Tag Archives: Soldier Field

©Jay Blakesberg

©Jay Blakesberg

For Throw Back Thursday, I thought it was a great time to salute the people that add so much LIFE and LOVE to everything that has and is happening in Grateful Dead Land. This piece is as relevant today as it was this time last year. So much of what has made last Summer as well as this Summer so special is US. The best fan base in the history of Rock and Roll! It is just as relevant this year as it was last year to tip the hat to the most fun and loving group of people ever assembled from coast to coast, US!!!!
See y’all in Wheatland tomorrow night!!!

In the months leading up to the past 5 Shows, by looking at message boards and forums, particularly the band’s official pages, one might have thought, “There sure are gonna be a lot of horse’s asses heading to the shows…” Lucky for US, every single one of them either stayed home or got completely transformed while travelling to get there. The amount of complaining in the months that preceded all of this was unmatched. At times it was almost embarrassing. Like most things in life, the difficult times gave birth to the creation of brand new groups and places to seek refuge from the storm that was raging from January on. Those groups and the people that started and maintained their vibe deserve a big shout out! There was a lot of time and commitment that went into the greatest pre show celebrations in the history of our scene. Great job to all that took part in the communities that pumped positive vibrations into this celebration from early on and continued throughout. We’ve formed incredible bonds that will last as long as we do and a scene along with a record of it all that will be here long after we’re gone! That’s pretty mind blowing!

So many questions came up in the days and weeks before the shows about all of the rules that were in place. Parking lots… What size bag could you have… On and on and on as if, as Deadheads, we ever gave a shit about the rules. When I checked into my hotel on Thursday I wasn’t sure if I was at The Fare Thee Well Shows or The Cannabis Cup. Every floor of every hotel in all of Chicago smelled like The American Society of Skunk Breeders was in town for a convention. At one point earlier on Thursday, I saw your typical “Type A” Hotel Manager walking briskly through the hall on my floor with a can of Lysol. I couldn’t help but to ask him as he walked by if Lysol had a new line of Marijuana scented products. He didn’t know what to say really. I then told him that he really smelled like Pot and should probably wait until he got out of work to burn one. I looked closely at his name tag and said, “I’m a little surprised at you JAMES.” I had all I could do to keep a straight face and he had all he could do to maintain his managerial smile. I could tell he was getting a little uncomfortable so I said, “You don’t have enough Lysol to make it through the day let alone the weekend bro, Let it go… It’s gonna be a great weekend!!! How about a hug”. I got one of those extremely reluctant type of hugs from James but by the time I saw him Friday Afternoon, he had inhaled enough second hand smoke to loosen him up dramatically. He was a high-fiving, fist bumpin, how about a hug motherfucker of a manager! It reminded of the old days once again. When Deadheads roll into town, we lighten up the mood EVERYWHERE we go! We’ve always done it in a way that’s been completely Kind, completely harmless, and completely hysterical. We give Professional types around us the permission they seem to require to loosen the hell up a little bit and have a good time. All of the interactions I observed through the course of the weekend were Deadheads providing laughter and making employees that were paid to treat them like guests, get treated by Deadheads like WE were in charge of the hospitality. There’s another reason I have to give so much credit to US!!! WE ROCK!!!

As much as I think The City of Chicago was a gracious and magnificent host to all of US, I feel obligated to say that we were the biggest Blessing to come through their city in a long time! Not only was the economic impact ENORMOUS but The Deadhead Community brought a vibe of Peace and Love and Lightheartedness that made Chicago an abundantly better place for everyone while we were there. The only encounters I saw between Deadheads and Chicago natives were interactions that were fun, respectful and loaded with laughter and kindness. We brought Smiles for Miles and passed through Chicago like Leaders of a Better Way Of Life instead of just Followers of a band. The footprint we left behind this time around resembled a piece of art as opposed to a pile of trash. I saw some bumper stickers that took a new take on an old one. The Original Bumper Stickers said, “THERE Is Nothing Like a Grateful Dead Concert”. The stickers I saw said “THIS Is Nothing Like a Grateful Dead Concert”. The only thing I could think of when I saw them was, “THIS poor fuck must have only toured in 95”. I got off of the full time bus after 93 because it was becoming less and less like a Grateful Dead Show then… If that person only toured in 95 they were right… The past 5 shows were Nothing like a Grateful Dead Concert in 95… There was no Gate Crashing, No Drunk Fraternity Dickheads, No Tear gas and just about zero hassles… While I’m sure it seemed like a cute idea a month or 2 ago, the reality was GD 50 in 2015 seemed MUCH more like a Grateful Dead Show than just about all of 94 and 95 did. I imagine that sumbitch has plenty of bumper stickers left. The scene all around the venues as well as inside of these shows was absolutely everything that was always right and great about the Grateful Dead Experience. I saw another crew trying to sell shirts that said “F*CK YOU, PAY ME!” (The guy that runs the Fare The Well Satirical site saw this post and just sent me a picture he took of the shirt in Chicago)

They seemed like OK folks but their idea lacked any creativity or intelligence at all. I would imagine somebody thought it might be funny but it wasn’t. I sat in that tunnel and watched them for a half hour as they not only sold absolutely NOTHING but didn’t get a single laugh either. I’m sure they thought it was a cute idea too but they went home with about 4 less shirts than they came with. While stuff like that may garner a few comments on message boards filled with dumb shits, it wasn’t selling at Soldier Field. Their attempts to get paid themselves got a big F*CK YOU from the universe. Maybe once they try etsy or ebay and sell none of them there either, they’ll do the right thing and donate them to a homeless shelter to be used as ass rags… I’m sure they won’t be selling many… Attempting to Perpetuate shitty vibes doesn’t sell on Tour… Never did, Never Will…

There’s a lot of groups that planned big parties the past 2 weekends. They had great ideas and were willing to spend money to execute them. Take some of those VIP Tailgate parties for example. They had an idea and a budget and all kinds of special shit planned. Most of them were absolute busts. They had a bunch of fancy food, amenities and live music. They weren’t worth a shit in the long run because they didn’t have many of US! A party is only as good as the folks that decide to show up for it. The Grateful Dead agreed to throw a party and Peter Shapiro did an outstanding job as the Party Planner but what made it the greatest party in the world that weekend was US!!!
Full Staadium

The people that I was surrounded by all weekend were just like the people you were surrounded by all weekend. We danced together, we laughed together, we cried together. WE had a HUGE part in providing the kind of environment the band needed to do what they did. Without US there is no them. Dancing to our favorite tunes with our favorite musicians was incredible. I cherish the moments I had with people 3, 4, 5 or 6 rows away from me. Those folks that in the midst of joyously dancing you’d make eye contact with and smile. We were all deep in the soup together and even if we didn’t meet face to face our bonds are no less significant. I can remember all the faces I shared those moments with throughout the weekend and there were many of those great moments with many great people that all form the incredible family known as US!!! Just as much as we’ve spoken highly of the organizers and the band, I was never so proud to be a Deadhead as I was the past couple of weekends. Nothing could be better than sharing so many moments with those that are cut from the very same cloth as I am. The cloth may have some ragged edges and there maybe some folks that seem to come from a little further from the center of the cloth but the cloth in its entirety is what makes up US!!! The only place I can find as much commonality and consistency in that fabric has always been at Dead Shows. It’s the only place we can all go and experience everything that represents US. What happens from here? Some like Phish, Some don’t. Some like WSP, Some don’t. The only place we can all agree is right there where we’ve been the past couple of weeks. As much as I dig all of the projects put together by all of my favorite musicians, it’s never the same experience because it’s missing too many of US. Billy and The Kids make some great music. Phil and his Friends make some great music. RatDog makes some great music. There’s something I’ve yet to experience at any of those shows however that I experienced over the past 2 weeks. What happens when those guys all drop the other stuff, play together and add all of US! The Music grows wings and goes to another place altogether. It goes from being Music to Transcendental Magic. A song becomes a supernatural experience… It’s a place that none of them can quite get to individually and a place that doesn’t even exist without US! In the future they will decide to make music and sing songs or continue creating Supernatural Magic, they certainly know how to find US!

In one of the last pieces I’ll write as it pertains to GD 50, I thought it was important to give credit where credit is due and that would be completely incomplete if it didn’t include the most important thing in our community… US!!! It wouldn’t mean anything for me to write if it wasn’t for YOU! I could never tell you all how much I appreciate YOU for making it a pleasure to provide whatever I could throughout this whole thing. The best thing about that is I’m just another one of YOU that makes up a collection of characters called US!!! We make up the greatest and most committed fan base in the History of Music. We may be fortunate to have experienced all or part of the 50 greatest years of live music that history will ever know but no more fortunate than the band has been to have had US!!!

Love You Long Time!!!

Dead To The Core,

Dean Sottile (pronounced So Tilly)

The Photos are from Jay Blakesberg. He always takes tremendous pics.


The first review I did after night one in Santa Clara, I made a joke that based on current events legalizing Gay Marriage and being in the San Francisco area, Gay people arranged to have a rainbow arc over the Stadium at the end of the first set. Within hours the story of man made rainbows was everywhere. Well, this weekend, the production crew spent $1.5 Million dollars to completely stop wind in the Windy City. Barely a breeze for 4 days… The Grateful Dead, when working together, are the most powerful force in the universe. Even nature holds its breath when they play.

I woke up attempting to put together some type of synopsis about the events of the past 48-72 hours and it all seems so far from me right now. Like I’m reaching for the Gold Ring but it just slips away… So much time and energy has gone into it all since January. So much commitment over the decades… So many miles in the rear view mirror… So many incredible people… Places… So much laughter… So many tears… My emotions seemed to be waiting bedside when I got up this morning. It’s as if they were preloaded and set to be released but not before being given the chance to interfere with the potential of blocking any coherent thought I may possess… Conversation isn’t as natural as it seemed yesterday as decades of experiences wrapped in magic pass through my head like the finger of The Maker is turning the pages of the scrapbook in my mind.

I woke up Sunday morning with a sense of impending doom. I felt like I had a funeral to attend. I did what I did every morning, checked the safe in my room 5-10 times to make sure my tickets didn’t disappear. I met my pal, Eric, for breakfast and it seemed a little harder than usual to have a conversation or even string a few cohesive thoughts together. I tried everything in my limited power to make the clock move slower than it had been running since I got here on Thursday. After breakfast I went to the Congress Art thing to look around. I stopped at Robbi Cohn’s booth and just looked at pictures. I had every intention of making a purchase. Robbi, in her gentle way, said I was welcome to step behind the table to take a closer look. As I sat there, I was completely immersed in images of Garcia. I couldn’t hold back the tears so I did what a lot of men might do. I ran out of there like the Sheriff was after me. Emotions were running a little high…

I got a message from David Gans inviting me down to the Sirius tent for the preshow broadcast. I sat in my room and reflected on everything that’s transpired in the past few months. Between the time of his invite and the time I arrived, multiple people far more relevant than me stopped by the tent that served as the studio. David said he might not be able to get me on the show with the influx of real GD Celebrity and I understood as I have absolutely no inflated sense of my relevance. He said to hang around if I could and I’m glad I did. Carolyn Garcia stopped in with Trixie and that’s when everything turned around for me. Trixie is even more beautiful in person and when I look at her I see Jerry’s contribution to her genetic makeup and that just makes me happy. When Carolyn spoke, she emitted a certainty about nothing really ending but new beginnings that were being created. She talked about all of us continuing to do beautiful things together as a community. It changed something in me. It completely altered my internal energy and vibration. I started feeling like this was really not the end but a whole new beginning for all of us, together. Thanks Carolyn! David did end up putting me on the show and that was pretty wild for an absolute nobody that has been listening to The Grateful Dead Hour since the 80s.

As I took in the scene, interestingly enough, Peter Shapiro walked by. We’ve communicated by text almost daily since our initial encounter. I introduced myself and in an instant, you could hear the song “Dream Weaver” playing all around us as we shared a bromantic moment filled with Love. Some folks hug you out of obligation or as if they really would rather not. You can tell a lot about people by the way they hug you and Shapiro hugged me like I was a relative at his kid’s Bar Mitzvah. I hugged him back like he was a relative at my kid’s baptism. Heart to Heart and sincerely. The energy created cleared a sizable circle around us that no human could possibly walk through and live. Lucky for me, my brother Eric Schwartz from Lone Star Dead Radio, was there to capture the moment.


Peter Shapiro caught plenty of heat throughout this ordeal leading up to this past weekend. He took it like a leader. It’s time to recognize Shapiro for what he accomplished. Peter Shapiro is full of Love and cares more about our community than any other promoter that could’ve got the job. For those that said he was in over his head on this one, You were wrong. Peter Shapiro and Madison House put on one the greatest Grateful Dead experiences our community has ever witnessed. An event of that magnitude has more moving parts than most could ever imagine. The way fans were treated in and around the venue was unmatched. You had to be a real asshole to have a problem or get in trouble there. The displays, the roses, everything was ALL Dead ALL Weekend. The technical aspects of the show were tremendous. Sound and staging were awesome and the visual feast and lighting was brilliant! Fireworks and then… More Fireworks!!! I don’t think anybody alive could have done a better job than Peter Shapiro and the team that he assembled.

I wondered if Jeff Chimenti slept with the sound guy’s girlfriend though… If he did, Bruce must have been in on it too… Sound Master wasn’t interested in hearing much from Bruce and Jeff at all. Saturday Night it seemed like there may have been some hope for the guys tickling the ivories but it was short lived. It’s too bad, Jeff was having a blast and he’s an outstanding keyboard player but you wouldn’t be expected to know that after the past 5 shows. Smaller things like that didn’t have the power to take away from what we all experienced. Everything about the weekend was absolutely near perfect.

I do have one beef though… Who the hell designed Soldier Field?? Getting out of there every night was like having a flash back to being a fetus all over again. 70,000 people trying to get out of doors that were smaller than the front door at my house and we only have 4 of us getting in and out of ours. I felt like I was stuck in the birth canal just waiting for another contraction to move me along. I’m not sure how that design ever passed any type of inspection in Chicago but well… It is Chicago… That’s all I’m gonna say about that… Had a steady job…

On with the show! The band taking the stage caused immediate tears from those that didn’t catch the rap that Carolyn was laying down on Sirius. The band huddled together and so did we. It’s my understanding that Weir was the quarterback and called the play, “China Rider Estimated Built Samson To Moon Stones!” They broke the huddle and all flanked out to their respective positions. Game Time!!! Just hearing the tuning and foreplay before the first notes of Chinacat elicit the same response as Pavlov got from his dogs. It’s one of the staples of our existence in music. Those opening notes have always immediately signaled the beginning of something special. This was no different. The Biggest Dance Party of the last 2 decades had officially begun! The music was rich and thick with meaning and emotion and every note seemed to be squeezed a little harder as we cherished each and every one just a little more than usual.

Bob Weir stepped up to the plate in a huge way this weekend. It seemed like the same Maker turning the pages in my mind granted Bob a week’s return to the days of his youth. He seemed to become younger and younger each night. His ability to completely command the moment was exceptional every night and he reached in and grabbed pieces and pictures of all the years combined and put them on full display. It was like a wise elder showing you auditory pictures of your entire family album. He pushed as hard as I’ve seen him push himself going for the falsetto stuff and had moments that he actually got there. Estimated and Samson were strong and The Lost Sailor-> Saint and Saturday Night the night before were incredible. Even the flaws were flawless. I could name all the songs but we all know how it went down. One of Sunday’s highlights was definitely Throwing Stones. The interplay and connection toward the end between Bob, Phil and Trey was high voltage. These guys were having as much fun as we were. Weir started throwing chords into space like he didn’t give a shit if his shoulder exploded or not. Damn thing probably got all healed up during that jam! Shit like that will drop a healing on you with quickness!!! Probably icing that bitch today like a major league pitcher… You get all high in the moment and you can kick a medicine ball 20 yards with a broken foot! Feel that shit the next day though…

For the first time since the shows started I didn’t give a shit how long intermission was. I wanted it all to slow down a little. Everything about the entire weekend went far too fast. Except that West L.A. Fadeaway and Foolish Heart. Those were the musical equivalent of Bugs Bunny saying “Watch me perplex em with my super duper slow ball!” I needed to have the absence of gravity in order to move slow enough to dance to those tunes… The folks in the space station could’ve found the right moves for that pace. How did Hornsby discuss how he wanted to play that one??? “Here’s how I wanna do it, We’ll begin at a complete stop and just turn it up 1 notch from there!” I’ve had Court Appearances that moved along quicker than that…

I think the first set might have made a better second set to be honest with you, maybe trade that Althea for the Throwing Stones that probably should have been before NFA and keep Terrapin where it was but what the hell do I know anyway? I’m just a hack with a keyboard… It was all exactly how they wanted it I guess, and that was cool with me. Hearing those first notes of Althea was special. Althea is one of my favorite songs Garcia ever sang. You know who can sing Althea with the kind of depth that makes you feel as though every verse is a lifetime’s worth of wisdom? You know who has a voice that comes over you with such sweetness that you have to squint while you listen to it for some unknown reason? You know who has a voice that covers over you completely and resonates in the same key as your Soul eliciting the same neurological response as an infant has from their mother? You know who sits right in the midst of that story with their delivery of the lyric and sings completely independent and detached from the actions or tempo of their own hands and fingers while they play? Not Trey… Before the Phish people get a little too full of themselves, y’all might wanna pump the fuckin brakes right there… The answer is clearly, Garcia and NOBODY else that’s who… Trey was incredible and you could tell he loved singing that one. I loved hearing it but we gotta be honest about that.

Listening to Trey the past 5 shows has been incredible. I’ve read articles from mainstream news sources that have said Trey was filling in for Garcia. Trey was a guitarist for the shows but nobody fills in for Garcia. Those shoes only fit one pair of feet and those feet, along with the shoes, are gone. That being said, Trey was the only guy out there that has never tried to act like Garcia in the first place. His take on Standing On The Moon came across as sincere as a man could sing it. When it started, even a Trey fan like myself thought, “This could be a Bad Idea”. I was Dead Wrong! He sang it from a place that brought you closer to him. He sung it in a way that completely allowed this intrinsically genuine quality he possesses to be on display. I got the chills a little bit hearing it. You can tell how deep a well is by throwing a coin in it and listening for the sound. Saturday night during the solo in Stella Blue, Trey hit one note that absolutely struck me right in the center of my being. That note came from deep within his Soul. It was the reason why he was the right guitar for the job. Behind his seemingly humble eyes exists a soul that goes much deeper than the others. He’s done what he’s done without ever trying to act like anybody other than Trey. When you’re as cool as Trey, people try to act like you, you don’t try to act like other people… Trey added LIFE to that line up. He added something that only he had that needed to be there. His presence made everybody around him better as much as everybody else’s presence made him better. Trey did a stellar job being Trey while playing some songs that always have and always will be owned completely and totally by Garcia. With the song catalog he had before him, for the first time in his career he was able to sing a bunch of songs that really meant something. In a few weeks it’s back to serpent deflectors, mudrat detectors and running Antelopes. Don’t get me wrong, Phish is still the only other band I get on airplanes to see. Over 200 shows since 91 and hopefully at least that many more in my future. If you’re a 20 year old male with red hair and you got laid this weekend, you can Thank Trey!!! That brother single-handedly made being a dude with red hair cool!

The Touch of Grey encore was a little interesting to me. What made it interesting from my perspective is that it sounded like it lacked any real confidence. “It’s even worse than it appears but It’s all right” You know why? Maybe it’s not all right… Maybe the fact that Bob, Bill, Mickey and Phil are all still alive and able to make absolute Magic together yet are choosing not to is just really NOT all right… I’m not one of the people that think there should be full Tours because I’m certain I’d abandon all logic and wreck my life like I did so many times in the past to be part of it all again. BUT, I think 5 Shows a year until we’re all Dead isn’t a bad plan… I’ve seen every side project dozens of times and what I hear when I go is Music. What I experienced this past weekend went way beyond music… The Who began doing Farewell Tours in 1985. I won’t hate anybody if they rethink the whole damn thing and decide on a few more next year… Or in The Fall… At MSG… Just talkin a little to myself… And anybody else out there… Might be too soon for the conversation but I’m just throwing it out there… Maybe talk to Trey… Phish tried to call it quits but realized without each other they could only play songs but WITH each other they create something that goes way further than that… That’s all I’m gonna say about that for now… Attics was near perfect…

I had another thought this weekend… Phil does his Organ Donor Rap to all of us every night since he got the Liver. I hope if I ever gave up an organ for someone they would be half as grateful as Phil. I’ve met a lot of folks that have received organs that saved their lives but I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed someone that has shown the appreciation for it that he has. It’s really beautiful to see in a world where gratitude for contributions seems relatively short lived. One thing though… I can’t definitively assess the condition of the organs at Grateful Dead related events but from the looks of things, there weren’t many organs in there that would be in very good condition… No offense y’all but Soldier Field appeared to be like The Dollar Store of Organ Shopping… If I need an Organ, I hope I get it from a Taylor Swift Fan… I’m sure it would be in much better shape… All I can say is Thanks Cody!!! Thanks Phil for the extent of your gratitude and ongoing commitment to a worthy cause! Don’t forget to let your friends and family know that if something unforeseen happens to you, you want to be an organ donor!

There’s so many other things I’d like to talk about but this has gotten far too long already. If you’re still reading, I’m absolutely amazed because there’s no way in hell I would read this much of someone else’s shit… I don’t know where I’m going from here but I’ll just keep on moving along, putting my pants on like everyone else, both feet at the same time! Thanks to the countless folks that have supported me and were so incredibly kind to me this weekend. Your support has kept me going. Thanks to my family from Section 107! You know who you are!!! Having the same seats for 3 days helped us to create the kind of bonds with people that never would have been possible otherwise. I’m cosmically bonded to the folks I shared the weekend with forever! We had a GREAT crew there and I couldn’t be more grateful to get to know you folks throughout the weekend. Since they were all high level narcotics distributors, they didn’t want to be mentioned by name… I’d imagine that was the case for a lot of you as well. Meeting people I’ve shared the experience with through Social Media was just as much of a blast. “Never had such a good time, In My Life before!!!! I’d like to do it one time more! One long ride from start to end I’d like to take that ride again!!!!!!!” There’s no more tickets left in my envelope…

This thing is too long to proof read… Like The Dead, I don’t give a shit if there’s a few mistakes… My tears of Appreciation flow for the kindness you’ve all shown me along the way… I could never thank you enough…

Dead To The Core,

Dean Sottile (pronounced So Tilly)