In the 20 years since the death of The Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia, no solo tour or post-1995 configuration managed to tap into the box-office power of the original band -- until Fare Thee Well.
The three-day 50th-anniversary run at Soldier Field in Chicago, site of the group's last performance with Garcia in August 1995 and featuring Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio joining the "core four" (Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann), sold out within an hour of its general on-sale on Feb. 28 with ticket prices ranging from $59.50 to $199.50. (The shows are produced by 42-year-old Peter Shapiro in association with AEG-owned Madison House Presents.)
Add VIP experiences to the 210,000 tickets sold (a 360-degree staging configuration allows Fare Thee Well to maximize capacity beyond the traditional 55,000-capacity setup), and the show's gross should approach $30 million with another $5 million or more possible from merch sales.
And lest one think the Deadhead of 2015 is scrounging for pocket change, fans who've carried Garcia's torch are quite willing to shell out big bucks for superior seats and food. Fare Thee Well's "Enhanced Experience" -- which ranges from the $2,200 Golden Road package (floor seats all three nights, access to a private lounge with complimentary drinks and upscale food) to the top tier at $5,700 (includes travel and accommodations) -- sold out instantly. Says Shapiro: "It's cultural phenomenon time."
This article first appeared in the May 14 issue of Billboard