Most bands have loyal fans, but few bands have a following. The Grateful Dead falls in the latter category. On July 4th weekend, while most of the country celebrated America's independence, the Dead faithful converged on Chicago for the iconic last stand of the original jam band. With some of the founding Dead members long gone, most notably cult-prophet frontman Jerry Garcia, the band sported an eclectic mix including original members Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzman and Mickey Hart. Additionally, Bruce Hornsby once again lent his sound to the group as well as Jeff Chimenti from RatDog and Phish's lead singer Trey Anastasio who was tasked with covering the Jerry parts.
On July 5th, the final show of the three night bandstand, The Dead came on by 7:30. Knowing the gravity of their self-imposed situation, they opened their final show together with fan favorite "China Rider" ("China Cat Sunflower" followed by "I Know You Rider") and the crowd exploded. With over 60,000 heads dancing and swaying to the music, the stadium seemed to undulate with the vibe of the whole scene. Neither aisles nor seat boundaries could contain this communal mass of people experiencing the band that has come to define many of their lives as The Dead drove forward in their last sets. "Samson & Delilah," "Mountains Of the Moon" and an incredible, Bobby-lead "Throwing Stones" brought the first set to a close.
After an hour break, the Dead took the stage to the loud boom of fireworks overhead and played "Truckin" followed by "Cassidy." These two songs seemed specifically chosen for the lines "What a long strange trip it's been," and "Faring thee well now, may your life proceed by it's own design" respectively. Both of these lines characterized the feeling of the band and the audience as they approached the end of an era. "Not Fade Away" brought chills, as the crowd echoed "No our love will not fade away" long after the song had finished and the band had left the stage. Fittingly The Dead played "Touch of Grey" for their first encore, as it was the first tune played at Jerry Garcia's last show before his passing. Although, the real tear-inducing goodbye, came with the final acapella "Attics of My Life" sung by Trey, Phil and Bobby. Before leaving the stage for the last time, Mickey Hart brought us The Dead's last message of love, "Please, Be Kind."