I come from a music family. I went to my first concert when I was 7, and some of my happiest memories of growing up are of my mom and dad blaring music out of our giant speakers in the house with all the windows open and the screen door and the hot Southern summer breeze. In fact, playing music loudly with the windows all open is one of my favorite things to do. My parents instilled in us an appreciation of all music and drilled lyrics and songwriters and bands all the time (my dad was known to hear a song on the radio, turn it down a bit, and say "kids, who sings this?" He also loved the repeat the lyrics after they were sung, so that Christopher and I would know the message and meaning behind the song.) As a adult, I have to have music playing almost all of the time around me--when I work, when I rest, just because.
I've always liked the Grateful Dead, and always enjoyed the radio hits. My folks were not Deadheads, so I didn't know too much about them really before Jerry Garcia died in 95, but I was familiar with their song and legacy. In recent years, I have listened to them a lot more, and enjoyed almost everything of theirs. I have to give credit to the wonderful and amazing and incredible Rebecca Hanson, who shares almost the exact taste in music and pop culture and comedy as I do, for getting me more into jam bands, especially Phish, which I was already a fan of certain albums of from college and Erica Livingston and Harrison Scott Key back home. But thanks to Rebecca, I have a deeper love for the music and the concerts. A few years ago, as a tag on to a super long and elaborate birthday greeting started by Erica and I about 17 years ago, Rebecca left me a voicemail as Bob Weir on I think dad's birthday. This was the funniest thing I had ever heard, and so for years, we've traded Bob Weir voicemails and bits. Loving Bob Weir means getting more into the Grateful Dead, and running the Terrapin 5K as Bob Weir, etc etc etc.
In January, I was at the airport to pick up Fuzzy from a work trip he had been on, and while in the parking lot, I heard a song on XRT that was unfamiliar to me, but was the most beautiful song I had ever heard. I am sure that I had heard it before, but it just hit me at the right time. It was a few days after Jason's death, and everything was raw and emotional, and I played it as loud as I could. It was Box of Rain. That song, and the full American Beauty album is pretty much all that I have listened to this year. I would listen to Box of Rain every morning, and often on repeat (I am someone who can listen to the same song for hours.) It became my happy safe place to listen to that song and album when I was stressed out. Some days, I would pick different studio albums and live concerts and have them playing in the other room. I later learned that Phil Lesh wrote Box of Rain to sing to his father who was dying of cancer. Obviously, that hit home with me, and the song became even more special. "Such a long long time to be gone and short time to be there." It came into my life at the right time.
A few days after that day at the airport, it was announced that for their 50th anniversary, the remaining Grateful Dead members would reunite after 20 years to play their last 3 shows in Chicago at Soldier Field, the location of the last show ever played by them on July 9th, 1995. This obviously was a big deal. I wasn't able to get tickets when they were on sale due to having to be somewhere or something, but they sold out in no time and started showing up places for tens of thousands of dollars. My friend Amy lucked into getting a weekend pass, and I was amazed! I had plans to go down to the campus to hang out outside the venue. Fuzzy was a fan, and had seen them before, and I was hoping to get him to shlepp down with me.
On Wednesday, June 3, I clicked over to the Dead 50 site to look at things, and I saw that that Friday, they were going to release a handful of tickets to the 3 Chicago shows. There was a 2 ticket limit per household. I had to try. I did some thinking--Everyone was going to want to be at that last Sunday show, so that was out. Saturday was a holiday so more people would be out of work and down there, so I tried for the Friday, July 3rd show. The day came, and the clock clicked over to 11am, and clicked "best available." After a short waiting period, it showed up--2 tickets, main floor general admission. I started shaking and crying and called Fuzzy to make sure it was ok to spend the money, and after an incredibly stressful time of not remembering my password and having to reset it all while the countdown clock was happening, I got this:
I feel like it was a gift from the universe for putting up with all the pains and stresses of the year.
Cut to Friday.
Fuzzy had the day off from work, so we had some fun. We went down to the stadium a bit early to take in the scene and get the lay of the land down there.
Pre-show photo with our tickets, tradition started by Rebecca.
When we got in, they gave us all roses.
So surreal. One of the world's most iconic bands, and we were going to be a part of one of their historical last shows.
Guess what song they opened with?
Box of Rain.
It was meant to be.
It was also the last song they played in this venue at their last show.
The rest of the night was so surreal. Seeing Bob Weir in the flesh was awesome! And Bruce Hornsby and Fuzzy's favorite Mickey Hart and Phish's Trey Anastasio stepping into Jerry's role. Admittedly, the audio on the main floor was not awesome--we had a hard time hearing the vocals and everything was echo-y (there was a bank of speakers that came on only a couple times in the show that made things better--we wish they had been on the whole show.) They played a ton of recognizble and awesome songs, and it was a rocking evening.
We had a blast!
For their encore, they played Ripple, and I cried again. It was perfect.
(Link to short video here.)
All in all, the experience was magical, and I really do feel we were at the right show of the 3 (though we are watching the other 2 from the telecast at home). It was so nice to have a fun night with Fuzzy and to just relax and let go. It also felt like the official start of the summer. I am so happy that we got to be a part of it.
"Let there be songs to fill the air."