Grateful Dead Freaks (Re)Unite! Tips and Itineraries for Chicago’s “Fare Thee Well” Concert
The surviving members of the Grateful Dead are closing out the band’s 50-year career at Chicago’s Soldier Field, and the legions are coming to join them.
Since it was announced earlier this year, the Fare Thee Well concert has turned the Windy City into the epicenter of all things Dead. Tickets for the July 3, 4, and 5 dates sold out in record time, but with an ever-expanding docket of after shows—not to mention Chicago’s own splendors—even the ticketless shouldn’t be lacking in direction.
We’ve compiled some tips and local Grateful Dead lore to make the weekend go smoothly whether you’re at the show, on the lot, or packed into one of the many venues celebrating that most quintessential of American bands.
Ways and Means: Getting There
- Public Transit: On Fourth of July weekend, Chicago’s lakefront crowds up and Lake Shore Drive slows to a crawl. Beat the traffic by taking the CTA’s Red, Green, or Orange lines to the Roosevelt stop. From there, it’s just a 15-minute walk east to Soldier Field. Buy a train pass in advance to avoid the long lines that form at the L stops. (You can buy a 3-day Ventra pass for $20 online).
- Taxis, Uber, and Pedicabs: Soldier Field is removed from major streets with through traffic, so hailing a cab or coordinating with an Uber driver can be difficult. If you’re too wiped out to walk back to the train after the show, consider one of the pedicabs that will undoubtedly be circling the area. The back of an open-air rickshaw is a great spot for enjoying views of downtown Chicago and the Museum Campus.
- Shuttles: Bars such as Reggies (2105 S. State St.) in the South Loop and aliveOne (2683 N. Halsted St.) in Lakeview are offering shuttle services and packages to help you get to and from the venue.
- Deadhead Pro Tip: “Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad” was written in 1931 by a traveling fedora-salesman/folk singer stuck in traffic on the Edens Expressway. That may or may not be true, but if you’re traveling that way, be prepared for gridlock on the Edens and Kennedy (I-90/94) during rush hour.
I Sat Down to My Supper, 'Twas a Bottle of Red Whiskey: Food & Drink
- For the Parking-Lot Chef: The South Loop Market (1720 S. Michigan Ave.) stocks organic groceries and more than 300 vintage beers to keep you sustained in the lots.
- Pre-Show Eats: Nearby restaurants include the throwback Jewish deli Eleven City Diner (1112 S. Wabash Ave.) and Cafecito (26 E. Congress Pkwy.), which specializes in Cuban sandwiches and coffee. Further north, vegetarians will find seitan burgers and tacos at Native Foods Cafe (14 S. Clinton St.) in the Loop.
- Liquor Stores: South Loop standbys include Warehouse Liquors (634 S. Wabash Ave.) and a Binny’s Beverage Depot (1132 S. Jefferson St.).
- Deadhead Pro Tip: If you’re exploring the Loop, you might as well wander past the historic Auditorium Theatre (50 E. Congress Pkwy.). Located about a mile from Soldier Field, this registered national landmark hosted many memorable Dead shows from 1971 to 1977.
Listen to the Music Play: Related Shows & Streaming Options
- During the Show: If you weren’t lucky enough to score tickets on July 3 or 4, head to City Winery (1200 W. Randolph St.) to watch a live HD stream on a massive screen. Park West (322 W. Armitage Ave.) will also be streaming the first two nights, with Leftover Salmon serving as the musical hosts.
- After the Show: There are too many after shows to list, but we recommend you check out The Music Never Stopped, a citywide festival featuring acts such as Railroad Earth, Gene Ween, Particle, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. The festival takes place at various venues across town.
- Brunch the Next Day: City Winery’s brunch shows will feature food and performances by Steve Kimock and Jerry Joseph, plus never-before-seen Dead videos. Mandolin legend David Grisman should provide a nice landing at his Sunday gig at the Palmer House Hilton (17 E. Monroe St.).
Bound to Cover Just a Little More Ground: Around the City
- Carol’s Pub | Uptown: Cheap beer. Outlaw country. Carol’s (4659 N. Clark St.) is about 10 miles from Soldier Field, but there’s definitely time to get there after the show—it’s open until 5 a.m. on Saturdays. On Saturday nights, the house band belts out a mix of Cash, Haggard, and Dylan to a raucous, line-dancing crowd.
- Jerry’s | Multiple Locations: You can guess where the name comes from. Locations in Andersonville (5419 N. Clark St.) and Wicker Park (1938 W. Division St.) feature tons of creative sandwiches, plus good beers and even better tunes.
- The Green Mill | Uptown: If you’re staying up north and looking for late-night music on Saturday, check out Sabertooth, whose Green Mill (4802 N. Broadway) gig runs from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. and will likely feature a few Dead tunes taken out for long jazzy walks. It won’t hurt to brush up on our guide to jazz shows before you go.
- Deadhead Pro Tip: If you’re at the Green Mill, look next door and give a nod to the now-shuttered Uptown Theatre. That was the Dead’s default Chicago home from 1979 to 1981.
Image: Mark Mills, Groupon.
Scott Hirsch is a published poet, an amateur boxer, and a devout reader and writer of fiction. He dedicates his accomplishments to the memory of his mother and attributes his many failures to colorblindness.