by jess lewis


every one has a crazy concert story. some have more than one (i fall into that camp for sure). but, the summer of 95 i experienced a crazy, magical concert whose memories i will forever hold dear.

matt and i, along with our friend tim pulled into chicago on july 9th with the high hopes of acquiring tickets to that night’s show. we knew even if we weren’t so lucky we would still have a great time, but getting in would be unforgettable. being in need of one ticket is difficult enough, but needing three? that was going to take a miracle.

we had other friends who were there as well, though most of them had tickets already. because we didn’t, we had work to do. early in the day we worked as a team, but it was fruitless work. eventually we gave it rest and parked ourselves near the entrance in the hopes of hearing someone call out that they had tickets. we sat there for some time. the sun felt good and i’m positive we got very relaxed in our spot. we were lucky the weather was so nice. within days the heat wave of 95 would swoop in and it would be sweltering (and dangerous). we sat there talking, people watching, and hatching out our plan.
we decided to work in shifts. if my memory serves me correctly (don’t hold me to this), tim was the first to go searching, then matt. i can’t recall how long either of them were gone, but we had time. then, it was my turn.

by then the traffic was really backing up. as in barely moving, if at all. i decided to wander up lake shore drive (aka, LSD). this is not something i would normally recommend unless you have a death wish, but since traffic was at a virtual standstill, i deemed it to be safe enough. i figured i could try to hit up all the concert goers that hadn’t made it in yet. i walked up the drive calling out for tickets every so often, but with no luck. chances are at some point i was even holding a finger in the air with one hand while my fingers were crossed on the other. i wasn’t out there for too long though, maybe 20 minutes, when a car with two girls called out to me (whenever i recall this story they seem so much younger than i was, but in reality we had to have been close to the same age). i ran over to them and jumped into the backseat of their car with so much excitement i could barely contain myself! they asked if i needed a ticket, i said did, that i actually needed three.

that day was my lucky day (well, one of many). they had FOUR tickets!! they had a group of friends who couldn’t make it at the last minute. sorry for them, but hoo-motherfucking-ray for me!! i forget exactly what they charged me, but it wasn’t more than the face value. they really were so very kind and if i could thank them again i would. i am positive i was squealing with delight as i leapt from their car and sprinted back down lake shore drive.

i ran back to soldier field and i never slowed down. i was literally leaping over people lounging around on the sidewalks and grassy areas with a shit eating grin on my face. matt and tim knew what was up the second they saw me. we were in like flynn.

there really was nothing like the excitement of getting in to a dead show when you arrived there not knowing if you would. i was no veteran by any means, i only had a handful of shows under my belt. but, the energy walking through those ticket gates was palpable. you knew what was about to happen, yet at the same time you had no idea. that was part of the beauty. crazy shit happens at dead shows. it’s a given.

we were treated to the band (minus robbie and richard) as the opening act, followed by a great set list from the grateful dead. the show closed with what is still in my mind one of the best fireworks displays i’ve ever seen (set to  jimi hendrix’s version of the star spangled banner).

we spent that night camping in a parking deck with a bunch of other hippie types. i don’t think we got much sleep. i remember the sound of skateboard wheels coasting down the ramps until the wee hours of dawn and the beating of drum circles. at some point we made plans to walk to the sears tower in the morning. we had no clue how to get there, we decided we would just look for it and head that way. this was not the way to go. it was about a 3 mile walk through some not so great neighborhoods. we made it, only to discover the observation deck was either closed or we couldn’t afford it. i’m guessing we couldn’t afford the $12 a piece or whatever it was after being able to get tickets.

matt and i moved to georgia soon after that show. we were staying with a friend in charleston, sc while we were apartment hunting in savannah. one month later, on august 9th, we came back from the beach  and were sitting on the couch when john, our friend (not a grateful dead fan), told us that jerry garcia had died. we honestly thought he was joking (really, he was not a fan. we thought he was just trying to get us whipped up). sadly, it was true. jerry was gone.

that summer was a wild and memorable time in my life. i am one of a few (tens of thousands of people) that can say i was at the last dead show and i am forever grateful.

what is one of the most memorable concerts you’ve been too?


*sorry for the lack of photos in this post. i decided i didn’t want to incriminate myself or any other innocent bystanders.



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  1. June 28, 2012

    My favorite band in the whole world is NeedToBreathe. I got to see them last summer in Charleston, SC. We arrived about 2 hours early and were the FIRST people in line. I ended up being right against the stage. I was able to sit on it while waiting for the show to start. Then it started to fill up and the AC broke. The show was AMAZING but we were all DRENCHED in sweat. The lead guitarist’s guitar actually started to malfunction at one point because he was sweating on it so bad. But after the show, (this was my 5th time seeing them) I got to meet them for the first time. I was on cloud 9 and they were all so ridiculously sweet and gave awesome hugs. I’ve seen them another 3 times since then. They’re my forever favorites.

  2. Jill #
    June 28, 2012

    My best crazy concert moment was the first time I saw U2 in Indianapolis. My mom – yes, Mom – drove me and three of my friends there. The whole time she was afraid that someone would smoke pot around her. And then she started complaining because the seats were too far away. But then she noticed that the security were leaving their posts on the floor level so if we timed it right, we could sneak down to the floor for a better seat. So, another friend and I followed Mom and sure enough, we got to the floor. The other two friends jumped over the railing and dropped ten feet to the ground. Later, when the people on the left and in front and behind us were smoking a joint, she accused the people on our right (smoking a clove cigarette) of smoking pot.

  3. June 29, 2012

    It was the summer after our senior year of high school and when we realized Billy Idol wasn’t on the lineup at Warped Tour in the city next to us a bunch of us piled in two cars and made a 12 hour trek to a city where he would be playing. The entire weekend was ridiculous, one crazy adventure after another… it was the stuff road trip comedy movies are made of. It was the best ending of our childhoods any of us could possibly imagine.

    Oh, and the concert? Billy fucking Idol. Do I really have to say more than that? Billy. Fucking. Idol.

  4. July 2, 2012

    Great story, Jess. One of my favorite concert memories involves the Dead as well. It was one some time in the ’80s where we actually didn’t make it in. It was in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Bob Dylan opened. Honestly the day/night is a fog to me with vague memories of hitching rides there and back from NYC with the boyfriend of the time who might have been selling tie-dyes, but I have this blissful memory of dancing around a cranberry bog behind the stadium while hearing the music filtering out. Blissful.

    Interestingly many of my favorite concert memories are actually ones where I was outside the venue. If you can still hear the music, outside usually has the best seats “in” the house.

  5. Mountain Mama #
    July 10, 2012

    Oh sigh . . . I was supposed to be at that show! Stupid summer school. Your story made me smile so, so much. I can totally picture you 3 that summer. Good times indeed 🙂

  6. Mountain Mama #
    July 10, 2012

    nd I have to laugh at the price of the ticket – $33.50 for Soldier Field. My how times, and ticket prices, have changed . . .

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