Back in the day, a Grateful Dead concert ticket could be had for around $20. This weekend, seeing the legendary band’s final three shows could cost thousands of dollars.
Chicago is ground zero for Deadheads as the legendary band celebrates its 50th anniversary and says goodbye to touring in concerts Friday through Sunday at Soldier Field.
Locals Richard Todd and Kyle Lahm said they will fly to the Windy City to catch the farewell performances.
“You only live once,” said Todd, a long-time Charleston radio personality.
In all, he estimates he’s spending at between $1,500 and $2,000 for travel, hotel accommodations and tickets. He has seen the band many times, including the first two shows of its farewell tour last weekend in Santa Clara, Calif.
“The Grateful Dead have been stimulating the economy of the U.S. for a couple of decades,” he said.
The Chicago performances will result in a massive infusion of cash into the city. An estimated 100,000 people each day from around the world are expected for the shows. The economic impact will be somewhere between $50 million and $100 million, according to Entertainment Weekly.
Scalpers have been busy with some reportedly asking more than $10,000 per ticket.
Todd paid between $150 and $200 per show for his tickets. Lahm’s Sunday ticket cost $300, and she paid $100 for admission to the Friday show. She is hoping to find a reasonably priced ticket for the Saturday concert.
Her seats are behind the stage and have a “terrible view,” but she said that doesn’t really matter because Deadheads rarely stay put. It’s a roam-the-stadium kind of event, she said.
Although the buzz around the shows is huge, Todd noted that it’s not the Dead of old because frontman Jerry Garcia passed away in 1995. The last show with Garcia was in Chicago.
“They’re missing Jerry. It’s obvious. But Trey (Anastasio) stepped up and it was everything I hoped it would be. It felt like rock and roll history,” Todd said of the two Santa Clara shows.
Anastasio of the band Phish has assumed the role of Garcia for the farewell tour. Todd said he is equally, if not more enamored, with Phish. That increased his already high motivation to go to the Chicago Dead shows.
“It was like the perfect storm for me. The second night (Santa Clara) was just unbelievable,” he said.
Todd said tears filled his eyes when the Dead played “Brokedown Palace” because it was his late wife’s favorite song.
“It was very emotional,” he said.
The Dead are known for their folksy blend of country, jazz, rock and blues. Four original members — Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh and Bob Weir — are reuniting for the shows. They will be joined by Anastasio, Jeff Chimenti on keyboards and Bruce Hornsby on piano. The group will perform two sets of music each night.
Lahm was packing to head for Chicago when she talked excitedly about her plans to attend the final three Dead performances.
“This decision came last-minute,” she said.
As a result, she is paying $500 for a round-trip ticket which is about double the usual fare, she said.
She will meet an old high school friend who is flying to the show from Houston. Lahm works for the city of North Charleston as coordinator of the Mayor’s Office on Education, Youth and Family.
“It’s just real exciting. I’ve never been to a stadium show. I can’t believe I decided to do this two days ago,” she said.