Searching for Solace as Dead Letter Blues Set In

The Grateful Dead reunion shows were announced back in January and since have created nothing but an insurmountable volume of rumors, drama, stress and high anxiety with fans around the world. Three days in Chicago were planned. Just three days. The 50th reunion of the joyful music that the Grateful Dead brought to millions of people has been foreshadowed by the snowball effect of events that have evolved since the announcement. For those who aren’t remotely interested in these shows – they have no idea what people are going through. What has this event created? Let’s break it down.

Upon the announcement, hotel rooms and flights to Chicago were immediately booked. Some fans booked several different rooms at various hotels as a back up plan to help out friends and strangers in need – who may not have even decided if they were going yet. Price gouging? Damn well better believe it. Hotels that were $200 or less before the announcement suddenly shot up to $500 or more a night. Threads popped up all over the internet discussing rooms, planes, trains, road trips, you name it. At this point, ticket prices had not even been released yet. At least this situation could be worked out in time. The shows aren’t until July, right? No big whoop. At least people are working on their scheduled time off. That’s a start.

The next order of business was the announcement of the mail order fiasco. To those who have no idea what is meant by mail order, let me explain. Directions were indicated to send in an envelope with money orders requesting what days you would like for the shows in Chicago. To be clear, these directions were VERY SPECIFIC. Money orders had to have EXACT AMOUNTS. Exact directions needed to be followed to even get a shot at a ticket. Fan art on envelopes were created in hopes of scoring the free golden ticket into the show. The art work of magnificently designed envelopes starting popping up all over the internet. However, the highs of getting a ticket through mail order were quickly dashed upon the realization that requests may be up against hundreds of thousands of other envelopes. This is where the drama, and the waiting, began.

News of the Dead letter office in California receiving a record amount of envelopes started surfacing. People were scrounging news stories and internet postings to see if their designed envelopes were in a photo. However, this is also where reality started setting in. Not a recycled envelope? Whoops! You put the requested dates on the wrong side? Into the decline pile you go. Off by fifty cents on your money order? NEXT! Envelopes were dropped in the post office slots only for certain fans to realize the mistakes they initially made, which soon was followed by the dread of not having a shot at tickets. Well, there’s always round two with Ticketmaster, right?

The first confirmed decline letter was posted on the internet. The almighty hated “pink slip” of declination surfaced, and some were even auctioning them off on e-bay as souvenirs. The anxiety of, “did I get a ticket?” soon followed. The misery of checking the mail box began. The stress of finding a “thanks for playing” letter slowly started building immense tension with fans. Meanwhile, VIP and travel packages were posted on the internet, with prices and sale dates, which were scheduled to be up for sale prior to the public sale on Ticketmaster. Almost $2 grand for a VIP package? Holy hell. Who has that kind of money? There are only three shows, after all. Meanwhile, the pink slips started creeping in with more and more fans. The anger and drama of “how can this be?? I have NEVER been denied a mail order!” starting being thrown across the internet.

With an unforeseen amount of envelopes that were sent in, the initial sale dates had to be pushed back. Now fans were really getting on edge. What if prices change? What happened to the VIP package that was cheaper? The shows were now creating a multitude of soap opera quality drama for the ages. Meanwhile, those dreaded pink slips continued to pour in. When will fans find out if they’ve received tickets?? Why is there little communication? WHAT’S GOING ON????? AAAAHHHH!!! People were ready to pull their hair out.

The updated sale dates were released and fans who were still in limbo upon hearing if their mail orders were accepted or rejected were starting to get angry. Why had they not heard? One week led to two days which led to one day before the sale with still no word. With fans’ money tied up in money orders, what should they do? The confusion upon getting tickets, and the anger at not having heard from the Dead letter office created havoc and panic. Who the hell was running this anyway? The lack of communication and poor planning set in motion a wave of anger and criticism towards the shows. This is not what the Grateful Dead is all about. It was turning into a money hungry fiasco. Panic was running amok across the world.

The first online sale was for VIP and Travel packages. Now the true scramble for tickets, any tickets, began. Some got lucky, some didn’t. Even those who did manage to get through on the dreaded Ticketmaster site may have only managed a ticket or two and not enough for friends and family that were hoping to grab some. The Ticketmaster “circle of dread” began. Fans hoping to get a ticket were faced with staring at a screen that just circled and circled and circled in wait. Maybe you got the captcha wrong. Start over! The misery of getting tickets was deepening. The sadness of “maybe I won’t be getting tickets” started to set in. The super expensive tickets were gone in a flash. Some fans managed to get all the way through to the credit card entry and were kicked out. What in the HELL?? Anger, resentment and misery followed suit. There was still another chance tomorrow, right? Tensions started to get higher.

Oh no, what’s this? Stubhub has VIP tickets online? How? These should go to fans, not some money crazed scalper!! Anger started to build again. The wave of misery was in a constant ebb and flow. Well, there’s one more shot with the public sale, right? Alarms were set, phones were shut off, computers were ready to go for the last possible sale, and hope, of scoring tickets. Again, posts began flying across the internet of who should have gotten tickets, who deserved tickets, who felt they were entitled to tickets, and who didn’t get tickets who should have at the last-minute started. The drama was all over the place. It was like a train wreck. People didn’t want to get caught up in it, but couldn’t help themselves. Trying to look away from an internet thread without responding was like trying to pass on a free ticket. People just couldn’t help it because it was becoming very personal. Everyone has their reasons for needing to see these last shows. Everyone wants one last enjoyment with the band and to relive what the Grateful Dead once was. However, it was becoming maddening.

One more shot at tickets was left. The general public sale with Ticketmaster was the last hope for so many. Once they went on sale, the scramble began. Once again, the “circle of dread” fell upon so many computers and phone apps. The high of “I got through!” was quickly followed by “GODDAMNIT, #*@#$”, as the site experienced load difficulties for many as purchases were about to be made. At this point, many fans still had not heard if their money orders were accepted or rejected. Once again, money was tied up and the hope of getting a mail order ticket was fading fast. Tickets were impossible to get. The seats to the side and behind the stage were opened up, which led many to believe they would have a good shot. Those hopes were quickly killed. SONOFA!!!!! The pain of not getting a ticket was too much. Tears, anger, fights with loved ones broke out. The drama had reached an all time high. The stress of getting just one ticket was getting unbearable. People were losing friends due to arguments involving scalpers, and the idea of even buying a ticket from a third-party seller led to frustration. Once again, the wave of anxiety set in.

Now that the ticket sales have come and gone, there’s still hope. Maybe someone ordered too many on Ticketmaster and they will release extras? The constant checking on Ticketmaster has become a ritual. Cashortrade? That’s a hope. However, right now, with resale prices on third-party sites in the thousands, people are starting to give up. Anger and disappointment has set in. The only way fans can control these tickets is by not buying from scalpers. At least that’s the hope. However, everyone knows that if someone has the money, they will go for it because, why not? These are the last three shows. Allegedly.

To all the fans out there – the pain of getting in the building is felt. You are not alone. We are one big Grateful Dead family. Keep the focus of the music alive by helping others out. This is a once in a lifetime event. Try not to get caught up in the negativity that has grown from this. The madness won’t end until the last song is played on stage. Until then, keep the faith and don’t give up. Just try to smile, smile, smile. After all, isn’t that what Jerry would have wanted?

*Editor’s note –  at the time of publishing, the Dear Jerry: Celebrating the Music of Jerry Garcia show at Merriweather Post Pavilion in MD on May 14 has also been announced.