Boxoffice Insider: Jam Bands Continue Traditions In 2021

John Mayer, Bill Kreutzmann and Bob Weir of Dead & Company
C Flanigan / FilmMagic
– John Mayer, Bill Kreutzmann and Bob Weir of Dead & Company
perform during the Band Together Bay Area Benefit Concert at AT&T Park in San Francisco Nov. 9, 2017. The rest of 2021 is shaping up to be a jam-heavy year.

Recent announcements by touring titans Phish and Dead & Company show summer launch dates for both jam bands who, like a horde of other touring headliners, are eager to return to the road this year. And like many of those other artists, both bands have annual traditions with return engagements in specific cities and at specific venues, all to celebrate the bands’ connection with fans in those areas. This year especially, those annual celebrations will also greatly contribute to the sense of normalcy that the live entertainment industry is so anxious to experience following the pandemic-fed chaos of 2020.

For Phish, one of those annual events is the run of concerts leading up to Labor Day at Denver-area soccer stadium Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. The band began playing a series of three shows there in 2011 to celebrate the unofficial end of the summer touring season that coincides with the September American holiday. This year, Phish will headline their 10th three-show appearance at the stadium in the past 11 years.
With box office figures reported from every year except one, ticket sales from 24 past shows produced a gross of $32.9 million and tallied 536,182 sold tickets. After adding estimates from the three unreported shows, overall earnings for Phish at the soccer venue come out to roughly $37 million from about 600,000 tickets sold across 27 concerts at the Denver stadium through 2019.
Dead & Company have their own historic traditions, even in the brief time since the group formed in October 2015, following the Grateful Dead’s highly successful “Fare Thee Well” shows in summer 2015 celebrating half a century since the original band’s formation. While many outdoor amphitheaters have hosted Dead & Company multiple times over the past five years, stadiums have also been the site of several of the band’s return engagements. Boston’s Fenway Park and Chicago’s Wrigley Field have each staged multiple Dead & Company shows in recent years, and Wrigley is on the schedule again this year for a third headlining run on Sept. 17-18. Previously, the group played two-show stands at the Windy City stadium in 2017 and 2019, drawing more than 152,000 fans and topping $13.4 million in ticket revenue.
Meanwhile, New York’s Citi Field will be the first stadium to host Dead & Company for a fifth engagement when the band performs there on Aug. 20. Two-show engagements in 2016 and 2018 and single concerts in 2017 and 2019 precede this year’s event, which will add to the $18.4 million box office take already in the books from Dead & Company’s past six Citi Field shows. The band’s current total ticket count at the venue is 176,370, a per-show average of 29,395 tickets sold and $3 million grossed.
Along with Citi Field, one other American stadium has welcomed Dead & Company four times. Folsom Field, University of Colorado’s stadium in Boulder, Colo., hosted the band for two nights in four consecutive years beginning in 2016. Dead & Company’s eight performances at the venue surpassed $20.2 million grossed, with attendance logged at 235,788.
For Phish’s tour this summer, most of the venues have multiple shows booked, including the Gorge Amphitheatre in George, Wash., one of the group’s traditional summer tour stops. The box office archives show 19 prior Phish shows at the central Washington shed for an overall gross totaling $14.7 million from 340,364 tickets sold. The earliest box office record there stretches back to Aug. 2-3, 1997, a two-show stand that drew 37,871 fans and grossed $1.02 million, valued at about $1.7 million 24 years later. Phish’s most recent run at the Gorge was in July 2018, with $3.1 million earned from 56,940 tickets sold at three shows.
Phish will wrap its summer tour with concerts on the last four nights of October at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, where they previously played in 2014, 2016 and 2018. The two most recent engagements were also four-night stints, while the 2014 run only included three performances. Sales across those 11 concerts show a headcount of 171,646 and a gross totaling $11.6 million.