Adorned in a faded top hat, a hand-dyed shirt and a kilt, Travis Jonespacked tobacco into his pipe as he pondered the greater meaning ofwhat he was about to experience.
“It cleanses your soul,” said Jones, 40, a park ranger who lives inNapanoch, N.Y. “I’m studying to be a shaman, and this is one of thebest ways to cleanse your soul and, you know, your aura.”
There was a fair bit of that Friday as a seemingly endless pilgrimageof tie-dyed Grateful Dead fans poured into and around Soldier Fieldfor what the band says are its final three shows. The venue was thelast place legendary guitarist Jerry Garcia played before his death in1995.
A whiff of sadness mingled with the odors of marijuana, patchouli andsweat Friday, as thousands of “Deadheads” — many without tickets — gathered for the “Fare Thee Well” tour.
Allen Burrows, 45, who came in from Pittsburgh, sipped a Natural Icebeer in the shade and wondered how he’d get tickets for himself andhis 12-year-old son, Quinton.
“Sunday night is going to be a tear jerker — there’s going to be alot of heartache,” Burrows said.
With about $100 to spend per ticket, Burrows was prepared to insteadenjoy fellowship with the other not-so-lucky fans.
Burrows isn’t a religious man, he said, but if anyone could haveconverted him, it was Garcia.
“Through music, I was touched by the hand of Jerry Garcia, rather thanby the hand of God,” he said.
Back in the day, Burrows would have done almost anything to follow theband around the United States.
“I’ve sold grilled cheese [sandwiches], I’ve sold pasta — anything Icould do,” Burrows said. “I used to tell my mom and dad I was in jail”to pretend to need money for bail, he added.
Jeff Emge, 59, and his son, Jesse, 32, flew in from Los Angeles.Father and son, also enjoying beers in a Soldier Field parking lot,had tickets and backstage passes for all three shows.
Too much of a good thing?
“There’s an old saying: There’s nothing like a Grateful Dead concert,”Jeff Emge said. “In five shows, we will not see one duplicate — and they f—k up a lot.”
And when it’s all over—after half a century of concerts — whatwill it feel like?
“I’m going to feel relieved,” said Jones, the New York park ranger. “Iwill get to cleanse my soul.”
A few feet away, a buddy, who goes by the nickname “Papa Smurf,”chimed in: “You can always turn on a CD.”
To which Jones added: “It will never leave your soul.”