#NFA was a 100% FAN-BASED movement Gratefully Deadicated to organizing deadheads around the world in massive expressions of gratitude to the Grateful Dead during their 50th Anniversary Fare Thee Well shows.
During the run-up to the Fare Thee Well shows in 2015, deadheads around the world came together through social media to share their joy, frustrations, excitement, and love. Out of this, #NFA was born from a single person’s post “Has anyone considered doing something to thank the band?”
Of course we had. Individually, we had daydreamed of showering the band with thousands of roses, hanging banners from the rafters, renting planes to display sky banners, flooding their mailboxes with hundreds of thousands of thank you notes, raining tons of red-white-and-blue balloons down on the floor from the stands, and of course chanting “Know our love will not fade away” at the top of our lungs for forever and a day. The source of these sunshine daydreams is obvious to any deadhead. In the words of Phil Lesh, it was “The love we have for each other.”
This one voice asking a single question created a focal point for these day dreams and we shared them with each other. A few of us started a Facebook group (#NFA) to focus the discussion, and discuss we did. The discussion attracted more than 1,000 group members. Poll after poll, post after post, we shared our dreams and we shared our love for the band and for each other. We came up with even more silly ways of showing our love — flash mobs with tens of thousands of black pocket t-shirts. Thousands of men wearing cutoffs that were just a little too short. Hilarity ensued. Haynes and Fruit of the Loom were both contacted, to no avail (some people have NO sense of humor). The logistics and expense of delivering 10s of thousands of roses to Soldier Field seemed staggering. Another group had already been formed to fly a sky banner. So we settled on a few goals:
1) Contributing to a massive collective donation to the Rex Foundation on behalf of all fans
2) Uploading thank you videos directed at the band
3) Starting the Not Fade Away chant all 5 nights of Fare Thee Well, right at the end of the set break.
Not all of those things happened, at least not the way we had planned. We were thinking really big, and took some chances in the hopes of creating something beautiful. That’s something we learned from the Grateful Dead, who made a career out of taking really big chances. Some of those chances didn’t pan out so well. But as we all know, it’s the act of taking those big chances that creates miracles. And we did create miracles. When we got to Santa Clara, and then Chicago, some pretty incredible things did happen. People who had never met in person raced through the crowds to meet up with each other. Friendships were born. Others were strengthened. Strangers stopping strangers, not just to shake their hands, but to make things happen — to share a movement of 1,000 Facebook members with more than 100,000 fellow deadheads. We handed out cards, we held up signs, we talked to the media, we smiled for 3 days straight. Love ruled the day.
And that love was carried into the stands, along with all of the love everyone else brought with them, and we know without a doubt that the band felt that love. Because they soaked up all of that love, magnified it, and then sent it right back to us. And we felt more deeply than anyone could possibly imagine.
And the band. God bless the Grateful Dead. You know what else they did?
They handed out tens of thousands of roses.
They raised $526,000 dollars split among 17 charitites, including the Rex Foundation, by auctioning off a single guitar.
They hired planes to fly over Soldier Field displaying all sorts of messages on sky banners.
They hung banners from the rafters.
They played Not Fade Away at the end of the 3rd show in Chicago, and the crowd joined in with the loudest chant anyone can remember. That chant lasted for what seemed forever in a tunnel in Grant Park as fans exited the stadium. It was exhilarating.
In short, the band had taken the ideas discussed in #NFA and other Facebook groups and made them happen. We don’t suppose that the band was lurking on Facebook, listening to all their fans’ ideas. Still it warms our hearts to think that maybe, just maybe, they heard about some of this stuff and decided to make damned sure the really good ideas happened. More likely, though, we were ALL sharing the same dream, band and fans alike. And, as the song goes, we should not be surprised to find that they dream with us.
In the end, we raised about $2,000 for the Rex Foundation, a mere 7% of their cut of the guitar auction. We got a handful of thank-you videos from fans directed at the band, and we hope the band members watch them here. We didn’t really start the NFA chant, although there were rumblings. In the end, the band started the chant. But the deadheads at the show sure as hell finished it! If you weren’t in the tunnel and haven’t seen the footage, you need to check out this video. Even though we didn’t do everything we set out to do, we did manage to do the most important thing of all. We served as one mechanism that channeled and focused the love we have for each other onto that stage. And that was the whole point.
The Facebook Group #NFA will cease to exist on September 4, 2015, nearly 2 months after the close the Fare Thee Well shows. The shows are over, and our work is done. This page will remain on the web as long as that continues to make sense. We are not fading away, nor is our love. We are simply moving on to new expressions of that love, at new shows, with old band members and new, with old fans and new, with old family and new. And we will take the feeling we created with each other in Chicago, take it home, and do some good with it.
After all, we are Forever Grateful. We are Forever Dead. We are Forever Family.
Thank you, Bob, Phil, Billy, and Mickey. Thank you, Trey, Jeff and Bruce. We love you more than words can tell. See you all again real soon.