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A Look Back at The Grateful Dead’s “Fare Thee Well Tour,” After Five Years

FOH Staff • News • June 27, 2020
Grateful Dead “Fare Thee Well” show at Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA; Photo: Jay Blakesberg

Grateful Dead “Fare Thee Well” show at Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA; Photo: Jay Blakesberg

BERKELEY, CA — Five years have passed since the Grateful Dead staged their five-show, two-city “Fare Thee Well” tour. Performing June 27-28, 2015 (in San Francisco) and July 3-5, 2015 (in Chicago), the shows celebrated 50 years of the Grateful Dead and were the final concerts where the “core four” original band members performing together. Meyer Sound caught up with Derek Featherstone, CEO of UltraSound, LLC, who led the sound system design and production and mixed these epic shows.

For Featherstone, these shows in Santa Clara, CA at Levi’s Stadium and Chicago at Soldier Field were unique in that the shows were 360-degrees in the round. The production team had very few restrictions, which often challenge the infrastructure for concerts staged in large sports venues.

Derek Featherstone, CEO of UltraSound; Photo: Jay Blakesberg

Derek Featherstone, CEO of UltraSound; Photo: Jay Blakesberg

“The thing most unusual about Santa Clara and these events in general was that we had very few limits on what we could do,” Featherstone said. “We were given the directive to do it how we wanted in order to make the crowd experience as unique as possible.”

Event promoter Peter Shapiro and the band’s production team provided the audio, lighting and video teams the creative license to put the audience experience first.

“With 300 plus cabinets per show, we provided a stereo experience no matter where you sat. Four delay towers provided even coverage across the 70,000-plus crowds. The delay towers featured hangs facing back at the stage in order to mix parts of the show in quad. We worked with the staging company to continually manipulate the stage walls, moving them up and down, to balance weather issues while trying to maintain sight lines to the stage for the fans behind the stage.”

With the first two shows in California on June 27 and 28, there would not be time to truck the stage and other assets to Chicago for the three shows July 3-5. There were two stages and two sets of delay towers. UltraSound tapped rental company partners with Meyer Sound inventories to provide the 300 self-powered loudspeakers needed for Chicago where the same sound design was implemented.

The Meyer Sound system comprised four front arrays of 17 LEO-M and three MICA line array loudspeakers each, with dual side columns of 14-each 1100-LFC low-frequency control elements and a center column of 22 700-HP subwoofers in an end-fire pattern. Side and offstage coverage was supplied by 32 LYON and 32 MILO line array loudspeakers, respectively, with an additional 30 MICA loudspeakers providing behind-stage coverage.

Filling in the far ends of the stadiums were four delay towers with a total of 56 MILO loudspeakers and eight 700-HP subwoofers. Two additional towers of eight LYON loudspeakers each faced the stage for quad surround effects, with six CQ-1 and four LYON loudspeakers providing front fill. A Galileo Callisto loudspeaker management system handled drive and optimization, and 16 MJF-212A stage monitors provided onstage foldback.

Additional equipment support for the five shows came from Blackhawk Audio, Rainbow Production Services, Show Systems, and Solotech.

Normally Featherstone would have been heading out on the road for Dead and Company’s annual summer tour soon, but now he is in the studio mixing a Dead and Company concert video content for future release. UltraSound has been providing solutions for socially distanced events such as drive-in concerts and continues with installation work while the company awaits a more robust return to live concert events.

To celebrate the five-year anniversary of the final Fare Thee Well run at Soldier Field in Chicago, will rebroadcast the three shows July 5 at 12 PM EDT here.

Grateful Dead in the Meyer Sound DNA

John Meyer’s work with the Grateful Dead extends to the mid-1970s when the band’s concerts were heard through McCune Sound Service’s JM-10 systems designed by Meyer. The relationship continued through the band’s last tour with Jerry Garcia in 1995, supported by Meyer Sound MSL-10 loudspeakers. Meyer Sound systems have been a staple for tours of reunion and spin-off bands during the interim, including the 2005 and 2009 tours equipped with a Meyer Sound MILO system when the core members were known as The Dead.

For more info, visit Meyer Sound at


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