This past weekend was an amazing time for me. I went to the last Grateful Dead show in Chicago and painted my butt off. The show was amazing and just like 1995 again. I just hoped the feeling would stay.
To start….I had no ticket to the show. Nor did I have a vending permit. I did however have the gumption and ambition to go anyway. I was at the last show Jerry Garcia played at in 1995 at the very same venue. This was my one and only Grateful Dead show. So there was no way in God’s green Earth, I would miss the reunion and last GD show. I was able to see the Grateful Dead in 1995 because of my very first mural client. A guy named Joe owned a head shop called PennyLane. You can find the story of this mural here. I got my van packed with new canvas and a new spinning easel I built to handle a much larger frame. So I stretched up a five by eight foot canvas and primed it thick with white paint. Got a few friends to help and packed up my pup and hit 55 north for Chicago. I had no idea what would happen or if I would get this small art army into the show….but it was the last Dead show. I had to try….
When we got there at 5 AM, there was nobody around Soldier Field. Just the maintenance crews cleaning up for the full day of people ahead. The sun had not risen yet but the early morning blue was in the sky. Only sanitary and construction workers see this time of day. I have a lift truck and slipped through the gates easily. I mean, who stops the cable guy? Nobody. We were getting deep into the venue with no resistance. I found a spot right next to the stadium itself. An empty spot on the lawn next to the food vendors seemed as good a spot as any, so I parked Vincent (the van), and geared the crew to building our camp. I knew if we had everything set up for painting before the venue management found us, the more likely we would be able to stay. We just had to look like we were SUPPOSED to be there. When the nine o’clock hour approached we got our first visit from management. They were confused how we got in so easily but they did not ask us to leave. Then the second official asked who asked us there. I gave the standard confusing name dropping which showed this openly more aggressive guy that my connections were outside his call. So we were still not told to leave. Every time they sent another higher ranked manager I had more names pulled from Google to drop. Eventually by noon they sent somebody from the show promoter’s crew. He came to confront me on why and how I was there. So I said I was invited. “By who?”, he asked. I said I had no idea, but I was supposed to be there. Amazingly this worked. They let me stay. And paint. I had rock star parking and the masters of the party were cool for me to stay. Kudos to Peter Shapiro for letting an artist stay to paint the music. Ken Kesey would be proud. I was inspired to say the least 🙂
I went to painting and meeting new friends. It was awesome. No rain. Blue skies. Great vibes. Great music. Great energy to paint with. The lift worked like a champ. It was a great weekend to say the least. Being the Fourth of July, there was no shortage of fireworks from the Navy Pier and countless other spots throughout downtown Chicago. It was the best Fourth I could have had. The music was fantastic and the energy from twenty years of fans missing the old Dead scene built up to a magical weekend. I saw old friends and got to paint while listening to memorable music live just over my canvas. How could it be more inspiring for an artist? I wish I could have taken my 18 year old daughter to this event. Perfect concert for generations to share similar interests. A perfect show for showing the next youth in line where so many of them came from. Late Saturday night I was still painting after everybody left. I was allowed to stay in the stadium area to keep working. I blasted my music and fell into the flow. Around three a.m. I noticed a small group of people in the area lighting a paper lantern to float away over Lake Michigan. I walked over with my pup Ping to watch. By the time I had gotten close, they lit a second Chinese lamp and watched it quietly rise above the city and drift over the lake. It was a very moving. No words were spoken. Just some tears. I was standing with them sending off their personal “Fare Thee Well”. I was blessed to be there. To see this alone with no crowds. No fans. No music. Just the wind taking these floating flames into the stars. Then they quietly went back in the stage door. It was heavy. I was even more inspired at this point. Painting from that sweet spot at the venue, one painting captured the weekend best.
I wanted to capture the energy of the city that weekend. I wanted to catch the spirit of the shows Hypnotized by the flow and painting the dancing sky around Soldier Field for several evenings was amazing for a performance painter. The colours of the lights and the stars in a clear summer sky. The moon and the music. The venue and the brilliant chaos…. all in this painting. (At least I hope) I am receiving several offers and ideas of what to do with this painting. I just don’t want it to go to the wrong person. I want this painting to go to a true fan of the Dead.
These final evenings resurrected from twenty years ago means so much to so many. A person who will always hold the scene and music dear to their soul should get this painting.
So I drove this work to the Capital Theater in New York. The reasons? This was one of Jerry’s favorite places to play, The cat who through the Fare Thee Well show owns the Theater. I wanted to say thank you for letting me paint at the show! Lastly, I think Pete Shapiro would appreciate the work. And he would know what to do with the painting so everybody can see it.
Prints of these paintings can be found at this link.
Overall a mission success and exactly what I needed for my spirit. Thank you Jerry. You are missed by millions.