The Dead are hoping that in addition to raising money for its Rex Foundation and other respective charities, an auction of prime seats for its upcoming tour will also put those tickets in the hands of fans, not scalpers.
"We want to keep away from all of that," percussionist Mickey Hart tells Billboard.com. "You always keep your fingers crossed that the bad guys don't get in there and turn profits for themselves." Tickets have been turning up on secondary sale sites such as Tickets Now and StubHub, but the Dead has also decided not to offer Platinum Tickets through Ticketmaster.
Guitarist Bob Weir concurred that he's long felt any type of scalping "should be illegal. Nobody benefits but a few people. The band doesn't get any of that money. The people have to pay more money for what they should rightfully be getting for way less. It's immensely frustrating."
Under the auction plan, which is being operated through Charity Folks (www.charityfolks.com), the Dead is auctioning off the first five rows center for its shows to high bidders. Memorabilia and meet-and-greet opportunities are also up for grabs. The group hopes the auctions will raise $250,000 for the Rex Foundation, an arts charity the group established in 1983, as well as for the Further Foundation, the Unbroken Chain Foundation and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
"Charities need money. They need help, especially these days," says percussionist Bill Kreutzmann. "This puts those seats into the hands of our fans, who are not only getting great seats and good music but also know the money is going to charitable organizations."
"The first gig as the Grateful Dead was a benefit," notes Weir. "It always seemed to us that you get some, you give some back. It makes good sense. It's just something we've always done, and this latest round is, I think a well-conceived, somewhat newer version of it."
The Dead -- which will also include fellow Grateful Dead founder Phil Lesh on bass, guitarist Warren Haynes and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti -- are gearing up for the tour, the group's first since 2004, which kicks off April 12 in Greensboro, N.C. The group already did a 12 days of rehearsal, during which Weir says it prepared a whopping 150 songs, with another prep run planned before the opening date.
The band is set to perform on the "Late Show with David Letterman" on April 23, and have even planned an interview appearance with the ladies of "The View."
"We're trying to bring out as many tunes as we can," Weir says. "We're doing tunes I haven't played in 35 years or so, but that said there'll be all the old favorites..."It's kind of a big task to pull the band out of mothballs. The impetus to bring the Dead back around just had to grow until it made sense to all of us. We've got a fair bit of unfinished business, and we all know that. At some point it just made sense for us to get back to it."