Grateful Dead faithful headed to Soldier Field on Friday to see the legendary jam band play the first of three "Fare Thee Well" shows. The show came almost 20 years after the band last played at Chicago's lakefront stadium, which was the last show that the group played with guitarist Jerry Garcia.
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The Fourth of July weekend was the last time that the group's "core four" surviving members of Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh and Bob Weir would all share a stage together. Trey Anastasio of Phish fame filled in for Jerry Garcia on guitar and vocals.
Fans of all ages came from every corner of the country to see the group groove out on stage for one last time. The south parking lot at Soldier Field and the north lot at McCormick Place were overrun with Deadheads waiting to capture one last fleeting glimpse of the 50-year-old band before they sailed off into the sunset. The bulk of the crowd seemed to hail from the Southern and Eastern U.S., but there were a handful of representatives from the Northwest, Canada and even Argentina.
The parking lots were filled with entrepreneurs selling everything from sandwiches to beer and blown glass. Security was fairly relaxed for most of the afternoon, and most people didn't have a problem making some quick cash.
A countless number of Deadheads were holding a single finger in the air, looking for someone with an extra ticket. Some journeyed hundreds of miles, hoping that a kind soul would give them access to one of the weekend's shows. When asked about the price of a last-minute ticket, one scalper simply said, "expensive."
One old bearded man drove out from Connecticut without a ticket. He was holding a sign that read "Old Hippies Never Die. They Just Flashback." Another family of five was standing in front of the southern underpass in front of Soldier Field looking for three more tickets for the night's show. One pair of 30-somethings were leaning on their antique Volkswagen bus, looking to trade Friday night tickets for a couple to either the Saturday or Sunday shows.
There were some fans who weren't even alive the last time the Grateful Dead played with Jerry Garcia. There were some who saw the group play the weekend prior in Santa Clara, California. Some old-timers had seen the group jam out in the 1960s, and were just as excited to relive the experience 50 years later.
One woman who called herself "Say Love" summed up the scene better than anyone else. "Let's see a rainbow, and enjoy each another," she said. "We're all going to fall in love tonight."