Fare Thee Well: New York's Empire State Building Lights Up for the Grateful Dead

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Courtesy of Empire State Building
The Empire State Building on July 4

The skyscraper's Dead-themed Fourth of July tribute has "never been done before for a rock band of this magnitude," lighting director Marc Brickman tells Billboard.

It was a high time atop the Empire State Building on the Fourth of July.

In a tribute to the Grateful Dead’s Fare Thee Well shows at Soldier Field in Chicago and Independence Day, New York’s iconic skyscraper turned red, white and blue, with a “swirl of the color spectrum” to approximate the band’s tied-dyed ethic, award-winning lighting designer Marc Brickman tells Billboard.

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“The lights were incorporated into the Chicago show on the screens as a huge video-tribute to watch while they performed,” he explains (the show was set to the night's closer "U.S. Blues"). “It was specifically designed for this show as a gift since it’s a special night and it’s never been done before for a rock band of this magnitude. We also had some iconic Dead graphics dancing in the mast of the building.” Dead.net will feature video of the lighting show.

New Yorkers are familiar with the constantly changing hues of ESB’s tower lights. Finished in 1931, the building peaks at 102 stories. 

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“The Empire State Building has long recognized the historic and cultural significance of the Grateful Dead and asked me to do this show for the band’s highly anticipated reunion and final shows of GD50,” Brickman adds. “It’s a once in a lifetime experience.”

Brickman, who’s worked with the likes of Paul McCartney, Bruce SpringsteenPink Floyd, Cirque du Soleil and the Olympics, considers himself a Deadhead. “Who isn’t?” he asks. “They’re a part of my musical history.”

His favorite Grateful Dead songs are “St. Stephen,” “Truckin’,” “Box of Rain,” “Sugar Magnolia,” “Casey Jones,” “The Golden Road,” “Uncle John's Band,” “Touch of Grey” and “U.S. Blues.” Of all their albums, 1970’s Workingman's Dead tops Brickman’s playlist.