the shoes of Jerry Garcia.
The events kick off tomorrow, with the first two concerts taking place at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA on June 27 and 28, and the last three at Soldier Field in Chicago on July 3, 4 and 5—nearly 20 years to the day of the last Grateful Dead concert, which took place at the same venue.
Pete Shapiro, longtime friend of the ‘fly (Pete was our very first partner back in ‘08), is the promoter behind the tie-dye. The owner of The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY (a regular stop for the Dead) has been working tirelessly to put the shows together long before they were announced last January. Bloomberg called Shapiro, “The fan who raised the Dead“—and it’s true. Shapiro says everything he’s done (from his Lockn’ festival, to his venues, to his promotion company, to his jam band-focused music magazine Relix) has, in a way, stemmed from the Dead. Shapiro attended his first Dead show in 1993 as a fresh-faced undergrad, and after graduation he filmed a documentary about the band’s fans. Having planted himself squarely in the scene, he eventually fell in with the owner of Wetlands Preserve, a famous NYC music club, and ended up buying for pennies.
In an interview with Fast Company, Shapiro explains: “It all kind of comes from the Grateful Dead… Because it all comes out of Wetlands, which I owned from ’96 to 2001. That place was really rooted in the music of the Grateful Dead. When Garcia passed on in ’95 the scene splintered. The jazz guys got into Medeski, Martin, and Wood, the blues guys got into String Cheese Incident, and the ones that loved electronica got into Disco Biscuits or Sound Tribe Sector 9. I was in the middle of all it.”
Keeping loyal Deadheads top of mind, the long-awaited (and final) tour used an old-fashioned lottery system to make ticket sales as equitable as possible. Says Shapiro: “I’m a Head, I love the music and it was important for me that this 50th anniversary get celebrated. I tried to put the pieces together to do this the right way. Taking into account my history. Taking into account the reality of 2015.”
In the spirit of the Dead, a band that was always for everyone, Pete and his team have made sure fans across the country will have a chance to jam with the group even if they can’t go truckin’ to California or Chicago.
Here’s all the ways you can hear Uncle John’s band this summer:
Head to the movies: The concert will be simulcast in movie theatres and concert halls across the country. Check your local listings to see if there’s a simulcast in your neighborhood. If you live in NYC, head to #flyfam hang outs the Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg, or The Cap in Port Chester—both are Pete Shapiro venues that are pulling out all the stops. (If you’re doubting The Cap’s level of fandom, check out some recent posts on their blog, including “21 Life Lessons the Grateful Dead Can Teach You” or their “What Grateful Dead Song Are You?” quiz.)
Turn up the dial: SiriusXM’s Grateful Dead station, channel 23, will broadcast on July 3, 4, and 5 starting at 9:15 p.m. ET. The shows will also be available on the SiriusXM app and website.
Pay up and lay back: Watch the world’s greatest jam band kick it on YouTube as well as on pay-per-view. The latter option will be hosted by CNBC reporter Steve Liesman and guest host Bill Walton, an NBA Hall of Famer and one of the most famous Deadheads around.
Wherever you choose to commemorate, celebrate, and get silly for the 50th anniversary, come on out singing.